Thursday, June 18, 2020

The Much Altered 1889 Gustav L. Jaeger House - 4 East 82nd Street

Most of Edward Kilpatrick's architectural detailing has been obliterated.

Edward Kilpatrick sometimes played a dual role--acting as both architect and developer.  Such was the cast in 1888 when he began construction of six 22-foot wide rowhouses on East 82nd Street just steps from Central Park.  Completed the following year, they were designed in the trendy Queen Anne style.  The western-most house, No. 4, featured a wide stone stoop that led to an entrance flanked by Corinthian pilasters on high pedestals.  A matching pilaster sitting on a carved corbel separated the parlor windows.  The second floor took the form of a rounded, drum-like bay.  A prominent dormer with a triangular pediment punched through the peaked roof of the attic floor. 

This 1903 photograph of No. 2 East 82nd Street captured part of No. 4 (left).  The American Architect, 1903 (copyright expired)

On October 12, 1889 the Record & Guide reported that Kilpatrick had sold No. 4 to Gustav L. Jaeger "on private terms" (meaning it was no one's business what he paid).

Born in 1835, Jaeger had come to America around 1854.  He was a partner in Jaeger & Braumann, a paper box manufacturer on Fulton Street.  He was as much inventor as businessman and held more than 70 patents on various devices including a folded paper covering for boxes, an improved "Lead or Crayon Holder," and a "new and improved Paper-Bag Machine."

Gustav L. Jaeger, from History of Bergen County, 1900 (copyright expired)

The Jaegers' country home, Maywood, was in Bergen County, New Jersey.  It was there around 1895 that son George Alfred Jaeger fell in love with Florence Belden Price, the daughter of a well-to-do neighbor.   The two families were agreeable to the match, but possibly because of their ages, a wedding was put off until November 1896.

But on May 8, 1896 The Sun began an article saying "Gustave [sic] L. Jaeger entered the home of his neighbor, David Price, on Sunday and said: 'Well, the young people have taken the matter into their own hands.  What will we do about it?'"

The newspaper parenthetically noted "Jaeger, Sr., is a rich cardboard manufacturer" and "Mr. Price is a nephew of the late ex-Gov. Price of New Jersey."   Nearly a week earlier, on Saturday May 2, an uncle had invited the young couple (Florence was 19 and George 21) to dinner and then to the theater.  But there was more to the evening than that.  The uncle seems to have been a conspirator in their romantic plans.

The article explained, "When the couple returned by the theatre train on Saturday night, they were married, and on Sunday morning Mrs. Price was informed of the marriage.  Young Jaeger confessed to his father, and Mr. Price received the information from Jaeger, Sr.  Now all is happiness in the two homes, and the wedding that was to take place next November will be announced by cards in a few days."  One wonders if, indeed, all was happiness, at least in the minds of two mothers who had planned a large society wedding.

An indistinct photograph of Maywood shows sweeping porches, a tower look-out and formal gardens. from History of Bergen County, 1900 (copyright expired) 

The Jaegers moved permanently to Maywood that year.  The Record & Guide reported that Gustav had sold No. 4 East 82nd Street "for about $50,000," or in the neighborhood of $1.57 million today.  The new owner was 39-year old Joseph E. Heimerdinger.

Born in Germany in 1857, his wife was the former Harriet Liebmann.  The couple had two sons, Charles E. and Henry Liebmann Herring.  Heimerdinger was a broker with the stock exchange firm of H. P. Goldschmidt & Co.  Considered an authority, he was repeatedly consulted by The New York Times on articles related to the market.

Harriet was 16 years younger than her husband.  She was the daughter of the wealthy German-American brewer Henry Liebmann, president of S. Liebmann Brewery (later Rheingold Breweries).

Like most well-heeled businessmen, Heimerdinger diversified.  At the turn of the century he was a vice-president of the Colorado Fuel & Iron Company, a director in the Pacific Coast Company and secretary-treasurer of the Severy Process Company.  On September 24, 1903 at just 44 years old, Heimerdinger died in the East 82nd Street house.

Harriet soon left the home she had shared with her husband for just seven years.  In April 1904 she listed it for lease "for a term of years" at $4,200 per year (just under a quarter of a million in today's dollars).  By 1907 she had sold it to David Heller and his wife, Blanche.  The wealthy couple had three sons, Henry S., Fred and Ambrose.  

Heller was a partner in the brokerage firm of Heller & Long.  By now moneyed families were replacing their horse-drawn vehicles with automobiles.  The Hellers' chauffeur, John Scanlon, was arrested on June 24, 1907 following a crash with a buggy in upstate New York.  The New York Times reported that the occupants of the buggy, J. H. Francisco and a boy, Harry Gordon, were hurt.  Scanlon denied that he was involved.  The license plate was his undoing, however.  "The automobile was numbered 29,275, and the records in the Secretary of State's office show that the license was taken out for David Heller of 4 East Eighty-second Street."

In 1908 the Hellers embarked on a significant remodeling project.  Architect L. C. Holden's plans noted "the interior will be changed and a five-story extension erected."  The rear addition would rise a full floor above the front part of the house to accommodate what The Evening World described as "a sun parlor."  The alterations cost the equivalent of $287,000 today.

Blanche Heller's guests would have been showed into the reception room off the entrance hall.  from the collection of the Museum of the City of New York

Their names appeared regularly in the social columns which followed their movements to Europe and the fashionable summer resorts.  On November 3, 1912, for instance, The Sun announced "Mr. and Mrs. David Heller have returned from Lake George to their residence, 4 East Eighty-second street."  The New York Times reported on a theater party the Hellers gave on the night of February 18, 1914 saying "All of the boxes at the thirty-ninth Street theatre were occupied last night by guests of Mr. and Mrs. David Heller."  Among them were some of the most prominent names in New York society, including Haven, Gerry, and the Bradley Martins.

The music room was decidedly French in style.  from the collection of the Museum of the City of New York

The Hellers' country residence was in East Hampton, Long Island.  Following the summer season of 1921 David looked for a new superintendent for the estate.  It was a responsible position that required year-round residency for the potential employee:

Farmer, gardener wanted; thoroughly experienced working superintendent for my East Hampton, L. I. estate; wife to cook over week ends in winter for owner and children, occupying owner's residence in winter as caretakers. 

In the mid-1940's the house was home to the Dann family.  Both Alvin and Myron Dann were graduates of the University of Michigan--Alvin graduating in 1942 and Myron the following year.  And both went into journalism.  In 1949 Alvin was a reporter for Fairchild Publications and Myron worked in the publicity department of the National Broadcasting Company.

When the Dann family lived in No. 4 it still retained its 1889 appearance.  photo via the NYC Dept of Records & Information Services

Change was soon to come.  On June 30, 1956 The New York Times reported that plans for altering the house "into ten apartments were announced yesterday by Fred H. Hill."  The renovations, completed in 1959, greatly changed the appearance of the venerable home.  The stoop was removed and the entrance lowered to the former basement level, the Queen Anne elements of the upper floors were removed and the brick stuccoed, and the attic floor was raised to full height.  Most noticeable, perhaps, was the round bay, which was given a Modernist make-over to bring the structure more up to date.  Surprisingly, other than a coat of paint, the parlor floor was left mostly intact.

Beneath a starkly modern bay Edward Kilpatrick's 1889 parlor floor decoration survives.

The apartments filled with well-heeled residents whose names continued to appear in society pages in regard to weddings, dinners and debutante entertainments.  Their financial status was evidenced when one apartment was put on the market for $2.195 million in 2007.  During an open house on October 28 someone walked out with "a dress, earrings, a bottle of Champagne and diamond jewelry," according to police.

The same configuration of apartments exist in the home today.  It is difficult not to lament the lost Queen Anne elements which gave the house its architectural personality.

photographs by the author

1 comment:

  1. When I lived at 24 East 82nd Street as a teenager I scarcely remember passing by this building. Thanks for the history. Hard to believe I lived on the block more than 50 years ago!