Thursday, August 25, 2022

The Amazingly Transformed 45 East 74th Street


Surprisingly, the pristine Victorian facade is only about 20 years old.  photograph by the author

In 1879 architect James E. Ware designed a row of six brownstone-fronted houses at 37 through 47 East 74th Street.  Four stories tall and 19-feet wide, they were designed in the popular Queen Anne style.   The developer, John Davidson, sold 45 East 74th Street to Addraetta (known as Addie) W. Goodwin in 1881 for $32,500 (about $889,000 today).  Addie was a self-reliant woman.

She was born on September 30, 1849 in South Berwick, Maine,  where her father, Mark Fernald Goodwin, owned a large farm, a brick-making factory and a lumber business.  Unmarried, Addie was a real estate operator, one of the few professions in the 19th century in which women could compete on a nearly equal basis with their male counterparts.

Six years before moving into the East 74th Street house, on May 6, 1875, Addie's father died and she inherited the 100-acre ancestral estate, becoming the sixth generation of Goodwins to own it.  Her mother, Dorcas Bartlett Frost Goodwin, continued to live in the house, while Annie summered there.

Then on September 30, 1884 Addie married shipbuilder  and former cabinetmaker Nathaniel Knowlton in South Berwick.   Knowlton retired from boat building and the couple moved permanently to the Maine farm where he "specialized in fruit culture."

Addie leased the East 74th Street house for several years.  An advertisement in the New York Herald on September 22, 1889 gave the rental price at the equivalent of about $5,000 per month in 2022 dollars.  She sold it to real estate operator John T. Farley in March 1891 for $25,000, who resold it in January the following year to Samuel W. Korn for $36,000.  His astounding short-term profit would be around $336,000 today.

Born in 1845 at Ostrow, Germany, Korn arrived in America in 1855, his family first settling at Olean, New York.  He and his wife, Jennie, had two sons, Albert and Harold, and a daughter, Florence.

Korn had been involved in his brother's retail clothing store in Olean, taking over control after his brother's retirement.  He begun his New York career in 1870 by partnering in the wholesale clothing business Korn & Holzman.  Upon his partner's death in 1888, the firm's name was changed to S. W. Korn & Co., and after his sons were brought into the business, to S. W. Korn, Sons & Co.

Never forgetting his German rooms, Korn was a member of the Freundschaft Club.  He was also highly involved in Jewish charities, and in 1895 became a trustee of the Jewish Theological Seminary.  The family's summer home was in West End, New Jersey.

The Korns had been in the East 74th Street residence for more than a decade before Samuel transferred title to Jennie in October 1904.  The delay was somewhat surprising, since the wives of wealthy businessmen commonly held title to real property as a matter of security.

The house was the scene of Florence's wedding reception on October 15, 1907.  She was married to Milton Lehman in the Madison Avenue B’nai Jeshurun synagogue.

The following summer the Korns leased the house to the Smith family.  The family narrowly dodged a horrific tragedy while staying here.  Susan Smith took her two children, four-year-old Mary and 16-month-old Michael, to see the Labor Day parade on September 7, 1908.  While they stood among the crowd, two horses, spooked by a band, "plunged wildly," as worded by the New York Herald.

Mary and Michael Smith, following their harrowing ordeal.  The Evening Telegram, September 7, 1908

The Evening Telegram reported that the horses jumped to the sidewalk, "striking the two children with their front feet [they] tore them from the mother's grasp."  The article continued, "The two children were knocked down, and falling directly under the horses, were about to be trampled upon, when the horses were seized by a policeman and held back while some of the many spectators dragged the children to safety."  They were taken to a nearby house when "it was found that except for shock and fright, they were all right."

Samuel W. Korn died in the East 74th Street house on December 21, 1909 at the age of 61.  He left $5,000 to various charities, and bequeathed the New Jersey house to Jennie, along with an annuity of $2,500 per year (about $76,800 today).  Men's Wear magazine noted, "It is stated in his will that no other bequest is made in behalf of Mrs. Korn, because he made ample provision for her during his life."

Jennie Korn remained in the house until 1926, when she sold it to Dr. Roy Upham and his wife, the former Edna Norma Tingley.  Born in Dartmouth, Massachusetts on March 16, 1879, Upham had studied medicine in New York, Vienna, London and Cairo.  By now he was a well-known gastroenterologist, and in addition to his practice lectured at the New York Medical College.

45 West 74th Street, seen here when the Uphams owned it, is the high-stooped house to the right.  via the NYC Dept of Records & Information Services

Living in the house with the Uphams in 1940 were their cook, 36-year-old Martha Pasour, and John Simon, the houseman, who was 59.

Dr. Roy Upham was widowed when he died at the age of 76 on January 5, 1956.  His brilliant career was lauded by the newspapers reporting on his death.  He had founded the National Gastroenterological Association, as well as the American College of Gastroenterology, and in 1954 was named the outstanding alumnus of the year by the New York Medical College.

Later that the year, the vintage house was "awkwardly renovated," as worded by a restoration architect years later, into a multi-unit dwelling.  The renovations, completed in 1957, resulting in the removal of the 19th century architectural details, including the stoop, and giving the façade a veneer of brick.

Then, in 2009, Italian film producer Valerio Morabito purchased "the distressed townhouse," as described by The New York Times's Robin Finn later, for $10 million.  He hired renowned restoration architect Joseph Pell Lombardi to fix the mid-century vandalism.  The results were astounding.

Lombardi fashioned a reproduction 19th century Italianate façade with only the minutest hints--like the somewhat suspicious cornice--that this was not a 125-year-old survivor.  A columned portico sat above the stone stoop, and Renaissance-inspired pediments crowned the parlor and second floor windows.  The remarkable rehabilitation cost Marabito as much as he had initially paid for the property.

image via joseph

On November 15, 2013 The New York Times reported, "An ugly duckling townhouse that was the beneficiary of an ambitious $10 million neo-Roman makeover to restore its original 1879 panache with a striking façade of imported Italian limestone and a cornice that hides a rooftop soaking pool sold for $26 million."  The buyer was chief executive of commercial developer firm SOHO China, Zhang Xin. has no authorization to reuse the content of this blog

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