Friday, March 5, 2021

The Ransom Parker House - 228 West 11th Street


Richard McCarty was a well-respected member of the community in 1838 when construction was completed on his fine brick-faced home at No. 24 Hammond Street.  He held the highly responsible position of Inspector of Flour for New York City and Kings County.  Highly involved in politics, in 1838 he was chairman of the Nominating Committee of the Democratic Republican General Meeting.

His new house was designed in the Greek Revival style.  The entrance was framed by the heavy pilasters and entablature expected in the popular style.  Unusual, however, was the treatment of the stoop.  Rather that using cast iron railings, the architect created stone wing walls that tumbled down in a series of volutes to create a sort of breaking wave effect.

As was common, a smaller house for income purposes sat in the rear yard.

Around 1853 the house became home to Ransom Parker who had founded the Washington Ice Company in 1851.  Born in Brookfield, New York in 1816, he came to New York City in 1833.  He was involved in the spring water business before turning to ice.

Parker dabbled in real estate as well, as evidenced in his advertisement in the New York Herald on November 18, 1856:

To Let--A part of a rear house, very pleasantly situated, 24 Hammond street, near Waverley place.  Also, the third floor of 189 West Fifteenth street, near Eighth avenue, for shop purposes.  For further particulars inquire of R. Parker, on the premises.

Parker's first wife, Mary Dix, had died in 1849.  The couple had had six children, Maria Louisa, Ransom, Jr., Mary Elizabeth, Joseph Edward, Sarah Jane and Priscilla.  When they moved into the Hammond Street house Maria Louisa was in her teens and Priscilla was around 7-years old.  By then Parker had married the former Jane Elizabeth Pennington.  

The tenants in the rear house were working class.  In 1857 they included Henry E. Beers, a driver; Benjamin F. Cloud who worked as a painter and volunteered at the Howard Engine Company No. 34 on Christopher Street; and Dewitt C. Clark who listed his profession as inspector.

The drawing room of the Parker house was the scene of Mary Elizabeth's wedding on June 4, 1862.  The 20-year-old was married to Walter A. Place, who was 21.

By 1863 Ransom, Jr. had joined his father's business.  The following year Hammond Street was renamed and the house received the new address of No. 228 West 11th Street.  

In 1867 Sarah Bramson, a widow, listed her address here.  It is unclear whether she rented part of the rear house, or was a boarder with the family.  Three years later her son, Gustave, joined her.  He was in the insurance business at No. 325 Broadway.  They would remain through 1873.

As the population of No. 228 West 11th Street diminished through marriages, it is clear that Ransom and Jane did take in at least one boarder in the main house.  On April 13, 1872 an advertisement appeared in the New York Herald that read:

To Let--A nicely furnished large sized front Room, to a single gentleman, in private house 228 West Eleventh street, at moderate terms.

Frank H. Rollins, a banker at No. 21 Wall Street boarded with the Parkers in 1876 and '77.  He was followed by Mary Vanorden in 1878.  Mary's husband, John H. Vanorder, had operated a coal business on Seventh Avenue.  Now the self-reliant Mary took over the operation.  She remained in the house through 1880.

Ransom Parker's ice business was about five blocks away, on West 11th Street and West Street.  He seems to have done something to offend a member of the Board of Aldermen in 1882.  On June 5 the Board passed a resolution allowing him to "erect a platform scale for weighing ice" there.  But only a week later that resolution was "hereby annulled, rescinded and repealed."

Dr. George H. Elliott and his wife appear to have occupied the rear house by 1892.  Its location adjacent to the rear yard of No. 29 Perry Street made Joseph William's boisterous singing quite audible.  Now a carpenter, Williams was an Englishman who had formerly been a sailor.  At sea, according to The Evening World, he "developed a fog-horn voice, that when occasion requires will pierce the porous tissue of a 2-inch plank."

The article said, "For nearly a year Williams had made it his unfailing practice to arise at about 1 o'clock in the morning, and from that time until 4 desecrate the ordinary silence of the night with such melodies as 'Rocked in the Cradle of the Deep,' 'The Bell Buoy' and Longfellow's 'Arrow and the Song.'"

On July 14, 1893 Dr. Williams had had enough.  The Evening World reported "Williams's vocal pyrotechnics were particularly annoying to Dr. Elliott, of 228 West Eleventh street, directly in the rear of Williams's house."  The doctor gathered a group of neighbors who went to Jefferson Market Court.  That night Detective Foley and Farrell "arrested both man and voice."  In court Williams seemed surprised that he had annoyed his neighbors.  The judge told him he could sing during the daytime, but since Williams enjoyed his 1:00 a.m. performances, he said "he would take a rowboat and go down the bay."

Dr. Elliott was called to the house of Jacob Roberson later that year.  Around the time of the singing incident Roberson had lost his job as a truck driver.  The New York Times reported that after that, "the support of the family devolved upon a younger son, who earned $3 a week."  Another son, four-year old Arthur, had survived spinal meningitis which left him disabled.  With barely any income, the family took Arthur to the asylum on Randall's Island for temporary care.  The New York Times said "the little boy was placed in Ward D of the pavilion for idiotic children."

His mother was shocked when she visited on August 23.  The boy was tied to a chair and "had wasted away terribly."  She later told the courts "I found that Arthur was bruised all over his body.  His hands, arms, and back were black and blue and ab out his ankles were the ropes with which he had been tied, that had cut deep in the flesh."  She brought the boy home and called Dr. Elliott.

He testified, "I have seldom seen such a case of inhuman treatment...I should say he had received heavy blows.  Then, too, he had evidently been kept out in the burning sun for hours during that hottest spell in August, for his skin was browned more than an Indian's."

A relative, real estate and insurance agent Isaac A. Cochran, lived with the Parkers by 1895.  The 30-year old had recently broken off his relationship with Bessie Fairbanks, with whom he had been living for three years.  The Sun described her as "20 years old and a rather good-looking blonde."

Bessie, understandably, expected that the two would be married.  But instead Cochran "abandoned her" and moved in with the Parkers.  She was convinced he had gone to live with another woman.  On the evening of March 6 they met at Henry Zimmer's saloon at Third Avenue and 67th Street, presumably to talk things out.  They took a small table in the wine room at the back of the saloon.  The bartender, Hiram Ellenhauser, had just served them and was heading out when the unthinkable happened.

"He had got half way through the archway which separates the wine room from the barroom when he heard three shots fired in quick succession," reported The Sun.  Without turning to see what had happened, Ellenhauser ran out the front door and found two policemen.  They returned to find Cochran "leaning on a table with his right hand.  The left hand he held to his forehead, from which blood was spurting."  Bessie had emptied all five chambers of her revolver, two of the bullets entering his head.

Bessie was arrested.  "She was hysterical and had to be almost carried to the Station," reported The New York Times.  It added that Cochran "was removed to the Presbyterian Hospital in a dying condition."

When Bessie calmed down, she identified herself as Cochran's common-law wife, said he "refused to provide for her, and had treated her brutally."  In the wine room she had again asked for financial help.  When he refused it was too much for her to handle.  The New York Times noted "It was subsequently learned that he lived at 228 West Eleventh Street with his relatives, supposedly, and a telegram was sent there to notify them of the shooting."

Three days after the incident The Evening World reported that Bessie "seemed much depressed to-day.  She told Justice Deuel that Cochran had ruined her life.  She said that she shot him because it was the only way she could get revenge."

Dr. George Elliott was still living in the rear house on December 19, 1900 when he died at his father's home in Manchester, New Hampshire.  The New-York Tribune pointed out that he had practiced medicine in the Greenwich Village neighborhood for two decades.

Having lived in the West 11th Street house for half a century, Ransom Parker died there on November 17, 1903.  He was 87-years old.  By the time of his death his entire immediate family, other than Mary Elizabeth and Priscilla, had died.

By the Depression years No. 228 was being operated as a rooming house.  Warren Hilleary, who lived here in 1930, was  secretary of the United State Department of Labor's Committee on Safety Code for Woodworking Machinery and was a member of the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America.  Earl Silverston rented a room from at least 1936 through 1940 and was closely watched by the Senate's Special Committee on Un-American Activities as he routinely voted for the Communist Party candidate.

The Government watched another tenant, William Allen Van Der Roest at mid-century.  He was a veteran of the International Brigades, a group of military units which had been set up by the Communist International to assist the Popular Front during the Spanish Civil War in 1936 through 1938.

A renovation to No. 228 West 11th Street completed in 1985 resulted in a two-family dwelling, a basement apartment and a triplex.  Outwardly the nearly 185-year old residence is remarkably unchanged since Richard McCarty and his family moved in in 1838.

photographs by the author


  1. Fourth line - "designec"
    How was this back house accessed? Doesn't look like there's an alley of alley of anykind. Would it still be there today?

    1. There were sometimes shared "horsewalks" used by more than one house, and I'm assuming that was the case here.