Saturday, December 31, 2022

Harry Allen Jacob's 1909 22 East 67th Street


image via

Real estate developer Anthony Mowbray completed construction of a row of high-stooped brownstone homes on the south side of East 67th Street between Madison and Fifth Avenues in 1879.  Designed by Lamb & Wheeler, they were four stories tall above English basements.

Cotton broker Charles Corey Taber and his wife, the former Cornelia Frances Martin, purchased 22 East 67th Street.  As was common, the title was put in Cornelia's name.  Born in Westport, Connecticut in 1821, Taber had founded the firm of Taber & Jenkins in 1841.  The New York Times said of him, "During the war Mr. Taber was a very prominent figure in the cotton market and engaged in some very heavy transactions."  He and Cornelia had five grown children.

Charles C. Taber in his younger years.  (original source unknown)

In the mid-1880's Taber retired.  He and Cornelia spent more and more time at their summer estate in Stowe, Vermont and abroad.  Finally, on September 20, 1890, the Record & Guide reported that Cornelia had sold the Manhattan residence to Joseph Thomson for $60,000--nearly $1.85 million in 2022.

Thomson's ownership was short.  He sold the house in 1894 to Gerson Seigel.  A widower, he was born in Germany on January 11, 1840.  The New-York Tribune would recall later, "The family was a large one, and in order to win a livelihood he came to this country when a youth of twenty."

Gerson Siegel, New-York Tribune, November 16, 1899 (copyright expired)

The young man did well in his new country.  After working at several jobs, he joined his brother Benjamin in 1866 to found Siegel Brothers, which became the largest manufacturer of ladies' underwear in the United States.  Two years after Gerson Siegel purchased the 67th Street house, he and his brother Henry co-founded the Siegel-Cooper Company department store with Frank Cooper.  Gerson was initially a vice-president.

Siegel had three children, two daughters, Blanche and Muriel, and a son, Jerome.  Only Muriel was still unmarried, and she moved into the East 67th Street house with him, as did Jerome and his wife.  While the family was away for the 1894 summer social season, Siegel had the new townhouse redecorated.  On September 9, the New York Herald remarked, "The family of Mr. J. Siegel, No. 22 East Sixty-seventh street, will be more than delighted when they see the adornments that have been made to their house during the summer."  The article went on to describe one room in detail:

The dining room possesses the chief charm and has been done up in tapestry wall panels, over rolled mohair plush hangings, and a full new set of Empire furniture put in.  The table is upheld by those slender, graceful fluted legs of the First Empire, and the chairs, with their oval backs, surmounted with the love knot, are far more comfortable than the majority of the stiff necked and high limbed furniture which fashion has decreed shall be the "proper thing."

In 1893 he had taken Blanche to the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago.  It was a trip that would change her life.

In announcing her engagement to Frank E. Vogel on December 29, 1897, The Butchers' Advocate said, "Miss Siegel met her prospective husband at the World's fair in Chicago four years ago.   She was scarcely more than a girl at the time, but her beauty and prepossessing manner attracted attention everywhere."  

Blanche was 20 years old at the time and had graduated from Normal College.  The article brushed off the fact that she had never been a debutante.  "Although she had never gone into society, she is a great favorite in her home circle."  The couple was married in the Siegel home on April 28, 1898.  Dinner and a reception followed the ceremony.

Gerson Siegel's health began to fail in 1899.  He died of heart disease just after midnight on November 15.  Jerome and his wife, who were living in the house at the time, remained until 1907 when they sold it to millionaire Robert Fulton Cutting, whose massive mansion sat next door on the corner of Madison Avenue.

Cutting hired architect Harry Allen Jacobs to drastically remodel the outdated brownstone.  The renovations, costing the equivalent of $1.2 million in 2022, were completed in 1909 and left no trace of the original high-stooped design.  Jacobs stripped off the facade and the stoop, pulled the new limestone front forward to the property line, and gave the residence a sedate neo-French Classic personality.

photo by Wurts Bros., from the collection of the Museum of the City of New York

On January 23, 1910, The New York Times wrote, "One of the handsome new residences which has attracted considerable attention from its artistic simplicity is the new house recently erected by Robert Fulton Cutting at 22 East Sixty-seventh Street."  Calling it a "notable acquisition to the high-class residential development of that favorite section of the city," the article noted, "While it is a six-story and basement dwelling, only the four upper stories are noticeable from the street, the top story being placed  a few feet back, and devoted to the servants' quarters, including nine rooms and a bath."

The ground floor held a reception room and large dining room to the rear.  On the second floor were "the library, foyer, salon, and conservatory."  The third and fourth floors each contained three bedrooms and a bath.  The New York Times opined, "the decorations are of a luxurious but not lavish character."

Cutting originally leased the mansion to James H. Kidder.  His next tenants were Willard Dickerman Straight and his wife, the former Dorothy Payne Whitney.  On September 28, 1912, the Record & Guide reported that Willard, "who recently returned from Pekin [sic], China," had leased the house.

Born in 1880, Straight had a varied career.  He was a banker with J. Pierpont Morgan & Co. and had been a Reuters correspondent in Korea, vice consul in the Kingdom of Korea, and American Consul-General in Manchuria.  He and Dorothy were married in 1911 in Geneva, Switzerland, a few months before leasing the 67th Street house.  Her father, William Collins Whitney, was Secretary of the Navy during the first Grover Cleveland administration.

The couple had barely settled in when, on November 20, the Cornell Alumni News reported, "A son was born to Mr. and Mrs. Willard D. Straight on November 6, at their home, 22 East Sixty-seventh Street, New York."  Whitney Willard Straight was the first of three children--all of whom would have interesting lives.  Whitney became a Grand Prix motor racing driver; his sister Beatrice Whitney Straight became a stage, screen and television actress; and Michael would go on to be a novelist, publisher and confessed spy for the KGB.

On February 8, 1913 the Record & Guide reported that Straight "contemplates the erection of a fine residence at the southeast corner of 5th avenue and 94th street."  The family moved into their sumptuous new home at 1130 Fifth Avenue in 1915.

The house saw a string of tenants over the next decade--John A. Black, George V. Coe, and Richmond Levering among them.  Then, Harry C. Glemby and his wife Clara leased the mansion in 1925 and would remain for nearly two decades.  The couple had two sons, David and Saul, and a daughter, Jane.

Glemby had made his fortune in a somewhat surprising way.  Until 1919 women's hairnets, imported from Europe, were expensive.  The New York Times explained later, "Mr. Glemby found in China an abundant source of human hair and cheap labor.  In a short time what had been a luxury commodity became a mass production item available in variety stores."

Harry and Clara Glemby did major interior renovations.  The New York Sun later noted that "the entire boiserie [i.e., paneling] of a music room from the Vanderbilt mansion and the interiors of the famous fifteenth century oak rooms from the Abbaye de Marsiac" were installed in the house.  On December 20, 1928, the newspaper wrote, "While the entire interior was built around the fifteenth century, oak rooms--hall, library and dining room--the salons, dressing rooms and bedrooms were in the style of Louis Quinze."

Although Prohibition would not be rescinded until 1933, it seems that Glemby found a supplier of liquor.  On the night January 21, 1932, the his butler answered the door to three men who said they had a liquor delivery.  When he let them in, they pulled guns.  The New York Times reported, "All the occupants of the house were bound and gagged, and the robbers looted the safe of the jewelry."  It was a substantial haul, especially considering the Great Depression.  They made off with $300,000 of Clara's jewelry, close to $6 million in 2022 dollars.  The incident caused Clara such trauma she was initially bedridden, then sent to Europe to convalesce.  

Within four months seven suspects, including two women, were arrested and indicted for the crime.   On the day before they were scheduled to appear in court to make their pleas, six of the suspects gathered in the seven-room apartment of defendant Helen Smith "for a conference in preparation for the arraignment," according to Helen.  One of the group, 22-year-old Sam Ippolito, went into Helen's bedroom and a few moments later a shot rang out.  Rather than face justice, Ippolito had committed suicide.

The Glembys left East 67th Street around 1936.  A renovation  designed by architect Francis L. Shea and completed the following  year resulted in a retail space on the ground floor and  "small suites" on the upper floors.

At the end of World War II, the former mansion was converted to offices, home by 1945 to the National Association to Control Epilepsy  and in 1956 to the American Council on NATO, Inc.  In the 1960's, the public relations firm Heyward Associates, Inc. had offices here, and in the early 1980's Pat Palmer's real estate office was in the building.  At the turn of the century, Fletcher Asset Management moved its offices in.

The property was purchased in 2004 by hedge fund manager Phil Falcone, who reconverted it to a single family home.   The Real Deal reported it "has seven bedrooms, 2,220 square feet of outdoor space and 10 fireplaces."

The reimagined entrance hall.  image via

Trouble came for Falcone in 2021, when a judge ordered the townhouse and his 14,000-square-foot mansion at Sagaponack in Southampton liquidated in a foreclosure auction.  The 67th Street mansion was sold in November 2021 for about $27.5 million. has no authorization to reuse the content of this blog

Friday, December 30, 2022

The 1914 Rogers Model Tenements (St. Joseph's Home) - 425 West 44th Street


Catherine Cossitt Dodge was wealthy in her own right when she married attorney John Shillito Rogers, the eldest son of Henry Pendleton Rogers, on April 18, 1906.  She was the granddaughter of millionaire William Earl Dodge Stokes.   Three years before the couple began construction on their opulent mansion at 53 East 79th Street, Catherine turned her attention to the less fortunate.

Grosvenor Atterbury had been the architect of the Sage Foundation Homes Corporation for several years, designing improved housing for low-income families.  In 1913 Catherine Rogers hired him to design a "model tenement" in the neighborhood just north of the notorious Hell's Kitchen district.  Completed the following year, it was highly praised as a "model" tenement building.

The Brickbuilder, May 1915 (copyright expired)

Atterbury's design drew on 16th century English architecture in the recessed entrance within a Tudor arch under a square-headed drip molding.  It was echoed in two arched windows per floor, each with cast iron faux balconies.  Atterbury forewent a cornice in favor of a brick Mission style parapet that protected the rooftop play area.

The Brickbuilder, May 1915 (copyright expired)

To reduce costs, the decorative elements were executed in "structural material," as worded by The Brickbuilder.  Creative brickwork formed the arches and moldings, and the sills were cast in concrete.  Nevertheless, beauty was not sacrificed for thrift.  The magazine noted that the front was of "dark red wire cut brick, laid in dark mortar, with almost black headers in patterns...All exposed faces of these concrete sections are of broken tile and crushed gravel, brushed with wire brushes."

It was Atterbury's interior design that drew attention, however.  In its May 1915 issue, The Brickbuilder noted, "The term 'model' is decidedly applicable to the arrangement of the rooms and the amount of light and air provided for each apartment."  The Independent, on April 13, 1914, wrote, 

Light and fresh air, play-space for the youngsters, and something to make neighbors out of co-tenants--all at a price that opens the door to families who are hard put to it to secure any of these advantages--these were the essentials in the planning of the Rogers dwellings in New York--the model of all model dwellings to date.

The Rogers Tenements were actually two buildings separated by courtyards, each with two apartments per floor.  The courtyards were 50-per-cent larger than the tenement law required.  The buildings were connected by a two-story structure, on the first floor of which were a common hallway and "perambulator room" for the storage of baby carriages.  

Large courtyards separated the two buildings, and a "common room" occupied the second floor of the link.  The Brickbuilder, May 1915, (copyright expired)

The second story of connecting section held a community room "for the use of all the tenants, for reading and chatting and just getting acquainted," explained The Independent.  "It is comfortably built, with large skylights and windows and big built-in seats and bookcases."

The communal room on the second floor of the linking structure.  The Independent, April 13, 1914 (copyright expired)

The tenants enjoyed other unexpected amenities.  In the "well lighted basement," as described by The Brickbuilder, each tenant had a storage area enclosed by wire fencing.   (On that level were also the "garbage burner" and the boiler that supplied hot water  and heat to the building.)  On the roof, paved with "promenade tile," were playgrounds for the children.

Children at play on the roof.  Note the glider to the left.  Technical World Magazine, July 1914 (copyright expired)

Technical World Magazine praised the Rogers Tenements, calling them "dwellings that provide real homes to New Yorkers who are having trouble in keeping the wolf from the door.  There is nothing cheap, nothing that smacks of charity about the model homes."  Rents for the two-bedroom apartments ranged from $20 to $22 per month (about $615 in 2022).  

Technical World Magazine said that while those rents would seem high to people in small towns throughout the country, in Manhattan "a comfortable flat of four rooms in a decent district" could not be found for that amount, and stressed that included in the rent was "steam heat, hot and cold water, and most of all, a common room supplied with magazines and some books, for social intercourse between all the tenants."

The larger windows were supplied with canvas awnings, an aid in keeping the apartments cool.  Record & Guide, July 31, 1915 (copyright expired)

An advertisement by one resident looking for work in September 1915 hints at the tenants.  "Useful man, single, Swede, middle age; experienced inside and outside work; private small family; city or country."

John L. Sutherland lived here in 1922.  He had served and was wounded in World War I while serving with the 105th Infantry.  Back at home, he saw another battle play out--the  Prohibitionists against the "wets."  It was a war that the Prohibitionists won, and Sutherland was not happy about it.  On March 20, 1922 he sent a terroristic letter to the State Superintendent of the Anti-Saloon League that threatened:

If your words and actions henceforth are not silent and if you do not take your place quietly in the great body of American citizenship we mean to kill you without the slightest compunction.

Sutherland was arrested and held on a massive $10,000 bail.  The magistrate explained the amount saying that he "believed Sutherland had a temporary aberration and he wanted to protect him from doing violence to Anderson," according to The New York Times.  On May 8, Sutherland avowed to three judges in Special Sessions that he had acted on "a silly impulse."  A probation officer testified that he had "suffered shell-shock" while serving in France.  Somewhat unexpectedly, while the judges found him guilty, they suspended his sentence.

Not long after the incident, the Rogers Tenements were purchased by the Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of New York and converted to the St. Joseph's Home.  An extension that included a chapel was erected on the parcel at the east of the building, previously a play yard for the tenement children.

An addition was erected upon the building's conversion to the St. Joseph's Home.  image via the NYC Dept of Records & Information Services

The placid atmosphere of the St. Joseph's Home was shattered when Bridget Farry checked in against her will in April 1929.  Five months earlier Arnold Rothstein, known on the street as The Brain or The Big Bankroll, was found murdered in the Park Central Hotel.  Mrs. Farry was a chambermaid there and detectives were certain she could identify the murderer.  Bridget Farry was, perhaps, fearful about testifying against a mobster and was decidedly not cooperative.  She was held on bail for two days in the Jefferson Market Women's Prison, during which time according to The Standard Union Bureau, she had caused such an uproar that authorities "fixed it to have her boarded, instead, in St. Joseph's Roman Catholic Home, 425 West Forty-fourth street."  It did not go well.

"Mrs. Farry had a room there and the constant companionship of three policewomen who worked in eight-hour shifts to see that Mrs. Farry did not go away from there."  Finally, after two weeks, Bridget Farry determined to go home.  The Standard Union Bureau quoted the policewoman on duty as saying "Over my dead body," and commented, "Mrs. Farry thought that was all right, too."

"Books, lamps and other articles calculated to raise contusions and abrasions and lacerations began caroming off the policewoman.  Knuckles backed by two hundred and fifty pounds of indignant State's witness helped along."  When the police woman was relieved at 8:00, the she was "shattered and torn."  A third policewoman was summoned, and then a "husky male cop" was called.  He wasn't enough.  A second male officer was called.  It took all five officers to get Bridget Farry to the West 47th Street police station three blocks away.

The policemen there were crestfallen when a call later came from the District Attorney's office.  "Take Mrs. Farry back to St. Joseph's Home."  One after another, the officers--first female and then male--went to the back to retrieve their prisoner.  Each one reported back, "She says she won't go."

Patrolman Paul Kastner, who was not even on duty, but who had come in to get his paycheck, was one of three officers ordered to transport her back.  "Officer Kastner and the two policewomen went back to where Mrs. Farry was and appeared immediately," said the article.  "Not without the wagon," Kastner told the sergeant.

A crowd had formed outside the precinct house when the paddy wagon pulled up.  "The door of the station house opened and Mrs. Farry came out, a hysterical woman, her clothing almost torn off her."  The sergeant and three patrolmen brought her out.  Five male and three female officers guarded Bridget Farry on her trip back to St. Joseph's Home, where chaos reigned until the witness was finally called to testify.

A renovation completed in 1943 resulted in 16 single occupancy rooms per floor above the ground levels.  Run by the Daughters of Mary of the Immaculate Conception, in 1972 The New York Times described the facility as having "92 rooms and meals for transients as well as for women who want to stay longer."  Known today as the St. Joseph's Immigrant home, it affords housing to women "who are working in New York City and/or attending school or internship programs," according to the facility's website.  The site says the organization "helps solve the problems of New Yorkers in need, non-Catholics and Catholics alike."

At some point the Mission style personality of the parapet was eliminated.

St. Joseph's Immigrant Home got unwanted publicity in December 2014 when it initiated significant increases of room rates.  One tenant told a reporter her monthly rent jumped from $600 to $800.  Rather unexpectedly, about half of the 70 immigrant women went on rent strike, putting their funds into escrow after receiving eviction notices.  Periodicals were not kind to the organization, a Curbed New York headline accusing the nuns of having "Bad Habits" and Gothamist titling an article "Nuns Defy Stereotype To Raise Rent on Immigrant Tenants."  

St. Joseph's Immigrant Home continues to provide affordable housing to single women.

photographs by the author
many thanks to reader Doug Wheeler for prompting this post
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Thursday, December 29, 2022

The William H. Merrill House - 355 West 19th Street


William H. Merrill, a jeweler at 17 John Street, occupied the three-story house at 253 West 19th Street as early as 1851.  He and his wife had two children, William, Jr. and Emma Louise.  The Italianate style house was one of a recently completed row.  Faced in red brick above a rusticated brownstone basement level, the scrolled brackets of its cornice were the latest in architectural fashion.

The Merrills' residency would be relatively short-lived.  In 1857 merchant John D. Abrams occupied the house.  He ran a business at 144 Front Street that catered to the ships arriving and leaving from the docks a block away.  Boarding with the Abrams family was a 22-year-old bachelor, Charles E. Bostwick, who was in the straw goods business.

The outbreak of Civil War changed everything for the occupants of the house.  Abrams and Bostwick joined the Union Army and neither would return to West 19th Street.

Charles was commissioned a captain and fought in the Battle of Port Hudson, which gave the Union control of the Mississippi River.  He was later made a colonel.  While in the Deep South, despite the ravages of war, he found love, and in 1863 married Katherine Douglas in New Orleans, Louisiana.  Following the war, in 1870 he moved his family to Minnesota.  In the meantime, John D. Abrams had died on August 12, 1862.

In 1863 the house became home to the Charles Scholey family, who would remain about a decade.  Scholey ran an ice company at 108 Seventh Avenue.   

The address would be renumbered twice in the coming years.  In 1867 it became 353 West 19th Street, and in 1876 each of the addresses along the block shifted one plot west, making 353 become 355.

By 1873 the family of Charles William Ogden occupied the house.  Charles, who listed his profession as "shirts" at 78 Franklin Street, had an impressive American pedigree.  He was one of the eighth generation of Ogdens directly descended from Pilgrim John Ogden.  His father was Isaac Gouverneur Ogden and his mother was the former Margaret W. Dayton.  He had married Mary Armitage Bacon on June 6, 1855, and the couple had three children, Emily Bacon, Alice, and Charles Stuart.

On the night of February 6, 1891, the house was broken into.  But this was no ordinary burglary.  Hearing a noise, Charles Ogden went downstairs to investigate.  In the hallway of the parlor floor, he found a baby girl who was estimated to be about two weeks old.  It was common for unwed mothers, or simply women who were too poor to afford another baby, to abandon infants at the doors of affluent families, hoping for the best.  But this was the dead of winter and the mother, knowing that the child would perish quickly if left outside, had taken the daring act of breaking into the house.  The Evening Post reported, "He turned it over to the police."

Charles William Ogden died in the house on March 21, 1896 at the age of 72.  Surprisingly, his funeral was not held in the parlor, as was customary, but in St. Peter's Church, a block away.  

Margaret leased the house three years later to Jonah and Jane White for $1,020 a year (an affordable $3,050 per month by 2022 conversion).   Jane experienced a horrifying incident on the afternoon of August 20, 1899.  On her way home, she was waiting for a streetcar on Eighth Avenue and 29th Street at around 3:30.  In broad daylight, according to The New York Times, she "was approached by three men, one of whom seized her around the neck and grabbed a diamond brooch, valued at $45, from her collar."  When Jane screamed, the man (later identified as John Dunn) "gave her a blow in the face with his fist and darted down the avenue."  Jane's cried for help attracted a crowd, who chased Dunn and caught him at 28th Street.  The thief was rescued from street justice by an officer.  The Sun reported, "The fellow was being roughly used by his captors when Policeman Strebel came up and arrested him."

At the turn of the last century, 355 West 19th Street was being operated as a boarding house, home to a wide variety of tenants.  One boarder found an inventive way to make money in 1903--mail order fortune telling.  He advertised, "Palmistry--Have your palm read by mail; accuracy and secrecy strictly observed.  Send your address for instructions to Palmist, 355 West 19th st, city."

A very modern young woman lived here around the same time.  In March 1904, Elizabeth Le Fevre was appointed a commissioner of deeds, a position similar to a notary public today, but one notably held almost exclusive by men.

French immigrant Emil Baud rented rooms here in 1910.  An aspiring sculptor, he was looking for work that year, advertising, "Frenchman, having some experience as sculptor, modeller, wants position."

By the end of World War I, the house was termed a tenement, meaning simply that multiple families lived here.  Its janitor was interviewed by "The Inquiring Reporter" of The Sun as election day approached in 1923.  He was asked if he approved of the $50 million bond issue for new buildings "for the insane and physically defective."  Fred Welnert's response was decisive.  "I consider this move the most important that faces the voters.  As it stands it is a shame and a disgrace the way the insane people are housed and treated."

The house continued to offer rented rooms until a renovation, completed in 1967, resulted in a duplex apartment in the basement and parlor levels, and one apartment each on the upper floors.  A subsequent remodeling in 1998 returned it to a single family home.

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Wednesday, December 28, 2022

The 1863 Jacob C. Bogert House - 68 Bank Street


Jacob C. Bogert was listed as a builder in city directories.  In 1863 he completed a project for himself and his family, a handsome 25-foot-wide residence on Bank Street between West 4th and Bleecker Streets.  Three-and-a-half stories tall above the high basement, the attic within the peaked roof was punctured by graceful dormers.  The entrance and windows wore gently curved "eyebrow" cornices.

Bogert and his wife, the former Almira Frost, had five children, John A., Harriet Louisa, Catharine A., William Patton (known as Willie), and Susan M.  While Bogert kept busy in construction, he was also highly involved in the public school system.  Since the 1840's he had been a trustee in the Board of Education.  

John A. Bogert had joined the 127th New York Volunteer Infantry in 1861, and the summer that his family moved into the Bank Street house he was involved in the siege of Charleston, South Carolina.  In October 1864 he was assigned as provost marshal at Beauford, South Carolina (meaning that he was responsible for its government), and in February 1865 was appointed lieutenant colonel of the 103d U.S. Colored Infantry.  (The officers overseeing Black troops were always white.)  Letters from the war regularly arrived at the Bank Street home.

William Bogert did not fight in the conflict.  In 1865 he was appointed to the Board of Education and in 1865, at the age of 24, he married Emma Sebring.  The couple moved into the Bank Street house where they would have two children.

John was discharged in 1866.  He moved into the Bank Street house with his parents, went into the marble business, and married Mary Elizabeth Vrendenburg.  Both were "members of old and honored families of Holland Dutch origin," said the 1900 History of Westchester County.  

On December 21, 1869 John and Elizabeth welcomed a son, Albert Cole.  Tragically, four months after his son was born, John A. Bogert died at the age of 34.  Uniformed members of the 127th Regiment filed into the Bank Street house for his funeral on April 17, 1870.  Albert would follow in his father's footsteps, first entering the marble business and then earning accolades for his valor in World War I.  

Catharine A. Bogert married Louis K. Bell in 1872 and they, too, moved in with her family.  Louis was vice-president and secretary of the Oil, Paint and Drug Publishing Company and of The Druggists Circular.  In 1886 the Bells had a baby girl, Myra Louise.  (Sadly, she would die at the age of 9 in 1895.)

The parlor of 68 Bank Street would see a series of funerals over the succeeding years.  Harriet Louisa, who never married, died on October 15, 1874 at the age of 34.  Her mother died in 1881, and Jacob C. Bogert died at the age of 73 on May 12, 1884.

The house was inherited in equal parts by the three surviving children.  Susan and Catherine transferred their portions to William in October 1885.  The property was sold at auction on April 19, 1887.

It was purchased by Charles and Catharine A. Duttweiler for $16,850--about $495,000 in 2022 terms.  The couple immediately hired architect E. Haight to make renovations.  His plans read, "building to be raised."  The changes apparently affected the rear extension of the residence only.

The Duttweiler, who had a daughter, Magdalena, took in selected boarders.  In 1894 John Whitaker Watson and his adult daughter took rooms with the Duttweilers.  Described by The Weekly Press as a "well known literary man," he was known professionally as J. W. Watson, and wrote for Harper's publications and Frank Leslie's Magazine for years.  (Following the Civil War he was editor of Frank Leslie's Magazine.)  Watson was, perhaps, best known for a single poem, "Beautiful Snow," which appeared in a November 1858 issue of Harper's Weekly.  The Weekly Press said the poem "moved the London Athenaeum to admiring praise."

When Watson and his daughter moved in, he was already suffering from heart problems.  They led to his death here on July 19, 1896 at the age of 69.

The attic dormers can be seen in this 1941 photograph.  image via the NYC Dept of Records & Information Services.

Charles Duttweiler died a widower at the age of 76 on June 10, 1916.  As had been the case so many times before, his funeral was held in the parlor two evenings later.  Magdalena inherited the house and continued living in it until her marriage in 1920.  That year she converted 68 Bank street to bachelor apartments--a term that meant they had no kitchens.

That configuration changed in 1936 when H. B. Horwood completed another renovation that resulted in two apartments in the basement, one on the parlor level, two each on the second and third floors, and one on the fourth.

photographs by the author
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Tuesday, December 27, 2022

The 1887 Cedarhurst Stables - 147-151 West 83rd Street


The building boom on the Upper West Side in the last decades of the 19th century created an urgent need for churches, schools and boarding stables.  There were more than 170,000 horses in New York City as the turn of the century approached and now a significant number of them were being brought to the developing district.

Edward W. Bedell recognized the niche.  On October 15, 1887 he purchased a 75-foot-wide plot on West 83rd Street, between Ninth and Tenth Avenues (soon to become Columbus and Amsterdam Avenues) from Patrick O'Thayne for $28,000--or about $823,000 in 2022.  He soon began construction of a five-story brick boarding stables on the site.

Almost assuredly, Bedell's architect was Frank A. Rooke.  (Five years later he would design Bedell's Claremont Stable nearby on West 89th Street.)  Completed in 1889, the Romanesque Revival style structure was broken into five vertical sections, those at the ends and center slightly projecting so as to break up the visual mass.  Stone bandcourses defined each floor.  The architect gave the utilitarian structure handsome touches, like intricate terra cotta panels and stone voussoirs.  At the ground floor the building's purpose was reflected in cast iron horseshoe ornaments and a carved horse's head about the carriage bay.  An elaborate terra cotta panel within the brick parapet announced the stable's name: Cedarhurst.

The details of these horseshoe ornaments have been obscured by decades of paint.

Inside, a system of ramps enabled horses and vehicles to be moved from floor to floor.  There were 135 stalls for horses.  A sizeable elevator transported larger carriages to the upper areas.  In the rear would have been a large manure pit.

Bedell leased the Cedarhurst Stable to brothers Lee and Darius Tallman.  On March 12, 1890, he sold the property to millionaire Charles F. Havemeyer for $90,000 (a significant $2.7 million today), who quickly transferred title to his brother Theodore.  The Tallman brothers retained their lease until Bedell completed the Claremont Stables in 1892, at which time they leased that building.

Havemeyer now rented the Cedarhurst to Smith & Hempstead.  The partners operated it both as a livery and boarding stables.  Customers who needed a vehicle for the day could choose from a variety of carriages--similar to today's rental car businesses.  And those who owned their own horses and vehicles paid to house them here--like today's parking garages.  Included in the boarding tenants' rates was the care and feeding of their animals and the maintenance of their vehicles.  

Painted today, the carved horse's head above the carriage bay survives after more than 130 years.

Operating a substantial stable like the Cedarhurst required a sizable staff, including grooms, stable boys (who changed hay, shoveled manure and such), polishers who kept the brasses and carriage lanterns shined, and others.  In 1895 the Cedarhurst employed 23 stablemen and grooms.  Among the grooms working here in 1892 was Richard Dore, who was hired in September 1891.

The big man (he was around six-feet tall) and his wife had three children and lived in an apartment on West 66th Street.  He had a history of somnambulism from childhood.  On June 27, 1892, The Evening World reported that on the evening before, Dore had come home from work and gone to bed.  

"At about midnight Mrs. Dore, who had been trying to get her baby to sleep and had fallen into a doze, heard a short outcry," said the article.  "She sprang to her feet in time to see her husband disappearing through the window.  Her screams soon awakened the neighbors, one of whom notified police of what had happened."  The sleep-walking groom had stepped out of their second floor window, striking his head and dying instantly.  The article noted, "Mrs. Dore's grief is appalling.  She is a refined-looking woman of about thirty.  She goes about wringing her hands, but utters no cries...Now and then she says, in a scarcely audible voice, 'What will become of the children!'"

At the Cedarhurst Stable, one of the proprietors, Mr. Hempstead, told a reporter, "Dore was an exceptionally good man.  His work was perfect.  In the nine months that he was with us, we grew very much attached to him."  The groom's popularity among his co-workers was exemplified by one of the groom's sobbing at the news of his death.  Hempstead said he would try to assist the widow to "afford her relief."

Smith & Hempstead occasionally sold horses and vehicles.  On June 20, 1893 The Sun reported, "Bargains in stylish and differently gaited horses can be seen at the Cedarhurst stables of Smith & Hempstead.  They have a select number of roadsters fresh from the country."

In 1895 Hempstead and E. C. Smith parted ways.  Smith went into partnership with Peter T. Radiker as Smith & Radiker.  New York, 1895: Illustrated called them "both natives of this city, and young men of excellent business ability."  Saying that the Cedarhurst was "one of the foremost establishments engaged in this industry," it noted the amenities customers enjoyed:

The establishment is heated by steam, has a steam power elevator, all modern sanitary improvements, a handsome ladies' reception-room, harness-room, and all conveniences.  

The ladies' reception room was obligatory.  Here genteel women could wait in a nicely furnished space away from the noises and smells of the stable proper.  The article noted that Smith & Radiker owned " forty fine road and saddle horses, [and] fifty carriages and wagons" available to lease.  It added, "A general livery and boarding business is carried on, and satisfactory service and the most courteous treatment is assured all patrons."

Smith & Radicker dissolved in 1897, replaced by the Cedarhurst Stable Company with Radicker as its principal.  The troubles between the two men had most likely been financial.  On February 10, 1897 The Sun reported that Theodore A. Havemeyer had won a judgment for $12,605 in back rent.  It was a sizeable amount, equal to about $425,000 in 2022.  

Finances continued to be tight for Radiker, and in May 1901 he declared personal bankruptcy.  The New York Times reported, "He has 147 shares of stock of the Cedarhurst Stable Company.  He was formerly of Smith & Radicker, who were in the stable business for several years."

Nevertheless, Radicker somehow held onto the business.  He sold a part of the livery operation in 1906.  By then Seaman's Stables was operating from the Claremont Stables building and that year it announced that it had "recently purchased the Carriage Service interests of the Cedarhurst Stables in 83d Street," promising "their customers will receive special and careful attention."

At the time, motorcars were rapidly replacing horses on the streets of New York.  In 1908 Peter Radicker organized the Cedarhurst Motor Livery Company.  The Horseless Age explained it was incorporated in part "to operate a taxicab service with Frayer-Miller cabs.  This service will be of a private nature, no business being done from stands."  The company started off with five cabs and promised there would be 20 more by September.  It also operated a service garage in the building.

The New York Times, November 6, 1908 (copyright expired)

The Cedarhurst Motor Livery Co. remained in the building through 1921.  Its management often helped customers sell their automobiles, offering a venue in which to inspect the cars.  

In 1922 Francis J. Sheridan leased the property "for a long term," as worded by the New-York Tribune.  The article said, "The lessee will make extensive alterations."  It may have been at this time that the two additional vehicle entrances were carved into the facade.

Appropriately, the building functions today as it did in 1889.  Owners store their vehicles here on a monthly basis, while others can rent one temporarily.  

photographs by the author
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Monday, December 26, 2022

The Lost D. Willis James Mansion - 40 East 39th Street


photo from the collection of the Museum of the City of New York

Daniel Willis James was born in Liverpool, England in 1832, the grandson of Andon Green Phelps of Phelps, Dodge, and Company.  Immigrating to Baltimore and finally relocating to New York, James amassed a fortune not only by heading up his grandfather's company, but by obtaining seats on the boards of major American firms like the Ansonia Clock Company, the Northern Pacific Railway, and several mining companies in the west.

With his cousin William E. Dodge, Jr., he transformed Phelps, Dodge, and Co. from a comfortable business to one of the world's largest mining companies, making himself one of the wealthiest men in the country in the process.   

In 1870 James hired the esteemed architectural firm of Renwick & Sands to design a mansion at the southwest corner of Park Avenue and 39th Street, in the fashionable Murray Hill neighborhood.  Completed two years later, the sumptuous home was designed in the Victorian Gothic style, sometimes called Ruskinian Gothic.  Typical of the style, the arched openings wore variegated voussoirs.  The entrance sat within a nearly ecclesiastical style portico above a short stoop, and the fourth floor took the form of a steep mansard crowned with intricate iron cresting.

James had married Ellen Stebbins Curtiss in 1854.  Their son, Arthur Curtiss, was five years old when they moved into the new residence.   The little boy's hobby was far different than those of less privileged children.  In May 1878, when he was 11, he exhibited his greyhound Fairy in the exclusive New-York Bench Show at Gilmore's Garden.

This photograph of James was quite possibly taken in the 39th Street house.  from the collection of the Museum of Early Trades and Crafts.

The family servants were duped by a clever thief during the summer of 1882.  On June 21, The Sun reported, "A man who told the servants that he was a workman sent to make repairs, and who dressed the part and carried a kit of tools," gained entrance to mansion.  When he left, so did a $400 clock, its value equivalent to nearly $11,000 in 2022 money.

D. Willis James hosted an important political meeting here on October 11 that year.  Around 150 prominent gentlemen from both political parties filed into the mansion to nominate a candidate for mayor.  It was an attempt to unseat the corrupt Tammany organization.  In reporting on the meeting, the New York Herald said, "The question as to whether or not there shall be a union of the democracy of this city on the behalf of a surrender to Boss Kelly and Tammany Hall has assumed much proportions as to cause the politicians to pause."  The article said the men warned that the outcome of the election would have "considerable influence on the future political history of the city."

More typical of the gatherings in the house was the dinner party given two months later, described by The Sun as "elaborate."  The article said, "The table was covered with a white satin and lace cloth and was handsomely decorated with Catharine Mermet roses.  A superb gold dessert service was on this occasion used for the first time."  The journalist went on to describe the gold service as "one of the choicest bits of table furniture in this country."

In 1885 James initiated two construction projects, a handsome private carriage house at 144 East 49th Street, and a magnificent Tudor style summer residence, Onunda, in Madison, New Jersey, designed by Clinton & Russell.  

The main house at Onuda and a portion of the grounds.  (original source unknown)

Both the townhouse and country estate were the scenes of lavish entertaining.  On April 10, 1889, for instance, The Evening Telegraph reported, "One of the handsomest dinners of the season was given to ex-President and Mrs. Grover Cleveland by Mr. and Mrs. D. Willis James, at their spacious house, No. 40 East Thirty-ninth street, last evening."  The article described the table being decorated with "spring flowers and beds of roses," and silver candelabra with pink shades.  "During the entire evening there was music by Lander's Orchestra and after dinner some professionals sang."

In 1890 Arthur, who had graduated from Amherst College the previous year, married Harriet Eddy Parsons.  The newlyweds initially made their home in the 39th Street mansion.

Keeping society informed of Daniel's and Ellen's whereabouts may have been a challenge at times.  On February 15, 1901, for instance, The Evening Telegram wrote, "Mr. and Mrs. D. Willis James of No. 40 East Thirty-ninth street, have left New York for California."  And seven months later, The New York Press reported, "Mr. and Mrs. D. Willis James...have returned from Bar Harbor and are in their country place in Madison, N. J."

In July 1907, Daniel and Ellen left Onuda to spend the rest of the summer season at the Mount Washington Hotel in Bretton Woods, New Hampshire.  There, on an afternoon in early September, reported the New-York Tribune, "While seated and chatting with friends on the piazza of the hotel, without previous warning [James] fell back into his chair, gasping for breath."  A local physician initially treated the millionaire, while Dr. Stephen D. White rushed northward from New York City.  James lingered until September 13 when he died.  The Sun reported, "Mrs. James was along with her husband when he died.  Their son, Arthur Curtiss James, is cruising along the coast of Labrador in his yacht Aloha."

James's body was transported to New York and his funeral was held in the 39th Street mansion.  The New York Press called him "many times a millionaire, his yearly income being reported at $2,000,000."  Because he had already provided liberally to various philanthropies throughout his lifetime, the bulk of his massive estate was left to Ellen.

He had given Madison, New Jersey a park, a library, an opera house and several other structures; donated the exquisite bronze James Fountain in Union Square to the city; and provided extensive funding to Amherst College, the Children's Aid Society and other organizations.

Following her mourning period, Ellen resumed her social schedule.  On August 26, 1914, for example, The New York Press reported that she "is spending the summer at Upper St. Regis, N. Y. [and] will leave there about the middle of next month and go to her country home, Onunda, in Madison, N. J. for the fall and early winter."

Like her husband, she was generous to worthy causes.  In 1910 she gave $180,000 to the First Presbyterian Church on Fifth Avenue and 11th Street, donated the Italian school to the Children's Aid Society in 1913, and in 1915 gave $2,000 for Belgian relief.

Ellen Stebbins Curtiss James contracted pneumonia in the spring of 1916.  She died in the 39th Street mansion at the age of 82 on April 28.  The size of her estate may have astonished most New Yorkers.  The New York Herald reported that she left "a total estate of $36,450, 175," or about $770 million in 2022.  About $3 million was left to charity.

The article noted that among Arthur's inheritances was the Murray Hill mansion.  He and his wife lived in an opulent residence at the northwest corner of Park Avenue and 69th Street, and so he leased his childhood home to James Marshall Stuart in October 1916.  

Stuart and his wife Jesse Coe were married on October 18, 1887.  The couple had three children, James Jr., Harold Coe, and Ellen.  

Ellen had married Robert M. Russell four months before the family moved into 40 East 39th Street.  Howard had graduated from Princeton in 1914.  On December 21, 1917 he was married to Agnes Mildred Brown in the Madison Avenue Presbyterian Church.  

In 1928 motorcars had replaced carriages along Park Avenue and 39th Street.  from the collection of the New York Public Library

James Marshall Stuart, whom The New York Times called "a member of an old New York family," died in the mansion on January 4, 1925 at the age of 68.  James Jr., still unmarried, remained in the house with his mother.  

Rather shockingly, Stuart's death does not seem to have interfered with Ellen's or James Jr.'s movements within society.  Only a month after his funeral, on February 26, The Sun reported that Ellen and James were at the Ritz-Carlton in Atlantic City.  And on May 12, The New York Times announced, "J. Marshall Stuart of 40 East Thirty-ninth Street has gone to the Briarcliff Lodge for a short stay."

In the first years of the Great Depression, the Park Avenue district had changed from one of sumptuous mansions to commerce.  In 1933 Arthur Curtiss James accumulated the properties surrounding his childhood home, and in September demolished them to make way for a business building.

The corner in September 1933.  from the collection of the New York Public Library