Monday, August 17, 2020

The Lost 1892 E. L. Kellogg & Co. Building - 61 East 9th Street

American Architect & Building News, July 23, 1892 (copyright expired)

In the 1830's a row of brick-faced houses was erected on the north side of East 9th Street between Wooster Place (renamed University Place in 1838) and Broadway.  Designed in the increasingly popular Greek Revival style, the 26-foot wide homes were three stories tall above an English basement.  While they featured the expected brownstone enframements around the doorways--heavy pilasters upholding a somber entablature and cornice, other details spoke of the moneyed owners--the floor-to-ceiling parlor windows and the cast iron lamp posts that perched imperiously upon paneled stone pedestals on either side of the stoop, for instance.

No. 61 would have matched its next door neighbor, No. 59.  from the New York University Archives, Elmer Holmes Bobst Library (cropped)

No. 61 was still a private home in the first decade following the Civil War.  An advertisement on April 1, 1873 offered "To Let--61 East Ninth Street, near Broadway, newly painted throughout."

Mattie S. Whitney owned the residence in 1874 when she leased it to Mary A. Jones.  Mary additionally signed a "chattel mortgage," placing her piano and furniture as security.  An early hint that commerce was invading the block came in June 1875 when G. C. Flieck & Co., a furniture firm, signed a lease for No. 61.

The once-elegant home survived until the spring of 1892.  On May 6 that year the Philadelphia-based architect W. Eyre, Jr. filed plans for a six-story "brick and stone building" for brothers Edward L. and Amos M. Kellogg.  Eyre blended Gothic Revival with Queen Anne to create a fanciful five story and attic structure.  

The limestone base was dominated by a show window within a large arch.  Between the openings a carving of two children reading a book reflected the owner's trade.  

Young boys shared a book on the facade between the door and show window. from the New York University Archives, Elmer Holmes Bobst Library (cropped) 

The three-story midsection included Gothic pointed openings and a two-story angled bay capped by a tile-shingled roof.  The fifth floor sat within a high pointed gable which partially hid the tiled mansard.  A full-width skylight provided illumination to the attic floor.  Eyre included delightful details throughout the facade, like the crouching, cassock robed monks which upheld the ends of the gable, and the classical caryatids at the fourth floor.

The winged heads of angels stare down from the roof of the third-floor bay, while Greek dressed caryatids grace the windows above.  from the New York University Archives, Elmer Holmes Bobst Library (cropped)

The owners ran the firm of E. L. Kellogg & Co. which published educational pamphlets, magazines and brochures.  Among its output aimed at educators in 1898 were The School Journal--A Weekly Journal of Education, Payne's 100 Lessons in Nature, Kellogg's How To Teach Botany, and Woodhull's Simple Experiments.  It operated The Teachers Institute and The Educational Bureau from the building as well.

By 1896 E. L. Kellogg & Co. was leasing space in the building to Rand-McNally & Co.  In March that year the firm was looking for traveling salesmen for its "new atlas just issued."  The reference book was especially important for marking "all disputed boundary lines between South American countries."  And while Rand McNally & Co. was slightly competitive with its landlord in supplying atlases and education items like globes; it also published novels, biographies and other works.  As Christmas neared in 1897 it advertised new books including Reminiscences of William Wetmore Story by Mary E. Phllips, Hernani, The Jew, A Story of the Russian Oppression, by A. N. Homer, and a new illustrated edition of Lorna Doone by R. D. Blackmore.

In 1901 businesses in the neighborhood complained to authorities that somehow a thief was intercepting their mail and stealing cash and checks.  As it is today, theft of mail was a Federal offense.  Officials placed marked bills in an envelope and addressed it to E. L. Kellogg & Co.   It never made it to No. 61 East 9th Street; but undercover investigators watched each step in its movement.  On February 7, 1901 the New-York Tribune reported that letter carrier Samuel E. Burns had been arrested and charged "with stealing money from letters."  A Post Office veteran of 14 years, the envelope addressed to Kellogg was found in his pocket.

from the New York University Archives, Elmer Holmes Bobst Library 
Rand McNally & Co. was gone from the building by 1903, replaced by the "Wholesale Clothing House" of Samuel Knopf Co.  The resourceful Knopf's major focus, however, was on his business school.  An advertisement in the New-York Tribune on August 29 that year had the enticing title "Learn To Earn $1200 to $8000 A Year."  (The higher amount would equal nearly a quarter of a million in today's dollars.)  It promised in part:

By studying the Art Of Advertising and the Science of Business Management under my direction for six months, you will be qualified to greatly increase your earning power...I can add but a limited number of student-clients--will you be one of them?

On May 9, 1905 the Kellogg firm merged with three other educational publishing houses to form the United Educational Company.  The building received its new name, "The Educational Building."  

Among its subtenants was Joseph E. Ellery, a manufacturer of advertising novelties.  He hired a young bookkeeper-stenographer in 1906--a move he would soon regret.  In January 1907 the New York Herald reported that 26-year old Helen E. Flack had been arrested, charged with "having stolen $20,000 from her employer by forging his signatures to checks."  (That figure would equal about $561,000 today).  Helen denied this, saying the amount was "not more than $5,000," adding "she believed she had a right to place his endorsement on the checks."

The Assistant District Attorney announced she had forged Ellery's signature on more than 100 checks.  Her lawyer explained that "the young woman lost the money in speculation in Wall street."

Unable to make bail, Helen waited for her trial in jail.  But she seemingly had a positive outlook.  On November 29 The New York Press reported "Miss Helen E. Flack...cheered eighty-three prisoners in the Jefferson Market lockup with her singing...She was disappointed when her mother failed to visit her, but quickly broke into song."

The Richmond, Indiana newspaper the Paladium-Item contrasted Helen's high living with stolen funds with her prison life.  April 6, 1908 (copyright expired)
Proper Edwardian newspaper readers may have been a bit shocked when the trial revealed that the employer-employee relationship had stepped over the line.  The court's decision on January 8, 1909 said in part "The relations between plaintiff and Miss Flack were brought out in the testimony at great length, and are shown to be quite extraordinary and unusual."  Nonetheless they did not excuse Helen's actions.

"Miss Flack's highly improbable and the documentary proof is emphatically contradictory of her testimony," said the judge's ruling.  Helen was found guilty.  But Joseph E. Ellery was still out a great deal of money.

Because Helen had burned the firm's books in an effort to cover up her forgeries, it was impossible to trace the checks.  And shortly after the verdict was announced Helen died.  The circumstances of her death are unclear; however her death compounded Ellery's efforts to regain his losses.  He was still fighting in court in 1913.

In 1925 the leasehold to The Educational Building was sold; the presumption being that the United Educational Company had left.  In 1941 the building was home to the high-end antiques shop of Alice Gwenne.

No. 61 East 9th Street, along with several of its neighbors, was demolished in 1955 to be replaced with Randall House, a 14-story apartment building which survives.

photo via

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