Tuesday, July 12, 2022

Henry Anderson's 1896 316 West 82nd Street


Frederick Haas was busy constructing apartment, or flat, buildings in the 1880's, many of them on the Upper West Side.  In 1895 he hired architect Henry Anderson to design another, on the south side of West 82nd Street, between West End Avenue and Riverside Drive.  It was a neighborhood quickly filling with private homes of the well-to-do.

Completed the following year, 316 West 82 Street was five stories tall and accommodated six families.  Anderson designed the 25-foot-wide structure in the Renaissance Revival style.  The entrance, above a short stoop, was set to the side, under a portico with Scamozzi columns.  The upper floors were clad in yellow Roman brick and trimmed in limestone.  The  paneled piers that flanked the second floor windows and the long frieze at this level were intricately carved.  The top floor strayed from the theme below.  Its windows were fully arched with prominent scrolled keystones, and decorative carved rosettes and plaques decorated the brickwork.

An advertisement for an apartment described, "eight rooms and bath, all large, light and handsomely decorated; everything modern and attractive."  They filled with affluent residents, including its owner, Frederick Haas, and his wife.

Among the initial tenants were George Alden Sanford, a lay assistant with the West End College Church; piano manufacturer Charles Alonzo Wessell and his wife; and Hutchins Hapgood, who worked for the Commercial Advertiser.

Perhaps the most celebrated tenant at the time was George William Warren.  Born in 1826, he was an organist and world-renowned hymnist.  In 1870, after working for several prestigious congregations, he was made organist for St. Thomas's Church on Fifth Avenue.  When he retired in 1900, he was made organist emeritus.

Musical Courier noted, "Mr. Warren came from Pilgrim stock, his ancestor, Richard Warren, having come over on the Mayflower.  Another ancestor, William Warren, was wounded at the Battle of Bunker Hill."  Among the well-known hymns he composed were the National Hymn, or God of Our Fathers; and Rock of Ages, Cleft for Me.

Warren suffered a stroke in March 1902.  It was followed by another a few days later, and he died in his apartment on March 16.  The New York Times commented, "It is said of Dr. Warren that no one on the United States' list of organists and church music composers was better known than he both here and broad."

Also living here were the family of Congressman John Henry Ketcham.  He and his wife, Augusta, had two grown sons, Henry B. and Charles B., and a daughter, Ethel B. Ketcham.  Henry was an attorney and Charles was a broker.  Although Henry was married and lived with his wife and children on East 58th Street, during the summer when they were away, he would stay here when in town.

Like all upscale apartment buildings, 316 West 82nd Street had hallboys--young uniformed men who were on hand to run errands, bring mail, deliver messages, and such.  On September 30, 1903 a new hallboy, 18-year-old Harry Smith (or Miller--he used two surnames) was hired.  What Frederick Haas may not have known in hiring him, was that he had just spent several years in the House of Refuge, sent there by his mother for stealing from her.

Two days later Augusta was alone in the apartment.  Her husband had taken Ethel to Nantucket, Henry had left that morning to be with his family in Massachusetts, and Charles, too, was in the country.  She started out to do shopping at around 10:30.  As she left the building, she told the hallboy that she expected her sister and she would be home by 11:00.  Harry Smith saw an opportunity.

But Augusta was not gone an hour.  She returned half an hour later.  The Poughkeepsie newspaper, The Evening Enterprise, said, "When she opened the door she saw that the furniture had been moved about and that the drawers of a bureau were pulled out.  As she walked toward a closet, looking about her all the time for an explanation of what she saw, the new hallboy spring from the closet and made straight for her.  He held a piece of lead pipe in his uplifted right hand."

Harry Smith hit the 60-year-old woman over the head, then hit her again on the shoulder, breaking her collarbone.  Augusta later said she pleaded, "Don't kill me, Harry.  I can't do anything to hurt you."

Instead, Harry grabbed her by the throat and strangled her.  When she lost consciousness he removed her collarette (a sort of necktie), tied it tightly around her throat, "and left Mrs. Ketcham for dead," said the Brooklyn Daily Eagle.  Harry made off with $5 in cash and Augusta's $50 gold watch.  He left the apartment door slightly open in his escape.  It caught the attention of a neighbor later, who discovered Augusta unconscious on the floor.

A devout Christian Scientist, Augusta "forbade those people in the house either to send for a physician or to notify her family, every member of which was out of town at the time," said The Evening Enterprise.  She walked, unaided to the Christian Science Church.  When she returned, despite having a broken collarbone and bruised face, "she assured everybody that she was in excellent condition."

A general alarm was sent out to find her assailant.  But finding him would not end in his imprisonment.  The Evening Enterprise noted, "Mrs. Ketcham, it is said, told the police that even if the hallboy was arrested, she would refuse to make any complaint against him."

In 1911 William Stephen Devery had already had a remarkable career.  In 1878 he was appointed to the police force.  A favorite of Tammany Hall, especially of leader Richard Cocker, Devery rose in the ranks quickly.  Although convicted of bribery and extortion in February 1897, he was promoted to inspector the following year, to Deputy Chief on February 14, 1898, and to Chief of Police on June 30, 1898.  Known best as "Big Bill," he was forced out by Police Commissioner Theodore Roosevelt's reforms.  He sold his opulent West End Avenue mansion and left town--for a while.

William "Big Bill" Devery.  (original source unknown)

On August 11, 1911 the Brooklyn Daily Eagle reported, "'Big Bill' Devery found that he could not resist the call of the city," and had "reconsidered his decision."  The article said "He has bought the five-story apartment house at 316 West Eighty-second street.  It is said that he will occupy one of the suites himself, and that another will be the home of his daughter, Mrs. Fink."  (Devery's 19-year-old daughter, Anna, had eloped with Edward Fink in 1903.)

In the summer of 1919 teenaged sisters Kay and Joan Boyle, who lived in Cincinnati, moved temporarily into the apartment of their aunt, Madge Boyle, here.  Kay took a summer course in architectural drawing, and then in September enrolled in the New York School of Fine and Applied Art (later Parsons School of Fine and Applied Arts).  Meanwhile, Joan was studying fashion design.  Kay Boyle would go on to become a novelist, short story writer, political activist and winner of the O. Henry Award.

The residents of 316 West 82nd Street were gradually becoming less affluent.  Madge Boyle, for instance, worked in a department store.  Meta Schumann's apartment doubled as her studio in 1923.  The pianist accompanied professional vocalists and taught piano from her apartment.

True change would come after the building was sold to Lily Weiner in 1938.  She converted the building, where entertainments like debutante teas had been held a few decades earlier, to an SRO with 40 rooms.

That configuration lasted until a renovation completed in 1970 resulted in two apartments per floor.  They were remodeled again in 1986 by architect and developer Joseph H. Gardner.

And while the facade could stand a gentle cleaning, other than replacement windows little has outwardly changed since it opened in 1896.

photographs by the author
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