Thursday, March 19, 2020

The Raymond D. Whitmore House - 117 East 30th Street

Millionaire William E. Dodge's victory in the 1864 Congressional election was contested by his opponent, James Brooks.  Hearings were held the following February to decide the case.  Among those called to testify was builder James Fetteretch who answered the question "Where do you live?" with "117 East 30th Street."

It is possible that Fetteretch was responsible for the construction of his home.  The Kips Bay area was just developing and his would have been one of the earliest in the neighborhood. 

In 1876 an advertisement appeared in newspapers offering for sale the "four-story brownstone house."  It was purchased by a young bachelor, 27-year old Dr. Frank Linsly Ives.   Despite his youth, he was quickly making a name for  himself as a laryngeal specialist.

Ives married Margaret Seaman Lasak in 1881.  A son, Francis, was born in 1885 and in 1889 twin girls, Marie and Margaret, arrived.

The young doctor's reputation and importance increased.  At the time of his marriage he was the city's Physician to the [Park] Commissioners, and in 1885 he published a technical paper, "Submucuous Laryngeal Hemorrhage Complicated with Cyst."  It was considered so important that in 1912 the president of the American Laryngological Association referred to it saying "His name will be remembered in our Transactions by a single paper."

original source unknown
By the turn of the century Ives served as the senior medical director of the New York Life Insurance Company.  He was also associated with the Manhattan Eye and Ear Hospital.

In 1908 Ives's health began to fail and in 1910 he retired due to his worsening condition.  On March 23, 1912 the New-York Tribune reported that Ives had died in his 30th Street house at the age of 63.  "He had been in bad health four years, but his death was not expected until his illness grew suddenly worse a week ago," said the article.

Ives's entire estate was bequeathed to Margaret.  She remained at No. 117 for another eight years.  In April 1920 she sold the house to Raymond D. Whitmore.   

The president of the R. D. Whitmore Realty Company, he immediately began renovations on the outdated brownstone.  The facade and stoop were removed and the front pulled forward to the property line.  Typical of many of the sweeping transformations of old rowhouses taking place at the time the vintage house became a romantic blend of historic styles.

The renovations were completed  in 1921.  The first two floors now housed the realty company offices.  A large, arched window was flanked by two entrances--one to the business space and the other to the single-family dwelling above.  Interestingly, recycled architectural elements had made their way into the design, including the scrolled foliate keystones over the three ground floor openings.  Ruddy colored tiles laid in a diamond pattern filled the space below the dentiled cornice at this level.

Another salvaged element appeared at the second floor in the form of a cast iron show window from a generation earlier.  Additional brownstone keystones which matched those of the first floor decorated the splayed brick lintels of the upper floors.  The attic level sat within a stepped Flemish Renaissance Revival gable, where an oculus was encircled by a terra cotta wreath.

No. 117 originally matched the Ango-Italianate houses on either side.  via the NYC Department of Records & Information Services
Whitmore's operation was significant.  On February 6, 1926, for instance, The Rye Chronical reported that he had purchased forty acres of land in the area with intentions to subdivide it into building plots and lay out a new road.

Living with the Whitmore family in the upper stories of No. 117 was Raymond's widowed mother, Elizabeth.  The family's summer house sat on the fashionable Pryer Lane in Larchmont, New York.

On January 9, 1936 The Larchmont Times reported that Elizabeth Whitmore had died on New Year's Day "at her Winter home, 117 East 30th Street, New York City" of a heart ailment.  The funeral of the 85-year-old was held in the house on January 3.

Three years later the upper floors were converted to apartments, two per floor.  Among the residents in 1943 was photographer Thérèse Bonney.  She had begun her career in France, documenting decorative arts.  But her fame and importance greatly increased after World War broke out in Europe.  On her own she traveled to the Russian-Finnish front lines to document the war.

from the collection of the Library of Congress

In November 1943 Bonney left her 30th Street apartment to travel to Washington D.C. where the Senate Subcommittee of the Committee on Foreign Relations was holding hearing on "Relief for Starving Peoples of Europe."  When she took the stand and was asked her name, address and "what you represent," Bonney replied:

Thérèse Bonney, 117 East Thirtieth Street, New York City.  I believe I represent the American people.  That is what I do over there, and that is what I believe I do today, here.

Another tenant at the time was Dr. Judson C. Fisher, who had his office here as well.  And then, in December 1946, he purchased the building, spending $15,000 (about $193,000 today).  Fischer had practiced medicine since 1915 and had been the medical director of the Ocean Accident Insurance Company since 1931.  He was also connected with the West Side Clinical Association.  He and his wife, the former Lucille Arnold, maintained a country home in Mahopac Falls, New York.

The Fischers continued to live in the building until 1953.  That year the couple retired to their Mahopac Falls home.  Fischer leased the commercial space to the Ever Ready Label Corp. for use as its service division.  The property remained in the Fisher family until the doctor's death in 1956.

A renovation completed in 1985 resulted in a photo lab in the basement, a photography office on the first floor and offices on the second.  Today the space is occupied by America Science Team New York, Inc. which inspects, tests and consults on issues like asbestos, mold and other environmental hazards.

photographs by the author

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