Wednesday, May 27, 2020

The Cornelius H. Hedden House - 28 Bethune Street

The hefty entablature above the delicate doorway was added later in the 19th century.
In the early 1840's construction projects were underway up and down Bethune Street in Greenwich Village.  In 1844 developers began two side-by-side groups of three Greek Revival style houses each, among which was No. 28.  Like the other five, it was completed in 1845 and featured a brownstone-clad basement and stone stoop.  Three floors of orange brick were trimmed in brownstone.  Iron stoop railings gently encircled the thin newels, and matching fencing protected the areaway.

By at least 1861 Cornelius Howard Hedden and his wife, the former Martha Washington Pearse, occupied No. 28.  The couple had been married in 1852.  Hedden made his living as a clerk.  In July that year the couple had a son, Walter.  Tragically, just over three months later the infant's funeral was held in the house, on November 21.

The Heddens would have eleven more children--nine sons and two daughters--several of whom perished while still young.  On November 5, 1881, for instance, the New York Herald reported on the death of 20-year old Frank, "the second son," of the couple.  And on July 27, 1896 their youngest son, Harry, died at the age of 24.  All of the funerals were held in the parlor of the Bethune Street house.

Harry's older brother, Charles, had been a bookkeeper; but he made a decided career change that year, joining the New York City Police Department.  Charles invested in real estate, as well.  By the turn of the century he owned three houses on Bethune Street, Nos. 40, 42 and 44.

On January 6, 1902 Edward Harold Heddon and his wife, who lived on Madison Avenue, hosted a touching fiftieth anniversary party for his parents.  It started with a family dinner.  The surviving children--Edward, Florence, Charles, George and William--were there with their spouses and the six grandchildren.  Following dinner guests arrived, some from distant points.  They included two members of the wedding party ( the best man and a bridesmaid), and numerous wedding guests.

The New York Herald remarked that "Mr. and Mrs. Hedden, the former being in his seventy-fifth year and his wife in her seventieth year, enjoy perfect health.  Mr. Hedden in still in active business in this city."

Nevertheless, the home which they shared for nearly half a century was placed on the market the following year in April.  Cornelius would die in 1915 and Martha on June 5, 1917.

No. 28 was purchased by Joseph and Annie L. Mattison.  The couple worked out an arrangement with Daniel C. Green, who lived in Corona, Queens, in 1907.  According to The Evening World, Green, who was 55-years old, had inherited "a considerable estate on Long Island and in this city," upon the death of his brother.  Because settling the estate meant frequent trips into the city, he rented a room on the top floor from the Mattisons to lessen the commuting.

But on the morning of February 14, 1908 Green was found dead in his bed, the room filled with lighting gas.  The Evening World explained "His death was due to the common accident of turning off the gas and turning it on again inadvertently."

Following Joseph's death Annie Mattison sold No. 28 in April 1920 to Anastasia Addish.  Anastasia, who had come to New York from Ireland on the steamship Louisville in the 1890's, rented extra rooms in the house.

Two years before the purchase Anastasia had noticed two sailors on shore leave.  She approached them and said that she had a son in the military.  The sailors told her they were from the U.S.S. Louisville, which had been converted to a wartime transport vessel.  It was the same ship that had brought her to America.

Anastasia invited the sailors to dinner and to meet her sister, who accompanied her on the voyage.  They did and it was then that one of them, Chester Hadsell of Craig, Colorado, caught the eye of Anastasia's daughter, Jane.  Years later the Craig Empire wrote "the acquaintanceship of the New York girl and the Craig boy grew into friendship and then to love."

For over a year Jane and Chester would see one another when the Louisville arrived in New York to take more France-bound troops.  Then the Armistice came and the trips would necessarily come to an end.  According to the newspaper "On the way across the Atlantic Chet spent his time rehearsing the proposal he was going to make when he again reached 'the sidewalks of New York.'"  But the ship was redirected to Norfolk before reaching New York.  The men were then sent to Dallas for discharge.

The couple wrote back and forth for ten years.  In the meantime Jane acquired a job as secretary to the designing engineer of the City Water Department.  She received a phone call in October 1928 with a proposal of marriage.

Although Hadsell wanted to move Jane to Colorado, she was adamant that they live in New York City, since she was making far more money than he could immediately earn.  "I finally yielded to her wishes and reached New York on December 23rd, 1928," he later explained in an affidavit.

Anastasia's business sense outweighed her maternal obligations and she rented "the furnished front room on the second floor" of No. 28 Bethune Street to the newlyweds at $20 per week (about $293 today).  And Chester had a rocky start in the new city.

He gave Jane all his savings for the room and board and immediately began looking for a job.  It took ten days to find one, and that paid only $22 a week.   And the country boy was shocked at the lifestyle of his city wife.  He said "Her parents and other members of her immediate family, with their friends, liked to have parties downstairs; there was considerable drinking, and the language frequently used jarred me, for I do not drink nor use profane language."  

Jane sided with her family, who derided Chester for staying in their room while the gatherings took place.  On March 30, 1929, just three months after their marriage, the breaking point came when Chester told Jane he no longer wanted to remain in the house.

On the morning of April 2 Jane was no where to be found.  Anastasia walked into their room and told Chester "Get the hell out, both of you and stay out."  Chester did, but Jane did not.  Irate that he had caused a rift, she filed for divorce.

Albert Jennings was a roomer in the house on May 28, 1939 when he went on a fishing party on the Bilot, a 32-foot cabin cruiser.  He was a member of the social club the "Over Fire Boys," and the trip had been planned for weeks.  But not ten minutes after leaving the East 78th Street pier, the vessel overturned, plunging the 24 passengers and crew of four into the East River.  The tide at the time was "racing," according to newspapers.  

Nearby vessels rushed to rescue the victims.  The following morning The New York Times reported "One body was recovered and two men were still missing last night."  The dead man was 42-year old Albert Jennings.

No. 28 continued to be operated as a rooming house until 1956 when it was converted to one apartment on each floor.  A subsequent renovation in 1971 resulted in one apartment in the basement, one on the first floor, and a duplex above.  

photographs by the author

1 comment:

  1. Nice house. I like the part of this history when, in 1929 a New York raised female Irish secretary was able to use language that made a sailor blush.