Friday, March 25, 2022

The Ladies' Art Association Building - 4 West 14th Street

In the years prior to the outbreak of Civil War, the intersection of Fifth Avenue and 14th Street was an impressive address.  Both thoroughfares were lined with opulent rowhouses.  Among them was the high-stooped brownstone at 4 West 14th Street, home to attorney John H. Glover and his family in 1860.

The post-Civil War years saw a quick succession of occupants in the house.  In 1864 through 1866 Dr. Manual G. Echeverria lived and worked here.  His office was opened from 10 a.m. to noon daily--not an especially over-taxing schedule.  In July 1867 Dr. Lighthill relocated here from 34 St. Mark's Place.  He offered daily consultation on "deafness, catarrh, and all the various diseases of the eye, ear, throat and lungs."

Following the Lighthills in 4 West 14th Street was the Goldman family.  Marcus Goldman and his wife, Bertha, had five children, Rebecca, Julius, Rosa, Louisa, and Henry.  Goldman had emigrated from Germany in 1848 and initially settled in Philadelphia.  In 1869 he moved his family to New York City and into 4 West 14th Street.  That same year he opened Marcus Goldman & Co., setting himself up in an office on Pine Street, as a broker of IOU's.

Marcus Goldman (original source unknown)

Goldman's one-man operation was a success and in 1869, according to William D. Cohan in his 2011 book Money and Power, "may well have been making some $250,000 a year."  That sum would translate to about $4.5 million today.  

The family remained at 4 West 14th Street until around 1873.  Nine years later Goldman would take his son-in-law, Samuel Sachs, into the business, creating M. Goldman & Sachs.

When merchant George H. Maclean moved into the house in 1876, the neighborhood was changing.  After living here only a year, he altered the ground floor to a shop and moved his store from Pearl Street into the space.  At the same time he relocated his family to the less-commercial East 22nd Street and the upper floors of 4 West 14th Street became an upscale boarding house.  Mrs. Jane M. Boudinot typified the social and financial status of the select residents.  Following her death in the house in 1880, her will left an 1780 portrait of George Washington painted by Charles Wilson Peel to her daughter, Jane.

Two years after Jane Boudinot's death, the property was acquired by the Ladies' Art Association.  Founded in 1867 for the "mutual benefit" of female artists, it provided classes and exhibition space at a time when women's artistic talents and abilities were underrated.   It was most likely the Ladies' Art Association that remodeled the façade with grouped openings that allowed northern light to flood into the upper floors.

An article in The American Garden in November 1884 gave an insight into the classes here:

Mr. Anthony Hockstein, the well-known artist of this city, teaches on Saturday afternoons at the rooms of this excellent society, No. 4 West Fourteenth street.  His instruction is specially adapted to the higher education of those who are already teaching in schools and seminaries, as well as to those who wish to draw on wood for book illustrations.  To those desiring to perfect themselves in the arts this offers a rare opportunity, as in the delineation and portraiture of flowers, plants, and natural objects generally Mr. Hochstein has few, if any, superiors in this country.

Among the artists who maintained studios in the building in 1887 was Mary Kollock, who also taught in the Ladies' Art Association.  A student of the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts and the Art Students' League, she first exhibited at the National Academy in 1868.

Mary Kollock's Woman on an Alé

Also teaching here that year were well-known artists William de Leftwich Dodge and George Brant Bridgman.  Bridgman also taught anatomy at the Art Students' League, where he would remain for nearly half a century.

In its January 1888 edition, Godey's Lady's Book explained that the Association sometimes deferred tuition to students unable to pay.  The amount "is paid for later from the pupil's earnings; and the amount is then used for the benefit of the next needy student."  Despite having some male instructors, the article stressed, "The fees are very moderate; there are only lady pupils, and the Association is officered and managed exclusively by women."

The Ladies' Art Association moved out in 1890 and the building became home to A. McDowell & Co., publishers, and The Memory Co., which offered correspondence courses in "Mind Culture."  A. McDowell & Co. published fashion journals, like the Paris Album of Fashion, Le Mode de Paris, La Mode, and La Couturiere.  Women who subscribed to any two of the journals in 1892 by sending $3.50 in advance (about $103 today), received a complimentary copy of Dressmaking Simplified.

William L. Dodge had retained his studio, and was still here in 1892.  Along with A. McDowell & Co., the New York Portrait Supply Co., T. O'Donaghue's millinery shop, and Coyne & Locke, makers of artificial flowers, were in the building.

A fire in at 8:20 p.m. on the night of January 9, 1892 may have prompted one of those tenants to leave.  Before the year was out Sister Mary Angelina had opened her Silent Unity rooms here.  She was a follower of the Olombia Commonwealth, or The New Order of Builders and University, which sought "the conversion of sinners and the abolition of money."  On December 21, 1892 The Evening World described a meeting of ten members the prior evening:

It was some time before the Ten settled down to the business of the evening, which was to sit in profound silence around a table in the centre of the room and to concentrate their thoughts on the subject of eliminating from the world Mammon, the God of Gold, the instigator of all that is evil.

At the turn of the century the cloak and fur store of Solomon Feldstein & Co. was in the ground floor store.  A. McDowell & Co. was still here, now offering instruction on ladies' tailoring.  It branched out with the subsidiary McDowell Garment Drafting Machine Co. in 1903.

On the night of December 2, 1904, James Cocker, the building's janitor, heard noises on the third floor.  He shouted down from the fourth floor and a voice said something about "working."  As Cocker went to investigate, he heard the crash of glass.  He ran to the street and found a policeman, and the two returned to search for an intruder.  They found a burglar who had crashed through an interior skylight, breaking his leg.  The New York Times said the bungling burglar "left behind him two 'jimmies,' or chisels, and $5,000 worth of furs, all done up in a bundle."

In 1934 the building was leased as additional premises of the Hearn Department Store, at the corner of Fifth Avenue and 14th Street.  It was, at the time, one of the largest department stores in the city.  In 1945 the two buildings were joined internally.

Once home to one of Manhattan's wealthiest families, 4 West 14th Street now had a much less glamorous life.  In the 1960's the ground floor was home to the Esther Shops, which sold electronics like tape players and radios.  The 1980's saw Lucile's Bridal Shop in the space, and most recently Namaste Bookshop, specializing in Eastern philosophy and religious books, and meditation items occupies the space.  Despite its gruesomely abused ground floor, it retains much of its appearance from when aspiring female artists took classes here in the 1880's.

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

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