Thursday, January 26, 2023

The Jacob C Bogert House - 66 Bank Street


The Bank of New York purchased eight plots of land in Greenwich Village for a northern branch when yellow fever broke out in New York City in 1798.  The lane took the name Bank Street.  A second deadly epidemic erupted in 1822, causing panicked throngs to flock to Greenwich Village.  The population explosion sparked a flurry of construction, making builders like Andrew Lockwood busy men.  Throughout the 1830's and '40s, he operated Lockwood & Company from 17 Tenth Street and erected rows of speculative houses in Greenwich Village.  

In 1841 Lockwood erected two dissimilar side-by-side houses at 52 and 54 Bank Street (renumbered 64 and 66 in 1866).  Three stories tall and faced in red brick, 54 Bank Street was an ample 26-feet wide.  Its entrance, flanked by narrow sidelights, sat atop a two-stepped porch.  A narrow horse walk, or passageway to the rear yard sat adjacent to the doorway.  A simple wooden cornice with block modillions completed the design.

Another well-known builder, Jacob C. Bogert, was living on Broome Street at the time, but by 1851 he had moved his family into the Bank Street house.  He and his wife, the former Almira Frost, had five children, John A., Harriet Louisa, Catharine A., William Patton, and Susan M.

While, like Lockwood, he constructed speculative residences in Greenwich Village, he also worked on commission.  In 1854, for instance, he billed the city for $721 (about $24,000 in 2023) for "sundry work and material for altering" the old brownstone Superior Court Building on Chambers Street.  (Four years later the city would plan construction on the lavish Tweed Courthouse on the site.)

In the decades before apartment houses, it was not uncommon for even affluent families to accept boarders.  For the entire time the Bogert family lived here they had a boarder, William H. Hall, who ran a boot and shoe business on Pearl Street.

The Bogerts' son, John A., enlisted in the 9th Regiment in 1861.  He would attain the rank of Lieutenant Colonel, serving in the 103rd Regiment, United States Colored Troops.  (Black Union soldiers were commanded by white officers only.)  On February 9, 1863 he wrote his father a letter from Camp Bliss in Virginia, requesting that he immediately send his commission and "all other papers" which he left at home so he could collect payment for his service.  He added, "please be very careful and mail it with as much care as you can so that you may be sure it will arrive safe and all right."

When the family received the letter, they were preparing to move.  In 1862 Jacob C. Bogert had begun construction of a handsome home on the plot next door, at 56 Bank Street.  He moved his family into the completed residence in 1863, and leased his former home to Dr. James Ross.  

The city took on the problem of infectious disease epidemics in April 1864 by organizing the Council of Hygiene and Public Health.  It inaugurated a "system of sanitary inquiry" by which inspectors were appointed throughout the city to investigate "fever-nests and insalubrious quarters."  Dr. James Ross was appointed the inspector of the 15th District on the Lower East Side.  His area of responsibility, filled squalid tenements, stretched from 14th Street at the north, to Rivington Street, and from Avenue B to Clinton Street.  Ross nevertheless found time to tend to his Greenwich Village patients.  He advertised office hours "until 9 a.m. and after 5 p.m."

Dr. Ross and his family remained at 66 Bank Street until 1870, when Charles W. Crosley took over the lease.  Crosley was a manufacturer of "silk and worsted trimmings" at 920 Broadway.  The Crosley family stayed for nine years.  

In 1879 William P. Bogert and his wife, the former Emma Sebring, who had been living next door with William's parents, moved into the house.  The couple were married in 1865 and had two children.  Like his father, William was highly interested in public education and had been appointed to the Board of Education in 1865.

After the family had owned 66 Bank Street for more than half a century, the estate of William Bogert sold it to Charles Duttweiller in 1904.  He and his family had owned and lived at 68 Bank Street since 1887.  Charles died on June 10, 1916.  His daughter, Anna, inherited 66 Bank Street, and sold it to John R. and Flora A. Sulzer in 1920.

image via the NYC Dept. of Records & Information Services

Sulzer was born in Switzerland and was a member of the accounting firm Riedell & Sulzer.  Earlier in his career he had been the C.P.A. for the Central Park Riding Academy.  He and Flora had one son.

Only two years after moving in, John R. Sulzer died in the Bank Street house on March 9, 1922.  His estate transferred title to the property to Flora two months later.

Living here by 1932 was Oscar Rosenthal, who formerly manufactured children's clothing.  It is unclear if the Depression drove him out of business, but according to The New York Sun, he had "suffered financial reverses."  His situation eventually overwhelmed him. 

On the evening of January 22, 1933, he visited his sister and her husband, Edward J. Solomon, who lived in the Chalfonte Hotel on West 70th Street.  Solomon was disabled and confined to a wheelchair.  When Rosenthal's sister left the room, the 66-year-old pulled a handgun from his coat and shot himself in the head.  The New York Sun said that Solomon, "who sat in a chair a few feet away, was powerless to prevent the act."

A renovation completed in 1954 resulted in a separate apartment on the third floor.  The outward appearance of the house, with its quirky, skinny side door, is virtually intact since the Bogerts updated the ironwork sometime after the Civil War.

photographs by the author
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