Although city directories listed Levi Onderdonk as "carpenter," he was in fact an established builder, or contractor, and well-respected citizen. By 1843 he was a manager of the New-York City Tract Society, a position he would hold for at least a decade; and was repeatedly re-elected as Assessor of the 9th Ward. In 1847, the same year he began construction on his own residence on Charles Street, he joined with two other carpenter builders, Abraham Demarest and Stephen C. Stephens, in a speculative project.
The men purchased property on Amos Street, between Bleecker and Hudson Streets from former New York City Mayor William Paulding Jr. and began construction on three brick-faced homes. Three stories tall above deep brownstone-clad basements and 20-feet wide, they were intended for financially-comfortable families. No. 126, like its two identical neighbors at 128 and 130, had a handsome Greek Revival doorway with sidelights, stylized Corinthian pilasters and an especially ample transom. There was nothing especially out of the ordinary about the architecture until one's eyes rose to the cornices. where each of the unique brackets took the form of a stylized flowers.
By the early 1850's the house was home to the family of Matthew P. Bogert. He and his wife, Matilda, had been married in in 1843. The couple would eventually have seven children. In 1854 one, a 3-year-old named Warren, came down with "consumption," a dreaded condition which today would most often be diagnosed as pulmonary tuberculosis. The toddler died at 9:00 on the night of May 2. His funeral was held in the house at 8:00 in the morning two days later.
In 1857 Amos Street was renamed, resulting in the house receiving the new address of No 224 West 10th Street.
Bogert served on the jury of a highly-publicized court case in 1861. The Union Navy had captured a commercial ship, the Savannah, working on behalf of the Confederate government. The crew of the private vessel, which was attempting to run blockades and supply aid to the Confederates, were charged with privateering. On October 23, 1861 the trial began. The New York Times headline read "The Savannah Privateer / Trial for Piracy / Great Throng in Court."
The same year that Matthew Bogert sat on that jury, 35-year old John R. Hill was appointed to the New York Police force. Although the fighting was far to the south, like Bogert, the Civil War would personally affect him. On July 11, 1863 the nation’s first attempt at a military draft played out in New York with a lottery. When the 1,200 chosen names were published, it was obvious that only the city’s poor and immigrant population was included—the wealthy had bought exemptions or used their political power to circumvent the draft. The result was the Draft Riots—a three-day reign of terror and carnage unlike anything seen in the country before. Innocent people were murdered; and draft offices, newspaper buildings, and the homes and neighborhoods of the city’s black population were burned.
Among the policemen wounded in the conflicts was John R. Hill. In August a city committee distributed a fund "for the relief of Police and others suffering from the riots." Hill received $100, or just over $2,000 today.
Abuse to police officers routinely came from far less dramatic circumstances. On September 6, 1867 Officer Hill was on West Street when a man asked him what was "the proper charge for a hack to go up town," according to The New York Herald. After Hill informed him of the correct fare, the driver, Patrick Kelly, who had tried to overcharge the man, "commenced abusing the officer and called him by several vile names." Hill arrested Kelly, who received a "scathing reprimand" from Justice Dowling at the Tombs Police Court and fined $10.
It is unclear when Hill and his wife, Sinia, moved into No. 224, but they were here certainly by the early 1870's. The couple had four children.
In 1875 Hill was moved from patrol duty to the First District Police Court. His salary increased to $1,200 with the promotion, in the neighborhood of $28,300 per year today. Well respected within the law enforcement community, he became Treasurer of the Police Mutual Aid Fund of the "Tombs squad."
Hill fell ill in June 1881 with what most likely did not initially seem serious. But on Wednesday, June 29 the condition developed into pneumonia. It worsened and on July 4 he lost consciousness. The following day he died at the age of 56. The New York Herald reported "He was a member of Atlas Lodge and a regular attendant of the Jane Street Methodist Church. He leaves a wife and children, two of whom are grown to manhood."
Newspapers across the city lauded his service. The New York Times reminded readers of his injuries during the Draft Riots, and the New York Evening Express remarked that he "leaves behind him an enviable record."
Now without an income Sinia Hill applied to the city for a police widow's death pension. She began receiving an annual stipend of $300 within the month.
Sinia remained in the 10th Street house until the 1890's. But with much reduced finances (her annual pension would equal about $7,600 today) she took in boarders. One of them, Alexander Senter, brought scandal to her home.
On August 30, 1890 The Brooklyn Daily Eagle reported "Mabel Palmer, 13 years of age, made a charge of criminal assault against Alexander Senter, 38 years old, of 224 West 10th street, New York, at his house while she was there on a visit." Senter was held without bail. The newspaper entitled its article "Assaulted His Little Guest."
Around the mid-1890's the house was purchased by the Richardson family. Elizabeth C. Richardson was just 24 years old when she died here on January 20, 1899. Like Sinia Hill had done, the family took in a boarder. On January 4, 1905 an advertisement in The Evening Telegram offered "a handsomely furnished three, four room apartment, modern improvements, hot water."
Sarah S. Richardson died in the house on July 23, 1907. Her funeral, like Elizabeth's, was held in St. Luke's Chapel.
The Richardson family maintained possession of the house for several more years. Their boarder in 1910 was Charles C. Polk, a tailor, who found himself in the wrong place at the wrong time on November 10.
Labor disputes between unions and management were often violent and, at times, deadly. A city-wide teamster strike resulted in armed guards riding on the horse-drawn wagons driven by non-union men. That did not always stop union men, armed with iron bars or worse, from attacking them. The situation boiled over on November 10, when The Evening Post reported "Shooting of the non-combatant passerby, apparently inevitable in all long-continued strikes in which there is rioting marked to-day's violence of the union drivers and the non-union strike-breakers."
Charles C. Polk was the unfortunate non-combatant passerby. James Black had pulled a wagon owned by grocers Park & Tilford out of the company's West 15th Street stables. With no guards to protect him, Black was armed. As the wagon emerged, he was stoned by a mob, but, according to The Evening Post, "he dodged and used his whip so effectively that the horse got into a gallop quickly and the outpost of the mob was distanced as it ran after the wagon, cursing the driver."
But at Sixth Avenue a massive gang of union men swarmed over the wagon. When Black pulled out his revolver, the men backed down; but his luck ran out at 49th Street where, in an unlucky turn of fate, Charles C. Polk was walking down the sidewalk. A new mob surrounded the wagon, one of the men grabbing the horses reins and attempting to unhitch it.
The article went on, "Black fired his pistol this time, aiming at the man at the horse's head, but the one that hit the pavement rebounded and struck Charles C. Polk of No. 224 Wet Tenth Street in the side." At the sight of the innocent man lying bleeding on the pavement, the strikers dispersed. Polk was taken to Flower Hospital where he later recovered.
George H. Richardson was appointed a Commissioner of Deeds in June 1915. It was a civil service job similar to that of a Notary Public; but it was secure city position and a foot in the door. The following year he was promoted to Deputy of Elections with a salary of $1,000 per year, or about $23,600 today. In 1918 he received a substantial raise to $1,200.
In 1926 No. 224 was sold to a real estate firm which, according to The New York Sun on August 25, "will remodel the property." The renovations were not significant enough to warrant documentation with the Department of Buildings as apartments; however the property was clearly being operated as a rooming house.
Lena Moody lived here in 1931 when she and a friend were involved in a fatal automobile accident on a road trip to Philadelphia. Journalists of the period felt an obligation to designate the race of Blacks and that was the case on August 26 when The Philadelphia Inquirer reported "Mrs. Sarah Clark, 39, negro, of Seventh avenue, New York, and Mrs. Lena Moody, 42, negro, of 224 West 10th street, New York, were killed when an automobile in which they were riding collided at C street and Roosevelt boulevard, early yesterday morning, with the car of John Sokel." Sokel was apparently white, since the article did not bother to say so.
In 1967 the house was converted to a duplex in the basement and first floor, and two apartments on each floor above. Among the residents in the 1990's was female playwright, author, screenwriter and educator Michael Angel Johnson.
Major change came in 2013 when a one-year renovation was initiated. In 2014 a listing boasted that the house was "newly gut renovated." The single-family structure now held six bedrooms, four-and-a-half baths and a 1,000 bottle wine cellars among the other upscale amenities.
|photo via scottparksrealty.com
photographs by the author