Thursday, June 30, 2022

The 1842 James W. Hale House - 132 West 13th Street


A row of 12 handsome Greek Revival homes was completed in 1842 by the estate of John Remsen, on West 13th Street, between Sixth and Seventh Avenues.  At three stories tall and 22-feet wide, they were intended for financially comfortable families, and exhibited the expected elements of the style--beefy stone pilasters upholding a corniced entablature framing the doorway, brownstone sills and lintels, and simple modillioned cornices.

James W. Hale moved into 108 West 13th Street (renumbered 132 in 1868).  His business address was listed as "letter office, 70 Wall Street" and he was making major changes in the way Americans communicated.  Writing in the Express Gazette on February 10, 1893, a journalist named Macauly recalled:

He was indeed not only the first to use [postage] stamps in America, but was the originator of our cheap postage and the promoter of the express system, both at home and for foreign lands.  He also originated the money order system, and, in fact, was the prime mover in the great progress which characterizes the postal and express system.

Born in Boston in 1801, Hale had early in his career recognized problems in the postal system.  Macauly reminded his readers, "This [problem was] of its costing as much to send a letter from Buffalo to New York as it did a barrel of flour."  In 1843, the year after the West 13th was completed, Hale advertised in the Boston newspapers:  "Cheap postage.  I shall leave Boston on Thursday, the 15th, for New York, and will carry all letters which may be left at No. 13 Court Street before 4 P.M. at six cents each.  James W. Hale"

Hale also made his mark by originating the express system.  Macaulty said, "Prior to 1837 there was no way of sending a package from this city to Boston except as freight, which might take a week."  Hale hired an acquaintance, William F. Harnden, to make three trips per week back-and-forth to Boston carrying small packages--starting out with only a carpet bag to hold them. 

Despite the "grand results" of his businesses, as Macaulay described them, and the fine home in which his family resided, James W. Hale seems to have closely watched his finances.  He was shocked by the Tax Assessors' valuing his personal estate in 1846 at $2,000.  The minutes of the Board of Aldermen for December 22 noted he petitioned "That the valuation of the personal estate of James W. Hall [sic], at 108 West Thirteenth Street, for 1846, be reduced from two thousands dollars to one thousands dollars, he having sworn that he was not worth that sum."  (It is highly doubtful that Hale was not worth $2,000, its equivalent amount being just $70,000 today.)

Another hint at Hale's parsimoniousness can be seen in an advertisement in the Morning Courier and New-York Enquirer on April 27, 1847:

Wanted--An American woman, or a German who speaks good English, as cook in a private family, and to do the washing and ironing.

The cook was the most highly paid of a domestic staff, and to ask one to double as a laundress was a rather surprising (and to a veteran cook, offensive) cost-savings move.

The Hale family left West 13th Street in 1860, followed in the house by Rev. William Allen Hallock and his family.  Born on June 2, 1794, he had married Fannie Leffingwell Lathrop in 1833.  The couple had three daughters, Martha, Harriet Joanna, and Frances Elizabeth; and a son, William, Jr.  

Rev. Hallock had founded the American Tract Society in 1825 and had been its secretary since 1826.  He came from an old American family, his first ancestor, Peter Hallock, having arrived at Southold, Long Island, around 1640.  While living here, Hallock would begin work on an exhaustive family genealogy.

from The Hallock-Holyoke Pedigree and Collateral Branches in the United States, 1906 (copyright expired)

Frances (known as Fanny) and her husband, John Edgar Johnson, had moved into the house with her parents.  They had hardly settled in when the population of the West 13th house increased by one.  On December 14, 1860, John and Fannie had a son, William Edgar Johnson.  Sadly, he would have a short life.  He died five months later on April 21, 1861, and his funeral was held in the parlor on April 23.  

There would be another funeral there five years later.  Fannie Leffington Lathrop died on March 10, 1866.   Rev. Hallock was remarried in 1868 to Mary A. R. Lathrop (possibly a relative of his first wife.).

It was around that time that the Johnsons moved into their own home.  (It was most likely somewhat of a relief to the aging Rev. Hallock, since the couple had seven children.)  It was common for even well-to-do families to take in respectable boarders and by 1870 the Hallocks were offering to "give a similar family a good and permanent home; Christian people preferred."

Rev. William A. Hallock died at the age of 86 on October 2, 1880.  His funeral was held in the University Place Presbyterian Church on October 5. 

It is unclear whether Mary Hallock sold or leased the house to the widow of Rev. Samuel Seabury, who had died in 1872.  Seabury was the grandson of Bishop Samuel Seabury, the first American Episcopal bishop.  On January 11, 1882, The Evening Telegram noted, "Mrs. Samuel Seabury and Miss Seabury of No. 132 West Thirteenth street, will receive on Monday next."

Benjamin D. Smith purchased 132 West 13th Street by 1886.  His residency should be cut short when the 59-year-old died in the house on January 17, 1867.  It was purchased next by Edward Mitchell LeMoyne.

Born was born in 1834.  His father, Adolphe Desire Joseph LeMoyne had come to America from France in 1829 and founded one of the oldest cotton commission firms in New York, LeMoyne & Bell.  When Edward was taken into the firm, the name was changed to LeMoyne & Sons.  The Yonkers Statesman said, "Their principal business was shipping cotton to France."  He and his wife, Josephine Maria, had four daughters.

As had been the case with Smith, LeMoyne would not live in his new home for long.  According to the Yonkers Statesman, on May 22, 1889 "he was on his way downstairs to go to business when the fatal seizure took place, and his death occurred within a few minutes."  The 55-year-old had suffered a heart attack.  As had been the case so many times before, his funeral was held in the parlor on May 25.

The house was sold to John J. Budd and his wife, Mary A. Budd.  They paid $18,000, or about $522,000 in today's money.  Living with them was their daughter, Almira, and their granddaughter, Julia Alice Budd.  Julia was the orphaned daughter of the Budds' only other child, John J. Budd, Jr.  He had died from pneumonia after having been caught in the blizzard of 1888.

The scene of so many funerals over the years, the parlor was the setting of a joyous event on the evening of December 23, 1896, when Almira Budd was married to Abraham Slaight.  The Sun reported that the ceremony took place in "the front drawing room, decked in Yuletide fashion," and noted "A reception for relatives and intimate friends and a supper followed the ceremony."

The newlyweds remained in the house with the Budds.  On March 7, 1902, Almira hosted a reception for her parents' 50th wedding anniversary.  The house was well-populated by now.  The New York Herald said, "The aged couple were assisted in receiving by their only daughter, Mrs. Slaight, and by their five granddaughters."  The article said, "Following the reception there was a supper served by Mazetti and later informal dancing."

Two months earlier, the house had been the scene of another happy event.  On January 8, 1902, Julia Alice Budd was married to Harvey Millington Ridabock in St. John the Evangelist Church on West 11th Street and Waverly Place.  

The New York Herald reported, "Invitations have been issued by Mr. and Mrs. John J. Budd for the marriage of their granddaughter, Miss Julia Alice Budd, to Mr. Harvey."  The New York Herald added, "The wedding reception will be held at the residence of the bride's grandparents, No. 132 West Thirteenth street."

The Budd house was inherited in equal shares by Almira's five daughters.   They sold it in April 1920 to Henry C. Davidson, who resold it to Joseph Ettlinger.   Upon his death on September 25, 1934, the house was assessed at $25,000--approximately $483,000 today.

At some point the cornice was removed and a brick parapet installed.  Although the architect used brownstone trim, the addition was otherwise architecturally inappropriate.

In the third quarter of the 20th century, Stephanie Hawthorn lived here.  She was involved with the New York Mycological Society, which held weekly field trips during the warm months.  The New York Times described them on October 15, 1977, as being "held within a 60-mile radius of New York City and usually include about a five-mild walk, informal lectures and mushroom 'show and tell' sessions."

The venerable residence managed to remain a single family home until 1997, when it was converted to two duplex apartments.

photographs by the author
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