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 has no authorization to reuse the content of this blog

No comments:

Post a Comment