Saturday, July 23, 2022

The 1855 Elisha J. Jenkins House - 13 West 9th Street


The second floor windows were originally fronted by a cast iron balcony, as seen in the once-identical house to the left.

In 1855 iron merchant Henry Pierson completed construction of three brick-and-brownstone homes on Ninth Street, just west of Fifth Avenue.  His decision to divide the parcel into three 17-foot-wide houses, rather than two more commodious structures, is a bit surprising, given the upscale tenor of the new neighborhood.  His architect chose the Anglo-Italianate style, less common in New York than its high-stooped Italianate sister.  

Like the identical houses on either side, 61 Ninth Street (renumbered 13 West 9th Street in 1868) had a rusticated brownstone base above a two-step porch.  The three upper floors were clad in red brick and trimmed in brownstone, their architrave frames sadly shaved off today.  The full-height second floor windows were fronted by a cast iron balcony.

Pierson had built on land owned by James F. D. Lanier, and Lanier now retained possession of this house--apparently purchasing it from Pierson.  He would lease it for years to well-do-to families.

Until 1861 the house was home to the Elisha J. Jenkins family.  Jenkins was the principal in a handkerchief business on Park Place.  Dr. Julius Homberger lived here briefly--in 1861 and 1862--as he worked on the upcoming American Journal of Ophthalmology.  He was the founder and editor of what would be the first such journal.  The first of the monthly editions was published in 1862.

As a side note, things did not go especially well for Homberger a few years later.  At the 19th Convention of the American Medical Association in Chicago in May 1868 he was pressured to tender his resignation from the association.  It was then moved that his name "be stricken from the rolls" because he had "violated the code of ethics by which the members are bound."  Dr. Arnold, of Georgia, opined, "The acts of this Dr. Homberger were disgraceful to the profession."

In the meantime, broker Edmund A. Benedict and his family were living in the West 9th Street house.   They would remain until 1872 when Ellen J. Smith, the widow of James Smith, moved in with her daughter, Belle.

The Smiths had barely moved in when, on April 18, 1872, The Evening Telegram reported, "A very enjoyable calico surprise party was tendered to Miss Belle Smith, of 13 West Ninth street, last Friday evening."  Calico parties were just becoming popular.  The young women arrived with an envelope containing a tie, while wearing a rosette of the same fabric.  The gentlemen would then choose an envelope, find the girl wearing the matching rosette, and dance with her.

Even well-to-do families took in boarders, and Ella Smith's were respectable professionals.  In 1872 and 1873, for instance, they were Samuel D. Jones and Willard B. Farwell, who both worked 71 Broadway.  Jones was a manager, and Farwell a superintendent.  The following year Rev. Charles P. Bush moved in.

In 1878 Emiline (sometimes spelled Emmeline) W. Randall, the widow of journalist George H. Randall moved in with her daughter, Jane Adelaide.  She, too, took in a boarder, hers being printer George M. D. Randall that year.

Adelaide (she dropped the "Jane" from her name professionally) was emerging on the operatic stage.  She had debuted in New York in a charity concert at Steinway Hall in February 1874 and was now with the Emma Abbott Opera Company.  But things were not going well, and on July 27, 1879 The New York Times reported, "It is understood that Miss Adelaide Randall has definitely resigned from the Emma Abbott Opera Company."

Adelaide Randall, from the Gilbert & Sullivan Archives.

It appears that Adelaide had been given an offer she could not turn down.  Two months earlier the newspaper had reported, "An English opera company of decided merit has been organized for next season."  The article listed among the members Adelaide Randall.

The Randalls' residency would be relatively short-lived.  On March 6, 1883, James F. D. Lanier's estate sold the property to Edward L. and Gertrude Dwight Partridge for $14,500--about $386,000 today.  A physician, Partridge had graduated from the College of Physicians & Surgeons in 1875.  

He was a member of the Academy of Medicine, the Medical & Surgical Society, and other medical societies.  His non work-related memberships included the Century and University Clubs, the New England Society, the  Society of Colonial Wars and the Huguenot Society of America.

The Partridges moved to 19 Fifth Avenue in 1888, selling 13 West 9th Street to John H. Boynton.  He and his wife remained until 1899 when the family of New York Supreme Court Judge George L. Ingraham moved in.

Born in New York City in 1847, George Landon Ingraham had studied law in his father's office, and graduated from Columbia College Law School in 1869.  He was elected to the Supreme Court in 1891, one of seven such judges.  His exclusive social club memberships reflected his affluent position--the Metropolitan, the Manhattan, the New York Yacht, the New York Athletic and the Tuxedo Clubs among them.

When this photo was taken of Ingraham in 1910, he was the Presiding Justice of the New York State Supreme Court Appellate Division.  from the collection of the New York Supreme Court

Ingaham and his wife, the former Georgina Lent, had one son, Daniel Phoenix (who went by his middle name).  He had graduated from Harvard the year before the his parents purchased the house.  

As had repeatedly been the case, the Ingrahams did not remain long at 13 West 9th Street.  They sold it in 1904 Katherine Maria Cooper.  

Katherine came from an old New York family.  Her ancestors on her father's side had landed in Connecticut in the early 18th century, and her mother descended from the Rapalje family, who left Amsterdam in the 17th century.  She was born in Brooklyn to William B. Cooper, an East Indies shipping merchant, and Margaret Maria Cooper.   The family's large estate at the time, Elmwood, would later become the Prospect Park neighborhood.

Moving into the house with Katherine was her twin brother, Theodore Polhemus Cooper, who also never married.  He, like his predecessors in the house, held memberships to exclusive clubs like the Metropolitan.  The New-York Tribune noted that he was "well known in Newport and Bar Harbor society."

Theodore suffered a fatal heart attack on July 28, 1919.  In reporting his death, the New-York Tribune noted that he "inherited a large estate in the Carroll Park section of Brooklyn, and devoted most of his time to the development and management of that estate, which was farm land when he received it, but which now is covered by residences and business buildings."

The following year, on December 28, 1920, Katherine Maria Cooper died in the house.  She and her bother were both interred in the family plot in Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn.

District Attorney Edward Swann purchased the West 9th Street house from Katherine's estate in 1922.  He had married Margaret W. Geisinger a year earlier.  The wedding had come as a surprise to many of his colleagues who, according to The New York Times, "had come to regard him as a confirmed bachelor."  Indeed, Swann was 59 years old at the time of his wedding.  He and his bride would summer at his country estate in Rockland County. 

Prior to his resignation in 1916, Swann had been a judge in the court of general sessions, and before that from November 1902 to March 1903, was a congressman.  The year he and Margaret moved into 13 West 9th Street, he retired. 

Edward Swann in 1917.  from the collection of the Library of Congress

The Swanns remained in the house until July 1938, when they sold it and moved to Sewalls Point, Florida where Edward Swann died on September 19, 1945.

The house continued as a single family home until 1990 when a renovation resulted in a medical office and one apartment on the ground floor, one apartment on the second, two on the third and one on the fourth floor.

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

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