The stories behind the buildings, statues and other points of interest that make Manhattan fascinating.
Thursday, December 12, 2019
The Frederick S. Salisbury House - 1006 Madison Avenue
In August 1870 architect G. E. Knowlden filed plans for five narrow rowhouses to be built for developer Silas M. Stiles stretching south along Madison Avenue from the southwest corner of 78th Street. Although each would be just 15-feet wide, the plans described them as "first-class dwellings." Stiles's project was not unusual as the neighborhood developed in the early years following the Civil War. Rows of identical speculative brownstone-fronted houses were rising at the time, years before they would be replaced with resplendent mansions. The homes of his completed row were four stories tall including the mansard level, above an English basement. A stone stoop led to their entrances and the openings wore handsome full enframements. Slate fishscale shingles covered the full-height mansards which were pierced by two hooded dormers. In 1873 the center house, No. 1006, became home to Frederick Stephens Salisbury and his wife, the former Lucy Aletta Wright. The couple had been married five years earlier, on April 16, 1868. Salisbury was the treasurer and a director in the Whiting Manufacturing Company, silversmiths. He and Lucy had two daughters, Maud Grosvenor, born in 1869, and Adeline, who arrived the year the family moved in. The Salisbury summer home was in Larchmont, on the north shore of the Long Island Sound. On January 6, 1895 the New York Herald announced that "Cards are out for the wedding of Maud Grosvenor, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Frederick R. [sic] Salisbury, to Mr. Henry Tower Shriver." The wedding took place in St. James's Episcopal Church, where Frederick was a vestryman. "A small reception will follow at the house of the bride's parents," concluded the article. The groom was well-to-do in his own right, involved in T. Schriver & Co., the iron foundry established by his grandfather, Thomas Shriver. Upon the death of his father, Walter, in 1902, Henry would take over the business. He and Maud purchased a striking summer home in Larchmont, near her parents. Adeline would never marry. She lived and traveled with her parents and her name appeared alongside her mother's in society papers. While at their Larchmont estate the women engaged in lawn parties and receptions while Frederick enjoyed his yacht, the Goblin. The New-York Tribune remarked that he was "a member of nearly all the yacht clubs along the north shore of the Sound." Frederick took his nephew, Grosvenor Parker, out onto the Long Island Sound on the Goblin on Sunday afternoon, June 14, 1908. The only other person aboard was the yacht's captain. Salisbury was sitting on the deck, "apparently in his usual health," according to the New York Herald, when he suddenly fell over. Captain Tyler sailed immediately for the Larchmont Yacht Club, but according to the Port Chester Journal, "when the club house was reached it was found Mr. Salisbury was dead." The coroner attributed the 55-year-old's death to a heart attack. Salisbury left his entire estate to Lucy with the stipulation that after her death it was to be divided equally between Maud and Adeline. Lucy died in the Madison Avenue house on November 7, 1912 at the age of 65. Adeline inherited the house and continued to live it in alone with her servants as Madison Avenue grew increasingly more commercial. Finally, on April 21, 1925 The New York Times reported that she had sold No. 1006, noting that "The property had been in the hands of the Salisbury family since 1873." James F. Meehan had formed the 1006 Madison Avenue Corporation specifically to convert the Salisbury house. The project, begun in 1927, removed the stoop and replaced it with a two-story extension to house a store. The upper floors would hold "non-housekeeping apartments," a term which meant they had no kitchens. Immediately after the conversion was completed, in April 1928, Meehan sold the building.
In 1938 the store became home to the newly-founded G & M Pastry shop, owned by Charles Gattnig and Dante Magnani. It would become an Upper East Side destination for nearly half a century. The store suffered a near disaster on May 24, 1945 when a huge water main broke in the intersection of Madison Avenue and 78th Street. The New York Sun reported that it "generated a giant geyser that hurled tons of water seventy-five feet into the air." The article added "The basement of Gattnig's a bakery and candy store at 1006 Madison avenue, was flooded with five feet of water." After decades in the space, Charles Gattnig's son, Francis, made the unhappy decision to close. The New York Times food critic Florence Fabricant lamented "G & M Pastry, 1006 Madison Avenue (at 78th Street), an Austrian bakery known for its jelly doughnuts, will be closing in a few weeks." The problem was rising rents. "How much can you charge for a jelly doughnut?" asked Gattnig. In 1996 the space was home to another bakery, Better Baker (known for its low-fat treats), replaced in 1999 by Buitoni & Garretti's Ten-O-Six Madison. Chefs Viola Buitoni and Jolanda Garretti had catered dinners and events for celebrity clients for years and now opened their prepared food shop here. Florence Fabricant commented, "Forget low-fat when this place opens and head right for the famous lasagna." In 2015 a renovation was begun that resulted in triplex residence on the upper floors. That same year Roland Mouret moved his upscale boutique into the former food shop. He moved out in 2018.
In the meantime, the skinny Salisbury house is the sole hold-out of the 1870 row. A quaint Victorian anachronism on the bustling Madison Avenue block. photographs by the author