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
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