Tuesday, October 11, 2022

The 1890 Frank C. Hollister House - 264 West 77th Street

Like its neighbor to the left, the parlor transoms of 264 West 77th Street were originally filled with stained glass.  Sadly, one became the victim of a window air conditioner and the others were removed.

Real estate developer Dore Lyon began construction of four high-stooped rowhouses on the south side of West 77th Street between Broadway and West End Avenue in 1889.  Architect Edward Angell had designed the 18-foot-wide Romanesque Revival homes in a balanced A-B-B-A configuration.  No. 264 was a "B" model.  Four stories tall above the high basement, it featured a three-sided bay at the basement and parlor levels that terminated in a balcony with a fanciful pierced stone railing.  The arched windows of the second floor sat within a wide stone frame below a continuous eyebrow.  That treatment was carried on in the three openings of the top floor,  A blind attic "window" sat within the gable.

Although the house was completed in 1890, Lyon did not sell it until May 1894, when Cornelius H. Hackett paid $26,000 for the property (about $845,000 in 2022).  Only two years later he resold it to real estate operator Emma Louise Pinkney.  She immediately leased it to Dr. Frank Canfield Hollister and his wife, the former Elaine Sidell Shirley.

264 West 77th Street, a B model, is second from left along the row.

The Hollisters opened the house with a splash.  On December 11, 1896 The New York Times reported that they "gave a large reception at their new home, 264 West Seventy-seventh Street, yesterday afternoon."  Six women assisted Elaine in receiving, a number that became understandable when the article mentioned, "Six hundred invitations were issued."  The society caterer Clark served the supper.

The couple welcomed a baby boy, Frank, Jr., on August 4 the following year.  His sister, Gloria Elaine, would arrive in 1900.  The Hollisters country home was in Suffern, New York.

Born in 1866, Frank Canfield Hollister had graduated from Bellevue Medical College in 1890.  He ran his private practice from the residence, while acting as a house physician with Bellevue Hospital.  A modern man, he embraced the new automotive technology, and on June 7, 1899 was one of 27 men who organized the Automobile Club of America.  The New York Times reported the members "are interested in the self-propelling carriage as a pleasurable means of locomotion."

Both of Elaine's parents were deceased, and so living with the family was her sister, Grace Isabel Shirley.  Grace was married to Lester G. Wilson in the fashionable St. Thomas's Church on Fifth Avenue on October 28, 1909.  Elaine was her sister's matron of honor.

In April 1913 Emma L. Pinkney transferred the title to 264 West 77th Street to her sons, Cornelius Sidell and Townsend Pinkney.  They continued to lease the house to the Hollister family.

Twenty-three years after he was born in the residence, Frank Canfield Hollister, Jr's. engagement to Muriel Adair Wilson was announced on December 26, 1920.

At the time of his engagement, Frank's father was spreading himself thin.  In addition to Dr. Hollister's work with Bellevue, he was a visiting physician with the St. Elizabeth's and Gouverneur Hospitals.

The Hollisters were at their Suffern home on November 30, 1929 when Frank Canfield Hollister suffered a fatal heart attack at the age of 62.  The New York Times noted, "For more than thirty years, Dr. Hollister had been a practitioner of medicine in New York and, to a lesser extent, in Suffern."

Within a month, Elaine Hollister left the house she had called home for more than three decades.  In January 1930 Townsend Pinkney (Cornelius had died in 1921) leased the 264 West 77th Street to another physician, Dr. Victor Gross.

Gross remained in the house through 1935, after which it was unofficially altered to apartments.  A formal renovation completed in 1971 resulted in a total of eight apartments within the building.

The renovations were not kind to Edward Angell's 1889 design.  Stripped of its stained glass transoms and given unsympathetic replacement windows, the facade has been punctured to accommodate air conditioners.  It is, however, the only house of the row to retain its high stone stoop, a surprising and fortunate circumstance.

photographs by the author
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