Tuesday, August 31, 2021

The 1891 Moritz Doob House - 44 West 73rd Street


photo via westsiderag.com

In 1891 developer F. G. Pourne completed a row of nine impressive stone-faced homes at 28 through 44 West 73rd Street.  Architect George H. Griebel had designed them in the Romanesque Revival style with elements of Renaissance Revival.  They were configured in an A-A-B-A-A-B-A-A-C pattern, the second story oriels of the A models and the three-story bowed bays of the B's creating an undulation of rounded forms.

44 west 73rd Street is at the far end of the row.

Rather than ending the row with a third B model, as would be expected, Griebel designed 44 West 73rd Street as an architectural step-sister.  It was narrower than the others at 17-feet wide, and the sharp angles of its full-height projecting bay starkly contrasted with the gently bowed bays and oriels of the other houses.

Things did not start out well for the house.  Only months after the new owners moved in, on June 23, 1892, The Evening Telegram reported that 44 West 73rd Street would be sold at foreclosure auction the next day.

It became home to the Moritz Doob family.  Born Moises Dub in Czechia (today the Czech Republic) in 1847, he was variously known as Moises, Moses and Moritz.  At some point after arriving in America his surname became Doob.

Doob was the principal of M. Doob's Sons & Co. at 540 Broadway, an embroideries manufacturer.  He and his wife, the former Henrietta Mork, had five children:  Mork Menasseh, Irving Ephraim, Hugo, Anah (sometimes spelled Annah) Henrietta, and Valerie Stephanie.

Moritz Doob, as he appeared on his passport.

The weddings of wealthy Jewish families often took place in high-end hotels or restaurants.  Such was the case on April 2, 1903 when Anah Henriett was married to Dr. Samuel Joseph Kopetzky at Delmonico's.  The dashing groom was a captain in the National Guard and had served in the Spanish-American War.  The New-York Daily Tribune wrote, "The rooms were prettily decorated with American Beauty roses, flowering plants and palms.  The room in which the ceremony was performed was decorated with white roses and orange blossoms."  

Still living in the 73rd Street house with their parents at the time of the wedding were 25-year-old Irving and 16-year-old Valerie.   Young ladies of Valerie's social status received their educations in private schools or abroad.  Valerie accompanied her parents to Europe for that purpose the following year.  On April 10, 1904 the New York Herald explained that the Doobs "sailed for Europe recently, where they will spend several months.  Miss Doob is to remain abroad for two years, completing her studies in Switzerland."  Valerie returned to 44 West 73rd Street in 1906.  

Like all wives of well-to-do businessmen, Henrietta involved herself in charitable work and was a member of Jewish Charity, among other causes.  She and Moritz enjoyed society entertainments and upscale restaurants.  

On the evening of December 20, 1911 the couple attended the Metropolitan Opera.  As they found their seats, Moritz helped Henrietta out of her coat.  As he did so, her gold bracelet slipped off with the garment.  It was not until they got home and she began removing her jewelry that Henrietta realized the heirloom was missing.  It is unclear whether her advertisement to recover the lost bracelet was successful in retrieving it.

Anah and Samuel Kopetzky were living in Ohio by now.  They had two children, six-year-old Karl Abraham and four-year-old Yvonne Anah.  Earlier that year Yvonne's nurse either left or was fired.  Henrietta seems to have insisted on interviewing the replacement servant who would be taking care of her granddaughter.  She placed an advertisement on August 30 that sought:

A refined German nursery governess to go to Cincinnati to take entire charge of one child of 4 years; North German preferred.  Inquire 9-12, 44 West 73d.

And as long as she was looking for a servant for her daughter, she placed an advertisement for herself.  On the same page an ad sought:

A well recommended parlor maid and waitress in private family; no chamberwork.  Inquire 9-12, 44 West 73d

Valerie was 26 years old in 1913 when her parents announced her engagement "to Dr. I. E. Friedmann, of Berlin, Germany."  Ignatz Ernst Friedmann would not remain in Berlin with his bride, instead relocating to New York City.  

But Valerie would return to Berlin--as an opera singer.  Nine years later, on September 24, 1922, a cable from the New York Herald's bureau in Berlin read, "Mme. Valerio Doob Friedman of New York and her parents, Mr. and Mrs. Morris Doob, sailed for home following Mme. Doob's success in Mozart's opera, 'Il Seraglio,' at the new People's Opera."

The West 73rd Street house had been sold in March 1920.  It changed hands at least once before H. L. Gates and his wife moved in.  Gates was born in Columbus, Ohio in 1884 and studied at Ohio State and Cornell Universities.  A long-time journalist and editor, he had held positions with such far-flung newspapers as The Shanghai Times in China; The Daily Sketch, the Evening Standard; and Gazette and Graphic in London; and the San Francisco Call.  In New York he wrote for the New York Herald Tribune, was associate Sunday editor for The New York American and wrote Sunday features for The New York Times.

Gates retired from the newspaper business in 1925 to devote his time to writing fiction.  The New York Times said "He wrote novels of romance, mystery and the West.  Some of these were adapted for the movies."  The prolific author wrote 52 novels before his death while living in 44 West 73rd Street on March 12, 1937.

In 1953 the house was converted to apartments and furnished rooms.   Among the tenants in 1961 was 33-year-old Sophie Oland, who had a 1-1/2 room apartment.  She had come to New York from Puerto Rico in 1948 and had worked for a garment company since then.  

On April 30, 1961 a dogwalker discovered Sophie's body laying face down in an irrigation ditch near Flushing Airport.  There were no signs of violence, and no traces of drugs or alcohol.  The Long Island Star-Journal reported, "Police found few clues to her life in the apartment.  It contained only her clothes, a few pieces of inexpensive furniture, several religious pictures and some stuffed toys and dolls."  The theory was that "she could have died naturally in a car and a frantic 'friend' pushed her body into the marsh land," said the newspaper.

In 1964 the history of the Doob house took a bizarre turn.  That year Frances Voyticky acquired it from Jean Rudiano.  The city began foreclosure proceeding in 1971 and Diana Haslett-Rudiano, Jean Rudiano's widow, purchased it in 1975 while it was still in foreclosure.  

According to Haslett-Rudiano, it was a emotional purchase, since her late husband had owned the building.  The emotional connection was, however, not deep enough to maintain the structure.  Plans for alteration were filed in August 1983 and scaffolding and construction netting veiled the building.  And it would remain there for decades.

In 2015 a representative of the West 73rd Street Block Association complained that the house had become a "haven for rats."  The association's president, Judith Bronfman, told NY Press, "We've gotten inspections by the Fire Department, the Department of Buildings, the Department of Sanitation, the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, but the garbage then gets cleaned up, sort of; the minimal fines get paid, and then all that busy ineffectual activity joins the news stories in the archives."

According to a neighbor on August 24, 2021, bits of masonry had started dropping off the facade.

Rather astoundingly, at the time of this writing the scaffolding and netting are still in place, and according to a neighbor the windows are never closed, letting the rain pour in.  There is no clear evidence of on-going work.  It is a humiliating situation for the once-proud home of the wealthy Doob family.

photograph by the author
many thanks to reader Beth Goffe for suggesting this post.
LaptrinhX.com has no authorization to reuse the content of this blog

Monday, August 30, 2021

The Lost Gabriel Du Val Clark Mansion - 41 West 72nd Street


Real Estate Record & Guide, February 11, 1899 (copyright expired)

Alonzo B. Kight acted both as developer and architect in the 1890's, designing and erecting extremely high-end private homes.  In 1898 he began construction on a limestone-faced mansion at 41 West 72nd Street, between Central Park West and Columbus Avenue.  

The street was already filling with lavish residences.  West 72nd Street had been deemed a "park street" by the city, meaning that it was maintained by the Parks Department.  Traffic was limited to the carriages of residents and the vehicles of tradesmen with business on the street--like coal deliverymen.

Completed early in 1899, 41 West 72nd Street fit well into the exclusive neighborhood.  The Beaux-Arts style mansion was 25-feet wide and five stories tall.  The Real Estate Record & Guide said it was "very carefully planned and constructed of the best materials."  A short stoop led to the entrance within a centered, two-story bowed bay.  The bay provided a balcony to the third floor, and another bracketed balcony with pierced railings graced the fourth.  The stone cornice was crowned with a paneled parapet.

The house briefly was home to S. L. Schoonmaker, a partner in the Carnegie Steel Company.  He sold it in November 1900 to Gabriel Du Val Clark and his wife, the former Josephine A. Godien.

Born in Baltimore in 1837, Clark had graduated from Princeton Univerity at the age of 17, the youngest graduate in the school's history at the time.  Although he earned a law degree, he never practiced.  Instead he managed his father's substantial estate and provided legal advice to his extensive businesses.

Josephine was Clark's second wife.  His first, Emma Edmonson, whom he married in 1869, died in 1872.  Their grown daughter, Gabrielle Edmonson Gambrill, lived in Baltimore.

Clark filled the 72nd Street house with costly furniture and decorative items.   The 1912 book Baltimore, Its History and Its People said of him:

His record as a transatlantic traveler is equaled by few and excelled, perhaps, by none.  No fewer than seventy times had he crossed the ocean, having made the first voyage in a sailing vessel, and during his sojourns in the art centers of Europe he had become possessed of many valuable paintings and other treasures dear to the soul of a connoisseur, trophies of travel, which were used to beautify the New York residence.

Like other wealthy passengers, when the Clarks traveled abroad they took along at least a valet and a private maid.  A skeleton staff was kept on in the townhouse, but others were let go.  As the couple prepared to sail in 1903 Josephine tried to aid her cook in finding a new position.  Her ad read, "A lady wishes position for her cook; elderly woman; can highly recommend her."

The Clarks frequently stayed overseas for extended periods.  On November 17, 1907, for instance, The New York Times announced, "Mr. and Mrs. Gabriel Du Val Clark, 41 West Seventy-second Street, have planned to spend a year in travel on the Continent.  They will sail on Saturday, Jan. 4, on the steamship Hamburg."

In January 1910 Clark became ill.  Perhaps hoping that the sea air would improve his condition, he and Josephine went to Atlantic City that summer.  He died there on September 19 at the age of 72.  In reporting his death, The New York Times mentioned, "He was an extensive traveler and had been around the world several times." 

Clark's will suggests there was tension between his daughter and his wife.  Josephine received the "the use of their home" for life, as well as "the pictures, plate, furniture etc."  She also received the income from $200,000 in bonds held in trust.  (The value of the bonds would be about $5.6 million in today's money.)  The rest of the estate went to Gabrielle.

In order to make sure his daughter got her substantial inheritance, Clark added a caveat to the will.  He said, "While I am confident that it will always be the desire of my wife to respect my wishes," he suggested that "unwise or evil counsel" might influence her to contest the will.  Should she do that, she would forfeit everything.

Josephine lived on in the 72nd Street mansion, and resumed entertaining following her mourning period.  On February 6, 1912, for instance, The New York Times reported she "will give a bridge, followed by a reception, on Monday, Feb. 12."

On the afternoon of March 26, 1913, three years after Gabriel's death, Josephine's marriage to William Vail Martin took place in the Waldorf-Astoria.  Born on July 8, 1852, Martin was a director in the Lehigh and Hudson River Railway Co.   

The couple entertained frequently.  On January 11, 1914 The Sun reported, "Mrs. William Vail Martin of 41 West Seventy-second street will give a dansant at the St. Regis on Saturday afternoon."  (A dansant was an afternoon dance during which tea was served.)  And only a week later she hosted another.  The New York Times reported that at that event "There were about two hundred guests, Mrs. Martin receiving in the Louis XVI suite, the dancing being held in the marble ballroom."

As she had done with Gabriel, Josephine traveled often with William.  They spent the summer of 1917 at White Sulphur Springs, and the following summer season in Newport.  On January 3, 1920 the New-York Tribune reported that the Martins "sail for Europe-today to remain abroad until next fall," and on September 18, 1922 the New York Herald advised, "Mr. and Mrs. William Vail Martin of New York, who spent the summer in Switzerland, have returned to Paris and are at the Hotel Ritz."

By then West 72nd Street had drastically changed.  Once a restricted residential thoroughfare, its mansions were quickly being transformed to boarding houses, converted for commercial purposes, or being razed for apartment houses.  

By 1925 the former Clark mansion held upscale apartments.  Among the tenants was Metropolitan Opera soprano Helen Gagliasso.  She was expecting a valuable package that summer--a $400 platinum wrist watch--but it never arrived.  Suspicious, the she did some sleuthing.

On August 13 the Daily News reported, "The singer learned from postal authorities the watch, a gift from Milan, Italy, had been signed for at the opera house.  No one there admitted knowing anything about it."  Helen obtained a "John Doe summons" that "permits her to have some employee of the opera house in court Monday for questioning."

Helen Gagliasso was one of the last occupants of 41 West 72nd Street.  By April 1926 it and the three houses at 43 through 47 West 72nd Street had been purchased by the newly-formed 41 West Seventy-second Street Corporation.  The once-lavish homes were demolished to make way for a 16-story apartment building designed by Jacob M. Felson.

photo via compass.com

LaptrinhX.com has no authorization to reuse the content of this blog

Saturday, August 28, 2021

The 1895 St. George Flats -- 173-177 Third Avenue


A blank scar replaces the cornice, lost in the 20th century.

St. George's Church was founded in 1749 and erected its first church on Chapel Street (later renamed Beekman), deemed by one historian "the bon-ton promenade for society people."  A new stone edifice was erected on Stuyvesant Square in 1856.  And while the East Side neighborhood changed, filling with German and Irish immigrants, the wealthy St. George's congregation remained steadfastly loyal.  The magnificent church continued to be the scene of highly visible society weddings and funerals.

On April 2, 1895 the New-York Tribune reported "The corporation of St. George's Church have filed plans for a five-story flathouse and store at Nos. 173, 175 and 177 Third ave."   The property sat between 16th and 17th Streets, directly behind the church complex on the square.  Architect Marshall L. Emery had been chosen to design the building, which was to cost $30,000--or about $955,000 in today's money.

Completed in 1896, the St. George was faced in yellow Roman brick and trimmed in limestone and terra cotta.   The  offset residential entrance featured free-standing, banded Corinthian columns that upheld an entablature and classical, triangular pediment.  Within the pediment was the monogram SG--for St. George.

Emery used mostly brick to decorate the three-section upper portion--creating quoins and radiant voussoirs.  Terra cotta, Renaissance style spandrel panels appeared between the third and fourth floors.  The windows of the top floor created an arcade below the now-missing metal cornice.

Expectedly, the St. George filled with immigrant families, not all of them upstanding.  Among them was the Adamson family, whose son Charles got into serious trouble in 1901.

As was the case in Manhattan, well-to-do Brooklynites closed their homes in the summer and went to their country estates or resorts.  In the summer of 1901 Captain Tools instructed his policemen to "keep a sharp watch for suspicious characters" in the "wealthy section" of Brooklyn's 19th Ward.  On the evening of August 22 Charles Adamson was seen "loitering for over an hour," according to the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, prompting nervous neighbors to point him out to Policeman Bender.

The newspaper reported, "It did not take the policeman long to make up his mind to take the man into custody on suspicion."  When the 25-year-old was searched at the station house, police found "suspicious looking keys, including one of a skeleton character."  It was also discovered that his photo was in the Rogues' Gallery, after he had served a year for carrying burglars' tools.  A reporter went to the St. George, where Charles's mother confirmed he had served time "for a similar offense."

The residential entrance to the St. George separated two store spaces.  In the first years of the 20th century one was home to the Western Union Sewing Machine Co. store and the other to a tailor shop. 

The World, August 4, 1902 (copyright expired)

In the early morning house of December 11, 1907 Patrolman Mullen noticed a young boy lurking in the entranceway of the St. George.  The Evening Post reported, "When the policeman asked him what he was doing there, the young fellow said he was waiting for a friend."  Mullen took him into the hallway of the building, where he found three large bundles of clothing and furs ready to be carried off.  The 17-year-old boy had pried an iron bar from the rear window of the tailor shop and stolen the goods.

As had been the case with Charles Adamson, at the station house Samuel Goldberg's photo was found in the Rogues' Gallery.  However, when it was taken six months earlier he had identified himself as Louis Cohen.  The Evening Post said Goldberg "admitted that for seven years he had done nothing but pick pockets and rob apartment houses."

Unlike the well-to-do families who shut their homes in the summer, flat dwellers had to suffer the stifling heat and humidity.  One way to get a modicum of relief was to install awnings that deflected the direct sunlight.   

The St. George was outfitted with canvas awnings, one of which was damaged during the summer of 1908.   Tragically, on October 6 The Brooklyn Daily Eagle reported, "Losing his balance while at work on the fifth floor of the house at 177 Third avenue, Manhattan, to-day, John Cantwell, 30 years old, fell to the sidewalk and was instantly killed.  The man had gone to a window to repair an awning."

July 2, 1911 was reportedly the hottest July 2 in ten years.  Three people died from the heat and dozens more were hospitalized.  Among the "prostrations" was St. George resident Daniel Sullivan, who was overcome at 71st Street and Avenue A and taken to Reception Hospital.

Living here in 1914 were the Schneiders, who ran a delicatessen at 161 Third Avenue.  Another tenant, Adolphine Heidbrader, worked for the couple in the shop.  On November 23, The New York Times reported that on the previous night Adolphine took $600 in cash and two gold watches from the store to bring back to Mrs. Schneider in her apartment.  The article said she "was attacked by two young men" in the hallway and robbed.  "Upon recovering her wits, Mrs. Heidbrader ran to the Schneider apartment and gave the alarm."

One wonders if the Schneiders were totally confident in Adolphine's story.  "Detectives from the Second Branch Bureau found no trace of the robbers, of whom the victim could give only a meagre description," said the article.

By 1925 Thomas Ford's real estate offices occupied one of the ground floor spaces.  The Irish-American newspaper The Advocate called his operation "one of the oldest realty concerns in that section of the city."

The Advocate, August 28, 1925 (copyright expired)

A tragic accident occurred here in the building 1939.  William and Anna Harrison had a five-room apartment, which they shared with William's 70-year-old uncle, John Kelly.  It is possible that Kelly was suffering the beginning stages of dementia.  On the evening of February 24 William left some food on the stove for his uncle, then went to bed.  Kelly attempted to heat it up by turning on the burner, but neglected to light a match.  He was found dead in the kitchen shortly before midnight, having been asphyxiated by the escaping gas.

By 1975 the St. George's Thrift Shop occupied the larger store space.  The New York Times journalist Olive Evans said on February 14 that the store "benefits the finally-troubled landmark Episcopal church on Stuyvesant Square" and described it as "more like a neighborhood boutique."  The article went on, "Inside, the coffee urn is kept hot, and around it staff and customers chat about neighborhood matters.  Lunch-time business booms with many customers who work at Con Edison...or at the several hospitals in the area."

The St. George's Thrift Shop remained through 1986, replaced by Fatburger in 1987, which was replaced by Shanghai Restaurant in 1988.  The rapid turnover caused Spy Magazine to call the space "jinxed" in its November 1988 issue.

The smaller space was occupied by the restaurant Pie in the Sky until around 1987.  It was followed by the Okura Japanese restaurant in 1988.  In 2020 Chito Gvrito "modern Georgian cuisine" restaurant opened in the space.

Today there are 12 apartments in the building, which desperately needs a washing.  Other than replacement windows and the sad loss of the cornice, Marshall L. Emery's unusual and interesting design is essentially intact.

photographs by the author
LaptrinhX.com has no authorization to reuse the content of this blog

Friday, August 27, 2021

The 1868 Henry T. Ingalls House -- 118 East 18th Street


In 1867 Henry T. Ingalls commissioned Stephen Decatur Hatch to design a sumptuous new home at 118 East 18th Street, two blocks south of Gramercy Park.  His choice of architects was somewhat bold, the 28-year-old Hatch having opened his practice just three years earlier.  As it turned out, he would go on to produce remarkable structures, including the Gilsey House Hotel and the sprawling Murray Hill Hotel in Manhattan, and and U.S. War Department Building in Washington D. C.

Completed in 1868, the 25-foot-wide, four-story structure was faced in brownstone.  Compared to the architectural pizzazz of some of his later works, Hatch's design was safe--an expected, by-the-books example of the Italianate style.  It was nonetheless an elegant home suitable for the wealthy family who would live in it.  Molded architrave frames that sat on delicate brackets surrounded each window and an arched pediment, supported by heavy foliate brackets, crowned the entranceway.

The Ingalls family had lived in a fine home on Union Square.  Henry was an importer of ebony, shell, ivory and other exotic tropical goods.  His Mary, had died on November 21, 1864 at the age of 67.  

Moving into the new house with Ingalls were his daughter, Elizabeth B., and her family.  She had married Edward R. Janes in 1854 and the couple had four children, Rebecca, Herbert, Henry E. and Arthur.  A year after they moved in a fifth child, Walter, was born.

Edward R. Janes was born in Hartford, Connecticut in 1829.  While still a boy he went to work in his father's iron foundry, Janes, Fowler, Beebe & Co.  The firm moved to New York City in 1840.   Its prominence in the industry was reflected in its contract to do the ironwork for the Capitol Building dome in Washington, begun in 1860.  (Interestingly, work was stopped at the outbreak of Civil War, and the iron girders were torn down and used to barricade the Capitol.  It had to be restarted nearly from scratch after the war.)

Henry Ingalls did not enjoy his new home for especially long.  He died on July 2, 1871 at the age of 74.  As was customary, his funeral was held in the drawing room three days later.

Elizabeth seems to have had staff problems in 1872.  On February 2 she placed an advertisement seeking "A competent laundress, and to assist in chamberwork," and in September she was looking for "a competent plain cook for a large private family; wages $16."  The salary Elizabeth was offering would be equal to just under $350 per week today.

The house was the scene of another funeral on August 24, 1876 following the death of  Edward's brother, Charles B. Janes, at the age of 33.  The Janes family left 118 East 18th Street in 1879, selling it to James Bryon.

The Byron family was at their summer home in August when burglars forced open the basement door "and thoroughly ransacked the premises," according to the Brooklyn Union-Argus on August 21.  The two young men were apprehended getting off a Second Avenue streetcar with two heavy satchels laden with "plunder."  Inside were "valuable silk dresses and silk and satin cloaks" belonging to Mrs. Byron.

By the early 1880's 118 East 18th Street was home to banker George Harman Peabody.  Born in Ohio in 1830, he had come to New York City in 1850.  In 1865 he married Belle Bratton Ward and in 1868 their only child, George, Jr., was born.

By 1874 Peabody's fortune was sufficient enough for him to found The Peabody Home for Aged Women on Lexington Avenue at 33rd Street.  Most likely initially prompted by the number of Civil War widows who needed assistance, it moved to the Bronx in 1880.

George, Jr. was a troubled teen.  The sons of wealthy families most often attended private boarding schools and George was sent to Cobb's Institute near the village of Cornwall-on-the-Hudson.  He had significant problems fitting in with the other boys there.  One youth told a reporter from The New York Times:

Peabody was a lad of very excitable temperament, and was often picked upon by the other scholars.  On several occasions, when annoyed in this way in the gymnasium connected with the school, he exhibited strong symptoms of insanity.  He would throw himself upon the floor, and kick and writhe like a contortionist, yelling and using the most profane language.  So uncontrollable would he become that even the teachers were afraid to go near him.

On the afternoon of Friday, December 5, 1884, George walked to the village, which was about two miles from the school.  At around 6:00 that evening he staggered into the school building, and fainted into the arms of Mr. Cobb's coachman.  His hat was missing, his clothes were soaking wet and covered in blood and mud.  His throat had been slashed repeatedly with a dull knife.

The village doctor stitched his wounds, and the boy lingered for just over a day before dying on Sunday morning.  The New York Times said, "During Friday night, and in fact up to the time of his death...Peabody was out of his mind most of the time, and talked and acted in a wild manner."

Investigators found George's hat floating on a nearby pond and evidence of his struggles to get out of the water and up the muddy bank.  The suggestion that another student would have murdered his classmate would have been damaging to the school's reputation.  The officials of the institute and Dr. Vail concluded that George had clumsily cut his own throat--a procedure that required several attempts because of the dull knife--then threw himself into the pond.

They sent the body to his parents for interment before an inquest could be held.  It raised the ire of the Coroner, who lodged a complaint against Dr. Vail with the County District Attorney.

Following her mourning period, Belle Peabody picked up her active social schedule.  On October 10, 1887, for instance, the New York Amusement Gazette reported:

Mrs. George H. Peabody gave a large musicale on Thursday afternoon last, at her residence, No. 118 East Eighteenth Street.  Mrs. Peabody's receptions are always well attended, and her selections of musical talent evidences perfect taste.  Mrs. Peabody is a veritable patron of music.

By the turn of the century the house was being operated as a high-end boarding house.  Living here in the first decade of the new century were attorney Paul B. Scarff; another attorney, Wade Green; and Dr. Austin Flint who appeared as an expert in the murder trial of Harry Thaw in 1907.

A renovation completed in 1921 resulted in "non-housekeeping apartments," meaning that they had no kitchens.  The Certificate of Occupancy clearly noted, "cooking in more than two of the apartments will render this building liable to immediate vacation."

Among the initial residents were Arnaldo and Grace Marson.  Grace's father was Bishop Charles Sumner Burch, who died on December 20, 1920.  In 1922 the Rev. William E. Gardner moved in, and by 1925 Reginald Birch and his wife were residents.

The Birchs' son, Rodney Bathurst Birch, was described by the Pawling Chronicle as the "self-styled English earl of Dunbar, and flyer in the Royal Aviation corps."  He had to appear before a judge that year.  The newspaper explained he, "must stand trial on the indictment obtained by his wife on the charge of abandonment, despite the fact that she tried vainly afterward to have the charges dismissed."

Living here in 1927 was the Schuyler P. Carltons.  Mrs. Carlton's name regularly appeared in the society columns that winter season in reference to her daughter Elizabeth's coming-out.  On November 25, for instance, The Sun reported, "Mrs. Schuyler P. Carlton of 118 East Eighteenth street gives a luncheon at Pierre's for her daughter, Miss Elizabeth P. Carlton."  The New York Evening Post added, "Later on another party will be given in her honor, a holiday tea dance, at the Hotel Ambassador, on December 30.  Miss Carlton, who makes her home with her parents at 118 East Eighteenth Street, was educated at the Brearley School.  The Carltons spent the past summer at Westport Conn."

The Carltons were still here on June 23, 1930 when the New York Evening Post reported that Elizabeth was sailing for Europe "to be away for a year."  It added, "Her engagement to Lieutenant Frederick John Cunningham, U.S.N. retired, was announced on June 10 by her parents, Mr. and Mrs. Schuyler G. Carlton of 118 East Eighteenth Street.  The wedding will take place on her return."

Colorful figures continued to call the apartments home over the next few years.  In 1930 artist and sculptor W. B. Graham leased rooms, for instance.  

And in 1943 Edwin Emerson was living here.  Born in Dresden, German in 1869, he had served with Theodore Roosevelt's Rough Riders in the Spanish-American War.  With World War II now raging, he was a war and foreign press correspondent.   He would soon be leaving the East 18th Street apartment however.  In the 1944 United States Congress hearings on Un-American Activities it was reported that Emerson "has been proven to be an official agent of the German Government and of the German Nazi party in this country."

In 1964 the building received another renovation.  The stoop was removed and the entrance lowered to the English basement level.  There were now one apartment in the basement and parlor levels, and two each on the upper floors.  That configuration lasted until 2017 when a penthouse level was added, creating a total of six apartments.

photographs by the author
LaptrinhX.com has no authorization to reuse the content of this blog

Thursday, August 26, 2021

The Washington Murray House - 11 East 12th Street


By the early 1850's Emanuel Velleman had moved his family into the comfortable brick house at 11 East 12th Street.  It sat within a fashionable neighborhood, just half a block from Fifth Avenue and two blocks south of the elegant Union Square.  Velleman could afford the high-end residence.  A a dealer in whalebone--so important in the making of corsets--his business was located at 225 William Street.

The Vellemans' Greek Revival style home was 25-feet wide and two-and-a-half stories tall.  Its stoop rose to a handsome (if not unusual) entrance, flanked by heavy stone pilasters that upheld a substantial entablature.  The door was framed by paneled Corinthian pilasters and sidelights, and a three-paned transom allowed additional light into the entry hall.

Despite decades of abuse, the attractive entranceway survives well intact.

Around 1857 newlyweds Washington and Eliza Murray moved into 11 East 12th Street.   Washington Murray was born on July 7, 1828, the son of James B. and Maria Bronson Murray.  The 28-year-old had married Eliza B. W. Dana on April 23, 1856.

Murray had studied at Harvard Law School and had been admitted to the bar the year before his wedding.  He was now practicing at 156 Broadway.  His comfortable financial status was evidenced in his membership in the New-York Historical Society, which was, on the whole, composed of well-heeled gentlemen.

The couple maintained a sizable domestic staff.  In September 1859 Eliza Murray was looking for three servants at once.  Her advertisement read:

Wanted--Three servants; one as first class waitress, one as chambermaid and laundress, and one as professed cook.

In 1864, the year that Murray was appointed a commissioner of the City Board of Education, the couple briefly took in a boarder.  Edward Delano was a recently-retired partner in the shipping firm of Spooner & Gilman.  His retirement did not slow him down.  He was actively involved in establishing a reading room and library for the Union soldiers quarters at the Park Barracks.  The New York Times noted that contributions should be send to "Edward Delano, Treasurer, No. 11 East Twelfth street."

Washington Murray, too, involved himself in civic projects.  In April 1865, only one week after President Abraham Lincoln's assassination, he sat on the Finance Committee formed to raise money to erect a statue to him in Union Square.  And by 1868 he was a trustee of the Columbia College School of Medicine.

On September 19, 1867 Washington Murray died at just 39 years of age.  Eliza remained in 11 East 12th Street, again taking in a single boarder, possibly more for personal security than for money.  In 1868 Mathias Hare listed his address here, and in the early 1870's William F. Smith boarded in the house.  His profession was listed only as "president" of an unnamed firm on Library Street.

It seems Eliza moved elsewhere in 1877.  The house was leased in August that year.  The ad read:

Furnished House to Let--The completely and handsomely furnished 2-1/2 story House No. 11 East 12th st., near 5th av.; possession given September 1.

It was initially leased to John Bigelow, who stayed only one year, and then to Clara B. Warner, an "editress."  It was, perhaps, a surprising profession for a female, although she may have worked on a women's magazine or similar publication.  Clara stayed for several years, and when the house was sold in 1886 she took a position teaching English at the Genesco Normal School upstate, today the State University of New York College at Genesco.

Artist Julian Alden Weir and his wife, the former Anna Baker, purchased the Murray house in September 1886 for $27,500--in the neighborhood of $750,000 today.  Born in 1852, Weir was already making his mark in the art world.  He had trained at the National Academy of Design in New York and the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris.  

The East 12th Street house was just six blocks north of Weir's studio in The Benedick on Washington Square.  The couple's country home, Weir Farm, in Wilton, Connecticut had been in Anna's family. 

from the collection of the Smithsonian American Art Museum

Anna Weir died in 1892.  Rather shockingly Weir married her sister, Ella Baker, before the end of the year.  Through this marriage the artist gained another farm in Windham.

The following year was a significant one for the J. Alden Weir.  The American Art Association staged an exhibition comparing his and John Henry Twachtman's works with those of Claude Monet and Paul Besnard.  The distinguished showing confirmed that Weir's style of American Impressionism had been noticed by the art world.

Prior to leaving the city for the summer months, socialites sometimes tried to help valued staff find employment.  On May 27, 1897 Ella placed an advertisement that read:

Nurse Girl or Lady's Maid--A lady desires to find a situation for a French girl; competent to take care of an infant, or young child, or as lady's maid.

In 1910 architect H. Horenburger updated the house with new windows and stairs.  Weir then leased the house to David Gottesfelt for a period of ten years, starting at $1,800 per year.  

Julian Alden Weir died on December 8, 1919.  His paintings hang in esteemed institutions like the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Smithsonian American Art Museum, and the Phillips Collection in Washington D.C.  He had two daughters, Cora and Caroline (Caroline became an accomplished artist herself).  Caroline sold the house to Samuel Kilpatrick two years after her father's death.

The parlor floor and basement levels were converted for business by 1925 when Charles Meyer's drug store was in the lower section.  By 1931 E. R. Siering operated the Dr. Cheeseman Medicine Co. here.  That year he advertised Dr. Cheeseman's Pills in American Farming, touting among other things, that they provided "Ladies positive relief for delayed or overdue [menstrual] periods," and that "Millions of women throughout the world have used our famous pills for their wonderful health giving powers."

Sierling was charged by the Federal Trade Commission in 1933 with fraudulent advertising.  In its complaint, the Commission said in part that "in truth and in fact" the pills were not harmless, did not possess health-giving powers, and were not guaranteed under the Pure Food and Drugs Act, as the advertisements claimed.

Reginald Marsh, from the collection of the Smithsonian American Art Museum

At the time artist Reginald Marsh was living in the upper floors.  Born in Paris to artist parents, he had arrived in New York City in the early 1920's.  His subject matters were the common members of society in locations like Coney Island and the Bowery.

Around 1959 the basement level became the Orientalia Bookshop, which would remain through the 1960's.  A renovation to the building in 1992 resulted four apartments above the basement level store.   It was home to Twelfth Street Books before the bar-restaurant Speakeasy moved in more recently.

photographs by the author
LaptrinhX.com has no authorization to reuse the content of this blog

Wednesday, August 25, 2021

John H. Marine's 1834 442 Sixth Avenue


At some point in the second half of the 19th century a modern Italianate cornice was added.

John H. Marine purchased four building lots at the northeast corner of 10th Street and Sixth Avenue from William Beach Lawrence in 1834.  He immediately began construction of two houses on the corner.  They would be completed in 1834 and it would be several years before the other two plots saw construction.

The corner house, 134 Sixth Avenue (it would be renumbered 442 in 1925), stood slightly higher than its next-door-neighbor.  Three stories tall, it had a store space on the ground floor.  The residential entrance was around the corner on 10th Street.

By the mid-1840's John W. Pope ran his grocery in the store, while he and his family lived upstairs.  They had a boarder by 1847.  Frederick Merritt was a carman, or driver of horse-drawn drays.

The two houses to the left were not erected until the 1840's.

Around 1851 Stephen Griffen moved his bookstore into the former grocery space.  A Quaker, the unmarried young man lived nearby at 38 Amos Street (later renamed West Tenth Street).  The remoteness of his location from the city proper was hinted at in a help-wanted ad in 1853:

Wanted--In a bookstore up town, a boy about fifteen or sixteen years of age.  The best of reference required.  Inquire at No. 134 Sixth avenue.

The house was owned by George J. Trask at the time.  He operated a lamp store about a block to the south on Sixth Avenue.  He and his wife had a grown son, William F. Trask.

On December 13, 1856 The Evening Post reported, "Between twelve and one o'clock this morning, officer Hannifer of the Ninth ward police, saw two suspicious looking men trying to unlock the door of the house of George J. Trask, No. 134 Sixth avenue."  Hannifer paused in the shadows and watched.  "The key would not fit, and they frequently examined it by the street lamp, carefully concealing themselves from persons passing by."

Having seen enough, Hannifer arrested William Brissen and Thomas Ford.  Although they denied having the purported key at the station house, several were found on them.  The Evening Post noted that they were "both known to the police as experienced burglars."

As a matter of fact, Brissen, who was 27 years old, had had a run-in with a policeman just a week earlier.  He was "skulking about in University place," reported The Evening Post, and ordered to leave.  "He refused with some abusive language, when the officer took him down and relieved his pocket of a bunch of skeleton keys."  

Now, in hot water again, Brissen claimed he was drunk and simply went along with Ford to "call on some men."  Ford's alibi was that he intended to call upon James Kiernan at 144 Sixth Avenue, and mistakenly went to the wrong house.  He had already served five years in the State Prison for burglary.

The bookseller's bachelorhood ended in 1857.  On September 15 The New York Times reported that Stephen Griffen had married Jane Arnold "at the house of the bride's father, after the order of the Society of Friends."  Jane's family had a long history in America and her paternal grandmother, Thankful Clark Arnold, traced her lineage to John Alden and Priscilla Mullens of the Mayflower.

Griffen presumably had to close his bookshop for a few days the following year.  He was assigned to the grand jury of what the New York Herald deemed "The Howard Street Tragedy."  On June 18 the newspaper wrote, "The courtroom was crowded this morning as it was understood that Daniel Cunningham, charged with the homicide of Patrick McLaughlin, alias Paudeen, would be placed on trial.  The most distinguished of the fancy were in attendance and awaited the commencement of the trial with interest."

Dunningham was accused of having shot McLaughlin in a saloon on Broadway.  The article noted, "He appears to be about twenty-six years of age, was dressed in a fine black suit, occupied a seat beside his counsel, Mr. Whiting, and appeared to be quite cool."

In the meantime, Griffen's landlord had changed occupations.  George Trask was no longer affiliated with the lamp business, and was now operating his home as a boarding house.  William F. Trask either owned or was working in a saloon on Tenth Avenue by 1860.

Trask's boarders were, surprisingly, almost exclusively tailors.  Of the six men living in the house in 1860, only one, Nicholas Eisenhauer, had a different occupation.  He was a mason (he was still here in 1863 when his profession had changed to "saloon."  He was possibly working with or for William Trask.)

Joseph Arnold, Jr., Jane Griffen's brother, had moved into their West 10th Street home by 1863 and he was working in the bookshop.   The boarders upstairs were still mostly tailors (there were still six of them), along with two non-tailors, Eisenhauer and Philip Prince, who was a painter.

The bookstore most likely dealt mostly with religious subjects.  On June 12, 1869 the Friends' Intelligencer announced "Jos. Arnold, Jr., 134 Sixth Avenue, NY and John J. Cornell, Mendon Centre, N.Y., have been appointed Agents for the Society's publications."

After having occupied the store for two decades, the bookstore moved out in 1872.  It became home to John L. Lewis's shoe store.  Greenwich Village was no longer remote, and his business thrived to the point that in 1878 he opened a second store on Broadway.  The following year he moved this store up a few blocks up the avenue.

The commercial space now became the pharmacy of L. Paris.  He advertised Schlumberger's "harmless Salicylates" imported from France.  For $1 (about $26 today) he would mail a package anywhere in the United States, promising "No more Rheumatism, Gout or Gravel."

Throughout the 20th century the once-remote neighborhood changed greatly.  But the old house at 442 Sixth Avenue did not.  There are three apartments in the upper floors today and, other than its altered storefront, the nearly 190-year-old house looks much as it did when Stephen Griffen moved his bookstore in. 

photographs by the author
LaptrinhX.com has no authorization to reuse the content of this blog

Tuesday, August 24, 2021

The 1891 Flats at 200 to 204 West 78th Street


On March 29, 1890 the Real Estate Record & Guide reported, "Bernard S. Levy will build three five-story Tiffany brick and brown stone flats on 78th street, southwest corner of 10th avenue, with stores on the avenue, at a cost of $225,000."  The construction cost would equal more than $6.5 million today.  (Levy had already been busy along the block, having erected 15 row houses designed by Raphael Guastavino, including Levy's own home, a few years earlier.)

The structures were completed the following year.  At 35-feet-wide the corner building, 200 West 78th Street, was five feet wider than 202 and 204.   Their brawny Romanesque Revival design included brownstone bases where the entrances above short stoops were flanked by medieval-inspired columns and carvings.  Romanesque gave way to Queen Anne on the upper floors in the form of spandrel panels laid in dog-toothed brick patterns.  The end buildings rose to brick parapets, while 202 West 78th Street terminated in a slate-shingled mansard with brick and stone dormers and lacy iron cresting.

Levy sold the structures to William H. Vrendenburg in August 1891.  He advertised the apartments as having "attractive prices" and noted, "steam heated; door attendance; hardwood throughout; tiled bathrooms."  The spacious apartments of seven to eight rooms included parquet floors, and built-in buffets in the dining rooms.  Rents ranged from about $1,400 to $2,385 per month in today's money.

The apartments filled with professional tenants.  Among the initial residents were architect Henry Ives Smith; former president of the New York State Bar Association, Edward C. Whittaker; and Clark and Helene S. Bell.

The Bells were a fascinating couple.  Clark Bell was described by Who's Who in America as a "medico-legal jurist, author, editor, judicial historian, farmer and breeder, publisher [of the] Medico-Legal Journal."  He was counsel for several railroads and president of the New York Infant Asylum and the Medico-Legal Society.

Helene S. Bell was also an attorney.  She was, as well, a manger of the maternity section of the New York Infant Asylum at 61st Street and Amsterdam Avenue, and was chairperson of the executive committee of women managers of the Hahnemann Hospital.  The couple would live at 200 West 78th Street into the 20th century.

Other early residents were William Tyler Bliss and his wife, the former Elizabeth Mary Sturtevant.  The couple lived in 204 West 78th Street.  Bliss was born in London on November 26, 1865.  He graduated from Amherst College in 1897 and married Elizabeth two years later.  He was managing editor of the New York Mail and Express.  Elizabeth Sturtevant Bliss was an accomplished artist and a member of the Association of Women Painters and Sculptors.

By 1910 authors Albert Payson Terhune and his wife, Anice, lived in 200 West 78th Street.  Born in 1872, Albert was the author of The Great Cedarhurst Mystery and other works.  Anice was both an author and a composer.  Among her books was the Home Musical Education for Children.  The couple lived here well into the 1920's.

Joseph Gardam was president of the William Gardam & Son machinists firm.  When his behavior became erratic in 1902, the 52-year-old was confined to the Kings Park Insane Asylum for about four months.  The New York Times later noted, "Soon after regaining his liberty Mr. Gardam gave over the actual management of the business to his son, but he continued to work at the shop."

Although Gardam's professional work remained excellent, his eccentric behavior re-emerged in the summer of 1904.  On July 20 The New York Times reported that he "was taken from his home at 202 West Seventy-eighth Street, at 4 o'clock yesterday morning to the psychopathic ward at Bellevue, suffering from hallucinations."  It seems that it was not necessarily visions that concerned the family, but finances.  "Dr. Wilgus said that Mr. Gardam had a mania for spending large sums on dinners for acquaintances, and that he had once laid out an extravagant amount of money on a yacht," said the article.

Bridget Hare and her brother, Daniel, shared an apartment in 204 West 78th Street in 1915.  They were two of a family of 16 children in Tuam, Ireland.   Daniel and another brother, Patrick, came to New York City in 1909.   It is unclear when Bridget arrived in America.  (Patrick Hare lived at 212 West 69th Street.)

In 1915 the Hare's father, William, was seriously ill and Bridget headed home aboard the RMS Lusitania.  She would never see her father or family.  On May 7, when the ship was just 11 miles off the coast of Ireland, it was torpedoed by a German U-boat.  Among the 1,198 fatalities was the 31-year-old Bridget Hare.

Retired businessman George Fields attended the first game of the 1928 World Series on October 4.  The excitement of the afternoon proved to be too much for his heart, however.  Upon returning home, he collapsed in the hallway of his apartment and died before medical help could arrive.  The Daily News attributed his death to "a heart attack, brought on by the excitement of witnessing the first game of the World Series."

Like many of the residents in the West 78th Street buildings, Anton Myslivec had a country residence.  His was in Medford, Long Island.  But unlike his neighbors, he had a murky past, having been sentenced to six months in 1925 on a charge of wounding a woman with a shotgun, and in 1927 he was sent to Sing Sing prison for attempted kidnapping and extortion.  Now, on November 22, 1938 police arrived at his apartment in 202 West 78th Street to arrest him for first-degree murder.

William Dobitz, a builder, lived with his wife Elizabeth, in Farmingdale, Long Island.  The night before Myslivec's arrest the 55-year-old Dobitz was shot dead as he whistled for his dog, Rex, in his back yard.  Before he died, Dobitz told police "he had no known enemies and could not understand why any one should wish to kill him."  Elizabeth, however, had an idea who the killer was.  She admitted to investigators "she had been friendly with Myslevic."

Myslivec denied any knowledge of the incident.  But, then, after failing a lie detector test he admitted to shooting Dobitz.  He explained he bought the shotgun as a present for Dobitz and as he was adjusting it while approaching the house, it "suddenly discharged."  The jury in his murder trial five months later did not buy his alibi.  On April 18, 1939 Myslivec was sentenced to die in the electric chair.

Throughout the decades and changing architectural tastes, the three remarkable buildings managed to survive essentially intact.  Today there are four apartments per floor in 200 and 204, and just two each per floor in 202.

photograph by the author
LaptrinhX.com has no authorization to reuse the content of this blog