Thursday, March 3, 2022

The Julien Tappan Davies House - 38 West 11th Street


The third floor was originally about half the height we see today.

A mason, James Harriot was a member of a well-known family of ship's carpenters and builders.  In 1840 he partnered with a carpenter, Erastus Freeman, and builder Andrew Lockwood on an ambitious project of 11 brick rowhouses along the south side of West 11th Street, between Fifth and Sixth Avenues.  Completed in 1841, the Greek Revival style homes were originally two-and-a-half stories tall above a brownstone basement level.  Like its identical neighbors, 146 Eleventh Street (renumbered 38 West 11th Street in 1853) boasted a handsome entrance within the heavy brownstone enframement.  

It became home to the family of Edwin Hunt, who ran a hardware business far downtown on Platt Street.  A description of his store and operation can be gleamed from an advertisement following a devastating incident in 1835:

    Edwin Hunt, No. 14 Platt Street, Having had his Store, No. 131 Maiden Lane, together with his stock of Hardware, destroyed by fire of the 24th of August last, has since been to England, where he has purchased for CASH, an entire new stock of Birmingham Hardware, and Sheffield Cutlery, and Edge Tools.
E. H. has taken the new store, No. 14 Platt street, where he will be enabled to offer to his friends and customers, a full and complete assortment of Goods, at such prices as cannot fail to give general satisfaction.  Feb. 3 1836

As was common at the time, a small building stood in the rear yard of the 11th Street house.  In 1853 and '54 the Hunts leased it to Cornelius Kellher, who was listed in directories simply as "laborer."

Edwin Hunt and his family left West 11th Street in 1855.  They were followed in the house by Rufus Davenport, an accountant on Wall Street.  The next few decades would see a succession of residents--merchant Jacob Wetmore was here from 1859 through 1865, another merchant, William Vanallen lived here until 1869, and that year the questionable Dr. Cone moved in.  He advertised in the New York Herald that year:

Dr. Cone, 38 West Eleventh Street, guarantees to cure baldness, thin and gray hair.  To ladies and gentlemen being nervous or unnaturally stout immediate relief is given.

Cone's residency was short-lived.  Mary H. Bement, a dressmaker occupied the house in 1870.  By 1873 she had a boarder, August Schwarzschild, the proprietor of the A. Schwarschild & Co. candy company on Wooster Street.  As Edwin Hunt had done, she leased the rear house.  It received unwanted police attention on June 24, 1875.  The New-York Tribune reported that officials, "made a descent upon a gambling-house at No. 38 West Eleventh-st., last night.  James Barton, the dealer, and Daniel Burns, were taken to the Mercer Street Police Station.  The police seized a large quantity of chips, a silver deal-box, a lay-out table, and a considerable amount of other property."

Mary Bement sold the house the following year and, again, it went through a series of owners.  Change would come in 1898 when Julien Townsend Davies and his family moved in. 

Davis was just 28 years old at the time he leased the house.  An attorney affiliated with his father's law firm, Davies, Stone & Auerbach, he had attended St. Paul's School in Concord, New Hampshire.  Following his graduation from Columbia University in 1891 he entered the Harvard Law School.  He had been married to Marie Rose de Garmendia on November 23, 1894.

Davies's uncle was millionaire Bradley Martin and his cousin was the Countess of Craven.  Marie's brother was a famous tennis player, B. Spaulding de Garmendia.

The year the couple moved into the West 11th Street house, Marie was  pregnant, but her condition did not prevent the couple from summering in Newport.  Their stay, however, ended early and abruptly.  On July 13, 1898, The New York Times reported, that Davies, "has twice before suffered from attacks of appendicitis, and when he was found to be suffering a third time from the malady, at Newport, he was brought to this city for a final cure."  The operation was performed in New York Hospital on July 11.  Saying that Davies "is widely known in New York society," the article assured, "There is said to be no doubt of his recovery."

A month and a half later, on September 1, the couple welcomed a baby girl, also named Marie Rose.

Despite his comfortable financial condition, Davies did not own 38 West 11th Street.  He leased it from A. W. Stevenson.  Nevertheless, it was almost assuredly the Davies who pushed for a gentle Edwardian makeover.  On June 23, 1901 The New York Times reported that Stevenson had hired the architectural firm of Paust & Schroeder to make the equivalent of $125,000 in alterations today.

The two parlor floor windows were replaced by a modified Palladian, elliptically arched window, decorated with delicate bellflower carvings and leaded glass.  It was possibly at this time that the third floor was raised to full height.

A charming detail--a winged cherub--is easily unnoticed.

The Davies family remained until about 1909.  Over the next decades the house was home to a variety of residents.  Electrical engineer Samuel Reber was here in the post World War I years, and in the 1940's Margaret Sidney lived here.  An early career woman, she had graduated from Wellesley College and was a copywriter for Collier's magazine.  

It was not until 1974 that 38 West 11th Street was altered to apartments.  Despite the changes inside, the house looks much as it did in 1901 when it was given a striking make-over.

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

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