Friday, February 28, 2020

The Irad Hawley House (Salmagundi Club) - 47 Fifth Avenue

photo by Elisa Rolle

Born in Ridgefield, Connecticut in 1793, Irad Hawley became a partner in Holmes, Hawley & Co. as a young man.  He fought in the War of 1812 as a captain, and then married Sarah Holmes in 1819.  The couple would have eight children.

In 1839 Hawley diversified into railroad and coal enterprises, becoming a director in the Boston & Providence Railroad, the Chicago & Rock Island Railroad, the Delaware & Hudson Canal Company and president of the Pennsylvania Coal Company.   Hawley focused on these businesses and retired from Holmes, Hawley & Co. in 1841 "with an ample fortune," according to historian Emmons Clark in 1890.

from History of the Seventh Regiment of New York, 1890 (copyright expired)

In 1852 construction was begun on Hawley's imposing brownstone-fronted house at No. 47 Fifth Avenue between 11th and 12th Streets.   At nearly 40-feet wide, it engulfed two building plots.  Completed the following year, the house was an aristocratic expression of the Italianate style.  

The sweeping stone stoop was flanked by sturdy Italianate style cast iron fencing that protected the areaway.  The balustraded stoop railings were echoed in the balconies that fronted the floor-to-ceiling parlor windows.  Classic triangular pediments sat above the arched entrance and the parlor openings.  Molded architrave frames embraced the upper story windows.  The Italianate cornice sat upon paired, foliate brackets.

Inside, the mansion was the epitome of current domestic fashion.  Elegant carved mantels adorned the main rooms, and the dining room was decorated in the Gothic Revival style.

Hawley was also interested in education.  He was a director of the Rutgers Female Institute in 1852, and in 1858 headed a group of citizens "in opposition to the expulsion of the Bible from our Public Schools."  

Irad Hawley's health began to fail in 1862.  That year, according to Emmons Clark, "he visited Europe on account of his health."  He would never see his Fifth Avenue mansion again.   Three years later he contracted typhoid fever while in Rome and died there on April 28, 1865 at the age of 73.

The matter of returning Hawley's body was a problem.  The Civil War had ended less than three weeks earlier and transatlantic travel was still in upheaval.  Finally, six months later on October 28, The New York Times reported "The remains of the late Mr. Irad Hawley having arrived from Rome, Italy, funeral services will take place at his late residence, No. 47 5th-av., on Monday the 30th."

Except for a single charitable bequest of $250 to the Congregational Church in Bridgeport, Connecticut, Hawley's estate was "distributed among the testator's relatives," as reported in The New York Herald.  It was estimated at around $8 million in today's money.

Sarah remained in the Fifth Avenue mansion with two of her grown sons, Daniel Edwin and Elisha Judson, along with Elisha's wife, Anna.  Daniel Edwin Hawley, like his father had been, was interested in educational causes.  He was the treasurer of the First Ward Lord Industrial School, and on January 28, 1870 held the institution's annual meeting in the house.  The Times remarked "It appeared that the children not only were being carefully educated in the various branches, but were taught the use of their needle, so that 250 garments were made by them during the year."

Elisha Judson Hawley was a partner with Daniel G. Rollins in a tea firm, and in 1870 became a member of the Stock Exchange.   He had been administering his father's estate as well, but that year he fell ill.  The Sun reported "his brother Daniel looked over the securities and found that some were missing."  The situation went well beyond "some were missing."  Elisha had skimmed off $236,199.91 from the estate--nearly $4.7 million today.  The newspaper said "It appeared that part of the money had been used in the tea business."

It was the family's dirty secret for some years as Elisha struggled to pay back the missing funds.  In the meantime, the Fifth Avenue house was the scene of his wife's funeral in 1882.  Anna Hawley died in the mansion on May 18 and the service was held in the drawing room two days later.

Elisha's embezzlement caused financial upheaval within the family.  On April 6, 1897, for instance, The Sun reported "Their mother agreed to take a much less income than she was entitled to so as to help make up the deficit."

A respected businessman, Elias Judson Hawley's embezzlement caused shame and financial hardship to his family. from the collection of the Century Association.
It was possibly that situation that had earlier prompted Sarah to sell her home and furnishings.   On May 28, 1892 an notice in the New York Evening Post announced an auction "at the Magnificent Dwelling No. 47 5th Avenue."  Sarah sold out to the bare walls.  The two-day sale included:

Antique and Modern Furniture, Elegant Mirrors and Gas Fixtures, European and Oriental Porcelains, Bronzes, China, Glass, and Plated Ware, Oriental Rugs and Carpets, Paintings and Engravings, Curtains and Draperies.

Artistic Marble Statue by Randolph Rogers--"The Sacrifice of Isaac."  A Library of Choice Books, Superb Rosewood Case-Piano of excellent tone and fine finish, Handsome Costumes and Swords, Mortimer Bird Gun.

Next to go was the mansion proper, sold at auction on February 1, 1893.  It was purchased by William Gray Park, who paid $102,500 for the house, equivalent to about $2.95 million today.

Park and his wife, the former Elizabeth Sweitzer, were relatively recent transplants from Pittsburgh where Park was chairman of the Crucible Steel Company of America.   The couple had four children, Mary, James, Elizabeth and Darragh.

It did not take Elizabeth long to immerse herself in society and charitable causes and on January 31, 1894 The Evening Telegram reported "An entertainment under the auspices of St. Mary's Guild in aid of St. Mary's Free Hospital for children, will be given Thursday afternoon at three o'clock at the home of Mrs. William Gray Park.  A most attractive programme is projected."

Elizabeth's entertainments most often centered around such causes.  On April 3, 1898 The New York Press noted "The unique is sometimes encountered even in these days of exhausted ingenuity, and the sale which was given yesterday at the residence of Mrs. William Gray Park, at No. 47 Fifth avenue, in the interest of the Summer Aid Society was a charming innovation."

At the turn of the century daughter Mary's debut into society was nearing, prompting her mother to give preparatory functions.  On December 24, 1900 The Evening Telegram announced that she "will give a dance for her daughter, Miss Mary Sweitzer Park, on Wednesday night, January 2."  A year later, on January 6, 1901 The World reported that Elizabeth "will give a dinner of twelve covers to-morrow evening.  Mrs. Park's pretty daughter, Miss Mary s. Park, will be a debutante of the season of 1902-03" and added "The big dance her mother gave for her on Wednesday night was one of the smartest young people's functions thus far of the winter."

Not even the size of the Fifth Avenue mansion was enough to hold the amount of guests at Mary's first debut entertainment.  On January 3, 1903 Elizabeth hosted a ball at Sherry's.  The New York Evening Telegram noted "Dr. Harold Barclay will lead the cotillion."  The article added "Mrs. Park will also give a dinner-dance for her daughter on Monday evening, February 23."

The Park summer estate, Ivycroft, was at Old Westbury, Long Island.  In August 1906 burglars broke into the house four times within ten days.  The New York Times reported on September 1, "That the thieves will return Mr. Park is fully convinced."  And so he took measures to thwart further robberies by arming every one of his family and staff.

"William G. Park...and the members of his family now sleep with weapons close at hand, for use in case burglars should again force an entrance to their home," said the article.  And sure enough, they did.  "There was much excitement in the household early yesterday morning, when thieves were discovered in the stable by a groom.  The stablemen fire several shots at the intruders, but they did not hit any of them."

Involved in the incident were the five grooms who lived in the stable and the coachman, Joseph Wilson, whose home was the lodge, or gatehouse, at the entrance gates.  "The stablemen slept with revolvers under their pillows," reported The Times.  "At 1:30 o'clock yesterday morning several burglars broke into the stable through a window and turned on the electric lights."  They fled under a barrage of gunshots from the grooms, "firing at them until their revolvers were empty."

Elizabeth was unnerved not by the presence of so many handguns in her house, but because their home seemed to have been targeted.  "We are ready to meet the burglars if they come again, but it is unpleasant to feel that you have been singled out for their visits."

William Park divided his time between New York and Pittsburgh.  He was in the Pennsylvania home in January 1909 when he suffered a fatal stroke.

Elizabeth appears to have essentially closed the Fifth Avenue mansion after her husband's death.   When daughter Elizabeth, known as Elsie, was married on April 3, 1915 to William H. Reeves, Jr., the ceremony took place at the Long Island residence.

On February 24, 1917 the Real Estate Record & Builders' Guide reported that the Salmagundi Club had arranged to buy "the one time residence of the late William G. Park at 47 Fifth avenue."  The organization paid $115,000 for the property, or about two and a quarter million in today's dollars.  It then hired architect Charles W. Buckham to make $20,000 in renovations including a rear two-story to house a gallery and a billiard room.  

In 1928 the mansions of lower Fifth Avenue were being replaced by modern apartment buildings, like the one to the right of the Salmagundi Club.  The original stoop railings of No. 47 are still in place.  from the collection of the new York Public Library

The club was begun in 1871 by a group of artists who assembled on Saturday evenings in the studio of sculptor J. Scott Hartley, the son-in-law of George Inness.  Calling themselves The New York Sketch Club, the artists would discuss each other's works, socialize, and paint or sketch.  

The window pediments, balcony railings and areaway ironwork all survived when photographer Berenice Abbott took this photograph on November 24, 1937.  The stoop railings, however, had already been replaced with solid walls.   from the collection of the Museum of the City of New York

Little by little other artists would include themselves in the group until by 1880 it was 
incorporated.  Scott Hartley suggested the name "The Salmagundi Sketch Club" as a reference to the varied background of the group.  He was inspired by Washington Irving's papers in which "salmagundi" referred to a stew of many ingredients.

photos via
Nearly from the start the club was an important showcase for American artists.  Over the years its membership has included George Inness, Howard Chandler Christy, Robert Frederick Blum, William Merritt Chase, Emil Carlsen, Hugh Bolton Jones, Dean Cornwell, Gari Melchers, John Francis Murphy, Frank H. Desch, Guy Wiggins, Childe Hassam, N.C. Wyeth, Louis Comfort Tiffany and on and on.  A few non-visual artists such as John Philip Sousa, Stanford White and Tony Pastor were also members.

photo by dmadeo
The club remains in the house today, carefully preserving both the interiors and exterior.  Sometime after 1937 the stone balcony balustrades and iron fencing were, for some reason, replaced; and the pediments above the parlor floor windows were removed.  Otherwise, the Hawley mansion is the only nearly intact survivor of the pre-Civil War period on lower Fifth Avenue.


  1. Here's a link to some newly digitized photos of old Greenwich Village buildings I thought you and your readers might enjoy.

  2. William Park's daughter Mary Stevenson Park married Raymond Perry Rodgers Neilson, a New York Portrait painter, who was most likely a member of the salmagundi club. He was a descendant of New York merchant John Slidell. Slidell had two daughters who married into the Perry-Rodgers family. Raymond's grandmother was Julia Slidell who married Rear Admiral Christopher Raymond Perry Rodgers whose mother Anna Maria Perry was a sister of Commodore Mathew Calbraith Perry who married Julia's sister Jane Slidell. Their daughter Caroline married August Belmont. Two of Jane and Julia Slidell's brothers ended up in Louisiana. Slidell, Louisiana is named for one of them.

  3. William Park's son James married Edith Gaynor, daughter of New York Mayor William Gaynor. Their daughter Edith Park married Fairfield Gordon Coogan whose grandfather Henry Fairfield Osborn was a noted paleontologist and one-time president of the American Museum of Natural History. His wife Lucretia Perry was a member of the Perry family (see previous note). Osborn was related by marriage to J.P. Morgan.

  4. According to W.H. Shelton History of the Salmagundi Club ...published in 1917, The Salmagundi Club paid $75000 for the building.