Wednesday, December 15, 2021

The 1892 Louis Ottman House - 38 West 73rd Street

 A window occupies the arched opening that was originally the entrance.

In 1891 developer F. G. Pourne completed a row of nine impressive stone-faced homes at 28 through 44 West 73rd Street.  Architect George H. Griebel had designed them in the Romanesque Revival style with elements of Renaissance Revival.  They were configured in an A-A-B-A-A-B-A-A-C pattern, the second story oriels of the A models and the three-story bowed bays of the B's creating an undulation of rounded forms.

Among the B-designs was 38 West 73rd.   A stoop rose to the Romanesque Revival arched entrance, flanked by engaged colonettes and surmounted by robust, undressed voussoirs.   It contrasted sharply with the formal Renaissance Revival decorations seen elsewhere on the facade--the classical pediment over the charming second floor hallway window, the stone balustrade at the fourth floor, and the intricate carved panel below the parlor window.

Originally sold to Channing F. Mark, the residence became home to the Ottman family by 1899.  Louis Ottman was president and director of William Ottman & Co., a wholesale provisions firm, and of the J. Ottman Lithographing Co.  A long-time resident of the neighborhood, he was elected to membership in the West End Association that year.

The Ottmans had three children, Helen, Elizabeth Anna,  and William.  Helen was the first to wed, marrying Henry Dunkak in the Brick Presbyterian Church on June 6, 1901.  The reception was held in the fashionable Delmonico's on Fifth Avenue.

The following year, in December, William's engagement to Arthemise Bouligny Baldwin was announced.  The New York Herald described the bride-to-be as "a prominent member of society in New Orleans, La."

As had been the case with her sister's wedding, the Brick Presbyterian Church was the scene of Elizabeth Anna's marriage to Victor de la Montague Earle on April 26, 1905.  The groom came from an old New York family, his father was General Ferdinand Pinney Earle, and his family lived in the famous Jumel Mansion, erected by an Earle ancestor, Captain William Morris.  The wedding reception was held in the West 73rd Street house where, noted The New York Times, "the young couple will also make their home after a brief Western trip."

In 1908 the house became home to Mengo L. Morgenthau and his family.  Morgenthau was born in Mannheim, Germany in 1860.  His parents had brought him and his 12 siblings to America in 1866.  As a young man he had tried several occupations.  Starting as a stock clerk for a shirt manufacturer, he went on to farming in Ohio, and then tried teaching school.  He returned to New York, eventually becoming a member of the dry goods stores Morgenthau, Bouland and Company. 

He changed careers again in the 1890's when he "determined upon a plan of candy production and retailing which should set up a standard of candy quality that could be absolutely guaranteed as to purity and wholesomeness of material, and manufactured under conditions of scrupulous cleanliness," according to The Americana: A Universal Reference Library.  The first of his Mirror candy stores opened on Sixth Avenue on October 15, 1896.  By the time he purchased 38 West 73rd Street, he ran nine stores.

Morgenthau had married Belle Mayer on April 8, 1891.  The couple had two daughters, Agnes Josephine, who was 16 years old in 1908, and Louise Henriette, who was 12.  The family's summer home was in Long Branch, New Jersey.

The family summered in Europe in 1910.  Their return trip on the luxury liner Mauretania ended badly.  Customs officials looked over Morgenthau's declaration, which mentioned clothing valued at $700.  When a doubtful agent questioned Morgenthau, he admitted quietly that he had, perhaps, undervalued the items.  That resulted in close inspection of the trunks.  "Customs Inspector Dolan found in the trunks new gowns, which appeared to be worth many times that amount," reported the Perth Amboy Evening News on September 17.

Dolan then ordered female inspectors to search Belle and her daughters, while another inspector patted down Morgenthau.  The article said, "Nothing was found on the young ladies, but on Mrs. Morgenthau was found a chamois bag containing two pearl necklaces and a rope of pearls."  Mengo had a pearl necklace and two gold watches hidden in his clothing.

The Perth Amboy Evening News began its article saying, "The arrest of Mengo L. Morgenthau, millionaire candy manufacturer, on a charge of smuggling, caused a distinct sensation here."  The undeclared jewelry was valued at $13,000 and the clothing at $2,100--or about $424,000 in today's money.  

Morgenthau pleaded guilty, and the expensive items were seized and sent to the Appraisers' Stores for liquidation.  Mengo and Belle were no doubt devastated by the embarrassing press.

Louise was married to Hugo S. Joseph in the Long Branch house on August 17, 1917.  The American Jewish Chronicle noted, "After the ceremony, there was a reception for two hundred people."

Agnes would never marry.  She involved herself in women's causes, hosting meetings of the Woman Suffrage Party in the 73rd Street house, for instance.

Morgenthau leased the house to Mrs. Anson Dudley Bramhall in 1919.  On May 27 The Sun's society page noted, "Mrs. A. D. Bramhall will leave her present home in East Sixty-fifth street early next month.  Later she will leave with her daughter, Miss Mary S. Sheppard, for Nantucket, Mass., where they will spend the summer."

Anson Dudley Bramhall had died just three weeks prior to the article.  He had been president of the First National Bank of Jersey City.    The socially prominent Mrs. Bramhall would remain at 38 West 73rd Street until 1921 when it was sold to Milton M. Dryfoos, a partner in J. Dryfoos Son & Son, Inc., underwear manufacturers.

Dryfoos and his wife, the former Esther Wallach, had a 16-year-old son, Stephen.  They occasionally appeared in the society columns, such as when they gave an anniversary dinner and dance at the ballroom in Sherry's on March 7, 1925.

The house was sold and remodeled in 1932.  It may have been at this time that the stoop was removed.  On December 5 The New York Sun reported it had been leased to "Lillian J. Coulter and her son, Dr. George Coulter, who will occupy the house."  A series of occupants leased the house over the next few decades.  Then a renovation completed in 1980 resulted in two apartments per floor, plus two duplexes on the fourth floor and new penthouse level, unseen from the street.

Even with the loss of the stoop and doorway, the replacement windows and the unsightly window air conditioners, the former elegance of the Ottman house is apparent.

photographs by the author
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1 comment:

  1. Really enjoyed this article. I am related to Louis Ottmann. Our last name originally was spelled with a double "n" at the end. Just for a little extra, Louis's son William became a brigadier general and was head of the NYS National Guard during WWI; also president of the Lotos Club. J. Ottmann Lithographing Co printed Puck magazine and built the Puck Building. Louis and his family all came to America around 1866, and he and his brothers all worked for Philipp Ottmann & Company in Fulton Market. Eldest brother William took it over at his death and renamed it William Ottmann & Company. Thanks for the great research! So exciting to see! -- Jacquelyn A. Ottman