Saturday, September 29, 2018

Thomas J. Jackson's 1886 7 East 19th Street

As early as 1870 Fifth Avenue and Broadway above 14th Street were seeing change as commerce edged northward, prompting wealthy families to leave their brick and brownstone mansions.  Between the two thoroughfares, a livery stable had stood at No. 7 East 19th Street for years.

In 1885 the transition was nearly complete.  Union Square, once an elegant residential enclave, was now a retail center.  On both Fifth Avenue and Broadway were high-end stores--dressmakers, art galleries, and jewelry and piano stores among them.  That year book dealer Robert Carter hired architect Thomas R. Jackson to design a modern store and loft building on the site of the old stable.

Born in England in 1826, Thomas R. Jackson had come to America as a child with his parents.  He had held the position of head draftsman in the office of esteemed architect Richard Upjohn and worked with him on the design of Trinity Church.  Among his well-recognized works by now were the Academy of Music and the Jerome Mansion on Madison Square.

Completed in 1886, Jackson's cast iron fronted building was five stories tall.  Although the relatively new neo-Grec style was often stiffly formal, his personal take gave it a nearly mirthful personality.  Atop the engaged columns that flanked the storefront entrance Jackson playfully placed miniature versions.

Jackson gave his Corinthian capitals a American flair by incorporating ears of corn and scallop shells into their design.
At each of the upper floors he stacked Corinthian pilasters and columns--one standing before the other as if bullying its smaller brother for attention.  Jackson finished the design with an elaborate pediment that imitated a gable.

A year before construction had begun on Carter's speculative structure, William B. Norman was hired by Peter C. Kellogg & Co. as a novice auctioneer.  In reporting on the sale of millionaire Theodore A. Havemeyers horses on June 3, 1884, The Sun mentioned "At 10 o'clock Mr. William B. Norman, a light boy auctioneer recently imported from Baltimore, began the section annual horse sale."

The light boy's success was meteoric and he moved his own auctioneering business into No. 7 East 19th Street.  Norman's clientele was affluent and the items he sold were high-end.  In response, in 1889 he moved to No. 205 Fifth Avenue and renamed his firm the Fifth Avenue Auction Company.  His former space was taken by the Thomas & Wylie Lithographing Company.

Thomas & Wylie Lithographic Co. produced high-quality prints like this poster, possibly marketing an opera production.
Both firms would be involved in unflattering press in 1891 when they appeared in court for back rent.  Both accused the other of being the deadbeat tenant.   No doubt shocking to his moneyed clients, on May 28 The Sun reported "Execution for $3,026 has been issued against William B. Norman, favor of the Thomas & Wylie Lithographing Company for rent."

Two days later The New York Times advised "William B. Norman says that the Fifth Avenue Auction Company is in no wise involved in the execution for $3,026 for rent, which was issued against him personally."  Norman had carefully worded the disclaimer, not denying guilt but absolving his firm of the debt.

Although its good name was restored, the messy affair may have left a bad taste in the mouth of Thomas & Wylie Lithographic.  The firm moved to West 24th Street within months of the verdict.

On June 19, 1893 Benjamin B. Vanderveer was made a director of the Cassell Publishing Company.  In reporting on the appointment The New York Times called him "a candy manufacturer of 7 East Nineteenth Street."  In fact, he was not a confectioner at all.  He was head of the American Pastry & Manufacturing Co.

The newspaper made up for the error later by editorializing "The American Pastry and Manufacturing Company has for its object, the production of pies...We do not pretend to any personal acquaintance with the modern pie of commerce, but whispers that ascend from the profounder social depths claim for it superiority to all pies except those known as 'made-by-mother.'"

Glowing reviews notwithstanding, Vanderveer would soon have to find another building in which to make his pies.  Directly behind No. 7 East 19th Street was the massive Lord & Taylor department store.   In 1895 Lord & Taylor leased No. 7 and two years later erected a connecting bridge.  The 19th Street building would be used for a decade merely for storage.  In 1915 Lord & Taylor moved uptown along with the other remnants of the Broadway shopping district.

Whether No. 7 simply sat empty for the next seven years is unclear; however in 1922 renovations were made to convert it into showrooms and warehouse space for the Colson Company.  Headed by Frederic W. Colson, it manufactured bicycles, wheelchairs, and tricycles.

When the Ohio-based Fay Manufacturing Company was reorganized as the Worthington Company in 1903 Colson became its principal.  He purchased the firm outright in 1917, changing the name to the Colson Company.   The factory remained in Ohio, and the East 19th Street was used for a store at street level, showroom on the second floor, and warehousing above.

This ad, published the year the firm moved into No. 7, touted its popular Fairy brand tricycle. New-York Tribune, December 3, 1922 (copyright expired) 

The Colson Company sold its bicycles from No. 7 for 15 years.  On October 18, 1937 The New York Times announced that Frederick W. Colson had sold the building to Max Gordon "for altering."  Included in the alterations at that time may have been the removal of the decorative pediment.

In 1969 the Bomze Graphics and Jay Bee Photo Supplies took over the building.  Interior renovations, completed in January 1975, resulted in "photographic stores" on the ground floor, with offices, photographic and art studios, and warehouse space above.

Among the initial tenants, other than the owners, was the Norman Snyder Studios, Inc., here at least by 1977.  Here aspiring photographs could take basic and advanced courses.  Snyder also edited The Photograph Catalog here, advertised as "the in-book the entire photo-establishment is talking about."

Bomze Graphics was a go-to store for photographers on a budget.  Among the second-hand equipment available here were "cameras, enlargers, darkroom equipment, lab equipment, lighting, tripods [and] hand-held light meters," according to The New York Times on June 18, 1978.

photo via Done Deals
In the 1990's cybernetic sculptor and kinetic artist Wen-Ying Tsai purchased No. 7.  The Chinese-born dissident established his studio and residence in the building.  He would remain here for two decades until his death in January 2013.  By then Thomas R. Jackson's once striking structure had been seriously abused.

In January 2014 a private investor purchased No. 7 for $12 million for alteration into residential space.  Architect Jeffrey Cole was put to work restoring the facade and recreating the lost elements.  His meticulous transformation resulted in a near recreation of the building as it appeared in 1886.  Inside, above the store, are a total of four apartments, including a penthouse hidden from view by the replaced pediment.

photographs by the author

Friday, September 28, 2018

S. Edson Gage's Corn Exchange Bank - 124-126 East 86th Street

Founded in 1853, the Corn Exchange Bank had grown prodigiously by the turn of the century.  Branches sprouted throughout the city as the population shifted; and in the spring of 1914 another was on the horizon.

On April 17 The New York Times reported "The Corn Exchange Bank has purchased from Bella Glaser the two old five-story flats at 124 and 126 East Eighty-sixth Street...While the bank officers have not fully determined upon the changes to the property, it has been decided to alter the lower floor of the house at 126 and establish a branch of the Corn Exchange Bank there in the near future."  The article noted that later "the entire property may be improved with a large banking office on the ground floor."

The trustees soon made up their minds.  Within two months they had remodeled the ground floor of No. 124 as a banking office and on June 21, 1914 The Times reported "The adjoining structure at 126 has been torn down, and work is now under way for an artistic two-story building, which will be exclusively used by the bank when completed in the Fall."

The Corn Exchange Bank routinely used the talents of architect S. Edson Gage for its structures.  His neo-Classical designs were tried and true, and his branch bank buildings were often slight variations of one another.  Such would be the case with No. 126.  Its clean neo-Classical facade featured a double-height arch and shallow understated pilasters.

The two-story bank building stood out on the brick and brownstone lined block.  photo by Wurtz Bros. from the collection of the Museum of the City of New York
The 86th Street Corn Exchange Bank became part of an economic-political scandal in 1922 involving the mayor, Tammany Hall big shots and a shady character called Fishhooks McCarthy.   The Transit Commission had launched an investigation into the operation of bus lines, the operating permits of which were granted by the mayor's office.

A powerful figure within the Tammany organization was John A. McCarthy.  On October 26, 1922 the New-York Tribune reminded its readers "McCarthy is the same 'Fishhooks' McCarthy who recently pleaded guilty of conspiracy in restraint of trade with other members of the builders' ring."

The new bus lines, which included the crosstown Eighty-sixth Street line, had been advocated by Mayor John Hylan, and now it appeared that his office was giving control of the lucrative lines to Tammany affiliates.

In the course of testimony on October 25 it was revealed that "Fishhooks" McCarthy was "the virtual owner of the profitable Eighty-sixth Street bus line."  Although his name did not appear on the paperwork, he had provided the money for the permit to "dummies."  They would then deposit the receipts into McCarthy's account in the Corn Exchange Bank on 86th Street.  The buses took in about $40 per day--more than $4,000 a week today.

Clarence J. Shearn told reporters he expected "in the light of yesterday's revelations, to be able to show a clear and far more extensive connection between the newly established bus lines of the city and Tammany Hall, the bus lines lining the pockets and enhancing the political prestige of the district leaders."

Earlier that year two boys, 14-year-old Charles Wolfe and 15-year-old Oscar Spiegel were passing the bank when they noticed a slip of paper on the sidewalk.  (The New York Herald mentioned that "Oscar is a water boy in a theater and Wolfe is a high school student.")   The paper was a check for $50 payable to Sarah Wendell, who had apparently dropped it on her way into the bank.

The teens weighed their options--turning in the check worth about $731 in today's money, or cashing it.  They chose the latter.  They carefully signed Sarah Wendell's name to the back of the check, then cashed it at the Emanuel Hayman's stationery store on Third Avenue.  While Hayman's trust seems on the surface naive (or even stupid), he knew the grandmother of one of the boys.

While there Oscar and Charles purchased a $15 electric train.  They walked out with the $35 change which they divided and then went to the movies "and otherwise enjoyed themselves until it was gone," according to detectives.  Their enjoyment was short lived.

When Hayman went to the bank and found the check was "wrongly endorsed" he notified the police, who were given the address of the grandmother.   The boys were arrested within hours.

Eleven years after he had designed the 86th Street building S. Edson Gage was brought back to enlarge it.  The old building at No. 124 was demolished and Gage doubled the size of the branch office with a duplicate of the original, completed in 1925.  A cornice and parapet with a bas relief sheaf of wheat--symbolic of productivity--joined the two sections.

Four years earlier Percy Jay Fuller, the financial advisor to Milla D. Shonts, had deposited 97 railroad bonds into his safety deposit box vault here.  They had been the property of Milla's recently deceased husband, Theodore P. Shonts, for many years the head of the Interborough Rapid Transit Company.  Milla now lived in Pennsylvania, so she gave Fuller the bonds, along with other tangible property, to manage for her.

Now, in the spring of 1928 Milla's funds were inexplicably running out.  In addition, many valuable items were missing, which Fuller claimed he knew nothing about.  Additionally, he insisted he had never received the bonds.  The New York Times reported on April 12 that Milla had obtained a court order permitting her attorney, Robert M. Simpson, to open Fuller's vault in the 86th Street branch.   Simpson, according to The Times, said that "$150,000, including interest, is due on the ninety-seven $1,000 bonds."

Fuller's attorney insisted that the bonds were not there.  And, indeed, they were not.  Fuller was sent to an Atlanta prison; but that did not solve Milla's problems.  Following her death on June 21, 1929 the once wealthy widow was declared insolvent.  Her daughter explained to the press that Fuller had made off with not only with the bonds, but valuable items like "a set of Bibles, four rugs, four Aubusson tapestry panels, a gilt clock and mirror."

In 1954 the Corn Exchange Bank merged with Chemical Bank to become the Chemical Corn Bank.  Louis Landi became a client of the bank in December 1958 when he rented a safe deposit bank.  He did not use his own name on the paperwork, however, instead signing "John Costa."  He placed a package into the box and locked it.  The package contained half a million dollars in heroin; more in the neighborhood of $4.2 million today.

Landi was already known to police.  Ten months earlier he had been arrested in Hempstead, Long Island for being part of a major heroin ring.  He was out on $10,000 bail.  The chain of events that ended his freedom started on March 16, 1959 when police raided the apartment of Frank Russo, another of the Hempstead gang, and found 15 ounces of heroin in his refrigerator.  There were also $1,501 in cash and five safe deposit box keys from the 86th Street bank.

With a court order, Federal agents opened the safe deposit boxes, including that rented by John Costa.  Bank employees identified Costa as Louis Landi through mug shots.  That alone was not evidence enough for an arrest; so in order to get positive identification the Feds embarked on a clever ruse.

A smug-looking Louis Landi was captured in the 86th Street bank on April 9, 1959.  The New York Times April 10, 1959
When Landi was arrested in Hempstead his automobile had been impounded.  Police now notified him that they would release the car to him, and he agreed to accompany them uptown to retrieve it.  Instead, they pulled up to the Corn Chemical Exchange Bank.  At 2:00 on the afternoon of April 9, 1959 Federal narcotics agents waited inside.  When Landi was identified by bank employees, he was arrested on charges of possessing heroin with the intent to sell.

The bank got a new name once again in 1995 when it merged with Chase Manhattan Bank.  The bank continues on in its little-changed 86th Street branch building after nearly 105 years.

photograph by the author

Thursday, September 27, 2018

The Sherwin-Williams Co. Bldg - 397 Washington Street

The wooden house at No. 28 Hubert Street had stood for half a century when laborer John Ellis lived in a rented there room in 1886.  He was working on the roof at No. 42 Watts Street in October that year.

Thomas Sullivan was in his 70's and lived in the attic of that old building.  The bent old man hoarded gold coins in a tin box and as Ellis worked, he glimpsed him through a window, fingering his treasure.  The gold amounted to a small fortune--about $52,000 today.  When Sulllivan left the room, Ellis lowered himself through the window and stole the box. 

Around the same time Gustavus L. Lawrence operated a produce business on Franklin Street.  In 1895 he purchased No. 28 Hubert Street, where police had tracked John Ellis and the stolen gold, along with two other old buildings, No. 30 Hubert Street and No. 397 Washington Street.  He hired architect George F. Pelham to replace the vintage structures with a modern loft building on the 28 by 78 foot site.

Completed in 1896, it cost Lawrence the equivalent of just over $1 million today.  It was a happy marriage of Renaissance Revival and Romanesque Revival styles, six stories tall.  Pelham used beige brick above the red brick ground floor.  Three-story arches drew the eye to the upper floors.  The motif was carried on in arched openings along the top floor.  A captivating chain design executed in brick filled the frieze below the sheet metal cornice.

On April 30 1896, almost immediately upon the completion of the structure, Lawrence sold it to Joseph H. Bearns, who ran his liquor business steps away at No. 10 Hubert Street.  The transaction was purely an investment for Bearns, who leased the building to the Cleveland-based Sherwin-Williams Paint and Varnish Company.

Sherwin-Williams appears to have mostly manufactured marine paints in the New York factory.  In 1896 it advertised its "vessel paints" and "marine paints" in Beeson's Marine Directory.  In 1901 the firm landed lucrative contracts with the United States Navy.

The Financial Panic of 1907 was devastating nation-wide.  The New York Stock Exchange dropped nearly 50 percent from its peak the previous year and panic caused chaos on Wall Street.  Banks and businesses failed and overall production fell by 11 percent.

Sherwin-Williams's military contracts may have helped the firm weather the economic crisis.  A year later things seemed to have been turning around.  A reporter from The Sun visited the Washington Street factory on November 6, 1908 for a story on the recovery.  "Activity was noticeable at the big paint works of the Sherwin Williams Company and it was said at the plant that rosy reports from other sections of the country where the firm does business were prophetic of a resumption of the prosperity temporarily checked by the financial stringency."

The company had upgraded from horse-drawn drays to motor trucks by 1912 when a horrific accident took place in New Jersey.  Drivers Robert Sohl and Joseph Lynch were arrested on June 14 that year after the tragic incident.  The New York Times reported "Edward C. Hallgring, 13 years old, was run down by an automobile truck owned by the Sherwin Williams Paint Company while playing ball near his home in Hamburg Place Road.  The front wheels of the truck passed over the boy's body, killing him."

Joseph H. Bearns died in 1914 and it was about that time that Sherwin-Williams left No. 397 Washington Street.  It became home to grocery importers La Manna, Azema & Farnam.  The firm had a branch office in Paris, run by Arthur Azema.

La Manna, Azema & Farnam imported Italian and Spanish products like olive oil, sardines and mushrooms in bulk, then canned and bottled them in the Washington Street building.  It labeled different items with their own brand names--like Francois canned mushrooms and Mary Elizabeth sardines.

Decades before sexual discrimination laws the firm explicitly hired only females in its bottling department.  An advertisement in the New-York Tribune on October 6, 1918, for instance, read "Girls, bottling establishment; good pay steady employment."

The girls-only policy for bottlers is puzzling today.  New-York Tribune, April 13, 1919
A reflection of the much different times, the company's specificity in hiring, deemed unacceptable today, extended to religion.  A June 8, 1919 ad sought an "Office Boy, Christian."

In 1918 owner F. W. Keller was charged with violations of a labor law for not having adequate emergency exits and was ordered to provide "egress to street from termination of stairway."  It was most likely at this time that the iron fire escape with its decorative, scrolled railings was added to the Hubert Street elevation. 

La Manna, Azema & Farnam remained in the building into the Depression years, following by Millner & Son, suppliers of "foodstuff," in the late 1930s.  The following decade saw Archibald & Kendall, importers and processors of spices and seeds, calling No. 397 home.

Founded by William D. Kendall, the firm packaged its spices under the Black Diamond label.  At some point a lucrative and sensible side line was established under the name Archibald & Lewis Co.  While Archibald & Kendall sold its "spices and seasoning herbs," its affiliated company sold "bird seed and bird food."

Over the next three decades the building saw a luncheonette on the ground floor and Independent Cordage Company in the upper stories.  But the Tribeca renaissance was on the horizon.

Although a small apparel company still operated in the ground floor in 1982, the building was being converted to cooperative apartments.  It did not hurt that resident Ekkehart Schwartz, who was president of the co-op board in 1982, was an architect.

The conversion was completed in 1984, resulting in one residence per floor.  In 1997 the apartment firm was gone and an office now shared the lobby floor. 

By 2005 the Civitella Raniere Center was in the building.  Founded in 1993 its mission was "to bring together visual artists, writers, and musicians from around the world who demonstrate talent and an enduring commitment to their disciplines."

photographs by the author

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Rentz & Lange's 1889 Nos. 519-525 Hudson Street

Architects Charles Rentz, Jr. and Rudolph L. Lange were busy in 1889.  The two had partnered only months earlier, in 1888, to form Rentz & Lange, and commissions to erect tenement buildings throughout the city poured in.  They included the project for developer Frank Schaefler at the northwest corner of Hudson and West 10th Streets.

It was a substantial commission--a total of six flat buildings, two on West 10th and a block of four facing Hudson Street (Nos. 519 through 525).  The Hudson Street buildings, which melded architecturally as a unit, would each contain a store at street level.  They were completed within the year and would be among the last the short-lived firm designed.    On December 21, 1889 The Record & Guide announced "The firm of Rentz & Lange, architects, has been dissolved, Mr. Lange retiring."

The firm went out with a bang.  Its Nos. 519-525 Hudson Street was a visually delightful blend of styles--Queen Anne, Romanesque Revival and Renaissance Revival--and materials.  Brick, limestone, brownstone and terra cotta created a contrast of color and texture.   Renaissance Revival window pediments and decorative panels coexisted with muscular brownstone Romanesque Revival voussoirs (on the 10th Street elevation) and an unrestrained Queen Anne cornice.  A make-believe turret that clung to the corner of the fourth and fifth floors sprouted a witch's hat cap topped with a cast iron weather vane.

The eye-catching turret managed to capture three historic styles.  Miraculously the Queen Anne weather vane survives.
The corner store, at No. 519, would be home to Albert Kramer's butcher shop for years.  In 1901 he branched out by adding a fruit stand out front.  He lived in the building with his wife Gertrude and her daughter from a former marriage, Evangeline.

Gertrude had divorced her first husband, named Prosser, but did not bother with those formalities in 1903 when she left Albert for a street car conductor, William Murphy.  She and her daughter moved to a three room apartment at No. 209 East 80th Street with Murphy.   As far as any of the tenants or the landlady knew they were Mr. and Mrs. Murphy.   Despite his wife's romantic rebuff, Kramer gave her $5 a week.

Trouble began in June 1904 when Murphy lost his job.  With only Kramer's $5 (about $525 per month today) to live on, things got tense in the household.  Sometime in the middle of July Gertrude and Murphy had what Evangeline called "a violent quarrel" which turned physical.  During the altercation Gertrude bit him on the cheek.

Evangeline, who was 12-years old now, would later tell police "He didn't say anything at first, but finally he said: 'I'll have a sweet revenge for this.'"

At around 9:30 on Monday morning, July 18, all three left the building.  Suddenly Murphy said he forgot something and turned back.  Gertrude followed, telling "Evangeline, run over to your grandmother's for a while."  (Gertrude's mother, named Herz, lived only a few blocks north on Third Avenue.)

After staying at the Hertz apartment until 11, the girl returned home.  She rang the buzzer to their apartment, but got no answer.  Another tenant let her in.  She found the door padlocked from the outside; so she went back to her grandmother's.  But throughout the day she returned to the 80th Street apartment, trying to get in.

Monday turned to Tuesday and the Herz family became worried.  The Sun reported on July 21 that Evangeline's two uncles found Policeman Mathew McGrath and related the story.  He said the room should be broken into.

"The Kramer rooms are o the third floor back," said The Sun.  "On the second landing McGrath stopped, almost overpowered by a sickening odor.  'Some one's dead,' he said, and he kicked in the door."

Gertrude was found on the couch.  The state of decomposition in the hot apartment testified to her having been dead for the full two days.  On the table near the body was a beer glass with a white sediment at the bottom.  Inspection showed that no one had come in or out of the windows.  "The last person who left the rooms had gone out by the door and snapped the spring padlock.  To fasten that lock from the inside was an impossibility," said the article.

Detectives quickly theorized that Gertrude had taken her own life.  The Sun reported "The police believe that she died suddenly or committed suicide; that Murphy came back, found the body, locked the room and disappeared to keep out of trouble."  They dismissed the purple bruising around her neck saying that may "have been due to decomposition."

While the police searched for Murphy as "a witness," The Sun reported "Capt. Stevenson is inclined to believe the case one of suicide.  Coroner Jackson rather disagrees with him."

Alfred Kramer would continue his butcher business in the Hudson Street building at least through 1912.  With thousands of doughboys returning home from the war in 1918 Kramer's former store was briefly home to the Government's Federal Employment Bureau.  It helped find jobs for skilled and unskilled laborers at no fee.  It was followed by Harry Nadel's grocery store, here until 1922.

In the meantime, the store at No. 523 held Meyer Waeldner's cigar store.  He had one employee and his cigars were hand-made on the premises.

Waeldner nearly lost his business on May 30, 1894.  Twelve-year old John Meyers lived nearby at No. 9 Cornelia Street.  He sneaked into the cellar at 9:00 that morning, carrying a lighted candle to see in the darkness.  A leak in the gas pipes resulted in an explosion and fire.  Firemen were able to extinguish the flames, but the face of the adventurous boy was badly burned.  "He was taken home," concluded The Evening World.

As would be expected, the apartments in the buildings were rented by blue collar families.  At the turn of the century two horse-drawn cab drivers lived in No. 521, Samuel Morse and Thomas Moss.  Both had problems in 1900.

Morse worked for the Frank Bros.'s stables on 24th Street.  On May 13 he was looking for a fare on Sixth Avenue near 8th Street when the breech strap (used as a brake of sorts to prevent the vehicle from moving forward) broke.  The cab pushed into the horse, spooking it and causing it to bolt.

Morse held on for his life, trying to control the animal, as it ran into Washington Square.  The jolt of the wheels hitting the curb nearly upset the vehicle, and threw Morse to the ground.  The New York Times wrote "Washington Square was filled with children and men and women who were enjoying the summerlike day, and all fled in terror out of the way of the on-coming runaway as fast as they were able."

Near the fountain three brothers, James, Anthony and Gaetano Ouletto, were walking hand in hand.  James, the oldest at 11, heard the hoof beats of the galloping horse coming from behind and tried to drag his brothers out of its path.

"But," reported The Sun, "it swept by, knocking them all down and the cab wheels crushing the life out of Gaetano."  The toddler was just one and a half years old.

Policeman Martin found Morse.  "His left arm was broken, his right foot crushed, his head cut open, and he was injured internally," said The Sun.  The New York Times added "His wounds were dressed and he was then locked up as being responsible for the damage done."

Thomas Moss had experienced a no less horrifying ordeal a few weeks earlier.  On April 20 he had picked up Marie Rosalie Dinse who gave him a Brooklyn address.  Unknown to Moss, she had tried her hand a running a boarding house and had failed.  For some time now she had suffered severe depression over it.

He had already started onto the Brooklyn Bridge when he asked her for the toll.  She said she had no money, but offered her moonstone ring as payment for the toll and promised her Brooklyn friends would pay the fare.  Moss later said "I should have been warned by this."  In fact, he tried to turn the carriage around, but hampered traffic and was yelled at by irate cabbies.  So he continued.

When his hansom reached what was about the highest point of the bridge, "there were sudden exclamations from people on the driveway behind it and from passengers on the walk above," according to The New York Times.  Moss turned to see Marie jump out.  The Times said she "went without faltering to the guard rail, climbed over the crosspiece with the neatness of an acrobat, and in six seconds from the time of leaving the hack was hurtling down to the water."

The newspaper viciously blamed Moss for the suicide.  "The driver, Thomas Moss of 521 Hudson Street, is lethargic and slow of observation, and did not remark much about his fare except that she spoke with a German accent."

The extended Moss family would experience tragedy two years later.  On Saturday afternoon, August 23, 1902, 8-year old John Moss was playing with a group of neighborhood boys on a Hudson River pier a few blocks west.  Three days later The Evening World reported that his father, also named John, "reports to the police of the Charles street station that his son...had been drowned in the North River Saturday afternoon and asked that the body be sought for."

While the majority of the tenants appear to have been hard working, John McGrath was an exception.  McGrath lived in No. 523 in 1902, as did his sister, Jennie Spring, and her husband.  On June 19 he was sentenced to a six-month term in the workhouse.

But when Magistrate Mayo received a glowing letter a month later from Jennie Spring, he reconsidered McGrath's fate.  Jennie's letter insisted that McGrath had been reformed and "had promised to mend his ways."  The prisoner was released on July 19, five months early.

In fact, Jennie and her married sister, Ellen Sipp, could not have been more surprised when they discovered their brother was freed,  After being told how his release came to be, they marched into the Jefferson Market police court, asking Magistrate Cornell to send him back to the workhouse.  "Mrs. Spring declared that the signature was not hers and insisted that a woman friend of McGrath has personated her," explained The Sun on August 7.  After 18 days of freedom, McGrath was shipped  back to the workhouse to fulfill his full six month sentence.

For years the ground for space at No. 525 was E. F. Donovan's Funeral Parlors.  The business would be a familiar neighborhood fixture into the 1920's.  Like Albert Kramer, Edward Donovan had domestic problems.

In 1907 his wife, Bridge, left him.  He agreed to give her $25 per week, or around $2,700 per month today.  But by the beginning of 1908 she complained that she needed more.  Edward's refusal to increase her support led to what The New York Times said was "the beginning of the quarrel."

The quarrel ended violently.  On January 23, 1908 Bridget waited outside the funeral parlor for two and a half hours.  Finally Edward walked out.  The Times reported that she "shot her husband, Edward, through the chin, wounding him painfully, but not seriously."  Bridget was locked up for felonious assault while Edward was taken to St. Vincent's Hospital.  There "it was found that the bullet had passed through the husband's chin and left cheek."

Following Prohibition the corner store was converted to a saloon, owned in part by James McCann.  He closed up early on the morning of September 16, 1935 and headed to his home on West 15th Street.  He never made it there.

At around 2:30 that morning he was found dead on the sidewalk in front of No. 700 Greenwich Street with a bullet wound to the head.  The police deemed it a suicide, The New York Times reporting "They were told McCann had been drinking heavily."

The first decades of the 20th century saw Greenwich Village become the epicenter of Manhattan's artist colony.  By mid-century No. 521 was home to several struggling artists who lived and worked in their apartments.  Among them was Virginia Admiral, who had divorced her artist husband Robert De Niro in 1945.  She moved in with their son, Robert De Niro, Jr.    The boy, of course, became one of the best known motion picture actors of all time.  According to Andy Dougan in his Untouchable: Robert De Niro: Unauthorised, he and his mother remained in "an unheated top-floor tenement" here for "a year or so."

Frank Serpico was a New York City cop in the late 1960's when corruption was rampant among the force.  His information led to corruption charges against 20 policemen and a clean-up of the NYPD.  In the summer of 1971, now a detective, he heard rumors that 46-year old Angelo Pacelli, a building inspector, was extorting money and taking bribes from property owners.

As it happened, Serpico was friends with Robert Shulman, who managed No. 525 Hudson Street.  He provided Shulman with marked bills and when Pacelli dropped by for his payment, the trap was sprung.  On June 17 Pacelli was arrested on "charges of extortion, receiving [a] bribe, and official misconduct," as reported by The New York Times.

By now the days of funeral parlors, butcher shops and saloons in the Hudson Street block were gone.  This section of Greenwich Village filled with antique stores, wine stores and cafes as a new wave of residents took over the old apartment buildings.

The stores at Nos. 519 and 521 were joined to become home to the House of Treasures antiques store in the late 1960's, then The Village Stripper in the 1970's.  The shop would strip off years of paint from old furniture using a chemical process.  It was following by the Yankee Peddler antiques shop in the late 1970's before becoming home to the Cowgirl Hall of Fame restaurant.

No. 523 was home to the Cadet General Store, Inc. in 1981.  The clothing store was the brain child of Joe De Filippis, who stood 5 feet, 5 inches tall.  It provided apparel to men under 5' 8".  He explained to The New York Times journalist Ron Alexander on July 19 that year "We short guys are neglected by stores."

For more than a decade, starting in 1990, Taylor's Prepared Food & Bake Shop was at No. 523, followed by Elixir, which sold healthful smoothies and juices, and then The Meadow where vegan chocolate can be had.

E. F. Donovan's Funeral Parlor had become A Pilgrim's Progress in 1973 where Dick Dulany and Philip Balestrino sold antique furniture.  It was followed by another antiques shop, The Salvage Barn, and in 1986 by the eccentric Statue of Liberty Gallery.  It sold only items relating to the monument, like vintage snowglobes and souvenirs.  Since 2009 the space has been home to Mexicana Mama restaurant.

Without the considerable talent of Rentz & Lange, the block of buildings could have been ponderous.  Instead, the visually entertaining structures continue to command attention.

photographs by the author

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

The Honeywell-Roberts House - 49 West 84th Street

On June 30, 1886 developer Michael S. Madigan purchased the four vacant lots at Nos. 49 through 55 West 84th Street from J. Bentley Squier.  The $30,000 price tag--more than $750,000 today--reflected the increasing property values in the rapidly-developing suburb.   Madigan wasted little time in improving the plots.  Exactly one month later architects Thom & Wilson filed plans for four four-story and basement dwellings to cost $19,000 each.

On August 14, 1886, the Real Estate Record & Builders' Guide remarked on the flurry of construction in the immediate neighborhood.  The journal attributed the activity to "a number of causes which make the owners of property there especially confident in its value."  Especially important was the proposed elevated railroad station at 86th Street, and the push to have 85th Street "macadamized" (an early form of asphalt pavement).

Thom & Wilson routinely dipped into a grab bag of historic styles and would do so again for Madigan's project.  Each of the homes was individually designed; yet they complimented one another in a blend of Renaissance Revival, Romanesque Revival, Northern Renaissance and a splash of neo-Grec elements.

The eclectic mix was perhaps best illustrated at No. 49.  The newels of the stoop were Romanesque Revival, as were the beefy engaged column of the basement level.  The parlor floor blended Northern Renaissance (in details like the portrait-decorated window pilaster) with Renaissance Revival (the delicate spandrel panels and the arch and keystone of the entrance, for instance).

The planar-faced second and third floors featured a projecting bay flanked by two charming windows perched on carved, half-bowls.  Unexpectedly reserved panels directly above mimicked their proportions.  The fourth floor with its fluted pilasters sat below a neo-Classical inspired cornice.

Close inspection of the parlor floor details reveal a profusion of carver's art.  Tragically one of the handsome panels below the window has been chopped out for an air conditioner.  Note the charming cherub carving staring out from the triangular spandrel above the gruff looking portrait.
The row was completed in 1887 and two houses, Nos. 49 and 53, were sold to real estate operator Charles McDonald and his wife, Anna.  The couple resold them on May 21, 1888 to another operator, Josephine S. Topping.  The price she paid for each would be about $853,000 today.

Josephine leased No. 49 for a year, before offering it for sale on April 14, 1889.  She advertised the 12-room, 4 bath house as "The most attractive 20-foot, 4-story house on the West Side."  She found a buyer in Antonio Laviada on July 12.

Laviada was well known.  He was not only a successful commission merchant, but held the position of Mexican Vice-Consul.  His apparent wealth may have caused surprise to readers of the Record & Guide when they saw that he took out a mortgage for the full amount of the house.

It could be that Laviada was already anticipating trouble.  He and his wife had been drawn into a shocking court case two months later.  "Liverpool Jack" went on trial for hoodwinking Mexican workers.  As witnesses told their stories, it became evident that the Laviadas were heavily involved.

On September 27 William Quintano, who identified himself as "a employee in the office of A. Laviada," remembered that earlier that year while Laviada was in Europe Mrs Laviada received letters from Progreso, Mexico "saying that men were wanted there to work on the railways and docks."   Such requests were passed to Liverpool Jack who supplied the naive laborers.  Lured with glowing promises, they were given no contracts and there was no evidence that they were fed or even compensated.

It was possibly the damaging press that ruined Laviada's business,  He repeated borrowed money until, on February 7, 1891, his business failed.  He was in debt a staggering $67,267 (more than $1.7 million in today's dollars) which The New York Times said was all "for borrowed money."   Before the bankruptcy was announced, Antonio Laviada skipped town.  The Times said "Mr. Laviada is at present in Merida, Yucatan, being unable to return to New-York by reason of serious illness."

No. 49 became home to Deborah Ann Honeywell, the well-to-do widow of William Honeywell, who had died in 1877 at the age of 61.   She had grown up amid wealth and luxury.  Her father, Thomas Marshall, had operated the Fifth Avenue stage coach line.  She  had married Honeywell in 1844 and had four children, now all grown: Georgia, Josephine, William and Eliza.

The elderly woman contracted pneumonia early in 1906 and died in the house on January 13,  Her funeral was held in the parlor four days later.

No. 49 was inherited by Georgia (by now married to William Albert Merrill), and Mrs. Adrian Iselin Roberts, apparently Georgia's sister, Eliza.  The two couples not only lived together in the house, but often summered together.

The intricate foliate carving of the entranceway arch morphs unexpectedly into severe triangular bosses.  The transom was most likely filled with stained glass, as would have been the upper portions of the parlor windows.

The Roberts maintained a summer place in Hempstead, Long Island, but they often spent time at fashionable Richmond Springs, New York with the Merrills.  On July 14, 1907, for instance, when reporting that Admiral George Dewey and his wife were there, The New York Times added "Mr. and Mrs. Adrian Iselin Roberts and Mr, and Mrs. William Albert Merrill, of New York, are spending the season here."

The two women moved together among society nearly as a unit--a circumstance more expected with spinster sisters than affluent married socialites.  For instance, on February 28, 1909 The Times announced "On Thursday Mrs. Adrian Iselin Roberts and Mrs. William Albert Merrill will be at home at 49 West Eighth-fourth street,"

On October 10, 1919 the house was sold to Clarence F. Cavanaugh and his wife.   The sale did not break up the close relationship between the two couples.    Two days later The Sun reported that "Mr. and Mrs. Adrian Iselin Roberts and Mr. and Mrs. William Albert Merrill, who have sold their house at 49 West Eighty-fourth street, will be at the Touraine, 9 East Thirty-ninth street for the winter."

Cavanaugh had served as a private in World War I and his wife was highly active in the Roman Catholic interests.  But the couple remained in the house for just two years.  They sold the 20-foot house for $35,000 for the house, in the neighborhood of more than $475,000 today.

The second floor bay still has its interior shutters.  On the same floor a handsome Renaissance Revival mantel survives.  photos via Comandini Team.Com

The buyer resold it in June 1923 for just $1,000 more.  Hattie M. Melhuish was a real estate operator who leased private houses like this one.  Even during the Great Depression years she managed to find single families for No. 49 rather than operating it as rented rooms.  In 1934, for instance, she signed a five-year lease with "T. Bagin."

Amazingly, the Victorian rowhouse survived as a private home until 1970 when it was converted to apartments, just one per floor.  Although some of the apartments have undergone brutal remodeling, others retain historic detailing.  And, except for expected replacement windows and the barbarous disfiguring of the facade to accommodate air conditioners, Thom & Wilson's striking medley of styles survives wonderfully intact.

photographs by the author

Monday, September 24, 2018

The Lost New York Stock Exchange Bldg - 10 Broad Street

The Stock Exchange Building in 1899.  In the foreground to the left is the J. P. Morgan & Co. headquarters.  photo from the collection of the New-York Historical Society
On December 11, 1865 The New York Herald announced "The new Stock Exchange building, on Broad, Wall and New streets, was opened to the public on Saturday, and the board held its first session there.  The acoustics of the board room, which is only a small portion of the entire structure, have not been sufficiently studied in its construction, and drapery, or something of the kind will have to be resorted to in order to make the voice of the presiding officer audible over the room, the glass windows on both sides of which have much to do with the non-conduction of sound from end to end."

The new building was shaped more or less like a T.  The main facade faced Broad Street, while a narrow wing (more like a corridor) opened onto Wall Street and a larger section faced New Street.  Decades later Gustav Kobbe explained why the narrow passage from the main building to Wall Street existed, saying simply "but of course it would have been absurd for the institution which rules and sometimes almost ruins the country financially, not to have an entrance on Wall street."  The building was not the property of the Exchange, as might be expected, but was rented.

The New York Stock Exchange had been formed in 1792 "when the originators formed the association under a button-wood tree in front of what is now No. 60 Wall Street," as remembered by Henry Clews in his 1888 book Twenty-Eight Years in Wall Street.  It met in various locations over the early years, until 1842 when it moved into the new Merchants' Exchange building.  Fifteen years later it moved again to what Clews called the "Dan Lord's Building" with entrances on William and Beaver Streets.

Then, in 1863 membership and business increased rapidly and a second building, on Broad Street, was taken to handle the overflow.  Before long plans were laid for a single Exchange headquarters at No. 10 Broad Street.

The Exchange as it appeared in December 1865.  Manual of the Corporation of the City of New York, 1865 (copyright expired)
The name of the architect seems to have been lost; but his stone-faced Italianate structure was impressive.  Four stories tall, its main entrance on Broad Street was within a columned portico.  The openings wore classically-inspired pediments and the whole was crowned by a carved stone cornice.

It would not take long for the Exchange to outgrow its new accommodations.  The directors were also faced with another problem:  many of the manufacturing and retail groups were leaving the downtown area, moving further uptown to Tribeca and beyond.   There was the possibility that the banking industry would follow.

On November 19, 1870 The New York Herald announced that the Stock Exchange had purchased the Broad Street building for $57,500.  "This arrangement will benefit the Stock Exchange to a considerable extent, as in five years the amount of their saving will be equal to the present cost of the building.  The question whether the business of Wall street, like the other branches of commerce, is to take its course further up town remains yet to be decided."  The cost of the Exchange paid for the building would equal about $1.1 million today.

from the collection of the New York Public Library
But owning the building did not solve the spacial problems.  The directors quickly purchased the abutting structure at No. 12 Broad Street and hired architect James Renwick, Jr. to combine and remodel the structures into a single Stock Exchange Building.

The renovated headquarters opened in September 1871.  Renwick faced the structure in white marble and widened the portico, adding paired red granite columns that upheld the long entablature.  He turned from Italianate to French Second Empire, replacing the classical pediments with arched openings

Only eight years later the Exchange had again outgrown its new home.  On October 31, 1879 The New York Times reported "More than a year ago the necessity of enlarging the Stock Exchange conveniences, and of erecting an edifice commensurate to the increasing business of the Metropolis, was seriously discussed by the members, and a Committee of Arrangements was appointed, with power to purchase additional land, or to buy a new site."

Negotiations for the abutting properties to the south, owned by the John D. March estate had dragged on until now, when the owners agreed to sell for $375,000.  The Exchange now owned, in addition to its current building, Nos. 14 through 20 Broad Street and Nos. 14 through 18 New Street.  "The intention of the Exchange is to improve and rent the buildings now on it for the present, and at a future time to cover the entire plot with a magnificent Exchange Building," said The Times.

That magnificent building would have to wait; but in September 1880 the directors called back James Renwick, Jr. to enlarge the building once again.  No. 14 Broad Street was demolished and the structure widened and a fifth floor in the form of a mansard added.  The portico was extended to accommodate three entrances.   The building now stretched 65 feet wide along Broad Street.

The Manufacturer and Builder projected the cost of the alterations at $230,000 (or about $5.7 million today).  Henry Clews estimated the cost of maintaining the building, including staff, at another $200,000 a year.

Hughson Hawley's 1882 print clearly shows the red granite columns.  from the collection of the New York Public Library.
Clews called it "a fine, solid structure, devoid of anything showy, pretentious or decorative" and added "The apparatus for ventilating the building is one of the best.  It cost $30,000, and supplies an abundance of pure air and perfumes at the same time.  The heating and cooling arrangements are the best of their kind and the lighting is admirable."

Regarding the perfumed air, Harper's New Monthly Magazine commented "'What bouquet have you this morning, doctor?' is not an uncommon inquiry of the superintendent."

James Renwick's exotically decorated Board Room (or main trading room) was brilliantly stenciled.  Three massive electric lighting fixtures illuminated the space. Twenty-Eight Years in Wall Street, 1888 (copyright expired) 
Amazingly, given the time period, the main floor (called the board room) was electrically lit.  "There are three chandeliers containing 200 electric lamps, which throw a floor of beautiful soft light around the whole interior."  The were offices for members, lavatories, and closets.  Securities were kept in large vaults which in turn contained more than 1,000 safes.

The "Long Room" for telegraph apparatus was lit by a stained glass ceiling.  King's Views of New York City 1893 (copyright expired)
As is the case today, tempers sometimes flared on the trading floor.  Harper's New Monthly Magazine noted "Fines also are charged in the half-yearly bills, and are levied on the exuberant and indiscreet at the rate of from twenty-five cents to ten dollars, at the discretion of the presiding officer, for such offenses as knocking off hats, throwing paper wads, standing on chairs, smoking in the halls (five dollars), indecorous language, interrupting the presiding officer while calling stocks, or calling up a stock not on the regular list."

from the collection of the New-York Historical Society

Gustav Kobbe in his 1891 travel guide New York and It's Environs described the Board Room saying "The turmoil of this room must be heard to be appreciated--to describe it is impossible.  It surpasses even the proverbial bear garden.  Perhaps it is more like a tribe of Indians executing a war dance than anything else."

Far different from today, however, was the existence of the Stock Exchange Glee Club, which gave concerts at least once at year at Chickering Hall and sometimes elsewhere.  And at Christmas all bitterness and rivalry was set aside for what was called the Christmas Carnival after the closing bell on the last business day before the holiday.  The dignified brokers suddenly acted like impish college boys.  Harper's explained:

At the Christmas season it luxuriates in the blowing of tin horns and bugles, smashing of broker hats, pelting with blown bladders, wet towels, and surreptitious snow-balls, and in the sly insertion of the cooling crystals between the collars and necks of unsuspecting brethren.  Hot pennies are sometimes substituted.

Normally stuffy brokers dance together during a Christmas Carnival in the Exchange.  Harper's New Monthly Magazine, November 1885 (copyright expired)
Surprisingly, given the up-to-date systems built into the building, the Stock Exchange got a failing grade when Sanitary Engineers Golden and Hooper inspected it on August 4, 1885.  The Times reported "They found the plumbing in a very defective condition, and also the means of ventilation entirely inadequate."  It was apparently a condition not even perfumed air pumped through the vents could disguise.  The Building Committee promised to correct the problems.

In January 1899 the Exchange purchased another abutting property, the six-story building at No. 8 Broad Street.  Six months later a competition among three prominent architects--George Kramer Thompson, Bruce Price and George B. Post--to design a new structure that would cover all of the Exchanged-owned properties was held. 

On December 14, 1899 the New-York Tribune reported that the Governing Committee of the New-York Stock Exchange had not yet been decided "whether a new building covering the whole area will be erected or merely alterations designed to increase the Board Room space will be made."  Nevertheless, architect George B. Post had already won the competition and submitted his plans.

It did not take the Board long to make up its mind and in July 1900 the Stock Exchange was moved to temporary quarters in the Produce Exchange while the old building was demolished and a new one constructed.  George B. Post's $1 million structure--an icon of New York City and American finance today--was completed in 1903.

The newly-completed Stock Exchange sits next to the 1890 Wilks this early postcard view.

Saturday, September 22, 2018

The Jose Julian Marti Statue - Central Park at 6th Avenue

In 1945 Sixth Avenue, at the prompting of Mayor Fiorello H. LaGuardia, was renamed the "Avenue of the Americas" to honor Pan-American ideals.  In response a new plaza was designed at the head of the avenue where it meets Central Park.  The statue of Simon Bolivar was moved to the eastern side of the entrance and a month later the statue of José de San Martin was erected on the western side.

Eleven years later the renowned sculptor Anna Hyatt Huntington announced her intention to create a statue of Cuban patriot, author and poet José Marti as a gift to the Cuban Government.  The Parks Department, in turn, announced on July 29, 1956 that it had accepted the Cuban Government's offer to erect that statue in Central Park.  It would be placed at the curve of the roadway just behind the Bolivar and San Martin statues.

The New York Times added that Huntington "has estimated her work will take more than two years to complete."  No one could have anticipated the chain of events that would take place within those two years and the problems they would cause for Huntington's monument.

That Anna Hyatt Huntington chose the Cuban hero for her subject, or that she paid for the costly work out of her own pocket was not surprising.  Her recently-deceased husband, multi-millionaire Archer M. Huntington, had organized the Hispanic Society in 1904.  He began construction of the Spanish Museum building that same year; what would become part of his sprawling Audubon Terrace complex at Broadway and 155th Street.  Within its courtyard are Anna Hyatt Huntingon's bronze equestrian statue El Cid, a limestone bas-relief of Don Quixote and another of Boabdil, the last Moorish king of Spain.

Marti, the subject of her latest project, was a leader in the quest for Cuba's freedom from Spain.  After being imprisoned in 1868, he fled to New York in 1880 to continue advocating for Cuban independence in exile.  He organized the Cuban Revolutionary Party in New York in 1892.

In 1895 his support was strong enough that he returned to Cuba to fight.  He was fatally wounded during the battle of Dos Rios later that same year.  Huntington's vision of the statue would capture the moment that he was struck atop his horse.

While she steadily worked in her Redding, Connecticut studio, another revolution was playing out in Cuba.  Fidel Castro and his army of rebels were engaged in guerrilla warfare against the regime of President General Fulgencio Batista.   It culminated in the collapse of the Batista government on January 1, 1959, just as the Huntington statue was being prepared for casting.

Three weeks after Batista's fall Stuart Constable of the Department of Parks assured New Yorkers that the revolution would not affect the plans to erect the monument.  He said that "any honor paid to Marti would probably be as acceptable to the Castro Government as it was to that of General Batisa."  A spokesman at the Cuban Consulate unofficially agreed, saying "After all, Marti is a national hero."

The Bastisa Government had presented Parks Commissioner Robert Moses a check for $100,000 on December 3, 1957 to pay for a base for the Marti monument.  That massive, 16-foot-high black granite pedestal designed by Clarke & Rapuano was placed on the site to await the statue that would not come for years.

The enormous statue--it is 18-feet tall and weighs approximately five tons--was shipped to New York City and promptly "hidden" in a Bronx warehouse.  The State Department had stepped in to halt the erecting of the statue.  Authorities feared possible "disturbances" between pro-Batista and pro-Castro factions.

And, in fact, those fears were well-founded.  On February 7, 1960 the Santa Cruz Sentinel reported that New York "witnessed a riot between pro and anti-Castro factions recently during a wreath-laying ceremony in Central Park at the statue of Cuban liberator Jose Marti."

That wreath-laying had, originally, been intended as the unveiling ceremony.  Marti's birthday was January 28 and plans were made to finally present the statue on that day.   But half an hour before the statue was set to be hauled onto the delivery truck, a message came from the office of Stuart Constable to stop shipment.  Constable, who a year earlier had assured that the revolution would not affect that monument's dedication, now asserted the statue was "unfinished."

Anna Hyatt Huntington assured reporters that she had finished it two years earlier.  That State Department claimed, according to The Times, that "all it knows is that the Park Commissioner, Robert Moses, asked last November if Marti's birthday would be a suitable time for erecting the statue.  The department replied that Marti's birthday, Jan. 28, would be fine."

Amid conflicting stories and excuses the bronze artwork remained in the Bronx, partly covered by tarpaulins.  Cuban-Americans, nevertheless, forged on with their plans.  So on the day once planned for the unveiling, supporters of both Castro and Batista arrived to pay honor to their hero.  War broke out between the two factions.

The anti-Castro group, which called itself La Rosa Blanca (the white rose was a symbol taken from Marti's Versos Sencillos) had obtained a permit for a ceremony and the placing of a bouquet of white roses at the pedestal.  The Movimiento 26 de julio (The 26th of July Movement, a pro-Castro group) had been refused a permit.  But that did not stop their plans.

According to The New York Times account of the incident, the Castro supporters called La Rosa Blanca members "assassins, murderers" and their opponents shot back with "communists, godless blackguards."  Before the NYPD riot squad could quell the conflict 3 people were hurt and 12 arrested.

In the spring of 1960 the black granite pedestal sat forlornly empty.  The New York Times, April 13, 1960

Four months after the ugly affair, the Havana-born New York University professor Dr. José Garcia-Mazas complained "I cannot understand why is was not unveiled last January 28.  Is it because the Park Department is afraid of a riot, or is it playing politics--that's the question."

Years passed and New Yorkers became accustomed to the sarcophagus-looking stone block; most essentially forgetting why it was there at all.  On February 1964 the San Bernardino Sun commented "In New York, covered with tarpaper, is a statue which has been causing the Department of State a lot of headaches. "  The newspaper opined that the "reason is that if the dedication ceremony was held, the Castrolites would insist on being present; so would the exiled followers of Batista.  There might be trouble."  But a more plausible reason at this point was that the United States did not want to appear to honor a Communist regime.

Later that year, on October 10, The New York Times said that the "conspicuously...horseless marble pedestal" which had now stood for five years was "puzzling tourists and New Yorkers--and irking many Cuban exiles."  The article said that Huntington's $200,000 work was "a captive of the Parks Commissioner, acting under advice from the State Department."

"And this has been the fate of the José Marti statue ever since, despite several appeals by anti-Castro Cuban groups to Mayor Wagner and the State Department, all explaining that José Marti was a national hero, the George Washington of Cuba, and that dedication of the statue would not be recognizing the Castro regime."

A few days before that article, a group of Cuban exiles had decided to take matters in their own hands.  They acquired the giant plaster model of the statue from Anna Hyatt Huntington and hauled it from her Connecticut studio to Manhattan.  At around midnight, 15 refugees readied themselves to erect it upon the granite base.  When they made too much noise, waking neighbors, six police cars responded, assuming the men were breaking into the large truck containing the statue.

The group was headed by none other than the NYU professor who had made his dissatisfaction with the Park Departments' inactivity known months earlier.  Dr. José Garcia-Mazas produced the paperwork proving he had rented the truck and the police left.

That was the least of their problems however.  Although the plaster model weighed much less than the actual bronze statue, it was too massive to lift.  According to The Times, "So they decided to reassemble the pieces on the ground, confident that the 600-pound statue would not be easily carried away by the police.  Four hours later the statue was easily carried away by the police."

The U.S. and city authorities finally relented.  On January 27, 1965 The New York Times reported "After 13 years, the bronze statue of José Marti...will finally rise next month on its long empty pedestal at the southern end of Central Park."  The date set was February 21.  And Dr. José Garcia-Mazas was back in the news to explain that it was the Sunday closest to February 24, "the day the Cuban patriot began his campaign for independence in Cuba."

But now there was a new problem.  The newspaper said "There seems to be a bit of confusion about where the statue is.  The Mayor's office is certain the Department of Parks has it in storage somewhere.  But it was unable to run it down last night."  A representative of the Mayor's office promised "We are sure we will learn exactly where the statue is tomorrow morning."

And Park Commissioner Newbold Morris claimed he knew nothing about the plan.  Insisting that he was a "consistent admirer of Mrs. Huntington's works," he said that "no one had told him officially that the State Department had reversed itself.  "Until I am notified in writing by the Mayor's office there is nothing that can be done about the statue," he told a reporter.

Not surprisingly, February 21 came and went with no ceremony.  A new date was set for May 20, Cuban independence day.  In reporting on the revised date The New York Times mentioned "The sculptor, Anna Hyatt Huntington, now 88 years old, has been invited to witness the mounting of the statue on the pedestal and to come again for the dedication ceremony."

The statue was "quietly unveiled" on May 18, not the 20th.  Anna Hyatt Huntington was there, as hoped, and she was presented the city's gold medallion of honor.  The Times mentioned that "As the dedication ended a broad-shouldered Cuban--tie askew and in need of a shave--quietly placed a single white rose at the base of the pedestal and swiftly left.  He wouldn't give his name."

During the long odyssey the City of New York had grappled with another problem.  The Batista Government's gift of $100,000 to pay for the pedestal was slightly more than the actual cost.  A holding account had been established for the $10,861 while authorities wrangled about what to do with it.  Returning it to the now-Communist Cuban government no doubt seemed a bad idea.  And so finally in November 1972 the money was transferred to a reserve fund, making the City a bit richer.

Cuban-American relations began to improve in December 2014 when President Barack Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro announced a detente--what Cubans called the deshielo cubano, or Cuban thaw.  In response the Bronx Museum of the Arts gathered donations to make a copy of the Marti statue to present to the City of Havana.

But, as had been the case more than half a century earlier, things changed while the statue was being cast.  By the time it was ready for shipment in October 2017, the Trump administration had reversed many of the Obama-era agreements.  Nevertheless New York City went on with the gift.

On October 20, 2017 Reuters reported "Cuba unveiled a replica of a New York statue of independence hero Jose Marti on Friday, putting a gift from the hometown of U.S. President Donald Trump on public display at a time of heightened U.S.-Cuba tensions."  The statue was diplomatically situated, facing the Florida Straits with the United States coast just 90 miles away.

Anna Hyatt Huntington's bronze statue is among the most impressive of Manhattan public artworks.  The power and motion of the horse and its rider caught at the moment Marti was fatally shot, are masterful.

photographs by the author