Thursday, January 24, 2019

The 1808 Icabod Price House - 35 Walker Street

Until 1905 the narrow gap to the right was described in property documents as an alley.
According to Ambrose M. Shotwell in his 1897 Our Colonial Ancestors and Their Descendants, Icabod Price and Susan Moore were married in New York City in 1804.  The timing suggests it was the same Icabod Price who, four years later, completed a handsome dwelling at what would be numbered 35 Walker Street.

Named for Congressman and Revolutionary War soldier Benjamin Walker, the street would not be officially opened for another year.  Price had purchased the empty lot in 1805.  A mason by profession, he most likely constructed the dwelling himself.   He faced the frame house in Flemish-bond brick trimmed with brownstone.  It was originally two-and-a-half stories tall, with one or two dormers piercing the peaked roof.  The splayed lintels and layered keystones at the second floor were attractive Federal style elements.

As was common at the time, a secondary structure sat in the rear yard, accessed by a horsewalk, or narrow pathway, at the side of the house.  While some were small stables or workshops, this was a secondary house.  

The Price family was still here as late as 1816; renting part of the residence to another family.  Another tenant lived in the rear house.  Not long afterward the property was sold to John Bennet.  In 1831 his estate improved it, and it was most likely at this time that the second floor was raised to full height.  The Flemish bond brickwork was matched; although the architect was less enthusiastic about copying the lintels and keystones. 

In the early years of the 19th century few women had the chance of higher education.  That began changing around 1820 when the concept of the female seminary emerged--one of the first seeds of the women's equality movement.  By 1836 Mrs. Lockwood's Female Seminary was at No. 35 Walker Street.  It was a short-lived venture, however, no longer appearing in directories after 1837.

The residence reverted to a boarding house and around 1844 a shop was installed at ground level.  On October 14 that year P. A. Lacoste, manufacturer and importer of "fringes, gimps, tassels, cords, &c." moved his shop from No. 413 Broadway into the new space.  His announcement in The New York Herald promised that "his customers, and the ladies in general, will always find a fine assortment of the above articles, on the most reasonable terms."

Among the tenants upstairs were "Mrs. Archibald," John Harrop (who received an award from the American Institute for "the best specimen of tortoise shell work" that year),  and Madame L. Manesca Durant.  

Madame Durant was the daughter of Jean Manesca, credited with being the first modern foreign language teacher in America.  She taught French from her rooms (decorously holding separate classes for male and female students).  An advertisement in the New-York Daily Tribune on November 1, 1845 read:

French Language--Manesca's Oral System.  Gentlemen are informed that a New Evening Class will commence in November.  Also, a Morning Class for Ladies.  Persons desirous of joining either of these classes are requested to call and leave their names.

Madame Durand invites those who would be acquainted with her father's inductive and practical system, to call and witness the Evening Class, which commenced in October.  Residence 35 Walker-st.

By the outbreak of the Civil War commerce was moving northward into the Walker Street neighborhood.  The shop where P. A. Lacoste had peddled fringes had been converted to a restaurant by the mid-1860's.  Two years after the war's end, owner Peter W. Longley hired architect Michael Dooley to make significant renovations.  He extended the building to the rear, joining it with the back house.  It was almost undoubtedly at this time that the up-to-date Italianate cornice was added and a new cast iron storefront installed.

Longley was apparently now looking for new tenants.  On June 25, 1867 an advertisement in The New York Herald offered "A restaurant for sale--For particulars inquire at No. 35 Walker street."  

His buyer was Daniel Ettlinger, who was the victim of an astonishing attack on January 21, 1869.  At the corner of Wooster and Bleecker Streets Charles Coffee, a butcher by profession, assaulted him.  According to The New York Herald, Ettlinger "averred that the accused, without the least provocation, seized hold of him, struck him and from his pocket drew a large knife, with which he attempted to stab him."  Ettlinger was able to fight back long enough for a policeman to come to the rescue.

"For a moment the ruffian was frustrated in his murderous design by the complainant himself, and were it not for an officer, who was fortunately at hand, the life's blood of another citizen might have been spilled," said the article.

The upper floors were leased to small firms like Haiges & White, importers of dress trimmings.  Although the partnership was dissolved in 1869, the Real Estate Record & Guide noted that "Frederick Haiges continues."

A female patron or employee of the restaurant placed a personal ad in The New York Herald on April 27, 1873.  "Lost--A locket monogram, 'E. R.'  The finder will bring to Ettinger [sic] 35 Walker street, Monday."  The reward offered would be about $211 in today's money.

Below the restaurant, in the basement,  was what was politely known as a sample room.  The term originated when grocers or provisioners branched out into selling liquor and a separate room provided potential customers the opportunity to sample the goods.  By now, however, there was little difference between a "sample room," and a "saloon."

On October 15, 1873 the owner advertised "For Sale--A First Class Sample Room; Good place for a German; will be sold very low.  Inquire at 35 Walker street, basement."  (It is unclear if the space continued to be operated as a sample room.)

Five years later it was Ettlinger who was selling his business.  His advertisement on March 4, 1878 read:

FOR SALE--An old established restaurant in one of the best locations down town, doing a good business; sold on account of owner and family going to Europe.  L. Ettlinger, 35 Walker st.

The upper floors continued to see dry goods and apparel businesses lease space.  A dress manufacturer here in 1883 was looking for what today garment firms call a "fit model":   "A lady as figure who is a natural 38."  And the following year the newly-formed Rosenstiel & Rosenfeld, "wholesale dealers in white goods," moved in.  Henry Sobel, "importer of notions," was in the building before 1890.

Ettlinger's restaurant space had become Gottlieb Grob's saloon in the 1890's.  The German immigrant lived in an apartment building on William Street; one which seemed to be cursed.  The Evening World, on May 4, 1894, explained the tenants "consider the house an ill-fated one, and talk of moving out.  But a short time ago a woman committed suicide there by throwing herself from a fourth-story window.  A few days later there was another death in the house.  Last week a man named Herring was crushed by a wagon and died there an hour later."

And now Gottlieb Grob's murdered body was discovered in his apartment on May 2.  His skull was crushed and his throat slit.  Police did not think robbery was the motive, since everything in the apartment was in order and only Grob's watch was missing.

Investigators were frustrated in the search for a perpetrator.  On May 5 The Evening World reported "The police are no nearer a solution of the mystery attending Gottlieb Grob's murder than they were three days ago."  One theory focused on Grob's brother-in-law, Jacob Staub.  Police heard reports that Grob had loaned him $400 and when it remained unpaid, he threatened to send the I.O.U. to Staub's father in Germany for collection.  The Evening World concluded "in consequent of which Staub swore to 'get even' with him a month ago."

Following up on that lead, a reporter "found Staub at Gottlieb's saloon, 35 Walker street.  He claimed to have owed Grob but $90.  He declared he had never given Grob a note, and that he had not seen Grob for two months."  The murder went unsolved.

In 1896 Adelman & Lieberman ran its small knee pants factory upstairs, employing just two men and a woman who worked 60 hours a week.  H. Abrams also operated a pants factory here at the turn of the century.  His two-man staff worked 54 hours per week.

On February 25, 1905 the Record & Guide reported that owner J. C. Lyons Building & Operating Co. had hired architect Adolph Mertin to make renovations which included extending the building into the former horsewalk.  The $5,000 project included a 3-foot wide, one story extension, new plumbing, new stairs, an elevator and "iron columns."   Interestingly, the domestic appearance of the upper stories remained untouched.

The building continued to house apparel firms for the next two decades.  Nathaniel and Aaron Kommel ran their garment factory here in at least until 1911; Berger & Windner was in the building in 1916, and K. P. Horowitz, clothing manufacturers, leased space in 1920.

The expanded 1905 storefront is visible in this 1940 tax photo.  New York City Department of Records
The structure was deemed "unsafe" by the Department of Buildings in 1924.  After the violations were corrected, the building got a a new type of tenant.  By 1928 it was home to the office and "plant" of the Bedford Aluminum Specialty Co.  The firm marketed "machine and experimental work, inventions designed, models, dies and tools, metal spinning and stamping, aluminum specialties."

The firm remained in the building for decades.  But major change came in 2004 when plans were filed by Cogen Architects, PC to convert the building for residential use for owner Cornice LLC.  More than a decade later, however, the renovations have not been completed.

photograph by the author


  1. "Good place for a German" - I am certain that this means "The German" - a popular form of dance party: