|from "Iconography of Manhattan Island," by I. N. Phelps Stokes, 1915 (copyright expired)|
In 1768 Carey Ludlow purchased the 52-foot wide property at No. 9 State Street from the heirs of Abraham Lymsen. It ran through the block to Pearl Street and, according to Appletons' Journal more than a century later, held "a fine Dutch house, with gardens, stabling, and out-houses." Ludlow, who was described as "a very wealthy merchant," envisioned a grand new residence on the property.
But times were troubling. Three years prior to Ludlow's purchasing the property the Stamp Act had been passed and it sparked determined resistance in the colonies. Appletons' Journal explained "Carey Ludlow was so rank a Tory that from the first he declared for the legality of the proposed tax, and made himself so obnoxious to his fellow-citizens that he determined not to provoke remark by any ostentation in private life."
He now only postponed his building project, but began secreting his private fortune in case things got worse. And they did. When full-scale revolution broke out, he took his family to England, not returning until 1784 when "the bitter feelings of the strife had been replaced by the bonmonie of commercial intercourse." (In other words, the fledgling republic felt his fortune was more important than his political past.)
Ludlow helped smooth over hard feelings by improving the residential waterfront. He planted more than 300 trees in the neighborhood around No. 9 State Street, where he now began construction of his impressive Georgian mansion.
At the time his family was living on Front Street where, in 1791, his daughter Catherine, "a great beauty," was married to attorney Jacob Morton. The match proved that the families had let political bygones become bygones. While Carey Ludlow had been a staunch royalist, the groom's father, John Morton, had been called "the rebel banker" by British officers for the large amounts of money he loaned to the Continental Congress.
Although the State Street mansion does not appear in city directories until 1797, it appears to have been nearing completion at the time of the wedding. Appleton's mentioned "Mr. Ludlow, shortly after the marriage, removed to the house on State Street."
|Appleton's Journal, December 21, 1872 (copyright expired)|
Inside were 26 large rooms, plus the servants' quarters. John Flavel Mines wrote "Its oak chimney-pieces, wainscoting imported from England...made it a noteworthy edifice."
|State Street was a tranquil, upscale street. The Ludlow house is third from the corner. Magazine of American History, June 1889 (copyright expired)|
Martha Lamb described the occasion in an 1889 article in the Magazine of American History. "One of the romantic social events of June, 1797, was the marriage of the celebrated Josiah Quincy to Miss Eliza Susan Morton," in the State Street house. The president of Princeton College, Rev. Dr. Samuel Stanhope Smith made the journey to New York to perform the ceremony.
Carey Ludlow died in 1807, passing title to the house to his widow. Catherine and Jacob Morton moved in with the elderly woman and, according to Appletons' Journal, "the palmy days of the old house began." The couple, who not only had a considerable fortune but were "endowed with great taste," made the interiors even more magnificent. "They lavished marble decorations, and ormolu, and superb girandoles, over the principal rooms." The writer recalled that "from the windows of the banqueting-room, and from the rich drawing-rooms also, could be seen the Battery Park garden, where all the trees Mr. Ludlow had planted had by this time grown to a fair height.
Morton's career by now had gone far beyond his legal practice. He was also a merchant and a major-general in the National Guard. He and Catherine were among the most celebrated of New York City hosts, prompting historian Emmons Clark in 1890 to recall "Fond of society, and distinguished for his hospitality, [Jacob Morton's] house was for many years a social and fashionable center of great celebrity...All the distinguished men who visited New York were welcome guests at the superb mansion."
Appletons' Journal added "No. 9 State Street was emphatically the centre of intellect, refinement, and feminine loveliness. Mrs. Morton had been a great beauty, and she delighted to assemble around her all the belles of the city, while her husband's wealth as a merchant, and distinction as a gentleman, brought to his house all the distinguished men of the time."
Entertainments were put on hold when Morton, now a brigadier-general, rendered service in the War of 1812. In 1815 he succeeded General Stevens as commandant of the First Division of the National Guard.
|Morton counted among his friends George Washington, Alexander Hamilton, and Lafayette. A Standard History of Freemasonry in the State of New York, 1899 (copyright expired)|
Following Jacob Morton's death in 1837 Catherine was offered $90,000 for the mansion--in the neighborhood of $2.38 million today. The offer was refused; however the once-elegant street was becoming increasingly commercial and the family left, leasing their mansion initially as an upscale boarding house.
But by the end of the Civil War it was home mostly to Irish immigrant families. Appletons' Journal wrote "Lower and lower it went in the social scale. A thieving tenant would steal some marble; another would lay his hands on some rare carving, until, little by little, wainscoting, marbles, mantel-pieces--all were gone and the mansion was completely despoiled."
Around 1868 the Morton family sold the beleaguered house for $28,000. It was operated by "Mrs. Perry." Among her Irish-born boarders at the time were the Glover family, Patrick Collins, Edward McEntee, and Michael Quigley. McEntee was injured when he fell out a window that summer. The New York Herald reported on July 21, 1868 "Edward McEntee, living at No. 9 State street, fell to the sidewalk on Sunday evening and broke one of his arms."
A year later on July 28, 1869 Henry C. Glover and his son, Samuel, went to Michael Quigley's room and asked to borrow his gun. When he refused, according to his complaint to police, "they assaulted him with the gun, striking him several blows over the head." The Glovers were arrested.
Both Quigley and Patrick Collins owned small rowboats which they moored at the foot of the park and rented. Three months before Quigley's encounter with the Glovers, Collins had had his own problems.
|from "History of the City of New York" by Martha J. Lamb, 1877 (copyright expired)|
A mysterious advertisement appeared in The New York Herald on February 13, 1870: "Information Wanted--Of Mrs. Isabella Elliot, late from Derry, by steamship Caledonia. By leaving her address at Mrs. Perry's, No. 9 State street, she will hear of good news."
Meanwhile Michael Quigley's problems continued. On July 14, 1871 he placed an advertisement in The New York Herald: "17 Foot Boat Stolen--From the Battery, Monday, 9th inst. painted white, red gunwale, blue streak, named Tommy Dodd; branded M. Quigley, Battery." He offered a reward "for the conviction of the thief" equal to $1,000 today.
Two weeks later a horrific disaster occurred on Sunday, July 30. The ferry boat Westfield was transporting more than 200 passengers to Staten Island when its boiler exploded. The New York Times reported "the whole end of the boat on which the people were gathered was torn to tatters; fragments went upward and outward. But that mass of humanity! Who can picture! Who dare to even think of it! Lifted into the air, hurled into the water, buried in the debris of the wreck, bruised mangled, scalded, roasted, men, women, children, babes, were mingled in a mass of indescribable horror.”
|The wreck of the Westfield, Harper's Weekly 1871 (copyright expired)|
But heroism did not translate into great reward. On September 5, 1871, The New York Times reported "Michael Quigley, of No. 9 State-street, who did such good service in he work of rescuing the victims of the Westfield, was a complainant yesterday before Justice Dowling, against John Williams of No. 46 Vandam-street, whom he charged with stealing his gold watch."
According to Quigley's testimony, he was standing at the Battery on that previous Sunday afternoon, "having in his vest pocket a gold watch worth $60." (A significant $1,240 in today's dollars, considering Quigley's blue-collar status.) The New York Herald said that Williams "had a predilection for the watch [and] quietly withdrew it from Quigley's pocket." He had not gotten far before Quigley realize his pocket had been picked.
The ill-fated Quigley would have to find other accommodations before long. In April 1874 architect John Correja filed plans for a five-story tenement building on the site for developer Patrick Dollard. The Ludlow-Morton house, once one of the most celebrated residences in the city, was demolished with no comment in the press.
Today the site is part of the plaza of the 42-story 17 State Street.
|The large red curbside bow unintentionally marks the approximate site of the Ludlow mansion.|