Henry Astor was shunned by his family when he married Malvina Dinehart. She was the daughter of a farmer and the gardener who done work on the Astor summer residence at Red Hook, New York. But while estranged from his family, living in West Copake, New York, Henry lived comfortably off the income from 119 parcels of Manhattan real estate held in trust, including the block between Broadway and Eighth Avenue, and 45th to 46th Streets.
The trust was overseen by Henry's brothers, John Jacob and William Astor. In 1874 they leased much of the 46th Street block to developers. The following year, on April 25, 1875, an advertisement in the New York Herald offered:
For Sale--On Astor Lease, cheap, two new brown stone Houses 342 and 344 West Forty-sixth street, three stories and basement.
Leather merchant Ignatius Radley purchased 344 West 46th Street. Born in France on August 2, 1833 as Ignatius Redle, he had anglicized his surname upon arriving in America. He and his wife, the former Mary Elizabeth Milleman, had five children, George Francis, Emma, Mary Elizabeth, Amelia Mcentye, and Ignatius, Jr.
Their 20-foot-wide home was designed in the popular Italianate style. Atop the high stone stoop, the double-doored arched entrance was framed by engaged columns that upheld a classical pediment. The full-height parlor windows, most likely, were fronted by a cast iron balcony, and the upper windows sat within architrave frames.
The family's affluence and social standing was evidenced in the wedding of Ignatius's brother, John J. Radley, to Edith Marian Smith on January 16, 1894. According to the New-York Daily Tribune, "between 600 and 700 witnessed the marriage ceremony" in St. Patrick's Cathedral. Ignatius served as an usher.
By the 1890's, the Radley children were young adults. Amelia was the youngest of the three daughters. In 1890, at the age of 25, she was teaching in the Primary Department of Grammar School No. 58 on West 52nd Street.
In May 1898, the engagement of Ignatius, Jr. to Emma Muschenheim was announced. By now the 20-year-old was a clerk in Franklin Savings Bank. His future father-in-law, William C. Muschenheim, was the proprietor of the Hotel Astor. Later The New York Times called him, "one of the first men to see the future of Times Square." Convinced that the district had potential, Muschenheim had strode into the offices of the Astor brothers and (after significant prompting) convinced them to build the lavish hotel. His fortune was estimated at between $5 and $10 million--more than $160 million on the lower end today.
The wedding took place in the Muschenheim house, Fort Tryon Terrace, on June 1, 1898. The New York Press announced that after the ceremony, "An elaborate programme has been prepared for the entertainment of the guests. Carriages will be at the 'L' station, 155th street and Eighth avenue, for the convenience of the guests."
The newlyweds moved into the Muschenheim mansion. It was the site of a macabre incident two years later. The New York Press described the grounds of Fort Tryon Terrace as overlooking the Hudson river, "just north of Libbey Castle near the extreme northern end of Manhattan Island." Boys playing on the rocks on the estate on March 24, 1900 discovered the badly decomposed body of a woman.
Ignatius launched his own investigation and found a pocket prayer book among the rocks. He was not overly quick to notify police, however, and two days later The New York Press reported that the book "was still in his hands yesterday and the police said the finding of it was news to them." Unfortunately, it provided no evidence to the woman's identify.
As the population of 344 West 46th Street shrank, the Radleys took in a boarder. Their choice in 1900 was unfortunate. William J. Connor was well-dressed and gentlemanly, however on February 6, 1901 he was arrested with a cohort, Frederick Mille. The New-York Tribune said they were "thought by police...to be members of a gang of clever counterfeiters."
On December 19, 1903 the Muschenheim mansion was destroyed by fire. Ignatius, Jr. and Emma Radley moved into the West 46th Street house. A year later, on November 9, 1904, Ignatius, Sr. died in the residence at the age of 72. In reporting his death, The Globe and Commercial Advertiser described him as "a well-known resident of the west side."
Ignatius, Jr. rose through the ranks of the Franklin Savings Bank. In September 1907 he was made secretary of the institution. He and Emma had a summer home on West 227th Street. In April 1908, Radley renewed the land lease on the West 46th Street house from Henry Astor.
At the time, he was suffering from a cold. It developed into pneumonia and, after being ill for about three weeks, he died almost immediately after renewing the lease, on April 6. He was just 38 years old and the Franklin Savings Bank announced his death "was as unexpected as it will be lamented by all who knew him."
Although the Radley family left 344 West 46th Street in 1910, they retained possession, leasing it. It was now operated as a boarding house, its tenants not all upstanding. Among the earliest occupants was Michael Burns. He was employed as a faro dealer in an illegal gambling house at 236 West 41st Street.
When police raided the place on June 4, 1910, there were about 200 patrons inside. The Sun described the raid as "using all the methods current in the old days. There were axes and broken doors, attempts to break away across the roofs and gumshoeing by detectives." Michael Burns was among those arrested.
In August 1913, as the once elegant block became increasingly commercialized, the Ignatius Radley estate hired the architectural firm of Gross & Kleinberger to install a storefront in the basement. The upper floors now contained rented rooms.
In 1923 Jack Gentile opened Jack's Restaurant in the store space and moved his family into the upper portion. Four years later, on February 12, 1927, The Brooklyn Standard Union entitled an article "Dry Raiders Swing Axes in Raids on Broadway Resorts." Among the targets was Jack's Restaurant. The article said, "Entrance was gained to an alleged speakeasy in the basement at 344 West Forty-sixth street by smashing a window with a crowbar." Prohibition agents seized "a half case of whisky and a fifty-gallon keg of wine," and arrested Gentile and a waiter and a dishwasher.
December 31, 1933 signaled the end of Prohibition. On October 26, 1933 the Irish-American newspaper The Advocate announced that Jack's Restaurant, Inc. had acquired a license for "on premises consumption" of alcohol. The little bar to the right of the entrance became Jack Gentile's bailiwick, where he would tend bar for years to come.
The eatery was a favorite for theater-goers. On March 29, 1941 The New York Sun began an article saying, "A great many New Yorkers who like to eat well swear by the food at Jack's Restaurant at 344 West 46th street. The prices are moderate and the cooking lures the patrons back again and again. This has been going on for years."
The article described the "homelike atmosphere," saying "There are two dining rooms--a tiny one on the first floor and a larger one on the second floor. The cuisine is French-Italian and Jack is perhaps best known for his frogs legs, guinea hen and steaks. He turns out a marvelous steak." A full course dinner cost $1.15, with filet mignon, the priciest item, costing $1.50 (about $25 today).
In 1946 Jack Gentile sold the restaurant. Although the new owner's name was Anthony, the business name remained unchanged. On September 27, 1947, Blair Chotzinoff, writing in the New York Post, explained, "Rather than turn the neighborhood into a state of turmoil, Anthony retained the name Jack and also Jack's customers." The menu was now strictly Italian.
Jack's Restaurant became Jack's Epicure by the early 1970's when it was owned by Victor Mather. Again the menu slightly changed, now offering French-North Italian cuisine.
After half a century in the space, Jack's was replaced by Meson Savilla by the early 1990's. The classic Spanish restaurant remains. A renovation to the upper floors completed in 2001 resulted in two apartments each on the first and second floors, and six furnished rooms on the third.
What was most likely the archway between the Radley's parlor and dining room is now a kitchenette. via alonzoproperties.nyc
photographs by the author
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