Monday, May 18, 2020

The Lost Ingraham House - 504 Broome Street

The Federal style of No. 504 (right) predated its fancier Second Empire neighbor by decades.  The architectural integrity of No. 504 was relatively intact in 1935.  photo by Berenice Abbott, from the collection of the New York Public Library

After New Yorkers had been deprived of their tea supply throughout the Revolution, merchant John Broome (the first alderman appointed after the departure of the British) purchased two million pounds of tea from China.  The deal not only replenished New Yorkers' tea caddies, but sparked a robust trade with China.  Broome was honored with the naming of a street in the neighborhood known as New Delaney's Square.

Among the handsome Federal style homes that were erected in the 1820's and '30s was No. 504 Broome Street, on the northwest corner of South Fifth Avenue (later West Broadway).  Two-and-a-half stories tall, its red brick facade was trimmed in simple stone lintels and sills.  Above the wooden cornice two tall, hooded dormers punched through the peaked roof.  The staircase inside hugged the southern wall, necessitating the slightly offset appearance of the second floor openings.

By the early 1840's the house was home to Mrs. S. R. Ingraham.  She was apparently a window, since a Mr. Ingraham never appears in directories.  She was an ardent reformer, acting as corresponding secretary of the American Female Moral Reform Society in 1840.  

Like so many other widows, Mrs. Ingraham rented rooms to supplement her income.  In 1842 a Dr. Banning boarded in the house.  He published the Medical Gazette (using the Broome Street address) and gave lectures.  On April 25, 1844, for example, he spoke on "Dyspepsis and its Attendants, Local and General Debility, and Affections of the Heart and Lungs."

Living in the attic level were one or two servants--most likely Irish girls.  Given Mrs. Ingraham's strict moral character, one can only imagine her horror when one of them narrowly escaped the attack of a rapist on June 4, 1844.  An announcement from the office of Mayor James Harper recounted that "a young woman residing with a respectable family at 504 Broome street, having been sent on an errand, lost her way, and wandered about the city till between 8 and 9 o'clock P. M. when she applied for direction to a well dressed man."

He offered to show her the way, but instead "enticed her into a house of ill fame in a narrow, dark street, and there endeavored to accomplish her ruin, and threatened her life, and drew a knife upon her."  The feisty girl was more than he could handle.  She wrested the knife from him, broke open the locked door, and fled.  When word of the attack reached the newly-elected mayor he offered a $100 reward for the capture of the attacker.  It was a significant enticement--equal to more than $3,500 today.

Mrs. Ingraham continued to involve herself in worthy causes.  On June 19, 1845 the New-York Daily Tribune reported on the attempts of a group of women to establish an Asylum for Discharged Female Convicts.  "They have met, thus far, with little success; but touched by the position of several women, who, on receiving their discharge, were anxiously waiting in hope there would be means provided to save them from return to their former suffering and polluted life, they have taken a house and begun their good work in faith that Heaven must take heed that such an enterprise may not fail, and touch the hearts of men to aid it."  

Mrs. S. R. Ingraham was on the executive committee of that group.  She was, as well, the corresponding secretary of the House of Industry and Home for the Friendless on East 30th Street.  

Two advertisements placed in 1848 provide evidence that the neighborhood was still respectable.  One read "A gentleman and lady, or two or three single gentlemen, can be accommodated in a small family, where few boarders are taken."   The number of boarders in a location was an indication of its exclusivity.  The other ad noted "the house is pleasant and the neighborhood genteel."

In 1852 the house and lot were sold at auction.  It was purchased by John Crothers and his wife, Jane.  A clothier and tailor, his shop was on Chatham Street.  Like Mrs. Ingraham, he was an upright citizen, highly involved with the Reformed Presbyterian Church.  In 1853 he sat on the Committee on Seminary Debt, &c., tasked with devising a plan to pay off the debt of the Presbyterian Seminary.

The couple had three children, John C., Nicholas L., and Mary A Crothers.  Mary taught in the Girls' Department of Public School No. 50 on 20th Street between Second and Third Avenues.  In 1854 she was earning $100 a year--or about $3,150 in today's money.

The Crothers took in a single boarder in 1855 and '56.  Edward N. Shields was a produce merchant in the Washington Market.

The Crothers family continued to occupy No. 504 through the Civil War years.  John's store was still listed at No. 90 Chatham Street as late as 1861.  By then Mary's salary had tripled to $300--almost $9,000 a year today.  She was still teaching at P.S. 50 in 1865.  

In 1869 the neighborhood around the house was seeing drastic change as private homes increasingly gave way to commerce.  The Crothers family was no longer listed at the Broome Street address that year, although they retained possession and leased the property for decades.

It was about this time that the ground floor of No. 504 was converted for business and the upper section was operated as a rooming house.  It now drew attention not for the charitable works of its owner, but for far more disquieting reasons.

On August 14, 1869 The New York Times reported on a gruesome discovery.  "John Brown, a native of England, was found dead yesterday morning in the water-closet of the premises No. 504 Broome-street."

The rooms upstairs may have been used for more nefarious purposes than merely sleeping.  A common ploy for prostitutes in the 19th century was to work with a cohort who would sneak into the dark room while her client was distracted and remove cash and valuables from his clothing.  That may have been what took place on November 3, 1870 when Abraham P. Hopper, who lived in Newfoundland, New Jersey, was robbed of $300 (a significant $6,000 in today's money).  John Collins was arrested and convicted for the theft.

In the meantime Charles Nagel ran his "eating-house" on the ground floor.  He was granted permission by the Board of Aldermen on September 30, 1872 "to place a watering-trough in front of his premises, 504 Broome Street."  Nagel was responsible for all costs and the resolution came with the caveat that it would "remain only during the pleasure of the Common Council."

Although Nagel listed the business year after year as a restaurant, it was in fact more accurately described as a saloon.  On Sunday, May 21, 1876, bartender Frederick C. Hensell sold a beer to the wrong patron.  The entire police force had been give orders "for the strict enforcement of the Excise law" which prohibited the sale of alcohol on Sundays.  The New York Herald reported "the result was the wholesale arrest of liquor store proprietors and their barkeepers."  Among those hauled in was Frederick Hensell.

Charles Nagel was living above the saloon by at least 1879.  That year he listed his business as "beer."  He paid a fee equal to about $2,000 today for his liquor license every year through 1887.

In January 1888 Jane C. Crothers hired the architectural firm of Thayer & Robinson to erect a three-story brick extension to the rear.  The following month she leased the property to Lewis C. Allen for ten years.

Five years into his lease Allen seems to have decided to give up the saloon business.  An advertisement appeared in The Evening World on September 16, 1893 offering: "Saloon, 504 Broome st., corner South 5th ave; long lease, low rent; full license."

Jane Crothers died around 1895.  On January 1, 1896 John and Nicholas leased the property to Michael J. Moran.  He ran the saloon at least through 1905.  Following Moran there would be a relatively quick succession of proprietors.  In 1908 the excise license was held by Felix Bellando, who referred to the rented rooms upstairs as a "hotel" on his application.  In 1913 the bar was operated by Henry Bullwinkel, and in 1917 by Henry Schubkegel.

In 1939 a automobile repair shop operated from the former saloon space. from the collection of the New York Public Library
Around two years later billboards covered the now-vacant upper floors.  photo via the NYC Dept. of Records & Information Services
Prohibition put an end to the four decade old tradition of a saloon in the venerable building.  A large opening was gouged into the West Broadway facade to accommodate an auto repair shop.  And then, in 1947, the relic of a more refined period on Broome Street was demolished to make way for a parking lot "of more than 5 motor vehicles."

In 1996 the current three-story building was completed on the site.


  1. New building doesn't look half bad!

    1. True. The architects did a nice job of creating a modern structure within the context of a historic neighborhood.

  2. See a 1989 view of this corner by John Meyer (American, 1944 - 2002)
    "Broome off West Broadway"