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

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