The architectural firm of Lamb & Wheeler designed a row of high-stooped brownstone homes for real estate developer Anthony Mowbray in 1879. Their Queen Anne design was on the cutting edge of domestic fashion. Completed in 1880, at least one of the homes, 18 East 67th Street, was purchased by its designer, Hugh Lamb. Lamb often dealt in real estate, so the transaction was not surprising.
He sold the 25-foot-wide house in March 1883 to John J. Brown for $65,000--about $1.8 million in 2023. The sale triggered a rapid turnover of owners. Brown sold the house the same year to Rudolph Lichtenstein, who lost it in foreclosure in 1884. It was purchased by Julius Katzenberg who quickly resold it to George H. Lichtenhein and his wife.
Lichtenhein was a partner in the cloak importing firm of Pach & Lichtenhein. The Lichtenheins had two young adult children, a daughter and son. The family received horrific news on the evening of July 6, 1885. On the weekend of July 4th, Henry G. Lichtenhein was invited with several others as the guests of Mrs. P. F. Gardiner. On July 7, The New York Times wrote, "A merry party of young people went from this city last Friday evening to spend the Fourth and Sunday on Gardiner's Island, in the Sound." There were seven young men and three of them took their sisters along. "Everyone had a jolly time," said the article.
The stage they ordered to take them to the 7:00 train back to the city was delayed on Sunday evening, so the men arranged a carriage to take the ladies, and then they walked. Henry slowed the two friends walking with him as he gathered field daisies for his sister at home. As they neared the station, they could hear a train approaching, which they assumed was theirs. It was, instead, an express train which did not stop at the station and, because it was late, was traveling at "a terrific speed," according to The New York Times.
Henry attempted to cross the tracks ahead of the train. He did not make it. As his companions watched, he was flung by the cowcatcher 20 feet in front of the locomotive, which then ran over his body. The New York Times's headline read, "Young Henry G. Lichtenhein Cut To Pieces By A Flying Train." When his body was removed from the tracks, he still clutched the bouquet of daisies in his hand.
One of the party, Jacob Latrus, went to 18 East 67th Street to inform his parents. The Port Chester Journal reported that "Mrs. Lichtenhein...as she saw his agitated countenance, exclaimed: 'Jake, Harry is drowned; I know it. Harry is dead.'" Latrus told the Lichtenheins as gently as possible what had happened. "The young man's father took the news much harder, and it is feared that the blow to him will be a serious one," said The Port Chester Journal. "His grief is uncontrollable."
That block off Fifth Avenue was becoming increasingly exclusive was reflected in the rising property values. On December 21, 1887 The Evening Post said the Lichtenheins' house "is valued at about $75,000."
In 1890 Julius A. Stursberg and his wife, the former Hedwig Hoffbauer, purchased 18 East 67th Street. Both were born in Germany, and at some point after arriving in America Julius had anglicized and simplified his name. He was born Georg Albert Julius Stusberg. (Why he added an "r" to his surname is puzzling.)
The 38-year-old had already garnered a fortune. He was a founder of the South Porto Rico Sugar Company, and a trustee of the Sugar Trust along with millionaires like Theodore A. and Hector G. Havemeyer. The Stursbergs had four children, Wihelmina J., Alice Clara, Albert Herman, and Julia Hedwig. The year after they moved in, Herbert Julius was born.
In 1893 Julius commissioned the firm of William Schickel & Co. to design the family's summer home, Stonehyrst, in Somerset County, New Jersey. The choice of architects quite possibly had to do with J. William Schickel's having been born in Germany. (Two years later the firm name would be changed to Schickel & Ditmars.)
Wm. Schickel & Co. designed Stonehyrst in the Tudor Revival style. from the collection of the Bernardsville Public Library
Ever mindful of his native roots, Julius was a member of the Liederkrantz Society, a men's German singing group, and in 1906 would be appointed chairman of the building committee for the new Anna Ottendorfer Dispensary on Park Avenue at 76th Street. It is not surprising that Hedwig staffed the house with German-born domestics. In September 1904 she placed an advertisement in an attempt to find a new job for one of them: "Lady wants position for fraulein whom she has had three years."
Wilhelmina was 26 years old when she was married to Eugene Watterman Mason, Jr. in St. Bartholomew's Church on January 5, 1916. A reception was held in the 67th Street house after the ceremony.
On the day after Christmas that year, the engagement of Herbert to Marie Louise Vietor was announced. The groom-to-be had graduated from Yale Sheffield in 1912. The New York Times said, "He is a member of Squadron A, and has just returned from duty at the Mexican border." But America's entry into World War I four months later would upset the couple's plans for an impressive ceremony. On April 13, 1917, The New York Times reported, "Another hurried war wedding, originally planned for June 2, was that yesterday of Herbert J. Stursberg, a member of Squadron A...and Miss Marie Louise Vietor." Upon his return from the war, the couple settled into the house at 17 East 94th Street.
Hedwig Stursberg died at 18 East 67th Street of a heart attack on May 14, 1923 at the age of 66. Remaining in the house with her father was Alice, who was still unmarried.
Two years after his wife's death, Julius A. Stursberg hired Henry C. Pelton to drastically remodel the out-of-date house. The architect removed the stoop and brownstone front, pulled the façade to the property line, and transformed it into a modern American basement style mansion. His subdued neo-Classical design sat quietly among its more exuberant neighbors.
Faced in light brown brick above a rusticated limestone base. Pelton's restrained ornamentation included a broken pediment with cartouche over the entrance, splayed lintels and a bracketed stone cornice.
Two weeks after falling ill, Julius Stursberg died on December 23, at the age of 77. His funeral was held in St. Bartholomew's Church.
Alice remained with her staff of servants in the house in which she had grown up. Like other society women, she busied herself with charitable causes. On December 11, 1936, for instance, the New York Evening Post reported that prior to the December Ball for the benefit of the Grosvenor Neighborhood Home, "a debutante of the season, Miss Dorothy Pagenstecher, will be the guest of honor at a dinner to be given by Miss Alice Stursberg of 18 East Sixty-seventh Street."
After having lived at the address for seven decades, Alice (who was now 81 years old) sold it in 1960 to Jun Tsei Tai, a dealer of Chinese antique. On April 2, The New York Times reported, "The house...will be altered into five apartments."
While he did not alter the façade with show windows, a marquee, or other hints that the mansion had been commercialized, Tai installed his shop, J. T. Tai & Company in the ground floor. It sold Chinese ceramics, porcelains, bronzes and other antiques here until his death in 1992.
Other spaces within the building, while technically apartments, became home to galleries, like the Terry Dintenfess Gallery, one of Tai's initial tenants. Terry Dintenfess exhibited "contemporary American painting and sculpture" from the space until 1975, when she moved to a larger space at 50 West 57th Street.
By 1978 the Helios Gallery, which held photography exhibitions, was in the building, and in 1996 the Victoria Anstead Fine Art had space. Kinsey Marable & Company, rare book dealers, moved into the building in 1998.
Outwardly, there little to suggest that the former Stursberg mansion is anything but a dignified private residence.
photographs by the author
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Hello Tom- I am a fellow Dayton native living in NYC. Your book, “Seeking New York,” was given to me as a gift, and I came to learn about you, your roots and your blog. Bravo!!ReplyDelete
Thanks! Really glad you enjoyed it.Delete