Builder Ephraim H. Wentworth completed a long row of upscale homes along the north side of Second Street between Bowery and Second Avenue around 1836. (The street would not become East 2nd Street for decades.) The identical, three-bay wide Greek Revival houses were faced in red Flemish bond brick and trimmed in brownstone. Stone wing walls which flanked the stoops were originally graced with elegant iron railings which most likely terminated in ornate basket newels. The windows of the squat attic floors peeked through the broad fascia boards below the cornices.
No. 26 was sold to George Tappen, Jr., but he apparently never lived here. In 1837 the family of Nathaniel Tyree Weeks was listed in the house. Born in Jericho, Long Island in 1798, Weeks was married to the former Mary Flynn. The couple had two children, Caroline Matilda, who was 17-years old in 1837, and Henry Astor, who was 15.
Nathaniel Weeks was both a butcher and the owner of an ale house on the Bowery. He had been nominated for a city position in 1833 which prompted a letter to the editor of the New York Herald on March 30 that year:
To The Editor--Having been under the painful necessity of discharging several of my Apprentices, whom I found as late as 12 o'clock at night drinking and card playing at the Porter House of Nathaniel T. Weeks on the Bowery, I wish to be informed if he is the same individual who is nominated for City Collector. (Signed) Tax Payer.
In 1839 the Weeks house received another occupant, a relative of Mary's (quite likely her sister). On March 23, 1839, New York newspapers announced, "At Buenos Ayres, January 1st Mr. Whitehead H. Andrews, [was married] to Miss Catharine Flinn [sic], both of New-York." The groom was significantly older than his bride. He had been a tallow chandler in New York, was now living and working in Argentina. (How he met and wooed the teenaged Catharine is a mystery.) Tragically, Andrews died in Buenos Aires on October 8, just ten months later, at the age of 40. The 19-year-old widow returned to New York and moved into the Weeks house, never to marry again.
By the mid-1840's Henry was working as a druggist at 30 Fulton Street and had married the former Alathea H. White. A decade later he was an officer in the Twelfth Regiment, known as the Independence Guard.
The family had a pedigree pet which slipped in 1854. An advertisement in the New York Herald offered a $5 reward:
Lost, Sept. 17, A long-haired white poodle dog, with nose and feet clipped. Any person returning him, or giving information of his whereabouts, at 26 Second street, will receive the above reward.
That the dog was professionally groomed, and that the family offered a reward of more than $150 in today's money, reflects both on the value of the dog and the affluence of the family. The incident did not improve the watchfulness of the family nor the servants. The following year, on September 28, an advertisement read: "$3 Reward--For a mouse colored grey hound, with scar on nose. Inquired at 26 Second street."
On September 29, 1860 the Twelfth Regiment announced the resignation of Lieutenant Colonel Henry A. Weeks, saying "it is but justice to express the regrets of the entire command at the loss of an officer whose devotion to the interests and welfare of the regiment have won for him the high esteem of every member." But seven months later, following the firing upon Fort Sumter, Henry not only returned to his regiment, but was its commander. He issued a strict announcement in the newspapers in January 1862:
12th Regiment, New York State Militia--The members will report to their commands on or before the 10th instant, or be considered and treated as deserters...By order, Henry A. Weeks, Colonel Commanding.
Henry returned safely from the war and in 1876 was elected president of the Old Guard of the Twelfth Regiment. It was perhaps the city's most venerated military organization.
The Weeks house had been the scene of a somber gathering on June 19, 1872. Jacob Weeks was the 35-year-old son of Nathaniel's brother, Benjamin T. and Catharine Weeks. He died on June 15 and his funeral was held in their Yonkers home at 10:00 on the morning of June 19. The New York Herald announced, "relatives and friends are invited to the concluding ceremonies, at three o'clock P.M., from 26 Second street, New York."
The Weeks family took in boarders in 1873, John M. Irwin and his wife, Margaret. Irwin was in the butter business at 42 Essex Market. Troubles seem to have arisen between them and in 1876 only Margaret was living with the Weeks family and she was now listed as the proprietor of the business. John had moved to 32 Second Street and opened a new butter establishment at 36 Essex Market.
Mary Flynn Weeks died on February 1, 1878. As was customary, family members sat in shifts around the clock beside her casket until her funeral in the parlor on February 4.
Nathaniel Tylee Weeks survived his wife by five years. He died on September 23, 1883 at the age of 84. The Weeks siblings soon left the family home, but continued to lease it to Margaret Irwin, who remained at least through 1886.
In the 1890's 26 Second Street was home to the Frederick McManus and his family. He got in trouble in August 9, 1896 for promoting a labor discord. The World reported that he "was talking strike to a crowd of 200 people in front of Ives's shop, on Howard street, where there is a strike, and was arrested on the charge of disorderly conduct." The following day the newspaper said, "In the Centre Street Court...he said he could prove that his talk was for peace, and he was given till today to get witnesses."
The once elegant residential neighborhood was noticeably declining by the World War I years. The former Weeks house was being operated as a rooming house with at least two of the residents serving in the military. William M. Fels was wounded in battle in 1918, and Jacob Uden, who was born in Russia, enlisted in the United States Army on August 6, 1918.
Uden had barely returned to New York after being honorably discharged when he was arrested on November 7, 1919 as part of what The Sun called a "nationwide roundup of Reds made by Federal agents." According to him he had been "merely passing the evening" in a cooperative club and school at 133 East 15th Street run by several Russian societies when the police rushed in.
The New-York Tribune reported that following his release, Uden "nursed a large bump on his head, caused, he said, by a blow received when he resisted arrest. Uden charged that the raiders were unnecessarily rough in their handling of the prisoners, and kicked and pummeled many of them."
Of these three surviving houses of the 1836 row, only 26 (left) retains most of its original appearance.
Amazingly, the venerable house remained essentially unchanged throughout the 20th century. It was not converted to apartments until 1972 when it was divided into two duplexes. A subsequent renovation completed in 2010 resulted in a total of five apartments.
photographs by the author
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