Friday, October 6, 2017

The 1831 Matthew Anderson House - 9 Leroy Street

The garage door marks the site of a passageway, or horsewalk, that originally provided access to the rear yard.

The Le Roy family (variously spelled Leroy and LeRoy) was highly regarded in commercial circles.  Jacob Le Roy was born in 1726 in New York, described nearly a century later in court papers as a "wealthy New York city merchant, head of firm Jacob Le Roy & Sons."  Jacob died in 1793 but his firm continued doing business until about 1859.
His son, Herman, was a founder and president of the Bank of New York.  He resigned that position in 1804 to found Le Roy, Bayard & Co. described by historian Louis N. Geldert in 1906 as at the time "the most important commercial establishment in the United States."

Leroy Street in Greenwich Village was named in honor of Jacob Le Roy.  The 1820s and '30s saw a flurry of construction on the street, joined in 1830 by Matthew Anderson who began construction on a two-and-a-half story house at No. 9, just west of Bleecker Street.

Completed in 1831 the Federal-style home was faced in Flemish bond brick.  Its surprising 28-feet breadth made it noticeably wider than its neighbors.  Dormers would have punched through the peaked roof.  To the right of the stoop a narrow doorway opened to a horsewalk--a tunnel of sorts that providing access to the small stable in the rear yard.

Whether Anderson actually lived in the house is unclear.  In 1849 he sold it to investor James D. Sherwood who soon made his confidence in the immediate neighborhood evident.  By 1861 he would erect two houses on the same block and another around the corner on Bedford Street.

Sherwood leased No. 9.  In 1860 his tenants were the young couple John F. and Mary E. Bacon.  The house was the scene of a heartbreaking funeral after Mary, just 23 years old, died on Sunday July 22 that year.

By 1865, when New York's workforce returned from war, Sherwood was renting rooms in the house to blue collar tenants.   Among them was "cartman" (today's truck driver or delivery man) H. D. Barrett who also volunteered ad the Phoenix Hook and Ladder Company No. 3 on Amity Street (later renamed West 3rd Street); and cartman Robert R. Carpenter.

Carpenter, who would remain in the house for many years, was a colorful character.  Not content to quietly complete his job, perhaps stop by a saloon for an ale, and retire to his rooms, he as visible in area interests.   On voting day in 1865 he was an "inspector of elections for the Fourth District," for example.

Robert R. Carpenter's name appeared in newspapers as far away as Illinois in 1872 when the cartman stood up to the massive Mutual Life Insurance Company.  That a man of Carpenter's financial and social station would have a life insurance policy at all in 1872 is surprising and a further hint at his intellect and personality.  When the trustees of Mutual Life decided to offer reduced premiums in order to attract new business--yet keep the existing policies at the same cost--Carpenter was outraged.

He joined other policy holders in demanding that the firm correct its "conduct of affairs."  The Chicago newspaper The Chronicle reported on December 12, 1872 that they felt the new strategy was "unjust to existing policy-holders and prejudicial to their rights and interests, and deserving our unqualified disapproval."

The Financial Panic of 1873 was called The Great Depression until the 1929 Stock Market crash appropriated the title.   On March 13, 1874 the New York Herald dedicated nearly a full page to report on the relief efforts by various charitable organizations.  "The continued cold weather has had its influence on the hungry and destitute population of the city," it wrote, and noted among the many examples of aid that the St. John's Guild had so far fed and clothed 30,000 people.  On the list of volunteers who delivered packages of clothing to the needy was Robert R. Carpenter.

Carpenter was still living at No. 9 Leroy Street when another truckman, John R. Hallock was listed there.  Rather interestingly, the family of Allen R. Jollie, Jr. had moved in by 1879.  Jollie's parents had lived just down the block at No. 30 Leroy for several years. 

The Jollie's daughter, Jeanette, was teaching in the primary department of Grammar School No. 38 on Clarke Street near Broome Street by 1879.  That year they shared the house with glass merchant James H. Reed, Jr., whose business was downtown at No. 54 Barclay Street.

The residents of No. 9 were somewhat inconvenienced the following year when James D. Sherwood hired builder Charles E. Hadden to enlarge the house by raising the attic floor to a full story.  A fashionable neo-Grec cornice trimmed the now-flat roof.

Allen R. Jollie's elderly sister-in-law, Frances P. Gregory, seems to have moved in with the family by now.  She had earlier lived in Kalamazoo, Michigan with her husband, Ormond H. Gregory, who died in 1867.  The 70-year old widow died on February 25, 1880 and her funeral was held in the Leroy Street house the following evening.

James D. Sherwood retained possession of the house until his death in 1907.  The following year his estate sold it to Elizabeth A. French.  She soon converted it to a tenement that housed six families.  By now the neighborhood had mostly filled with immigrant families.

The influx of foreigners was disturbing to author Thomas W. Salmon who, in his 1913 essay "Immigration and the Mixture of Races in Relation to the Mental Health of the Nation" reminded readers "the races which colonized this country were closely akin."  Sounding eerily like some current day protestors he used the term "invasion," and warned "The new immigration to the United States has resulted in the introduction of more than 10,000,000 representatives of new races in less than twenty years."

Salmon took the time to carefully list the "Marriages Between Those Living in the Same House" which involved immigrant couples.  What exactly his point was is uncertain; but he noted that 27-year year old Peter Selinske "of 9 Leroy Street" had married 21-year old Helen Caddle on November 12, 1912.

The house was purchased by Giuseppe and Francesa Paccione in 1920.  Before long they made improvements, adding a rear addition for bathrooms, for example.  Sometime in the 1930s they enlarged the former horsewalk into a garage-door sized access to the rear yard.  The stable was converted to a five-car garage in 1957.

The Paccione family retained possession of the property for decades.  In 1990 it was converted to two residences--an apartment on the parlor floor and a sprawling duplex above.  Its unusual width, which at first blush makes it appear to be two altered and joined residences, no doubt drew much attention along the block in the 1830s.

photograph by the author

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