Saturday, January 30, 2021

The 1829 David S. Jones House - 2 Bond Street

Attorney David S. Jones was the sixth son of Samuel Jones (known as the Father of the New York Bar) and Cornelia Herring (often spelled Haring).  He was born at the family's country home, Tryon Hall, in South Oyster Bay, Long Island on November 3, 1777.  Soon after graduating from Columbia College he was appointed private secretary to Governor John Jay and upon his return to New York joined his father's law practice. 

Jones inherited a large share of the sprawling Herring Farm.  By the mid 1820's streets had been laid out on the property and the eastern section, later known as the Bond Street District, was seeing the rise of opulent residences.  In 1828 Jones began construction of a large brick-faced home at No. 2 Bond Street, just east of Broadway.  (That section of Broadway was known as Great George at the time.)

An 1869 map shows the original Herring farm as surveyed in 1784 with the contemporary streets overlaid.  from the collection of the Princeton University Library

Completed in 1829, the 26-foot wide Jones house was three-and-a-half stories high above a short English basement.  A service road, known as Jones Alley, to the side afforded windows on three sides.

Jones had been married three times--each time to a woman of sterling pedigree.  His first wife, Margaret Jones (of a non-related family) was the granddaughter of Declaration of Independence signer Philip Livingston.  Susan Le Roy, his second wife, was the daughter of Herman Le Roy, one of the wealthiest citizens of New York; and his third wife, Mary Clinton, was the eldest daughter of Governor DeWitt Clinton.

The ample size of the new house was necessary.  The three marriages had produced 18 children.  In addition to his legal practice, Jones was trustee and legal advisor of Columbia College, the General Theological Seminary and the Society Library, and a director in the Phenix Bank.

In 1835 Jones moved his family to the Long Island estate, although he continued to work in the city.  (He gave up the arduous commute in 1840, but never returned to Bond Street.)

The 1917-1918 Valentine's Manual of the City of New York noted, "After Judge Jones' departure from Bond street, his old residence became the 'fashionable boarding house' of Mrs. Lois Street...She had ample experience in the business, for as early as 1809 she and her husband kept a boarding house at 67 Pearl street."

Lois's deceased husband, Caleb Street, had been a prosperous merchant.  Her well-to-do boarders in 1838 included Gabriel Wisner, a Front Street merchant.  She placed an advertisement in the Morning Courier and New-York Enquirer in September 1842 offering:

Board In Bond Street--At no. 2 Bond street, board with very pleasant rooms can be obtained.  A gentleman and his wife or a few single gentlemen will find his a desirable location for the winter.

Lois Street moved her boarding house business to No. 47 Lafayette Place, the northernmost house on LaGrange Terrace, in 1844.  The Bond Street house next became home to John William Schulten, described by The New York Times as "a well-known merchant of this City."  His commission business was located on Broad Street.  

Boarding with the Schultens was Dr. James Stewart, the medical examiner of the Mutual Benefit Life Insurance Company.  He remained with the family until they left in 1847.  

An auction of the household items held on April 16 that year hints at the elegant interiors.  Included were imported carpets, "mahogany sofas and chairs covered with crimson plus, ottomans...mahogany card and dining tables, bronze Astral and mantel lamps...dressing bureaus and with stands with Egyptian marble tops" and "glass decanters and tumblers, wines and liqueurs, white China Ware" and other upscale items.

For the next few years No. 2 Bond Street was home to a private school.  Most such schools were segregated by sex--instructing either the sons or the daughters of wealthy families.  But the Giraud School was surprisingly co-educational.  An advertisement in 1848 read:

The Misses Giraud's French and English school for young children, will re-open on Monday, September 11, at No. 2 Bond street.

In 1853 the widowed Margaret Howell was operating No. 2 again as an boarding house.  While her tenants were still professional, the increased number reflected the gradual decline of Bond Street.  (The more boarders in an establishment, the less exclusive it was considered.)   Among her boarders in 1855 were Charles F. Bartholomew, who dealt in mourning goods; salesman George D. Humprys; Phineas W. Sprague whose forwarding business was on Front Street; accountant William F. Reed; and, Dr. James Warner.

No. 2 Bond Street was sold at auction on December 7, 1858.  It was purchased by Dr. Joshua F. Bridge.  The house became home to his family and to his Graefenberg Institute which treated women's medical issues.  

Bridge developed his own medicines.  An advertisement in The New York Times on November 123, 1860 touted:

The Graefenberg Company's Uterine Catholicon is a certain cure for all female irregularities, weakness, tumors, ulceration, inflammation, whites, failing and other local derangements of the uterine organs, as well as the constitutional troubles arising from them.

The price was $1.50 per bottle (about $48 today).  But for $6 "five bottles will be sent by Express, and charges prepaid to the end of the Express line from New-York," said the ad.  "Dr. Bridge pledges his word for the truth of the above," it promised.

Bridge described his services in The New York Times on February 23, 1861, saying:

The Graefenberg Institute Buildings are in the finest and most central portion of New-York City (No. 2 Bond-street, near Broadway).  They are four stories high, open, airy, elegantly furnished and arranged, and are admirably adapted for the comfort of those who wish to place themselves under the immediate care of the resident physician, who resides in the buildings, and who has been long and favorably known to the community for his skill and experience.  The diseases treated at the Institute comprise chronic uterine and other difficulties of women...and the Institute enjoys, as it deserves, the entire confidence of those who require its advantages.

Dr. Bridge moved his facility to Brooklyn in 1863.  The new owner of No. 2 Bond Street, Anthony S. Hope, was a wholesale grocer.  He initiated major changes to the building by raising the attic to a full fourth floor and giving it a modern Italianate cornice and cast metal lintels over the windows.

It was operated as a boarding house for almost decade.  After David Tetzlaff purchased the property around 1872 he converted it for business purposes, including a two-story cast iron storefront.  The former basement level became Tetzlaff's "eatinghouse," while upstairs were the "gentlemen's furnishings" store of Blackmar, Hart & Boyd; Loskamp, Schaible & Lerch, jewelers; and Stecheri & Wolff, "German booksellers and importers of European literature."

In 1878 George Murphy, "manufacturer, importer and dealer of photographic goods," opened his store in the building.  He sold plates, lenses, cameras and other supplies.  The goods were not inexpensive.  A dozen 11 x 14-inch negative films (or plates) cost $7.50 in 1889, or about $215 in today's money.

Anthony's Photographic Bulletin, February 1889 (copyright expired)

In 1892 the St. Louis and Canadian Photographer reported "Mr. Geo. Murphy, the enterprising dealer of number 2 Bond St., N.Y., has been compelled, on account of his phenomenal increase of business, to seek more room and better facilities."  David Tetlaff's restaurant was still in the basement level but the personality of Bond Street was increasingly becoming more industrial.

Within three years all the tenants of the upper floors were clothing manufacturers.  In 1895 S. M. Bondy & Co.'s business was described as "cutting clothing."  The other tenants were Rothblatt & Abrahams and Joseph S. Blatt & Co., both of which made knee pants.

At the turn of the century the basement space was now Miller's Restaurant.  Its cashier, Gustave Mensenge, got himself in trouble on the evening of December 2, 1902.  Described by The Evening World as "neatly dressed and is a fine-looking young fellow," had been arrested on charges of having attempted to hug a young woman on Lexington Avenue.

In court the next morning Mensenge denied the accusation, saying his mistook Emma Morgan ("a pretty young girl who lives in Long Island City," according to The World) for a friend.  According to him, he greeted her, "How are you, Mamie?" and she replied, "Oh, very well," with a smile.  He testified that when she agreed it was a delightful evening, he asked "Would you like to go to the theatre with me?"

"How rude you are sir; I don't even know you!" she blurted.

Mensenge told the judge, "The next thing I knew I was placed under arrest."  He did not explain how the conversation had continued so long without his realizing the she was not his friend.  Because Emma had not appeared in court, the judge held Mensege on $500 bail until she could be brought in.

photo via the NYC Dept of Records & Information Services

Throughout the first three quarters of the 20th century the former Jones house held small factories.  But that all would change as the Bond Street neighborhood saw the arrival of artists, musicians and trendy shops.  By the mid-1970's the popular nightspot The Ladies' Fort was at No. 2 Bond, and in the former Tetzlaff restaurant space was the First Amendment, an improvisational theater.

On October 28, 1977 The New York Times reported "Jazz will return to the Ladies Fort at 2 Bond Street, near Broadway and Bleecker Street, with the Battle of the Big Bands."  In October 1985 the First Amendment celebrated its 10th anniversary.

In 1993 the upper three floors were converted to "living-working quarters for artists," one per floor.  After nearly 200 years the structure bears only hints of the handsome mansion erected by David S. Jones.

photographs by the author

Friday, January 29, 2021

An 1883 Remodeling - 317 East 10th Street

The floor-to-ceiling parlor windows were possibly fronted by cast iron balconies.

In 1847 investor Runyon W. Martin began construction on two mirror-image Greek Revival residences at Nos. 317 and 319 East 10th Street.  The builder, James C. Whitlock, may have been responsible for their design.  At four stories tall and 25-feet wide, they were intended for well-heeled families and overlooked Tompkins Square, which was still under construction (it would be opened in 1850).  The park guaranteed extra sunlight and breezes.

Construction was completed in 1848 and it appears that No. 317 was initially operated as a high-end boarding house.  An advertisement in 1851 reveals that it not only had indoor plumbing, but cutting-edge amenities:

Board--Pleasant rooms to let, with board, furnished or unfurnished, to families or single gentlemen, with cold, warm, and shower baths, at 317 Tenth street, opposite Tompkins Square.

That the house was respectable was reflected in the fact that the proprietor accepted only families and men--single women living on their own were suspect.

The house was sold in 1856 and the contents sold at auction.  The sale announcement listed the costly, upscale items, including:

a large and extensive assortment of first class furniture...consisting in part of rich, crimson and purple, and blue and gold and crimson brocatel parlor suits; one rosewood piano, rosewood marble top centre tables, one pair large mirrors with extension window curtains.  Brussels carpets, rosewood bookcases, wardrobes, sofas, chairs, oval mirrors...

It became home to the family of Jacob Griffen, who had distinguished himself as a captain in the Revolutionary War.  Griffen had either died just before or soon after the family moved in.  His widow's grief was increased when her only son, Robert Fleet Griffen, died at the age of 19 on September 28, 1860.  His funeral was held in the parlor.  The scene was repeated the following year on October 20, 1861.  The Griffens' second oldest daughter, Luisa W., died in the house at the age of just 13.  

Around 1866 Ignatz Stein purchased the house, his name reflecting the increasing German population in the district.  He ran a drygoods business on Dey Street and was an investor in the distillery of Albert Heller on Third Avenue.  The Steins' son, Charles Augustus, was studying law in the College of the City of New York and would graduate in 1871.

In 1868 city directories added "rectifier" as a profession for Stein, suggesting that his interest in Albert Heller's business had broadened.  The term referred to a person who distilled alcoholic beverages.

It was common for even affluent families to rent spare rooms and the Steins did so beginning in 1870.  Simon Weinschenk, a clerk, lived here that year as did Thomas E. Cody who taught in the Boys' Department at School No. 29 on Greenwich Street.  

Ignatz Stein sold No. 317 to Andrew Carey and his wife, Matilda, on May 1, 1872.  The couple paid $19,000 for the property, or about $410,000 today.

As the Steins had done, the Careys rented rooms.  John J. Golding and his wife, Ellen, boarded with them in 1873, as did Dr. Achilles Rose.  Dr. Rose moved to Seventh Avenue in 1876, but the Goldings remained.  John Golding ran a hat store at No. 517 Eighth Avenue.

In 1866 the State Legislature ordered the city to remove many of the now-mature trees that had been planted in Tompkins Square in 1835 when landscaping began.  The purpose was to create a parade ground for the Seventh Regiment.  The result was disastrous--at least for the homeowners around the park.

The square, which had originally added to the allure of the homes on East 10th Street, had become a "nuisance" in 1876.  A large meeting of residents was held in the park on June 3.  The New York Times described it as "at present an unsightly waste.  There is not a spear of grass upon its entire area, and the few sickly trees planted here and there along the boarders are sadly out of place in the hot, arid desert...In hot weather the sun shines down upon the shadeless soil and bakes it to powder, that with the slightest breath of wind sweeps across the park in clouds of dust, to the great annoyance of the business men and families located along the inclosing streets."

In true Victorian fashion, the protest was a spectacle.  It was held on the south side of the park, across from the Carey home, "where a platform had been erected, decorated with banners and strings of Chinese lanterns, and there were calcium lights on either side of the stage.  There were probably five thousand people present exclusive of women and children, and the order was excellent," said The New York Times.

The speeches, several in German, were rousing.  Henry G. Autenrieth "handled the Park Commissioners without gloves, and said that he was in favor of appointing a committee to stir up the Commissioners, and show them that the citizens of the locality had right which the Park Commissioners were bound to respect."  The committee was formed that evening and among its members was Andrew Carey.

Andrew and Matilda Carey's daughter Mary and her husband James Sullivan lived at No. 291 Pearl Street.  Mary personally owned "considerable property" according to The Evening Telegram, which James seems to have managed.  That arrangement led to domestic problems in 1879 when James stopped charging rent for one tenant, Margaret O'Leary.

The Evening Telegram explained, "For some time past Mrs. Sullivan has been jealous of the attention which her husband bestowed upon Mrs. Margaret O'Leary, a prepossessing widow about thirty years of age.  Mrs. O'Leary and her young daughter occupy the premises No. 52 East Broadway, owned by Mrs. Sullivan."  Not only was Margaret not required to pay rent, but "Mr. Sullivan frequently visited them."

On September 29, 1879 Mary snapped.  The newspaper reported "Last evening the green-eyed monster took possession of Mrs. Sullivan.  She proceeded to the residence of Mrs. O'Leary, broke in the door of her apartments and commenced to demolish the furniture.  Not being satisfied with destroying chairs, mirrors and chinaware, she threw bedding and other articles into the street."

Not surprisingly, a large crowd assembled on the sidewalk and a policeman "was compelled to arrest the now frantic woman."  Andrew Carey was called to the Essex Market Police Court where he paid his daughter's $300 bail (nearly $8,000 today).  Margaret O'Leary refused to press charges and said she would vacate the apartment.

The Carey house was architecturally outdated by now.  On June 2, 1883 plans were filed renovations costing the equivalent of $184,000 today.  The only hint of the old Greek Revival design to remain were the brownstone piers of the entrance.  The architect embellished the openings with pressed metal Queen Anne style sills and lintels, and replaced the cornice with an exuberant version perhaps more expected on a commercial building.  Interestingly, the house next door was also updated and while it was given different Queen Anne details, the entrances of the two houses now shared elaborate paired entablatures.

The ambitious cornice and parapet have a decidedly commercial appearance.

In March 1884, with the alterations complete, Carey sold the house to his long-term boarders, John and Ellen M. Golding.  History repeated itself in 1891 when Rudolf F. and Maria Singer, "joint tenants," purchased the house.

The Singers remained for years, taking in a long-term boarder as their predecessors had done.  In 1911, for instance, Mark Schoenberg signed a three-year lease with Maria for the parlor floor.

By 1917 No. 317 had become home to the Isidore and Sarah Spenadel.  A dentist, Isidor attained the rank of First Lieutenant in the Medical Department of the U.S. Army during World War I.

The couple would have five children, Henry (who also became a dentist), Louise, Mary, Anna and Blanche.  Following his father's death, Henry inherited the house.  Sarah's funeral was held here on January 21, 1934.

A pile of pillows sits on a third floor window sill--a common usage for women who sometimes spent hours leaning in the window, often chatting with neighbors.  via the NYC Dept of Records & Information Services.

Prior to the Dr. Henry Spanadel's selling the house in 1968, it was unofficially divided into apartments.  A renovation in 1984 created a duplex in the basement and parlor levels, and one apartment per floor on the top three.

Other than a coat of gray paint and replacement windows, little has changed since the 1883 remodeling.

photographs by the author

Thursday, January 28, 2021

The Marble-Faced 153 Chambers Street


No. 153 Chambers Street, described in The New York Morning Courier as a "two story and basement brick dwelling," was offered for sale in 1847.  It had been home to Edwin Clark a decade earlier, whose hardware business was located at No. 193 Pearl Street.  During the 1850's it was operated as a "genteel" boarding house by landlady Ann Stewart.

Around 1866 the house and its next-door neighbor at No. 155 were replaced by two identical marble-faced loft and store buildings.  Five stories tall, the ground floor storefronts were cast iron.  The elliptically arched openings of the upper floors were trimmed with molded sills and lintels.  

Among the initial tenants of No. 153 was John J. Staff & Sons, importers, bottlers and sellers of wines and liquors like "brandies, wine &c.," port and "brown stout."  Also in the building was Trager & Garfunkel, hoop skirt manufacturers and dealers in hoop skirt materials.  It was run by Abraham Trager and Moses Garfunkel.

In May 1867 the second and third floors were still vacant in the "marble front Store 153 Chambers street."  The rental advertisement promised "in fine order; rent moderate."

The spaces were taken by U. H. Dudley & Co., "commission merchants and merchandise brokers," and Acker, Merrall & Co., retail grocers.  Uriah H. Dudley and Hiram H. Taylor had formed U. H. Dudley & Co. that year.  It specialized in canned goods and dried fruits.  

The neighborhood was becoming part of the "butter and egg" district at the time.  In December 1869 Gustavus Baylies advertised No. 153 Chambers Street for sale, noting that it was "admirably located for the butter business."

Despite the suggestion, the building continued to house a variety of tenants--none of them in the butter and egg business.  Along with U. H. Dudley & Co. in the mid-1870's were M. Simon & Brother, "gents' furnishings," run by Sinai and Mamklok Simon; John W. Louderback's basket business; and Joseph S. Brockway, who dealt in soaps.   

L. P. Worrall was in the building in 1873, marketing The American Fruit-Preserving Powder.  His advertisements promised that it "will effectually prevent fermentation and preserve all kinds of Fruits, Tomatoes, Cider, &c. during the year round or longer, in large Jars or whatever kind, and in wooden Kegs and Barrels."  The power was purported to preserve fruits "without the need of forming a vacuum or making the vessels air-tight."  The fact that he soon was gone from the building suggests that his product was not all it was promised to be.

The success of U. H. Dudley & Co. was rapid and astronomical.  By 1875 they operated branches in Chicago, St. Louis, San Francisco and Baltimore with sales of $2,500,000 per year, according to The New York Times.  That staggering figure would equal about $60 million today.  In 1879 the firm made negotiated a deal with the Central Pacific Railroad by which U. H. Dudley & Co. promised to ship 100 cars of canned goods from California each year and receive a 25 percent rebate on the freight fees in return.

In 1880 the rebate due for the previous year was $9,900--just over a quarter of a million in today's dollars.  U. H. Dudley & Co.'s problems now began.  The New York Times reported "The Central Pacific refused to pay the bill, and suit was brought in the United States Circuit Court."  Then, reported the newspaper, "In the Fall of 1881 their agents in Chicago and St. Louis are reported to have purchased more goods than the market would warrant, and in December of 1881 they had $75,000 worth of goods on hand in St. Louis."  News that the firm failed in December 1882 "caused much surprise in trade circles."

M. Simon & Brother and John W. Loudenback were still renting space in the 1880's.  C. C. Sullivan, "produce and commission merchant," and D. E. Manton, another produce merchant, were also tenants. The ground floor store held P. Pohalski & Co.'s cigar and tobacco store.  

On the night of December 28, 1887 fire broke out in the building.  It caused a fracas on the street when Thomas B. Fay tried to break through the fire line.  Fay worked in the willow ware company of William H. Barron at No. 141 Chambers and was trying to get to the address.  A policeman named McDermott stopped him, ordering, "Get out of here.  You can't get through here."

Fay responded, "But my employer's place may be on fire and I may be able to render service there."

The New York Eagle reported "'I don't care for that,' said McDermott, moving his club threateningly.  'Get out of here.'"

Fay was not intimidated.  "If you hit me with that club, I'll strike you with my umbrella."  The remark landed Fay in jail until his employer bailed him out.

The fire was extinguished, but not before it severely damaged P. Pohalski & Co's. store.  The company relocated to No. 58 Warren Street, a block away.  But bad luck followed.  Just two weeks later, on January 15, 1888, fire spread along that block to No. 58.  The Sun reported that P. Pohalski & Co. "claim a loss of 150,000 cigars by yesterday's fire."

The 1890's saw Robert Rennie, a merchant of "acids;" the National Railway Supply Co. and James E. Morris & Co. wholesale grocers operating from No. 153.  

In January 1894 James E. Morris received a tip that a huckster had targeted his firm.  For several weeks G. H. Henry had appeared at the offices of various wholesale firms, representing himself to be the buying agent of steamship lines, railroads and other major organizations.  He would order an amount of goods to be delivered at a railroad station where he would then claim them.  Morris told detectives of the information he had received, and a trap was set.

Late on the afternoon of January 25 an "immaculately attired man of refined appearance walked into the wholesale grocery store of James E. Morris & Co.," as reported by the New York Herald.  He identified himself as the purchasing agent of the American line of transatlantic steamers.

"You are just the man I want to see," said Morris.  "Step into the office."

Henry detailed his mission to buy goods and an order was made out.  He signed the order and rose to leave.  "His hand was on the knob of the office door when a policeman emerged from the shadow, a heavy hand fell upon Mr. Henry's shoulder and soon he found himself in Ludlow Street Jail," reported the New York Herald.  There he faced a list of charges.

A. M. Morris was associated with James Morris & Co. by the second decade of the 20th century, as well as being a director in the North River Steamboat Company.  He lived in fashionable Greenwich Connecticut.  He offered his services to that city in February 1917 when its mayor organized the Citizens Security League "for riot and other emergency duties."  He was among the 50 citizens chosen and sworn in on February 25 and "provided with nightsticks and revolvers," according to The Sun.

After having been in the building for more than three decades, James E. Morris & Co. purchased the property in February 1920.  Two years later on July 1, 1922 the Real Estate Record & Builders' Guide reported that the firm  "have added a parcel to their present holding at 153 Chambers st." by purchasing the six-story building directly across the street.  (It may have foreshadowed the impending sale of No. 153 in 1926 to Samuel Lipschitz.)

The tenant list under the new owner was a drastic change.  Among them were the salesroom of the Moto-Mower Co., makers of "a real motor driven grass cutter;" and the Empire Hardware Company which was on the ground floor.

The hardware store was replaced by the Silver Fox Tavern around 1929.  The problem was that Prohibition was still in effect and at 2:00 on the afternoon of May 17, 1930 "Volstead sleuths dashed into the Silver Fox tavern at 153 Chambers st. and confiscated 40 quarters of liquors," as reported in the Daily News.  "Several patrons in the place were not molested, but three employe[e]s were arrested."

Following the incident, John Mory sold his lease to the Chambers Street Restaurant in February 1931, and following the repeal of Prohibition the space became the Mullins Bar and Grill.  The bartender had just opened on the morning of October 29, 1949 when an armed robber entered at 9:00 and held him up.  He made off with $500 from the register--more than 10 times that amount in today's dollars.

Before 1941 the cornice was replaced with a brick parapet.  via the NYC Dept of Records & Information Services.

The tavern expanded into the second floor in 1951.  The first floor now held a "bar, grill and cabaret" and the second a "restaurant and cabaret."  Small factories continued to occupy the upper floors.

As the Tribeca neighborhood grew trendier in the last quarter of the 20th century, the ground floor became home to Cheese of All Nations on the ground floor and Cheese 'n' Wine on the second.  In its Going Out Guide on May 2, 1972 The New York Times called Cheeses of All Nations a "store-of-a-thousand cheeses."  It was not so impressed with Cheese 'n' Wine.  "Although the idea of the restaurant evokes commendation, reality invites hope for improvement."

The late 20th century was not kind to the Victorian, cast iron storefront.

The cheese store remained at least through 1984.  A renovation completed in 2008 resulted in loft residences on the upper floors, including a duplex on the fifth floor and new penthouse, unseen from street level.  A reproduction cornice, lost prior to mid-century, was installed at the time.

photographs by the author

Wednesday, January 27, 2021

The John J. Hannon House - 317 West 18th Street


In the first years after the end of the Civil War grocer John Haines and his family lived in the relatively new Italianate style house at No. 239 West 18th Street (renumbered 317 in 1868).  He would not remain especially long, nor would any of the other owners and renters for the rest of the 19th century.

The turnover of residents was dizzying.  In 1870 Samuel S. Berck, who operated two hat stores on Eighth Avenue moved in.  Sarah McCoy, the widow of Alexander McCoy, shared the house with the Berck family.  She was either a boarder or, possibly, Mrs. Berck's mother.  In 1873 another hatter, Philip Lasky, moved in with his family's boarder, clerk Jacob Baum.

On October 24, 1875 an advertisement appeared in The New York Herald which offered "To Let--The second floor of house 317 West Eighteenth street, to a small family of adults; all improvements.  Inquire of owner, on the premises."

That owner may have been Anthony Reiss, Jr., for he held title to the house by March 1876.  Born on May 11, 1830 his father, Anthony Reiss, Sr. was among the group of musicians who formed the New York Philharmonic and was elected its first vice president.

Anthony Jr. studied violin and piano as a youth, and his first job was with the orchestra that traveled with singer Jenny Lind in her New York concerts.  By the time he purchased the 18th Street house he had led the orchestras of several theaters and had been musical director of the Lyster English Opera Company, Maguire's Italian Opera Company and the Clara Kellogg Opera Company, among others.

Reiff's son, Henry, was not so musically inclined.  He is listed as a machinist in 1876 and '77.  The following year he moved out of the family house, possibly because of marriage.  His parents moved to No. 246 West 21st Street and in March 1885 and leased the 18th Street house.  Their ad described it as "20 feet wide, 12 rooms, fine yard, rent $1,000."  (The rent would equal about $2,830 per month today.)

Reiff sold No. 317 to Moses Dunlap and his wife, Anna, in 1889 for $12,500, or about $351,000 in today's money.  It appears that it was the Dunlaps who updated the house--giving it cast metal lintels, heavy Mission style entrance doors, and a swirling cast iron transom grill that hinted at Art Nouveau.

The renovations left the original, pencil-thin side columns on their waist-high bases.  Note the doorbell pull to the left.  It was originally polished to a gleam.

Moses and Anna M. Dunlap, too, moved on quickly.  The offered the house for sale in 1893, describing it as a "cosy home in the best repair and on a fine street."

Once again residents came and went with lightning speed.  In 1895 it was home to Dr. Philip Becker, and two years later to Guy R. P. Ellison.  Ellison was described by The New York Press in 1897 as "a handsome and well-dressed man of 35 years."  He was the vice-president of his family's druggist firm, Van Horn & Ellison Company.  But in June 1897 family ties were not enough to keep him out of the courtroom.

Police knocked on the door of No. 317 West 18th Street early on a Sunday morning, June 20, and arrested him.  His brother and treasurer of the firm, S. Harris Ellison; the president; and another relative, "Riff" Ellison, had filed charges against him for forgery.  He was held in jail overnight and faced the judge and his accusers the following morning.  He had written a company check for $208.  The other firm members said he had no authority to do that.

Ellison exploded at the judge.  "It is an outrage to arrest me on a Sunday morning and bring me here, when it is known I am not guilty of any offense.  If I were guilty I would not mind it, but it is simply ridiculous for you to hold me."

Ellison's relatives refused to supply bail so he sent for his sister, who brought the $500.

When John J. Hannon purchased the house on February 13, 1904, it finally had long term residents.  Hannon and his wife, the former Mary A. Curtin, had two sons, Francis and James, Jr.  

John J. Hannon was a "truckman," who was also involved in politics.  He was the Republican leader of the Seventh Assembly District.  It was a position that sometimes aligned him with some shady characters.  In December 1904 Policeman Joseph Lang arrested a drunk, John Pritchett.  When he had the chance, Lang slipped $2,500 in cash from his impaired prisoner's pockets--two $1,000 bills and one $500 note.  But he was caught.  The judge pointedly told Lang "There is no different rule for policemen who are charged with crime than there is for any other person."  

Lang was sent to the Tombs, but "Half an hour later John J. Hanlon [sic] a truckman of No. 317 West Eighteenth street, gave bonds for him and he was released," reported The New York Herald.

A few months later, in June 1905, Hannon posted $6,000 bond for John W. Wooten, indicted for grand larceny and conspiracy.  But at the last minute Hannon surprised Wooten and his attorney by withdrawing the bond.  "We knew nothing about it, nor had we the slightest intimation that bail with be withdrawn.  What Mr. Hannon's reason are we don't pretend to know," said the lawyer.  And Hannon wasn't talking either.  A reporter who knocked on the 18th Street door was told he was out of town.

Only a year after moving into No. 317 West 18th Street, John J. Hannon died.  His funeral was held in the house on September 9, followed by a service at St. Bernard's Church.  The Hannon family remained in the house for decades.  Francis was still living here with his mother on September 24, 1933 when he was married to Mary Mornweig in Queens.  His brother James stood in as best man.  

The newlyweds remained at No. 317.  The family received horrifying news in August 1949.  James was now 54-years old and managed the Seaside Bar and Grill in Rockaway Beach.  The Long Island Star-Journal said he "was known as 'Scarface' Hannon in the prohibition era."

At 4:50 on the morning of August 11, 1949 Hannon was walking along St. Marks Avenue when a man jumped from a late model car and "killed Hannon with four shots from a foreign made gun."  Detectives said it appeared to be a revenge murder.  Assistant District Attorney Kerwick told reporters, "His friends say Jim Hannon never had an enemy in the world, but I think his friends are mistaken.  He had one enemy, at least--the one who caught up to him and shot him dead."

A renovation completed in 1977 resulted in a duplex in the lower two floors, and two apartments each on the upper floors.  A second remodeling resulted in a single family home with an apartment on the third floor.  

photographs by the author

Tuesday, January 26, 2021

The 1897 William Forster House - 626 West End Avenue


The rounded bay of 626 West End Avenue was originally crowned by an iron railing, as seen in its identical neighbor to the right.

Frank L. Smith and his wife, Magdalene, wheeled and dealt in real estate in the 1890's, buying and selling properties at a dizzying rate.  In 1896 they began construction on a row of eight brownstone-fronted houses on the east side of West End Avenue, between 90th and 91st Streets, designed by George F. Pelham.

Pelham designed the 19-foot wide houses in the Renaissance Revival style and arranged them in a balanced A-B-B-A-A-B-B-A configuration.  Among the B houses was No. 626 West End Avenue which, like its neighbors, rose four stories above a high English basement.   Above the straight stoop the doorway was framed in delicate leafy carving and topped by an elaborate garnish of leaves, a shell-filled cartouche, and torches.  A rounded bay rose from the basement through the third floor, and the fifth floor was distinguished by bulls-eye windows within carved laurel leaf wreaths.

Construction of the row had barely begun when, on June 22, 1896, Frank L. Smith sold them to real estate operators Crow & Taylor.  William L. Crow and James W. Taylor sold the completed No. 626 to attorney and brewer William Forster on July 28, 1897.

Forster was born on July 16, 1858 and held a Ph.D. from Columbia College's Law School.  A former assistant district attorney, he was a principal in the law firm of Forster, Hotaling & Klenke.

Forster, Hotaling & Klenke was, not unexpectedly, the attorneys for the John Kress Brewing Co.--considering that Forster was its president and treasurer.  He was as well a director in the Globe Electrical Supply Construction Co., the New York and Brooklyn Malting Co., the Nineteenth Ward Bank and the West Gallitan Irrigation Co.

No. 626 is the third from right in the 1897 row.

Although he was born in New York City, Forster held fast to his family's German culture.  He was a member of the Liederkranz Club, the Beethoven Mannerchor, the German Hospital and the Arion Society.  His social status was reflected, as well, in his memberships in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Academy of Political Science and the Columbia University Alumni Association.

Anna Forster seems to have been as involved in German interests as her husband.  On February 1, 1900 the tenth German Charity Ball was held at the Metropolitan Opera House.  It was a joint effort of the German Liederkranz, Arion and Beethoven Mannechor societies.  The New-York Tribune noted "In the last nine years over $80,000 has been distributed to the various German charities from the net results of these balls."  It reported "The ball will be opened by Mr. Kammerer and Mrs. William Forster."

William and Anna had two small children, Vera and Herbert.  On the spring afternoon of April 20, 1900 their nurse, Ellen White, took them to Riverside Park for sunshine and air.  As the children played, she sat on a bench with Jane Wilton, the nurse of Albert Strauss's children.  Suddenly things took a terrifying turn.

The four children, "of whom none was over four years of age," according to The New York Times, were "running about on the narrow strip of sod next to the bicycle path, when down Riverside Drive came a steam automobile."  Morris B. Thair was employed by an auto company and merchant James M. Stauer was taking the vehicle out for a test drive.  He should have taken driving lessons first.

Stauer was driving so fast, according to police, "that it could be seen to swerve from side to side.  When it was within a short distance of the little party the vehicle suddenly swerved to the right and dashed across the trotting path, over the bicycle path, and right into the centre of the group gathered about the bench."  The car crashed into the park wall, throwing both occupants out.

William Forster was also out that day and hearing the "screams of the nurses and children" he rushed to the scene.  Miraculously, none of the children nor their nurses were injured, although "all were prostrated by shock and required the attention of physicians," said The New York Times, and Ellen White and Jane Wilton "were both thrown into hysterics by the fright which they received."  Forster had both men arrested.

On May 29, 1903 William transferred title to the house to Anna.  It was most likely a move to prevent the property from being seized, since he was fully aware the the John Kress Brewing Company was in serious financial trouble.

It had been founded by John Kress in 1853.  Following his death in 1877 his widow Susanna took over until January 1884 when she sold the firm to Forster and his partners.  The Sun said "Up to the death of John Kress the business was very profitable."  On April 26, 1904 newspaper ran the headline "John Kress Brewery Fails."

Soon afterward the Forsters moved out of their West End Avenue house, although Anna retained possession.  She leased it first to the family of the well-to-do Dr. Frederick Schniewind.  Not long after the Schniewinds moved in the neighborhood was plagued with a string of bold burglaries.  On June 8, 1905 The Evening Post reported "The police of the upper West Side continue to be puzzled by mysterious robberies of dwellings."

The audacious thief entered the houses during the day when, even if the family members were out, they were staffed by servants.  In one instance he noticed a basement service door at No. 738 West End Avenue which had been left open by a butcher boy.  He slipped into the house of Alberic De Lavt and sneaked to the top floor where he chose an expensive painting.  The artwork, in a gold frame, was painted on porcelain and valued at $30,000 in today's money.  The Evening Post reported "The frame was too heavy to carry off, so the picture was taken out of the frame by the thief, who managed to elude the servants and get away." 

A week after that heist, on the afternoon of June 7, 1905, the thief slipped into the Schniewind residence and carried off $6,000 of the family's silverware by today's valuation.

Anna Forster leased the house to two other families before selling it to Sarah Taylor in January 1907.  Sarah, too, leased the house.  Her first tenant was Abram Wakeman, Jr. and his family.  Wakeman's father was a former United States Representative, one of the creators of the Republican Party, and a principal developer of Coney Island.  The Wakemans maintained a country home in New Jersey. 

The West End Avenue house was the scene of Hellen Annette Wakeman's wedding to Erskin Clark Rogers on October 24, 1908.  Rogers would go on to became a New York Supreme Court Justice.

By 1914 No. 646 was owned by James O'Connor and his wife, Elizabeth.   In October 1916 he and two partners incorporated The O'Connor Electric Company.  The Electrical World announced "The company proposes to manufacture and deal in electric vibrators, immersion heaters, electric devices, etc."

The O'Connors moved out in 1919, but as Anna Forster had done, retained possession of the house and leased it.  Their most colorful tenant was vaudeville entertainer Nora Bayes.

Born Rachel Eleanora Goldberg, she had appeared with the Florenz Ziegfeld Follies of 1908.  At the outbreak of World War I composer George M. Cohan asked her to record his patriotic song "Over There," which was released in 1917 and became an international success.  Another of her hit wartime records was "How Ya Gonna Keep 'em Down on the Farm (After They've Seen Paree)?"

On April 7, 1925 The New York Times reported "The passenger list of the Leviathan, which docked yesterday, included Nora Bayes and her fifth husband, Benjamin Friedland, garage owner, returning from their honeymoon.  They were married aboard the Leviathan on her eastbound on Feb. 28 by Captain Herbert Hartley."

Nora cooed, "This is the first time I've ever had a honeymoon.  Before I always had to go right back to work after I was married.  This also is the first time I ever went abroad and didn't pay for my passage and the clothes I bought in Paris.  My husband paid for everything and we had a wonderful time.  Didn't we, Mr. Friedland?"

Nora Bayes appeared on the cover of the sheet music of another of her huge hits.

Nora said her new husband "knows how to say 'no,' and I know when he means it."  She said she had proposed that they live in her home at No. 626 West End Avenue but he refused to have his friends say that "he lives in his wife's house."  So, Nora contended, "he bought the house that I owned and then gave it back to me for a wedding present."

Elizabeth O'Connor may have been surprised to read that item, since she still owned the property.  It was not until June 1928 that she sold it to Charles S. Ross, who also owned the house next door at No. 628.

The straight stone stoop survived when this photo was taken around 1941.  from the NYC Dept of Records & Information Services

In 1953 the house was converted to apartments, two each on each floor except the top, which had just one.  The stoop was removed, the original doorway converted to a window.  

Among the tenants in the ensuing years were the German-born Dr. Max Hamburger and his wife, Charlotte.  A philosopher and educator, he had lectured at the New School for Social Research and Columbia University until his retirement in the 1960's.  Among his books were the 1965 Morals and Law: The Groth of Artistotle's Legal Theory, and The Awakening of Western Legal Thought, published in 1969.  

New owners hired MGM Architectural Consulting to initiate a renovation and facade restoration in 2005.  The conversion, completed the following year, resulted in the Forster house once again being a single-family residence.

photographs by the author

Monday, January 25, 2021

The Lost Goelet Brothers Building - 9 West 17th Street


from the collection of the Office of Metropolitan History

The Goelet family settled in New York in the 17th century and soon established a family tradition of constant, quiet acquisition of Manhattan property.   There was one cardinal rule:  land was never sold.  The Goelet fortunes increased through leases rather than sales.

When eccentric bachelor Peter Goelet died in 1879, the bulk of his estate went to his two nephews, Robert and Ogden.  By now New York City was spreading northward and the value of the vast Goelet land holdings – once rural meadows and woods—was multiplying.   The fortunes of the already wealthy Robert and Ogden Goelet were nearly doubled upon the death of their father.

In 1886 the brothers purchased and demolished the house at No. 9 West 17th Street, once the home of the Isaac Buchanan family, as the site of their offices.  As they would often do, they turned to the architectural firm of McKim, Mead & White to design the building.  Stanford White took the reins of the project which was completed within the year.

White designed the three-story building in the increasingly popular Flemish Renaissance Revival style which harkened to Manhattan's Dutch roots.  The picturesque main structure was clad in red brick and trimmed in granite.  To the east a single-story extension took the form of a Flemish carriage house or stable.

The entrance and ground floor windows were recessed within arches upheld by free-standing columns.  White alternated stone and brick at this level to create a striped effect.  The second floor, above a pair of projecting bandcourses, was framed by narrow quoins.  The square headed windows wore stone and brick voussoirs.   Stepped gables, obligatory to the style, gave the third floor (which held the caretaker's apartment) special charm and the centered Dutch dormer completed the design.

The Goelets rubbed shoulders with the city's wealthiest gentlemen.  On March 8, 1891 The Sun reported "The organizers of the new up-town club, which has been dubbed the 'millionaires' club,' held their second business meeting yesterday afternoon in the office of the Goelet estate, at 9 West Seventeenth street."  Among those present were moguls like Louis L. Lorillard, Darius Ogden Mills, J. Pierpont Morgan, Cornelius Vanderbilt and William C. Whitney.  The "millionaires' club" would be officially named The Metropolitan Club.

At the time of the meeting Ogden Goelet's health was failing.  He suffered "a number of severe attacks, but has rallied from all of them," according to the New-York Tribune.  He was on the Isle of Wight in the summer of 1896 when, on July 14, the New-York Daily Tribune reported that he "is lying dangerously ill on board his yacht, the White Ladye, which is anchored in Cowes Harbor."  A reporter rushed to No. 9 West 17th Street where the situation was downplayed.  "The men in the Goelet office seemed inclined to doubt that he was suffering from a dangerous illness."

But Ogden would never sail the White Ladye (which he bought, incidentally, from actress-socialite Lily Langtry) back home.  A telegram from London on August 27, 1897 read:  "Ogden Goelet of New York died at Cowes to-day on his yacht."  The New Haven Morning Journal and Courier noted "Ogden Goelet, by reason of his wealth, his family connections and the part he took in society life, was one of the best known men in New York."

An eerily similar telegram arrived at the offices of the New-York Daily Tribune on April 28, 1899.  "The body of Robert Goelet, who died here yesterday from dropsy on board his steam yacht Nahma, will be left on the vessel and be taken to the United States."

The extensive real estate business was handled by administrators until it passed the Goelets' sons.  Robert Wilson Goelet was the son of Ogden, and Robert Walton Goelet was Robert's son.  The cousins, who were born one month apart in 1880, not only had confusingly similar names, but closely resembled one another.  To ease the confusion Robert Walton was better known as Bertie.  The two men had both graduated from Harvard in 1902 and earned their Masters Degrees in 1903.

Despite the onus of administrating the real estate empire of their fathers, the Goelet cousins were, nonetheless, wealthy young bachelors who enjoyed a good time.  At least one of them was repeatedly arrested for speeding his automobile; but the records always showed Robert W. Goelet and the address 9 West 17th Street (discretion apparently made using the business rather than residential address preferable), so it is impossible to tell which was in trouble in any instance.

The office building was the center of a disturbing incident in the early hours of July 25, 1904.  Dr. F. Leroy Satterlee lived in the residence on West 18th Street directly behind the Goelet building.  He was awakened by the screams of "Murder! Police! Help!"  He opened his window to hear more clearly, then telephoned the police.  The officers who rang the doorbell could get no one to respond although they were certain there was someone inside.

Another neighbor, Dr. Daniel M. Stimson confirmed Satterlee's story, saying the cries "were those of a woman, and that the woman was evidently in distress and probably been beaten."  The New York Times reported "Other neighbors said they heard the cries and that from all observations they could make the cries came from the Goelet estate office building."  One remembered hearing the woman scream "For God's sake don't kill me!"

Half a dozen other policemen arrived and surrounded the house.  Just as they were about to break in the front door, the caretaker, David Barnett, opened it.  He claimed he had not heard the bell.  When asked about the screams, "He would not tell and said he would not let the police in," reported The New York Times.  The police pushed him aside and went in.  They found Mrs. Barnett "crouching in a corner on the third floor."

The terrified woman said that nothing was wrong and that she had not heard the screams.  She refused to make any charges.  The Sun reported "By 2 o'clock this morning the crowd of excited persons in the street had dispersed and the heads were withdrawn from the windows."  The New York Times added, "The police said they had nothing to do but leave.  They found no evidence of any crime, and as the woman had no complaint to make against any one they left."  Sadly, the incident was typical of battered women.

The office building had a vault for the storage of valuable paperwork.  Ogden Goelet's widow used it as well to store some of her jewelry.  In preparation to go to Newport in the summer of 1904, she visited the office to retrieve some items.  Among the stocks, bonds, deeds and titles were "some of her more old-fashioned jewels, a diamond tiara and a riviere of diamonds," said The New York Press.   Two Pinkerton guards stood by as she opened the safe.  But as she "drew forth leather case after leather case," she became increasingly panicked.  A significant amount of her inventory was gone.  Among the $200,000 of missing items (nearly $6 million today) were pearl ropes, diamond bracelets and necklaces.

Detectives called it "the most remarkable robbery of the generation."  Pawn shops were surveilled and various theories followed up on, but no clues could be found.  Then, on August 10, The New York Press reported that Mrs. Ogden had announced she had found all the missing jewels "in the vault where she had left them on June 19."  The mystery now, said the newspaper, was "if she had put those treasures in the vault with her own hands, only to find them gone afterward, by what means were they returned to that self-same vault, there to greet her eyes when she opened the strongbox yesterday?"

The case was eventually dropped, however it was strongly suggested that either her son or nephew had "loaned" the jewelry to a woman, and then sneaked it back in.

In the first decades of the 20th century the Goelet offices were being overwhelmed by soaring commercial structures.  from the collection of the Museum of the City of New York

With the United States' entry into World War I Robert Wilson Goelet enlisted.  He had achieved the rank of captain when he returned to New York on leave in January 1918.  He and a friend, Francis K. Pendelton (who happened to be a Supreme Court judge), went to the theater on the evening of January 16.  As they left, according to the New York Herald, "a large man escorting a young woman bumped into [Goelet] and almost knocked him down.  As Captain Goelet recovered his balance he asked the man if he did not think he was rather rude."

The man was William G. Flood who worked as a waiter.  He responded to Goelet's question  by striking "the army officer in the face with his fist, smashing both his teeth."  The article said "Captain Robert Goelet, one of the largest property holders in Manhattan and now attached to the War Coll├Ęge in Washington, entertained a large after theatre crowd in Broadway at Forty-third street last night by thrashing a big waiter and then causing his arrest."

The Goelets operated their real estate business from the West 17th Street address into the 1920's.  It was later used by artist Harles Eaton as his studio.  Stanford White's incomparably picturesque little building survived until 1952.  For decades the site has been a vacant lot.