Saturday, February 9, 2019

Thomas Rae's 1897 Carriage Houses at 161 and 163 East 73rd Street

The block of East 73rd Street between Lexington and Third Avenue became lined with middle-class rowhouses in the 1860's and '70's.  But by the late 1880's millionaires were erecting lavish mansions along Fifth Avenue, just three blocks away. Rapidly they demolished houses and erected private carriage houses, creating what is known as a "stable block."  

Among them was dry goods merchant William H. Tailer, who lived at No. 14 East 72nd Street.  In 1896 he commissioned architect Thomas Rae to design two mirror-image carriage houses at Nos. 161 and 163 East 73rd Street--one (apparently 163) for his own use, the other as an investment.  Completed the following year, the two-story utilitarian structures were especially attractive.  

Rae faced them in unexpected rock-faced brick trimmed with limestone.  While he used undressed stone for the beltcourses, the stone friezes below the first floor cornices were smooth-faced.  Rae blended three popular styles to create his pleasing design--Romanesque Revival (in the arches, chunky bandcourses and rough-faced brick), Renaissance Revival (in the frieze of the cast metal cornice with its floral garlands), and Queen Anne (in the upper floor windows).

Among the charming details the architect included were the heads of horses, straining against their reins, within the lintels of the side entrance doors.  

Two handsomely-carved horses head in opposite directions above the doorway.
While horses and the several vehicles were stabled on the first floor and in the basement, the second floor contained contained living quarters for employees like the coachman and his family, and a groom.  

William H. Tailer was a partner in E. N. & W. M. Tailer & Co.  A member of the exclusive Union and Metropolitan Clubs and the St. Nicholas Society, he and his wife maintained a summer estate, "Quarry Hill," at Irvington-on-the-Hudson.  He died at Lenox, Massachusetts on July 15, 1905 at the age of 62.

The following year, in March, his estate sold No. 163 to James McLean, a vice-president with Phelps, Dodge & Co.   His recently completed mansion was nearby at No. 7 East 75th Street.  Like many of his moneyed peers, McLean was interested in horses--but not so much the type housed on East 75th Street.  His thoroughbreds routinely appeared at the fashionable New York Horse Show.

Before long, however, Mclean was leasing both his mansion and his carriage house.  The stable was rented to Jay Gould, grandson of the famous railroad tycoon and banker.  His father, George J. Gould, owned the carriage house steps away at No. 169.

One stable separated the two Gould carriage houses.  George Gould's stable is at the right; his son's is second from left.  photo by Alice Lum

In the meantime, Edward S. Harkness began construction on his marble palace at No. 1 East 75th Street in 1907.   That same year he purchased No. 161 East 73rd Street from the Tailer estate.   While the mansion, designed by James Gamble Rogers, was rising, Harkness put the architect to work on renovations to the carriage house.

The amenities the millionaire and his architect installed were, no doubt, were unique along the block.  The second floor was converted to a squash court, a locker room and a chauffeur's apartment.

As horses gave way to automobiles, many of the 73rd Street stables saw change.  They were converted to garages and some contained rental apartments on the second floor.  Such was the case with the Gould stable.  Artist Marius Vos lived above Gould's limousines in No. 163 by 1921.  Born in Brussels, his sculpture The Birth of a Nation was exhibited in the 1937 Paris Exhibition.

On September 9, 1934 Jay Gould's daughter, Anne, received the first of a series of telephone calls from a waiter who styled himself as Emir Mohamed Al-Raschid II.  The amateur playwright asked her to appear in his play, The Moon of Iraq.  Her refusal resulted in telephonic stalking.  But it got serious when newspapers reported where Anne was hospitalized during a brief illness.  Her stalker appeared at her bedside.

And so it is not surprising that when she had him arrested later, she was careful not to reveal her home address.  The New York Times reported on September 24, 1934, that she "gave her address as 163 East Seventy-third Street--her father's garage."

When the Gould family sold No. 163 in 1940 it had already been converted for use by the MacDowell Club.   Named for composer Edward MacDowell, it was formed in 1905 with the goals "to discuss and demonstrate the principles of the arts of music, literature, the drama, painting, sculpture, and architecture, and to aid in the extension of knowledge of works especially fitted to exemplify the finer purposes of these arts."

The organization worked closely with youth groups.  On April 15, 1939, for instance, The Times reported on plays "presented by three competing boys' organizations in the finals of the Eighth Annual Drama Tournament of the Boys' Clubs" to be held here.

In response to the Nazi regime ban of "degenerate music"--that composed by Jews or political opponents--the MacDowell Club hosted a concert on October 15, 1942 by the New York College of Music.  The program was entitled "Concert of Forbidden Music" and included works by Gershwin, Mendelssohn, Rachmaninoff and Shostakovich.

It would be among the last productions by the MacDowell Club in the building.  The organization was disbanded that year.  In 1946 the building was converted to a private garage to accommodate up to seven cars owned by the occupants of the two apartments created upstairs.

Meanwhile the Harkness carriage house had remained intact.  Edward S. Harkness died on January 29, 1940 at the age of 66.  At the time of his death he had distributed an estimated $100 million in philanthropies.  While the bulk of his massive estate went to his wife, the former Mary E. Stillman, he left a total of more than $1.25 million to his 78 employees.  Among them was chauffeur James Freely, who lived in the second floor apartment of No. 161 East 73 Street.  He received a bequest of $20,000; in the neighborhood of a third of a million dollars today.

Mary Harkness died ten years later, on June 7, 1950.  The remaining Harkness fortune of about $60 million was distributed to charities.  No. 161 was liquidated in the process, purchased three months later by the Dalcroze School of Music.  The institution, which provided musical instruction and teachers' training, was named after Emile Jaques-Dalcroze, who died that same year.  The New York Times reported on September 13 "The school plans to occupy after alterations."  

Three decades later New York magazine, on August 11, 1980, commented "The Dalcroze School has an old-world charm, from its gray walls, wooden floors, and ubiquitous portraits of Jaques-Dalcroze to the person of Dr. Hila Schuster, who, in a long dark skirt and sweater, graciously presides over every aspect of the school.  Many classes are held in what were once squash courts."

By 1980 No. 163 had been converted to a single-family home; followed by its twin in 1999-2000.  Decades of grime have recently been removed, returning Thomas Rae's innovative take on stable buildings to their 1897 appearance.

photographs by the author

No comments:

Post a Comment