Friday, January 19, 2018

The Edward Rubin House - 22 East 93rd Street

In 1892 developer Walter Reid started construction on a row of upscale homes stretching from No. 14 through 24 East 93rd Street.  He did not have to look far to find his architect.  The residences were designed by his son, Walter Reid, Jr.

Completed the following year, the Romanesque Revival row was deftly designed to include the expected beefy elements of the style--like rough cut stone and fortress-worthy arches--tempered with delicate carvings and decorations.  Although each of the houses was slightly different; Reid left no question that this was a unified row.

His treatment of No. 22 was unusual.  The planar walls of the upper floors created an unusually finished look for the Romanesque style; in stark contrast to the parlor level.  The windows of the second floor were grouped within a carved picture frame-type molding, more expected in commercial buildings.  And the sparse decoration of the third floor gave the impression that something was missing.

In the meantime Edward Rubin had been building an appreciable personal fortune.  He and his wife, the former Celia Cohen, were married in their native Russia.  After arriving in New York City, Rubin went into the fur business, eventually forming the Edward Rubin & Co., makers of "fur garments and novelties."  Around the turn of the century the young couple moved into No. 22 East 93rd Street.

An unusual foliate Romanesque panel at the third floor gives way to neo-Classical elements on the fourth.  The cast metal cornice with its swirling frieze was identical to those on each of the other houses.

Edward was 28 and Celia just 23 when son Harold was born on October 13, 1900.  The family would eventually grow to nine, with three more sons, Edwin, Milton, and Arthur, and daughters Bertha, Miriam, and Rita.

Russia was the source of many of the sought-after pelts for turn-of-the-century fashions, including the "Crown" sable worn by the tsar.   The early training Rubin received in his homeland made his business a success.

In November 1903 Cloaks and Furs gushed "Edward Rubin & Co., the furriers...have on hand one of the most complete lines of scarfs, boas, clusters, neckpieces, pelerines, etc., that the writer has been seen anywhere.  The fur pieces are all in the most fashionable furs, and at the most moderate prices.  Such a handsome outlay is rarely seen in a furrier's showrooms.  Throughout the whole stock there is a richness of tone that bespeaks volumes for Mr. Rubin as a judge of furs."

But two years later Rubin made a bold move by stepping out of his comfort zone and founding the American Silk Mills, Inc. with factories in Paterson, New Jersey.   Before long his fur business would be dissolved as he focused entirely on silk production.   The change turned out to be both wise and significantly profitable.

He added to his fortune by dabbling in Upper West Side real estate.  It resulted in his diversifying again, in 1911, when he formed the Nibur Realty Company, Inc. with his brother, Jacob and another investor.

The family rarely entertained and their names never appeared in mainstream society columns.  Only events like the announcement of Harold's bar mitzvah in October 1913 and the subsequent "at home" for receiving well-wishers made the newspapers.

Instead Edward Rubin focused on religious and charitable causes.  He supported several philanthropic organizations, most notably Beth Israel Hospital which counted him among its major benefactors for decades.

During the Depression years, heart problems caused Rubin to spend less time at the office.  Son Milton took over much of the management of the American Silk Mills, Inc.  Rubin fell into a comfortable habit of receiving his breakfast and newspaper each morning in his bedroom--delivered conveniently by a dumbwaiter from the kitchen.  It was a custom that resulted in a highly bizarre accident on September 28, 1939.

Around 8:00 that morning servants were stunned when the 64-year old plunged headfirst down the dumbwaiter shaft from his second story bedroom, landing in the basement.   He suffered a possible fractured skull and internal injuries.

A full-grown man getting his body into the shaft far enough to fall seems highly difficult, if not nearly impossible.  Yet Milton explained "that his father apparently became dizzy when he leaned into the shaft to get his morning newspaper and breakfast," reported The New York Times.  That, too, seemed unlikely, since the dumbwaiter, still empty, was at the bottom of the shaft at the time.

Nevertheless, the police deemed the fall an accident.  Rubin was taken to Mount Sinai Hospital by private ambulance.   He died there five days later.

The variety of carvings included bold, foliate designs at the parlor level, and delicate ropes framing the second story openings.

The following year Rubin's children sold the family house of more than three decades to the 22 East Ninety-third Street Company.  While the details were kept quiet, the firm's $20,000 mortgage (in the neighborhood of $330,000 today) hinted at the sale price.

The new owner had no intentions of leasing No. 22 as a private home.  Within the year renovations were completed that resulted in two apartments and "two furnished rooms" per floor.

Among the tenants in the 1960s was gold dealer Elizabeth Meiler, whose shop was in the Diamond District, at No. 10 West 47th Street.   She found herself unexpectedly pulled into a murder investigation in the summer of 1963.

Jeweler Antonin Eisler also had a store at the 47th Street address and on Friday July 26 Elizabeth happened to notice him having lunch with a "young brunette" in a restaurant in the building.   Late that night, at around 11:00, Eisler's wife reported him missing.

Three days later his mutilated body was found face down at the base of a steep embankment in Alpine, New Jersey.  He had been shot twice through the heart at close range, prompting detectives to suspect a professional hit.  The New York Times reported "An odd aspect of the mystery was that the entire face of the victim had turned black, but not the rest of the body."

Eisler had left his 47th Street shop with $156,000 in gems, which were missing.  Although she was not considered in anyway connected to the crime, the police were still questioning Elizabeth Meiler and other friends and associated into the night three days later.

The bullet-like newels of the stoop are beautifully decorated with vining leaves.
Although the exterior of the Rubin house survives essentially unchanged; there is nothing left of Walter Reid's 1893 interiors.  Exposed brick and flat drywall replace the Victorian details so familiar to Celia Rubin.  And one assumes that the dumbwaiter that resulted in her husband's death is gone as well.

photographs by the author


  1. I love these stories of New York and hate passing them by because I have to get on with my own book. But from now on I will read them all again. Your research is prodigious. You helped me with the Lonergen/Burton affair. And I have your book. Best wishes. Maureen Emerson

  2. Your commitment and the depth of your investigations is a real gift to anyone interested in the history of New York and of American architecture and society. Thank you!

    1. Thanks. I hope I am preserving back stories and social histories that may otherwise be lost.

  3. Fascinating and very in-depth. Thank you

  4. This is my Great Grandfather's house!!! My Grandmother was Miriam Fillman (b. Miriam Rubin, 1904). I have been researching my ancestry, and came across this story! My father used to tell the story of his grandfather's death -- particularly the last time he saw him, at the hospital, with bandages around his head. My Great Grandfather put my grandmother in charge when Celia died giving birth to Bertha (in this building). Miriam was only 7, and when she arrived home from school, she saw a black wagon out front and assumed it was the Tiffany's wagon come with gifts for the baby. It was not. It was the wagon for her mother. When she walked in, her father greeted her saying "Miriam, mother's dead, you're in charge." She became an adult that day emotionally -- the eldest girl, in charge of her younger siblings, with no comfort from her father. I think it forever changed her. Her whole life she was extremely anxious, to the point where it was a family joke. Someone gave her a pillow that said "Don't just sit there, worry!" She worried about everything -- especially sickness. I believe Harold was her favorite brother, and he died young, and that too devastated her. Nevertheless, I have so much respect for her because she snuck off to school and work against her father's wishes, and refused to marry his choices for her (all men he wanted in the business with him -- Rita married one of them, and later divorced him I believe). Instead, while Edward was away in Europe, she ELOPED with my grandfather -- a WWI veteran and only son of Russian Immigrants living in Brooklyn (Henry I. Fillman). Together they had a long happy life, and two children, one of whom was my father Jeffrey. My grandfather worshipped her, and carried her photo in his inside jacket pocket every day after she died. He would take it out and kiss it and weep. Every single day. Thank you for posting this!!!

    1. Sorry Deb, but your grandmother. Miriam was not put in charge of the family as Edward Rubin was remarried to my grandmother, nee Celia Cantor who was a 1st cousin of Celia Cohen and she was at the time helping in the house with the children. When the first Celia died, Ed Rubin married the 1st cousin as is done in some orthodox Jewish families and they had 1 son, my dad, Edwin Rubin! My grandmother brought up all the kids and mt father who was very much younger then the rest of them.My grandfather, Edward Rubin came to the USA in steerage from what was at the time Poland, not Russia, altho it is a part of the country that went back and forth many times, at the time he came here he was 15 years old and he was born in Poland. I have his naturalization papers and pictures of his tanning hides in a fur tannery at 15. He did bring over his other brothers and 1 sister Lena, from Poland. My grandfather did die from falling down the dumbwaiter but it was because he had a bad temper and his breakfast was not being brought up fast enough. He yelled at the cook to sent his breakfast ASAP and she pulled the dumbwaiter down an it clonked him on the head trying to bring it down to the kitchen. It came down and on its way down hit him.on the head and sent him down the shaft. He was KNOWN for his bad temper. There is lots mire to the family stories, a lot of which I know. Jeffery Fillman is my first cousin, if you ever want to talk e mail me at If the author of the 92nd Street house wants to know more about our illustrious family and its secrets that is my email. You Deb are my 2nd cousin. Nancy Rubin Gregory

    2. Nancy-- 1. You are right (and Deb is wrong- as she so often is) about what role my Grandpa had my mother Miriam play after his first wife died. She was "put in charge" of "the girls": i.e. Rita and the new-born Bertha. In the early years that meant relieving Grandpa of the need to deal with the nurse/governess directly re issues involving the girl children. But by the time they were teenagers (when my Mother was @ 20 yrs old) that meant she was in charge of them when he sent all 3 to tour around Europe (i.e., she had the letter of credit that was used to get money as they moved from city to city, and she was responsible for making sure they made all the train connections on time, etc.-- it turned her into the hypernervous woman that she was who constantly worried if I was getting into trouble, etc. when I was young and instead of coming home from school would go up to Madison Square Garden or Yankee Stadium, etc. instead of coming directly home.
      2. There is an issue as to the country from which Grandpa originated. He always said it was Germany. Uncle Isadore (youngest brother) used to say he--Isadore-- came from Vienna --see the Wikipedia write up re Uncle Isidore. But some cousins (e.g., Danny Jacobson) says it was Poland. I've concluded it (a) was in fact Poland but Grandpa said Germany because being a German Jew was more high-class than being a Polish Jew, or it was one of those slivers of land that was disputed between Germany and Poland.
      3. You are also mostly right about the story of his death. What I have always understood happened was that when he impatiently yelled down the dumbwaiter shaft to find out from "Edward" -- I think that was the butler's name (not the cook, the cook was a "she")-- where his paper was, the dumbwaiter (which had gone up a bit higher than the opening Grandpa had stuck his head in) came down fracturing his skull But he never fell down the shaft. He died some days later. I remember visiting him (I don't know whether it was at his home or in a hospital) and seeing him with his bandaged head, but I cannot remember anything else about that "visit". Of course most of the family "stories" that I know about date from the '40's, including some you may not want to know. You may know that your Father's mother lived 2 floors above my family at 1125 Park Ave, and after WWII Friday night dinner at her apt attended by me my Mother, father and sister and of the Rubin sons who were in town, became a sort of "custom"for a few years (at least until I was sent away to school at 14). I remember your Father (Uncle Edwin) and your mother --Ethel as I recall--as a teen-ager I thought she was gorgeous).

  5. From Nancy Rubin to Jeff Fillman E mail me at, and Edward Rubin our grandfather was indeed born in Poland that was Poland at the time and Russia sometimes, that part of Poland was never Germany, I have his citizenship paper in my possession! They all wanted to be from Germany, you are right about that; as the German Jews were considered higher class. My mothel, Ethel's fathervwas really born in Germany and looked down on my grandmother's family who were from Russia! I met your Deb when she was little once, I don't remember her. I did take great exception to the fact that my grandmother, Celia, WAS the nanny before she married our grandfather and she was already taking care of the kiddos! I really cared for your dad, my Uncle Jeff, even if he seemed gruff at times. And Auntie Miriam who "cleaned up.the streets of NY!" Please email me as I would love to know how you are doing and I have just started a friendship with Elizabeth Dobell, Andi's daughter, and have spoken with Prue Linder. This 93rd St house thing is so funny as it is bringing our family together. A Japanese lady is putting a show together about the American Silk Mills in West Virginia and I contributed what I knew but you might have things to add as well. Write to me! Nancy