Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Auguste Namur's 1888 Queen Anne Style 146 and 148 West 94th Street


In January 1886, Benjamin F. Romaine bought a 220-foot-long stretch of land from John J. Brown that included a three-story wooden house, most likely a farmhouse.  The undeveloped setting along West 94th Street between Ninth and Tenth Avenues (later renamed Columbus and Amsterdam Avenues) was  evidenced in the deed which noted, "north side [of]  Apthorpe's Lane."  That east-west carriage road had accessed the 200-acre Charles Ward Apthorpe estate along the Hudson River in the 18th century, and ran through the middle of the blocks that are today 93rd and 94th Streets.

But change was most definitely coming to the area, as evidenced by the price Romaine paid for the parcel.  The $58,000 price tag would equal about $1.65 million today.  He was already making a mark on the developing Upper West Side, seemingly always working with architect Auguste Namur.

Pierre Auguste Namur was born in Luxembourg in 1837 and graduated as an engineer from the Ecole Centrale des Arts et Manufactures in Paris in 1855.  His work as an engineer was interrupted by the Franco-Prussian War.  According to a family member, he was captured and sentenced to ten years of hard labor by the French.  Rescued by the Germans, he escaped to America in 1873.  In America, it does not appear that he ever used his first name.  After working as a civil engineer for several years, he was listed as an architect in 1879.

He would not file plans for Romaine's project until April 1887.  They called for seven four-story "brick dwellings with stone and terra cotta trimmings."  Each of the 19-foot-wide homes would cost the equivalent of $395,000 today to construct.

Completed in the summer of 1888, they were designed in the newly-popular Queen Anne style.  The two models were configured in an A-B-A-B-A-B-A pattern.   The "A" houses, of which 148 was an example, featured a sharply angled bay at the parlor level.  The paired windows of the second and third floors shared a common stone lintel with a square-headed drip molding more expected in a Gothic Revival design.  Namur reintroduced Queen Anne with a single large terra cotta tile within each lintel.  The slate shingled attic level was fronted by a parapet and tall dormer.

The "B" designs, including 146 West 94th Street, replaced first floor oriel with a large arched window, nearly the width of the parlor inside.  It and the arched entrance wore stone eyebrows.  A quilting of terra cotta tiles above the parlor floor openings spread along the row, visually uniting the houses.  The openings of the second and third floors of the "B" houses were set within a projecting brick-and-stone frame.  Here, too, Namur stepped away from Queen Anne with Renaissance Revival style terra cotta ornaments.  A full-width brick gable with two arched windows and a terra cotta rondel fronted the attic.

Romaine did not sell the houses, but leased them.  His advertisement on September 20, 1888 read, "To Let--136 to 148 West Ninety-Fourth St--4 story and basement; built for investment; near L station."  Interestingly, four years later when both 146 and 148 became available, Romaine placed slightly different rents on them--charging the equivalent today of $4,280 per month for 146, and $4,400 per month for 148.

Most likely because Romaine preferred to rent and not sell, both houses saw a succession of residents.  In 1894, William D. Weeks and his family lived in 146.  Like many New Yorkers at the time, Weeks had become an enthusiast of the bicycling fad.  It was a hobby that could be enjoyed only by the well-to-d0.  The average cost of a bicycle in 1894 would top $2,000 in today's money.  But on November 1, Weeks would have to look for a new bike.

On the prior evening there was a "bicycle parade" on Fifth Avenue along Madison Square.   The Morning Telegraph reported that a cab driver named Carroll "was driving west through Twenty-sixth street, toward Fifth avenue, at 8:30 last night, when suddenly there was a smashup.  Driver, horse, carriage, bikes and bicycle riders were all in the mix."

Among the three bicyclists extracted from the tangle was William D. Weeks.  Carroll was arrested, but he brought three witnesses with him to confirm his innocence.  "He said the three complainants, who were waiting for the bicycle parade to put in an appearance, were scorching and ran into him."  The term referred to street racing, which was, of course, illegal and dangerous.  The police sergeant was not especially sympathetic.  Although he let Carroll go, he said that "the three victims should sue the liveryman to recover the cost of their wheels."

Living next door at 148 West 94th Street was the Louis Friedman family.  Born in German, Friedman was a partner with Morris Deutsch in the fur business, Friedman & Deutsch.  His marriage to Cecilia Eger--one of a Jewish man and non-Jewish woman--was unusual at best.  The couple had two daughters, Ella and Clara.  Living with the family was Louis's unmarried sister.  Florence D. Friedman was a vice president of the Council of Jewish Women.  

Ella was an artist.  She may have been conflicted by the differing religious views of her parents, and was affiliated with the non-denominational Society for Ethical Culture.  Not quick to wed, when Ella married Julius Oppenheimer on on March 23, 1903, she was 34 years old.  Six years later, now widowed, Cecilia Friedman left 148 West 94th Street and moved into the Oppenheimer apartment.

In the meantime, at the turn of the century 146 West 94th Street was being operated as a boarding house.  Among the residents was Dr. Allan Blair Bonar, former resident physician at the Incurable Hospital on Blackwell's Island.   He left the 94th Street house following his marriage to Carolina A. Busick on September 5, 1901.

Another boarder in 1900 was Jacob Gabow, a diamond setter for Tiffany & Co.   Born in Russia, he had met his wife, Annie Goldstein, there while working for her father's diamond-setting business.  The couple came to America in 1890.  According to The Morning Telegraph, in 1894 Jacob "sent her home on a visit, saying he would send her money to come back to America, but never did so."   Around October 10, 1900, Annie and her father arrived in New York, looking for her missing husband.  The newspaper said, "they traced Mr. Gabow to 146 West Ninety-fourth street."  Absence, it seems, had not made Jacob's heart grow fonder.

On October 23, a judge ordered him to pay Annie $10 from his $75 per week salary.  He refused and was incarcerated.  The Morning Telegraph explained, "Unless the diamond setter gives his bond or deposits the cash with the Charities Department he will remain in jail."

Boarding in 146 West 94th Street in 1902 were Grace Povey, an unmarried piano teacher; artist Drew A. Farnsworth; and the less-respectable Sidney H. Carter.   

On May 5, 1903 The New York Times titled an article "Nest of Poolrooms Under One Roof" and reported, "With sledges and hammers a raid was made yesterday afternoon on what the police say was the biggest and finest poolroom the city has known in years."  As used in this case, the term did not refer to the billiards game, but to illegal horse betting.  The astounding operation at 35 West 27th Street, described as "a maze of blind stairways, hallways and concealed doors," had been carefully planned to deceive outsiders.  

Passing through a laundry, police overcame a myriad of obstacles, including fake doors that opened onto brick walls, and dead end hallways.  There were heavily fortified and "handsomely furnished" rooms on each floor, outfitted with blackboards, telephones, racing sheets and "other poolroom paraphernalia."  After battering a doorway on the second floor, they found Sidney H. Carter.  "He seemed to be in charge of the place," reported The New York Times.  "Carter denied he had anything to do with the running of the rooms, but was locked up."

In 1915 Benjamin F. Romaine leased the two houses to Charles Griffin, whose wife, Susan Griffin, now operated both as boarding houses.  At some point after 1917, Griffin purchased the properties.  When he sold 148 West 94th Street in August 1926, The New York Sun noted that the new owner "will alter and occupy it."

With its stoop removed, 148 West 94th Street (right) was home to a school.  via NYC Dept of Records & Information Services

Part of the alteration was the removal of the stoop.  The house was converted to the Birch Wathen School, with an apartment on the top floor.  The private institution had been founded by Louise Birch and Edith Wathen five years earlier.  In 1930 the school expanded into 146 West 94th Street and eight years later it purchased that building from George B. Griffin, presumably the son of Charles and Susan.  

The school remained until 1962, when it moved into the former Herbert N. Straus mansion at 9 East 71st Street (later home to billionaire financier Jeffrey E. Epstein).   The renovation and conversion of 146 West 94th Street to apartments that year most likely involved the removal of the stoop.  An alteration to  one apartment per floor next door occurred in 1965.  That same year the five other houses in Auguste Namur's 1888 row were demolished for an apartment building.

photographs by the author
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Monday, November 29, 2021

The Lost Chauncey M. Depew Mansion - 27 West 54th Street

The gas lamps that perched at the base of the stoop were a notable feature.  The New Metropolis, 1899 (copyright expired)

During the Civil War, Dr. William Alexander Hammond served as the Surgeon General of the United States and in 1862 was promoted to the rank of brigadier general by Abraham Lincoln.  In 1864, at the age of 36, Hammond moved to New York City and opened his private practice.  Hammond counted among his patients some of Manhattan's wealthiest citizens.  

On October 12, 1872 the Real Estate Record & Guide reported that the architectural firm of D. & J. Jardine had file plans for a "three-story Philadelphia brick first-class-dwelling" for Hammond.  Located on the north side of West 54th Street, between Fifth and Sixth Avenues, the 37-feet-wide mansion was completed the following year.

The Jardines had turned to the French Second Empire style.  The original three stories had become four.  A wide stone stoop rose to the nearly centered entrance, which was flanked by Ionic pilasters and capped by a classical pediment.  The two-story midsection featured an angled bay and the fourth floor, above a prominent cornice, took the form of the slate-shingled mansard crowned with delicate iron cresting.

Dr. Hammond's reputation was such that when Michael C. Kerr, Speaker of the House of Representatives became too ill to carry on his duties in February 1876, he and his wife traveled to New York City.  The New York Herald wrote, "Mr. Kerr's purpose in visiting this city was to place himself under the treatment of his physician, ex-Surgeon General William A. Hammond, of No. 43 West Fifty-fourth Street."  (The address would be renumbered 27 in 1905.)

Dr. William A. Hammond, from the collection of the Library of Congress

The year 1888 was a significant one for Hammond and his wife, the former Esther T. Chapin.  It started when the two of them appeared in the Jefferson Market Police Court to identify Samuel Jenkins (alias Jennings, alias Richard Stone).  The Hammonds were on a Ninth Avenue streetcar, returning from the theater, on the night of December 27 when the doctor was jostled and his gold watch stolen.  The valuable timepiece was worth more than $9,800 in today's money.  It is unclear if Hammond got his watch back (although it is doubtful).

The couple was back in court on October 18.  They had gone to their summer home in Long Beach, New Jersey on July 4, "leaving their home...to be cared for by the cook, Julie, and the butler," said The Evening World.  But, the article continued, "Their departure was the signal for a grand jubilee and ball held in the house by Julie and her friends, and the French cook at once was made famous by her wine dinners, dancing and songs."

Word reached Long Beach and Esther returned to New York and fired Julie Arnaud, paying her up to that date.  Amazingly, the dismissed cook sued Esther, saying she "had been hired up to the end of September" and was due extra pay.

That year the Hammonds sold the mansion to Chauncey Mitchell Depew and his wife, the former Elise Ann Hegeman.  The price  of $125,000 reflected the high-end tone of the block.  It would equal slightly more than $3.5 million today.

Depew's was a household name.  Educated as a lawyer, he became the attorney for the Vanderbilt railroads, and a year before purchasing the West 54th Street house was elected president of the New York Central & Hudson River Railroad.  He had, as well, served in the State Assembly in 1862-1863, and as New York Secretary of State in 1864-1865.  The Depews had a nine year old son, Chauncey Jr.  Their summer estate was at Scarborough-on-Hudson, New York.

Entertainments in the Depew house were frequent and notable.  On November 28, 1891, for instance, The Sun reported, "Mr. and Mrs. Chauncey M. Depew, last evening, gave an elaborate dinner party at their house."  The guest of honor was British Member of Parliament William Lehman Ashmead Bartlett Burdett-Coutts.  Sitting around the table were members of the highest echelon of Manhattan society.  The article said:

Mr. and Mrs. Depew's guests were: Mr. and Mrs. Cornelius Vanderbilt, Dr. and Mrs. W. Seward Webb, Mr. and Mrs. Richard H. Wilson, Mr. and Mrs. Henry Clews, Mr. and Mrs. John J. Wyson, Mr. and Mrs. Byam K. Stevens, Mrs. Paran Stevens, Mrs. Marshal O. Roberts, Miss Whiting, Col. Cuthbert Larking, and Mr. Ward McAllister.

An elaborate Esthetic period chandelier hangs over the dining table.  photo by Byron Company from the collection of the Museum of the City of New York

Shortly after that dinner party Elise contracted influenza.  She had successfully recovered from the disease in 1889, however this bout had come "in a more virulent form," according to the New-York Tribune.   Two years later she was still in poor health.

In 1890 Depew's portrait had been painted by Adolfo Muller-Ury.  Now, in 1892 the artist was brought back to create a companion portrait of Elise.  It may have been her weakened condition that prompted Depew to commission the work.

The family referred to the back parlor as the "white and gold room."
photo by Byron Company from the collection of the Museum of the City of New York

Elise had sat for him only a few times before she and Chauncey traveled to Fortress Monroe, Virginia.  Her condition had noticeably declined when they returned around May 1.  The New-York Tribune reported, "Mrs. Depew had been almost continuously confined to her bed after her return."  A week afterward, she died on May 7 at the age of 45.

Depew was high affected by his wife's passing.  His private secretary, H. C. Du Val, received the many callers who arrived at the house the following day.  He told a reporter, "[Depew's] silent grief at this terrible blow is touching, but he has borne it so far without flinching...There never perhaps were two persons more bound up in each other than were Mr. Depew and his wife.  No matter where he was, on land or sea, in Europe or in the most distant parts of this country, his first thought was for her, and hers for him."

Adolfo Muller-Ury continued work on the portrait.  One can imagine the emotional impact on Depew when it was delivered two months after Elise's death.  

The narrow "music room," with its upright piano, would have been for family purposes only.  A grand piano sat in the more public front parlor.  

Dainty gilded chairs and more comfortable upholstered pieces sit below an intricately stenciled ceiling.  
photos by Byron Company from the collection of the Museum of the City of New York

On May 2, 1897 The New York Times published a two-page spread on the Depew mansion, the interiors of which it called "a marvel of taste and refinement."  In the main hall were an 18th century tall case clock, and towards the rear a Gilbert Stuart portrait of George Washington.  "The broad stairway that leads to the floors above is guarded day and night by a warrior dressed in a full suit of armor and carrying a buckler and sword."

The reception room, off the main hall to the left, "is filled with paintings, bric-a-brac, and souvenirs that [Depew] has collected here and there in his trips to foreign lands."  Among the items was a valuable bronze statuette of Napoleon, "said to be the only figure extant of the great Corsican as First Consul," said the article.

The Reception Room.  A corner of the Muller-Ury portrait of Chauncey Depew is visible at the left.  photo by Byron Company from the collection of the Museum of the City of New York

Across the main hall was the parlor, filled with antique furniture.  Here hung the Muller-Ury portraits.  Behind the parlor was the "white and gold room," a sitting room outfitted in French furniture and a "magnificent chandelier of cut glass."

But the dining room, according to The New York Times, "is one of the most beautiful rooms in the Depew house.  It is papered in dark turkey red.  All of the chairs are handsomely upholstered in leather."  Below the ceiling was a row of mottoes "appropriate to a dining room" in various languages.  One, in French, said "Appetite is the best sauce," for instance.  The bronze dining room chandelier, like all the fixtures in the house, was electrically lit.

Chauncey Mitchell Depew - from the collection of the Library of Congress

By the time of the article, Depew's nieces, Anne Depew Paulding and Charlotte N. Hegeman, were living with with him.  On January 23 that year he "gave one of the most largely attended receptions of the season," according to The Sun, for the young women.  The article noted, "A Hungarian band was stationed in the niche in the central stairway and screened by exotics...A suite of fives rooms was thrown open.  The second drawing room is in white and told.  An elaborate buffet was served in the third large room, which is the dining room."  Depew had issued 2,000 invitations and, once again, the cream of New York society attended.  Among those listed were Mrs. William B. Astor, Mrs. Herman Oelrichs, Mrs. William Rhinelander and the J. Oakley Rhinelanders, the Stuyvesant Fishes, and scores of others.

In 1899 Depew was elected to the United States Senate, a post he would hold until March 1911.  His residency in the West 54th Street house was now, understandably, periodic.  Nevertheless, in 1901 he hired architects Ludlow & Valentine to do "interior and exterior alterations" of the house.

An Egyptian frieze ran below the ceiling of the Depew library.  photo by Byron Company from the collection of the Museum of the City of New York

The updating of the residence may have been in anticipation of his marriage.  On December 29, 1901 The New York Times reported, "The marriage of Senator Chauncey M. Depew to Miss May Palmer took place at noon to-day at the American Church [in Nice, France]."  It was, in fact the second ceremony.  Because the bride was Roman Catholic, a wedding at Notre Dame in Nice had taken place the day before.

At the end of Depew's term in the Senate and following the 1911 summer social season, on November 12 The Sun reported, "Mr. and Mrs. Chauncey M. Depew are now at their home here, 27 West Fifty-fourth street and are likely to give numerous dinners during the winter."  And, indeed, they did.  Among the most anticipated entertainments were May's annual birthday dinners for her husband.

Esthetic period bedroom furniture shares space with an Empire-inspired chandelier.  
photo by Byron Company from the collection of the Museum of the City of New York

The Depews spent part of the winter of 1927-28 in St. Petersburgh, Florida.  On the train home in late March, Depew "caught a chill," according to his physician, Dr. H. Lyman Hooker.  It led to a bronchial condition and a fever.  That developed into bronchial pneumonia.  The 94-year old died on April 5 after having been ill only a week.

Chauncey Jr. lived in the house until his death in 1931.  His father's library, his paintings and art objects were then sold at auction.  The mansion sat empty for two years before being leased by the estate.

On October 14, 1933, The New York Times reported that the mansion "is to be turned into a rooming house."  The article explained, "the house contains thirty-two rooms, and some of these will be turned into one and two room apartments...The imposing character of the entrance hall, with the great staircase, will be left untouched, also the shelves in the library, which once contained Mr. Depew's collection of rare volumes and bound volumes of his own speeches."

The venerable house survived until 1939 when it and its neighbors on either side were replaced by an apartment building, called Regent House, designed by George F. Pelham.

photo via cityrealty.com

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Saturday, November 27, 2021

The Louis Philip Siebert House - 25 Washington Square North


In 1837 wealthy merchant Samuel Shaw Howland lived in the elegant mansion at 12 Washington Square North, on the corner of Fifth Avenue.   That year James DePeyster Ogden sold him the leasehold on the vacant lot at 25 Washington Square North.  The land, as was with case with Howland's house, was the property of the Sailor's Snug Harbor.  The leasehold came with the covenant that a dwelling be erected by 1840.  It appears he and his son-in-law, George B. Dorr (who was married to Joanna Howland), cooperated in that project.  The upscale residence, completed in 1839, was taxed to Dorr, but both men managed its leasing.

Given the matching roofline and similar elements, it is possible that it was designed by the architect responsible for 24 Washington Square North, completed two years earlier.  The Greek Revival structure, faced in red brick above the brownstone basement, rose three and a half stories.  A Doric portico sheltered the entrance where the elegant doorway was framed by palmetto-topped pilasters, narrow sidelights and a gracefully leaded transom.

Interestingly, the Dorrs, who had been living with the Howlands in 12 Washington Square North, did not move into this house, but into 26 Washington Square North next door, completed the same year by James DePeyster Ogden.  Instead, Howland and Dorr leased No. 25.  For some reason, their first tenant left their furnishings behind (possibly there was possibly death involved).  The advertisement in the Morning Courier and New-York Enquirer in 1842 read:

To Let--The house No. 25 Washington square.  It is nearly new, replete with every convenience for a large family, and in perfect order.  It is one of the most desirable situations in the city.  The furniture, which is nearly new and made in the most fashionable style, may be had with the house on reasonable terms, if desired.  Can be examined at any time during the day.  For further particulars, please apply to S. S. Howland, No. 12 Washington Square, or George B. Dorr, No. 20 Exchange Place.

Living here in the mid-1840's was Lyman Denison and his family.  A wholesale grocer, his expansive business had three locations--on Fulton, Dey, and West Streets.

Following the Civil War the house became home to wool merchant Louis Philip Siebert and his wife, the former Eliza Oothout.  Interestingly, Eliza had spent much of her life next door, in the former George and Joanna Dorr house.  Her father, John Oothout, the president of the Bank of New York, had purchased that house from Dorr.

Siebert was born in Worms-on-the-Rhine, Germany in 1831.  He came to the United States in 1855 and went into business.  At the outbreak of Civil War, he joined the New York Cavalry and in April 1865 he was made a colonel.  The New York Times later said, "He served at Gettysburg in the Third Cavalry Division, commanded by Custer, and in all the Valley campaigns under Sheridan.  After the war he returned to commercial pursuits in New York, where he married Miss Eliza Oothout."

The couple had three children, Louis Phillippe, born in 1868; John Oothout, born in 1872; and Sophie, who was born in 1875.  Not surprisingly, Eliza sought German-born servants.  Her advertisement in the New York Herald on April 4, 1877 sought "A reliable German Protestant girl, with a fondness for children and experience as a nurse for two young boys in an American family."

It was no doubt the Sieberts who replaced the iron fencing and stoop railings with modern Italianate versions.  It was the only exterior updating that was done.

In 1882 Louis Siebert retired at the age of 51.  After the family took on a tour of Europe, they relocated to Washington D.C.  The Washington Square house was purchased by Philip Schuyler, who does not appear to have ever lived here, but leased it.  

By 1891 the Doster family occupied the home.  Lillian Dudley , a 28-year-old friend of the Doster's daughter, Leonore, left Marion, Kansas on December 20 that year "to visit friends in the East," according to the Democrat and Chronical.  Her long journey took her to Brooklyn, Wisconsin, where she spent Christmas, then to Lyons, New York.  Her eventual destination was the Doster house, where she was to arrive on January 19.

Lillian left Lyons on the Central-Hudson Railroad that morning, and then sent a telegram to Leonore informing her that her connecting train at the village of Fonda, New York was three hours late.  Leonore went to Grand Central Depot to meet her friend, but she was not among the passengers.  Four days later the Democrat and Chronicle reported, "and she has not been heard of since."

Leonore went to police headquarters "and asked that a general alarm be sent out."  Authorities, however, did not seem overly concerned.  The article said, "The police believe that something induced Miss Dudley to change her mind about coming to the city, and that she forgot to notify Miss Doster."  

The episode ended as mysteriously as it began.  Just over two weeks after she went missing, the LeRoy [Kansas] Reporter published a cryptic one-line article:  "The Kansas girl, Miss Lillian Dudley, reported lost in New York, is at home in Marion."

Philip Schuyler sold 25 Washington Square North in February 1895 to J. Herbert Johnson.  The Real Estate Record & Builders' Guide described the property as "running through to and including a two-story stable fronting on Macdougal Alley."  By 1897 Clement March was living in the house, and on April 5, 1899 Johnson sold the leasehold "together with alley-way rights" to him.  March's annual rent on the land was $1,500--or $48,000 in today's money.

March came from an old American family.  The first of the Marches arrived in New Hampshire from England in the 17th century.  He was born on November 21, 1862 in the mansion of his grandfather, Charles March, at 23 Fifth Avenue, near the corner of 9th Street.  His parents were John Pyne March and Mary Livingston Lowndes.  

Clement's father died in 1873 and his mother in 1893.  Her estate, "estimated at $1,000,000," according to The New York Times on October 14, 1893, went to Clement (his only brother, Charles, had also died).  The generous charitable bequests she made in her will were not to be distributed until "the death of the testatrix's son, Clement March," explained the article.

March moved among Manhattan's most socially elite figures.  On February 15, 1892 Ward McAllister had explained to a reporter from The New York Times why only 150 names, not 400, had appeared in an article about high society.  He said that during each year's winter season there were three dinner dances.  "So at each dinner dance, you know, are only 150 people of the highest set...So, during the season, you see, 400 different invitations are issued."  To set the record straight, McAllister provided a complete list of those included in The Four Hundred.  Among them was Clement March.

Although educated as an attorney, March did not rely on his profession, but lived on his inherited fortune (more than $30 million in today's money).  Instead, he devoted his time to civic causes.  He sat on the board of managers of the House of Refuge on Randalls Island (the nation's first juvenile reformatory), and in November 1905 Mayor George B. McClellan, Jr. appointed him to the Board of Education.  When the United States entered World War I, he served in the Department of Military Intelligence, translating "important editorials printed in Spanish and Portuguese," according to The New York Times.

In 1925, four decades after moving into the Washington Square house, Clement March purchased an estate, Greenland, in Kinderhook, New York, where he retired.  He died there 12 years later, on March 23, 1937, at the age of 75.

In the meantime, the Washington Square residence now  held (unofficial) sumptuous apartments.  Among the select residents was Blanche Wetherill Walton, the widow of Ernest F. Walton, who had been killed in a train accident in Grand Central Terminal in 1901.  Blanche held frequent musicales in her apartment, but not the expected type that featured sonatas and such.  She and the musicians she gathered around her were interested in "the music of the aborigines in Africa, Asia and the Americas," according to The Brooklyn Daily Eagle later.

It was here on June 3, 1934 that musicians George Dickinson, Carl Engel, Gustave Reese, Helen Roberts, Joseph Schillinger, Charles Seeger, Harold Spivacke, Oliver Strunk and Joseph Yasser, formed the American Musicological Association.  (Three months later the name was changed to the American Musicological Society, and then to the American Society for Comparative Musicology.)

The name would changed again--and not for reasons of simplification.  On April 5, 1936 The Brooklyn Daily Eagle reported, "At the meeting of the  American Society for Comparative Musicology, held at the home of Mrs. Blanche W. Walton, 25 Washington Square North, New York City, on April 4, steps were taken to change the name of the society to the American Section of the International Society for Comparative Musicology."  The article noted, "The aim of comparative musicology is the study of all primitive and non-European musics in a precise and scientific way."

Today there are still just four apartments in the former mansion.  The gentile residence, from the exterior, looks almost no different today than when the Sieberts changed out the ironwork in the first decades after the Civil War.

photographs by the author
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Friday, November 26, 2021

The 1829 Gerardus Riker House - 653 Washington Street


photo via apartments.com

Greenwich Village experienced a burst of construction in the 1820's.  Well-to-do merchant Samuel Norsworthy joined the trend in 1829 by erecting three speculative homes at 651 through 655 Washington Street.  Like its identical neighbors, 653 was three-and-a-half stories tall and clad in Flemish bond brick.  The Federal design included short stoops, brownstone trim and two prominent dormers at the attic level.

It is probable that Norsworthy never saw the completion of his project.  He died in 1829 and the houses became the property of his widow, Frances.  She first leased 653 Washington Street to the Gerardus Riker, listed in directories as a wood inspector.  Living with him was the widow Elizabeth Riker, almost assuredly his mother; and Gerardus U. Riker, most likely his son.  The latter Gerardus, who ran a porterhouse, remained in the house only a year.

Elizabeth disappeared from the directories in 1832, suggesting she died.  Gerardus left the Washington Street house two years later.

Around 1839, it became home to Hiram Burdette and his wife Louisa.  Burdett was a maker of chairs and  cabinetry.  It is possible that his shop was in a building in the rear yard.  He and Louisa had several children (documents range from five to ten).  Burdett was politically active and in 1842 was selected as a delegate of the Ninth Ward to the Democratic Whig convention.

Despite the large population in 653 Washington Street, the family took in boarders.  In 1847 Michael McGover, a coal merchant, and the Rev. Francis Gailey lived with the Burdetts.   
By 1847 Hiram, Jr. was working as a carter, or driver of a delivery wagon.   His sister, Hester, was married to Levi Pawling on February 28, 1850 in St. Luke's Church, a few blocks away on Hudson Street.

That year Hiram Burdett was appointed an Inspector of Elections, a position he would hold through 1855.  His civic involvement continued and in 1855 he was made a District Marshal "for the taking of the census."

The Burdetts left 653 Washington Street in 1856.  Shoemaker Adam Lammer, who had lived with the family since 1851, continued living here, as did Rev. Gailey, who would remain through 1857.   

It could be that Catharine Hoffman was running 653 Washington Street as a boarding house by 1862.   She was the widow of John Hoffman, and operating a boarding house was one of the few respectable means by which a single woman could make a living.  Along with Adam Lammer, living here that year were George Anson and Charles Misterle, both coopers, or barrel makers; carman Timothy Butler; and Patrick King, a driver.

Around 1867 a shop space was installed on the first floor.  It was home to the shoe and boot store of Adam Laurence.  (Adam Lammer was still living here, and so it is possible he worked with Laurence.)   Laurence displayed some of his wares in front of the store, a situation that was far too tempting for John Wallace on February 20, 1868.  The thief grabbed "a quantity of boots," according to the New York Evening Express, and ran.  Unfortunately for him, Adam Laurence could run faster.  On February 25 the newspaper reported, "Laurence testified that on giving chase to the prisoner the latter dropped the boots and struck him a smart blow on the mouth.  He was sent to the Penitentiary for six months."

Frances Norsworthy died in 1863 and her estate sold the Washington Street houses to attorney Levi A. Lockwood in 1877.  He leased 853 to Francois Gros, described by The New York Times as "a well-known French wine-dealer."  Gros remodeled the house and opened it as the Hotel Transatlantique in February 1878.  Initially, the little hotel did well, due greatly to its location just north of the busy Christopher Street pier.

But Gros suffered from alcoholism.  The New York Times noted that he "formerly carried on an extensive wine business in Thompson-street, but it dwindled when he became a confirmed inebriate."   He seemed to have overcome his drinking, but a few months after opening the hotel, he relapsed.  On August 8, 1878 The New York Times wrote, "Becoming desperate in regard to his uncontrollable habit and its attendant misfortunes, he grew more and more reckless and on Tuesday was utterly delirious from dissipation."

The following day, while Gros's wife was at the market, he "went behind his bar and drank a great quantity of Rhine wine and seltzer."  The bartender, Paul Maurice, saw Gros take a revolver from the money drawer and take it upstairs, but thought nothing of it.  When Mrs. Gros returned home, she found her husband on the floor with a bullet wound in the temple.  An ambulance was called, but there was nothing the doctors could do and Gros died later that afternoon.

A few months after the grisly incident, Lockwood sold the property to Francis and Ellen Garagher, who lived nearby at 52 Morton Street.  Among their tenants in 1880 was Rosa Hackett who was nearly the victim of a terrifying case of a drugstore's negligence.

One block away, at 679 Greenwich Street, was the pharmacy of J. Brophy.   On the morning of December 7 that year it was in charge of a clerk, J. J. Henderson.  He went out to get breakfast, leaving the elderly porter, William Wittenbrink, to watch over the store.  In the meantime, Rosa Hackett sent her 15-year-old daughter, Johanna, to buy 5 cents' worth of Rochelle salts (a laxative).

The Sun reported that Wittenbrink "took the girl's money and gave her, from a large bottle, some white powder which he said was Rochelle salts.  Mrs. Hacket dissolved a portion of the powder in a glass of water and drank it.  In a few moments she felt a sharp burning in her mouth and throat, and became alarmed."  Rosa sent for a doctor, who immediately diagnosed poisoning and gave her a preparation that induced vomiting.

The Sun reported, "The powder proved to be oxalic acid."  Wittenbrink was arrested "for selling poison for Rochelle salts."  In court he said, "that the clerk had gone out for ten minutes only, and had asked him to take charge in his absence.  He had thought the powder was salts, and had tasted it before giving it out."  The old man was held for trial, and, luckily "Mrs. Hackett is out of danger," said the newspaper.

The estate of Francis Caragher sold the "three-story brick store building," as described by the Real Estate Record & Guide, in April 1898.  The building would undergo a series of owners throughout the succeeding decades.  When the Bank of New York sold it in October 1939 to Gustave and Julia J. Meyers, it appeared that it was in danger.  The New York Sun said it was purchased "for improvement," a term which most often involved demolition.  But instead the couple renovated the store for the Gustave Meyers Luncheonette.  

The sign in the window in 1941 announced "Sandwich Shop."  via the NYC Dept of Records & Information Services.

Albert Gazzola purchased the building in 1948, adding the electric sign out front and opening his Blue Star Luncheonette.  It may also have been Gazzolo who altered the attic, replacing the 1829 dormers with a nearly full-width "studio dormer."  

While the luncheonette continued on the ground floor, in 1971 Warren S. Creswell, Jr. and Ron Link purchased the building.  Born in Columbus, Ohio, Link began his theater career in the 1920's as a stage manager.  He worked on the original productions of Little Mary Sunshine, and The Fantasticks before becoming a director.  An innovator of Off Broadway theater, he was noted for discovering new talent--including Robert De Niro and Sylvester Stallone.  He moved to Los Angeles in 1983.

photo via apartments.com

Around 1995 the shopfront was bricked over, leaving a small window.  The original entrance retains its early 19th century flavor with its surviving door surround and thin, graceful columns.

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Thursday, November 25, 2021

The Clarence Winthrop Bowen House - 3 East 10th Street


Eva Johnston Coe had grown up in the Washington Square neighborhood.  Her father, John Taylor Johnston, had erected a marble mansion at 8 Fifth Avenue at 8th Street in 1855.  Her sister, Frances, married Robert W. De Forest in 1872.
The extended De Forest family owned several abutting plots on East 10th Street, between Fifth Avenue and University Place.  In 1887 landscape artist and interior decorator Lockwood De Forest erected his exotic house at 7 East 10th Street and the following year he sold the plot at 9 East 10th Street to William Hamilton Russell, who construction on the Ava apartment building.

In 1890 Martha Rosalind Coe Townsend and Eva Johnston Coe began work on 24-foot-wide houses at 3 and 5 West 10th Street.  Designed by George E. Harney, the harmonious four-story homes are described by one architectural historian as "in the Romanesque tradition," although they display none of the expected traits of that style--arched openings or undressed stone, for instance.  A single nod to the style appears in the carved bosses on either end of the second floor cornices.

Eva and her husband, Henry E. Coe, moved into 5 East 10th Street.  If Martha and her husband, James Rodman Townsend, ever lived in 3 East 10th Street, is was only briefly.  In 1892 Martha leased the house to newlyweds Clarence Winthrop Bowen and his bride, the former Roxana Atwater Wentworth.  (The wealth of the families was evidenced in Roxana's wedding veil being exhibited the following year at Chicago's 1893  World's Columbia Exposition.) 

Bowen had graduated from Yale University in 1873 and went into journalism with the New York Herald Tribune.  The position was short-lived because upon the death of his father, Henry Chandler Bowen, the following year he inherited The Independent newspaper.

Clarence Winthrop Bowen from the collection of the American Antiquarian Society
Roxana Wentworth Bowen, from the collection of the National Gallery of Art.

The Bowens summered at the estate he inherited from his father.  The charming Gothic Revival style Roseland Cottage, in Woodstock Connecticut, was erected in 1846.

A period postcard depicted the fairy tale-ready Roseland Cottage.

In 1895 the couple's only child, Roxana Wentworth Bowen, was born.  Nursemaids made it possible for socialites to quickly bounce back into their social swirl and Roxana was no exception.  On December 28, 1896, for instance, The New York Press announced, "Mrs. Clarence W. Bowen will receive at her house, No. 3 East Tenth street, on Thursday afternoon, from 4 to 6 o'clock."

On January 8, 1901 the New-York Tribune reported, "Mrs. Clarence Winthrop Bowen, No. 3 East Tenth-st., will receive Fridays."  It would be Roxana's last winter season in the house.  At some point, Martha Townsend had transferred title to Emily Johnston Coe's sister, Frances Johnston, who had married Pierre Mali in 1892.  (The Malis were still living in the  old Johnston mansion on Fifth Avenue at the time.)  On July 17, 1901 The Evening Post reported that Frances had leased the house to Roswell Skeel "for five years."

Born in 1866, Roswell B. Skeel, Jr. had married Emily Ellsworth Ford in 1891.  Emily was a direct descendant of William Bradford, governor of Plymouth Colony, and the great-granddaughter of Noah Webster.  Her father was railroad and steel magnate Gordon Lester Ford.  The Skeels' country home was Seven Gates Farm in Vineyard Haven, Massachusetts.

Skeel was what was known as a "gentleman," meaning he had no profession (nor needed one).  Both he and Emily devoted their time to philanthropy.  Rosell was especially involved in the Prison Association of New York.  Taking no salary, he served as the head its Relief Bureau, which assisted the families of prisoners.  Emily was involved with several organizations that addressed social reform, environmental conservation, and educational.

In May 1918 Frances Mali leased the house to Magistrate Joseph Edward Corrigan and his wife, the former Margaret Faith Robinson Haggin.   The couple had married the previous year, following Margaret's divorce from millionaire artist Ben Ali Haggin III.  Corrigan's uncle was the late Archbishop Michael Corrigan.  The Corrigan country house was in Wakefield, Rhode Island.

In the spring of 1923 Joseph Corrigan charged Police Commissioner Richard Enright and other high city officials with running a bootleg operation.  Enright told reporters on April 23 that the District Attorney and Corrigan had a "tendency not only of injuring me, but of impairing the efficiency of the entire police force."

Corrigan remained undeterred.  And when he and Margaret returned from Wakefield on the night of July 4, 1923, they found the house ransacked.  The burglars had not been interested in valuables, but in documents.  But they left empty-handed.

The Sun and The Globe reported, "It is understood that papers relating to the magistrate's charges against the police commissioner and to the alleged connection of bootlegging with high police officials were concealed in a part of the house which the burglars apparently did not visit."  The article noted, "They will be removed by the magistrate himself to-day."

Additionally, more than once Corrigan told reporters "that the telephone wire leading into his residence, 3 East Tenth street, had been tapped," according to The Evening Telegraph.

Newspapers and the Citizens Union demanded that Richard Enright resign.  A grand jury was unable to come convict him and in 1924 he sued Joseph Corrigan for libel.  He lost the case.

On April 27, 1925, 45-year-old Frank Ferris appeared before Corrigan on a charge of intoxication.  The two men lived on the same East 10th Street block.  The Sun reported, "Ferris asked the Magistrate to be kind to him, inasmuch as they lived so closely to one another.  But Magistrate Corrigan, despite their residential proximity, refused to melt, and was all for punishing Mr. Ferris for imbibing too freely."

Ferris then took another tact.  "He promised to take the pledge for a year if Magistrate Corrigan would but be easy on him."  Corrigan gave him an hour to return to court with proof of his pledge to abstain from alcohol for a year.  Ferris was back in time, having gone to Father Cashin of St. Andrew's Church, bringing the signed pledge as proof.  "Then Magistrate Corrigan showed his neighborliness by giving Ferris a suspended sentence," said the article.

Joseph E. Corrigan died on January 9, 1935.  Margaret moved to a Fifth Avenue apartment and 3 East 10th Street became home to F. Shelton Farr and his wife, the former Louise Arnold Jackson.  Farr was the senior partner of the commodity and stock brokerage firm of Farr & Co., which he founded in 1920.  The couple's country home was in Lawrence, Long Island. 

Only three years later, on June 11, 1938, The New York Sun reported, "Douglas Gibbons & Co., Inc., have leased 3 East Tenth street, the former home of F. Shelton Farr...for a term of twenty-one years to Park Madison Realty Corporation...The lessee plans to convert the property into ten two-rooms suites."

The renovation, completed in 1940, resulted in two apartments per floor.   In 1954 a bland and windowless fifth floor, also containing two apartments, was added.  Otherwise, the exterior is remarkably unchanged.

photographs by the author
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