Friday, April 24, 2020

The 1927 Rumson Apartment House - 421-423 West 24th Street

On July 8, 1910 Minnie Vincent sold the five "old buildings" at Nos. 418 to 426 West 25th Street and the two abutting structures at Nos. 421 and 423 West 24th Street.  The buyer, Erastus E. Haff hired architect Paul C. Hunter to erect a brick stable on the site of No. 421 West 24th Street .  The remainder of the sprawling plot was used as a "pipe yard."

A decade later, on December 17, 1920, Haff sold the building, now used as a garage run by F. N. DuBois & Company, and the lot next door to Frank W. Blauvelt.  The transaction was a bit murky, considering that Blauvelt and Haff were partners with Frederick N. Du Bois in F. N. DuBois & Company.

The rather gritty personality of the property would come to an end following its acquisition by the Rumson Realty Corp. a few years later.  In 1926 construction began on an apartment building, The Rumson, which completed the following year.  Its thirty-five apartments of either two or three rooms were intended for middle-class residents.

The charming structure joined the trend of picturesque neo-Tudor buildings sweeping the country at the time.  Its facing of rough brown brick was interrupted by panels of stucco and a three-story central upper section was decorated with storybook half-timbering that continued into a pointed gable.  The design appears to have come from the drafting tables of the Rumson Realty Corp.'s in-house architect.

The Rumson was no doubt the most architecturally charismatic structure in the neighborhood until 1930 when the Tuscan-inspired London Terrace--the largest apartment building in the world--rose directly across the street.   

The original entrance doors were no doubt wooden and notably more charming than their replacements.
The competition may have prompted a string of rapid turnovers in ownership of The Rumson.  In 1932 it was purchased by the 421 West Twenty-fourth Street, Inc., "a holding company for some of the members of the Moore estate," according to The New York Sun.  It sold the building on December 26, 1937 to Irving G. Freedman who flipped it two days later to Samuel Schack.  A partner in the law firm of Schack & Shack, this was his first venture into real estate.

Within months he sold the property to Elinor Kugel.  She immediately announced that "It will be known hereafter as Elinor Court."  

New residents in 1942 were paying the equivalent of $640 per month for a three-room apartment.  One of them was under surveillance by private detectives hired by a Syosset bartender, that year.  While Frederick Dernhardt worked in a tavern near his Nassau County home, his wife, Bonnie, was a waitress at the Palm Springs Bar & Grill on Ninth Avenue at 21st Street.  Suspicious, Dernhardt hired the detectives who followed her to the Elinor Court after her shift "and found her occupying an apartment with a man," according to the Nassau Daily Review Star.  By the time Dernhardt received his divorce on October 19, 1945, his former wife was "now said to live at 423 West 24th street," according to the newspaper.

Easily overlooked as the London Terrace steals the show on the block, the former Rumson Apartments is little changed other than replacement windows and entrance doors; no less architecturally quaint today than it was in 1927.

photographs by the author

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