Saturday, October 16, 2021

The 1845 Samuel Holmes House - 27 East 11th Street


In 1845 Samuel Holmes completed construction on a fine, 26-foot wide home  at 43 11th Street (renumbered 27 in 1868).  His elegant three-and-a-half story home sat above a brownstone basement level.  Its Greek Revival design included handsome ironwork fencing enclosing the  areaway, stoop railings, and a balcony at the parlor level.  Above the broad stoop, the doorway sat with a brownstone enframement, flanked by two pilasters with foliate capitals.  A wooden cornice with delicate dentils ran along the roofline.

Holmes was in the drygoods business at 22 John Street.  He and his family remained here until 1853 when they moved to Fifth Avenue.  The 11th Street house became home to the esteemed physician, Edward Griffin Bartlett.

Barlett was born in Portsmouth, New Hampshire in 1824.  After graduating from Yale College in 1846, he moved to New York City and joined the Union Theological Seminary.  But, according to the historian of his Yale class in 1871, "his health was not firm, and in 1849 he entered the New York University Medical School."  

On September 24, 1850, three years before buying the 11th Street house, he married Jane Ball.  They would go on to have eight children.

Dr. Edward Griffin Bartlett, Yale College Class of 1846 25th Anniversary, (copyright expired)

A homeopathic physician, Bartlett occasionally wrote for medical journals.  In his off-time he was an amateur artist, however the Yale anniversary book admitted, "His taste for painting he can gratify only to a limited degree."  He was, nevertheless, a member of the Academy of Design.

The Barletts' only son, William, went on to become an Episcopal priest.  While traveling in Chicago in 1869, he married a young couple, a Mr. Guiteau and a Miss Bund.  Years later he was "horrified," according to The New York Times when Charles Julius Guiteau assassinated President James A. Garfield.

By then the Barlett family had been gone from East 11th Street for some time.   In 1860 William P. Stewart had moved in and would remain for about a decade.  Directories listed no profession for Stewart, indicating he was either retired or simply financially comfortable enough not to need a job.

Around 1873 27 East 11th Street was being operated as a high-end boarding house.  Its most interesting resident that year was Señor Don Felipe Zapata, Colombia's "Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary."

An advertisement in the New-York Tribune on June 1, 1897 encapsulated the amenities boarders could expect:  "Handsome rooms; sanitary plumbing; excellent table; table board; fine, central location; reasonable."

The house received some unexpected guests on January 10, 1899 following a horrific train crash on the New Jersey side of the Hudson River.  Two trains traveling in opposite directions on the same track collided head-on at 12:47 p.m.  Thirteen passengers were killed and 30 others were "maimed, bruised and otherwise injured," according to the Indianapolis Journal.

Some of the injured were taken to boarding houses, and The New York Times reported, "Miss Annie A. Johns, Miss S. Johns, Miss L. Johns, Mrs. A. Hughes, Mrs. Fulton, and Miss Fulton, all from Shamokin, are at 27 East Eleventh Street."

Mrs. Hughes told a reporter:

We had gone to the front end of the second car to get a drink of water, and the force of the collision threw me to the floor.  I was buried under several others, and for a while was unconscious.  I don't know how I was taken off the car or what happened after that.  The scenes were pitiable, and I was glad to get away as soon as possible.  What I saw will be impressed on my mind as long as I live.  The wounded, the dead, the wreck and escaping steam and fire made it too horrible to describe.  We escaped fairly well in our car, which was the second.  Those who were standing up were hurt more or less.  I think my aunt, Miss Johns, was the most seriously injured of those in the second car.

Indeed she was.  The New York Times noted, "After the accident, Miss Johns fainted.  When revived she was brought to this city and then taken to 27 East Eleventh Street in a cab."  Dr. J. Milton Mabbot, who lived just two blocks away at 19 Fifth Avenue, was called in.  "He found that Miss Johns was suffering from bruises on her sides, hips, and legs, and he feared that she might be internally injured."  She was taken to St. Vincent's Hospital.

Boarding in the house at the time of the accident was publisher Harry Willard Mathews who worked with Macmillan Company.  An 1896 graduate of Yale College, the bachelor used his rooms only during the week, going to his New Haven, Connecticut home on the weekends.  

Another boarder in 1899 was Harry Lydston Johnson, who had also attended Yale.  And also like Mathews, his permanent address was in New Haven.  Eight days after the train disaster, he married Monterey Louise Smith in New Haven. 

In 1906 Frederick W. Whitridge purchased 27 East 11th Street.  He leased it that year Dr. John Willard Travell.  Born in Troy, New York in 1869, he was married to the former Janet Eliza Davidson.  The couple had one child, Janet G., who was five years old when they moved in.

They had not been in the house long before Dr. Travell was called to the Hotel Alabama, just down the block.  On the night of March 29, 1906 Mrs. May Kay, described by The New York Times as, "a young Southern widow," called the front desk saying, "Come up quick."  The article said, "The clerk hurried up and found her lying on the bed.  ' I have shot myself,' she said."

Travell arrived soon after.  She repeated to him, "I shot myself.  I aimed at my heart, but was nervous and missed.  It won't do any good to do anything for me, because I want to die."  

May had come to New York to settle her late husband's estate--estimated to be about $4.5 million in today's money.  She knew a man in the city, a Broadway manufacturer.  The New York Times said, "When she came to this city it is said that she gave this man funds and securities, for which she received no receipt.  Her effort to get her property back is supposed to have weighed heavily upon her mind."

There was little Dr. Travell could do.  In her bungled attempt to shoot herself in the heart, she had instead shot herself in the abdomen.  What would have been a quick and relatively painless death was instead a slow and agonizing one.

Janet Travell was well-educated and a graduate of Wellesley.  On April 16, 1910 she hosted the annual meeting of the New York Wellesley Club in the house.

When electricity was first used in medicine, Travell was not timid about testing its effectiveness.  In 1917 he wrote, "I find physical therapeutics and particularly electro-therapeutics more and more interesting as an aid to other treatment in all localized disorders with inflammation, induration or pain.  Why limit our resources to drugs where drugs plus other powerful agencies can be used."

As had been the case in 1910, on December 16, 1918 disaster victims were brought to 27 East 11th Street.  That afternoon there was an explosion in at the dye plant of the American Analine Products Company on University Place.  The Evening Telegram reported, "Twenty persons were injured...scores of employe[es] in surrounding hotels and loft buildings were thrown into a panic, pedestrians were sent scurrying to escape showers of falling glass, and considerable damage was done."  Six of the victims were brought to Dr. Travell's office for treatment.

Janet Travell followed in her father's professional footsteps, becoming a physician.  She focused on the study of referred pain and pioneered the discovery of trigger points.  Years later she practiced nearby at 9 West 16th Street.  On May 26, 1955 a young senator, John F. Kennedy, sought out her help.  She later remembered, "He was thin, he was ill, his nutrition was poor, he was on crutches."

Unlike any of his previous doctors, Janet Travell was able to devise a protocol to manage Kennedy's pain.  He would forever trust her abilities and Travell went on to be the Presidential physician.

Janet's parents had left East 11th Street in 1919.  Frederick W. Whitridge next leased the house to the Clarence Blair Mitchell family.  Mitchell , a graduate of Princeton University, was an attorney and author.  The family's country home, Pennbrook, was in Far Hills, New Jersey.

He had published The A B C of Riding to Hounds in 1916 and would go on to write two other books.  He and his wife, the former Mildred Matthews, had one son and four daughters.  On December 4, 1919, soon after they had moved in, Mildred hosted "a small dance" in the house for their debutante daughter, Caroline.

A year earlier, in May 1918, the engagement of Janette Alexander to Captain Arnold Whitridge of the 5th Field Artillery had been announced by her parents.  Janette had grown up in the massive Alexander mansion at 4 West 58th Street, next door to the Cornelius Vanderbilt residence.

The wedding would have to wait until World War I had ended.  It took place in the Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church in October 1920.  Frederick Whitridge had died, but Arnold's mother presented her son and new daughter-in-law with the East 11th Street house.

Following their honeymoon, the newlyweds spent the 1921 summer season at the Alexander estate in Tuxedo Park.  On August 20 the New-York Tribune noted they, "will take possession of their house at 27 East Eleventh Street next month."

They made it back just in time for Janette to give birth.  On September 9, 1921 the New York Herald announced, "Congratulations are being extended to Mr. and Mrs. Arnold Whitridge upon the birth of a daughter in their home, 27 East Eleventh street, on Thursday."   Another congratulatory article appeared on November 26 the following after a son was born in the house.

The Whitridges remained at 27 East 11th Street until around 1926 when it was being operated as unofficial apartments.  Among the tenants over the ensuing years was writer and film producer E. David Lukashok and his wife, Nancy, here in the early 1970's.  Lukashok became a partner in Joshua Tree Productions in 1967, and in 1972 became president of EDL Productions.  He suffered a fatal heart attack in the apartment at the age of just 34 on July 19, 1974.

Another notable resident died later that year.  Jerry Dodge had first made his mark on Broadway in Bye, Bye Birdie in 1960.  Four years later Gower Champion chose him to create the part of Barnaby Tucker in Hello, Dolly!  He went on to roles in musicals like George M! and The Desert Song.

Jerry Dodge (left) with Betty Ann Grove, Patti Mariano and Joel Grey in the stage production of George M! in 1968.  from the collection of the New York Public Library

He was appearing in the musical Mack & Mable when he died of "chemical poisoning," on November 4, 1974, according to The New York Times.  The article said, "He was 37 years old and had been undergoing medical treatment for a virus infection."

The dignified 1845 residence was never officially converted to apartments.  It remains a single-family home today.

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

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