By the early 1850's the block of West 20th Street between Eighth and Ninth Avenues was lined with comfortable brick- or brownstone-faced homes. The three-story house at 109 West 20th Street (renumbered 310 in 1868) was home to the Massett family. At 25-feet-wide, it was intended for a well-to-do family and its floor-to-ceiling parlor windows and elliptically arched third floor windows (the cutting edge in domestic fashion) reflected that.
Benjamin W. Carey Massett was born in England in 1817. He had arrived in the United States around 1843. That same year he and his wife, the former Harriett Hart, had their only son, William Carey.
Messrs. Massett & Villeplait's Classical, English and French School--Eighth Year--No. 1,057 Broadway, between 29th and 30th sts., for the instruction personally by them of twenty-five boys, in the Latin, Greek and French Languages, Mathemetics, English and English Literature, with special reference to college or commerce...The instruction is individual, thorough, complete, systematic, disciplinarian and philosophical. Mr. Massett, having returned from Europe, can be seen at the School till noonday, or at his residence, No. 109 West 20th-st., after 3 P.M.
Mr. Stephen Massett, I hear, leaves in the next steamer for New York, with a view to a circuit of the entire Union, when he will give his 'Reminiscence of Travels in many Lands' (introducing appropriate warblettes--that is, songs--for each clime), in which he has been so successful in 'many lands.' Mr. Massett, it appears--vide the correspondence of the 'Thunderer'--had a very narrow escape of getting his throat cut when among the mutinous sepoys [Indian soldiers serving under the British]. No doubt, as Mr. Massett cannot rightly phlebotomize his wind pipe, he will illustrate the event by some gurgling roulades.