Thursday, April 7, 2022

The 1895 John Wolfe Stables - 247-259 West 16th Street


Following James McIntosh's death in 1871, his executor sold his four-story brick house at 247 West 16th Street.  It sat 226 feet east of Eighth Avenue, however a typo listed it at 266 feet from the avenue.  When the purchaser, B. Kennelly, discovered the error, he refused to take title.  The tangled affair was still being argued in court in the summer of 1889.  Six years later, in 1895, both that house and the one next door, at 249 West 16th Street, were sold to John Wolfe.

Wolfe demolished the buildings and erected a three-story brick boarding and livery stable on the site.  Typically, its wide carriage bay was centered within the base, flanked by a pedestrian entrance to the right.  The utilitarian design included stone lintels and slightly projecting bandcourses that defined each story.  Double doors on the top floor opened below a heavy protruding beam, allowing heavy bales of hay to be hoisted up.  An attractive paneled parapet sat atop the cornice.

The ground floor held stalls and storage for vehicles--buggies, coaches, wagons and carriages.   Because it was both a boarding and a livery stable, vehicles were available for rent, not dissimilar to a rental car business today.  No doubt much to the annoyance of the neighbors, in the rear yard was a manure pit, necessary for the daily cleaning of the stalls.   The second floor provided housing for stable employees, and the third was mostly for storage.

An employee named Smith lived here with his wife and teenaged son in 1897.  The boy, John, attempted to catch a streetcar on Broadway and West 75th Street on June 27 that year.  The New York Times reported that he "endeavored to board the car by the front platform while it was moving.  Just as he reached the car he tripped and fell beneath the car, the wheels passing over his right leg, which was crushed."

A policeman arrived at the stable building to notify the 16-year-old's parents that he was at Roosevelt Hospital.  "At the hospital, it is said that he will not recover," said the article.

Another employee, Frank Carroll, landed in jail the following year.  Although obviously highly familiar with horses, one got the better of him on May 9, 1898.  The Sun reported, "Carroll was driving a horse along Jackson avenue, Long Island City, on Monday evening.  It became unmanageable and ran away.  The horse knocked Miss Eva Beevers, 15 years a bicycle she was riding up Jackson avenue.  Four other bicyclists were run down."

Eva Beevers, who was knocked unconscious, required stitches in her head and was too shaken up to leave her bed the following day, when Carroll appeared before a judge.  "Carroll said he could not manage the horse," said The Sun.  "He expressed a great deal of regret for the accident."  Magistrate Hoaley was not especially moved.  He held Carroll on $500 bond to await trial.  Carroll's problems increased six months later then Eva's father, John W. Beevers, sued him for $15,000 damages (about $483,000 today).

Living on the second floor in 1900 was Henry Francis Carley and his wife, Elizabeth McAdam Carley.  The couple was married in March 1891.  Elizabeth became suspicious when Henry began spending extended periods away from home.  An investigation proved her mistrust was well-founded.  On June 11, 1900 The New York Press reported, "Carley was arrested on Saturday morning.  He was found hidden under the bed in his home, where he has been living with his second wife, who was Mary Elizabeth King.  He married her on May 6, 1899, after telling her that his first wife was dead, she says."  Both Mrs. Carleys appeared in court to testify against Henry.

Customers who boarded their horses and vehicles in the stable most often used the address in advertising vehicles for sale.  On November 19, 1901, for instance, an advertisement in The New York Times read, "A landau, in first-class condition; rubber tires &c.; made by Brewster & Co.  Can be seen any day until 2 o'clock at private stable, 247 and 249 West 16th St."

On May 22, 1903 the Wolfe Estate sold the property to The Childs Unique Dairy Co. for $30,000--just over $900,000 in today's money.  Brothers Samuel S. and William Childs had incorporated the company in 1898 to "establish and operate restaurants in New York City and elsewhere."  The Childs Restaurants were among the first dining chains in the United States.

Managing the 16th Street operation was James J. O'Neill, who moved his family into one of the second floor spaces.  The O'Neills would live in the building more than a decade.  When the Childs firm purchased 251 West 16th Street in January 1913, The New York Press commented, "The Childs Company, restaurant keepers...owns the adjoining property, Nos. 247 and 249 West Sixteenth street."

By the early 1920's, horses had mostly been replaced by motorized vehicles in New York City.  In 1923 Childs altered the building to a garage on the ground floor, an office and shop on the second, and factory space on the third.  The ground floor was leased to D. Liben & Company.  Here motorists could not only have their cars serviced, but they could buy Firestone tires here.

In 1941 the beam, once used for hoisting hay bales, was still in place.  via the NYC Dept of Records & Information Services

The building continued to be operated as a garage until around 1960, when the Hercules Flooring Company moved in.  Related firms like the Thruway Building Service, Inc. and Wearever Floors, Inc. shared the address until the late 1970's when the New Space Stage, an off-off Broadway theater opened.

More recently, the second and third floors have been converted to residential use, one apartment per floor.  No Particular Hours, a "vintage and consignment" shop occupies the former garage level.

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

No comments:

Post a Comment