Friday, February 3, 2023

The 1879 Eugene D. Hawkins House - 51 East 67th Street


The now-narrow doorway originally extended nearly to the parlor window.

The four-story, brownstone-fronted house at 51 East 67th Street was one of five begun by Anderson Fowler in 1878.  Designed by the architectural firm of D. & J. Jardine in the neo-Grec style, they boasted wide stone stoops that rose to impressive columned entrance porticos.  Corinthian pilasters flanked the openings, and the parlor windows sat on prominent shelf-like sills.  Ornate, bracketed cornices of galvanized iron crowned the homes.

On July 20, 1879 an advertisement appeared in The New-York Times that read:

Attention is called to those elegant new four-story brown-stone houses, commencing No. 51 East 67th-st, between Madison and Park avs...just finished; one year in course of erection, under the supervision of Messrs. D. & J. Jardine, architects; three stories in cabinet work, latest style, highly polished; the plumbing, sewage, and cellars second to none.

The mention that "cabinet work" went only through the third floor, indicated that the top floor would be peopled by domestics, and so impressive woodwork was not necessary.

George S. Hastings purchased 51 East 67th Street as an investment.  He leased it to Emmons Clark and his wife, the former Adelia Augusta Hallett.  Clark had served in the Civil War as a member of the Seventh Regiment, known to New Yorkers as The Silk Stocking Regiment because the majority of its troops came from elite families.

The elegance of the entertainments within the Clark house was evidenced in The Evening Telegram's mention on February 12, 1895, "Colonel and Mrs. Emmons Clark, of No. 51 East Sixty-seventh street, will entertain a hundred guests this evening at a dinner, which will be served by Mazzetti."  (Louise F. Mazzetti was a popular society caterer.)

William Marks purchased the house in October 1888 for $35,000 (just over $1 million in 2023).  Living with the family was his father, David, who died here on December 14, 1898 at the age of 74.  Oddly enough, given that the family was Jewish, his funeral in the drawing room did not take place until the 18th.  Those invited included members of the Kurnik Benevolent Association, the Congregation B'Nai Jeshurun, and the Hebrew Mutual Benefit Society.

The increasingly refined tenor of the neighborhood was reflected in the price Eugene Dexter Hawkins paid for 51 East 67th Street in July 1901.  The $50,000 price tag is equivalent to approximately $1.65 million today.

Hawkins and his wife, the former Julia Floyd Clarkson, were married on April 28, 1897.  They brought their new home up to date by installing electricity.  An advertisement in The Evening Telegram offered, "Gas fixtures throughout house for sale.  Call this evening eight o'clock.  51 East 67th st."

Born on May 2, 1860, Eugene D. Hawkins prepared for college at the exclusive Phillips Exeter Academy.   After graduating from Harvard College in 1881, he earned his law degree from Columbia Law School in 1883.  He was now a partner with Lewis L. Delafield in the law firm of Hawkins & Delafield.

Eugene and Julia had a son, Dexter Clarkson, who was three years old when they moved into the East 67th Street house.  Tragically, a second son Howard Clarkson Hawkins, who was born on May 16, 1900, died at the age of four weeks.

image from Empire State Notables, 1914 (copyright expired)

Hawkins's father, Dexter Arnoll Hawkins, had died in 1886.  Living with the family was his mother, the former Sophia Theresa Meeks.  Society columnists followed her movements as closely as those of her son and daughter-in-law.  On May 25, 1903, for instance, The Daily Standard Union reported:

Mrs. Dexter A. Hawkins, of 51 East Sixty-seventh street, Manhattan, will leave town for the summer about June 1.  After a visit to her son-in-law and daughter, Mr. and Mrs. Henry Wolcott Warner, at their place at Glen Cove, L. I., Mrs. Hawkins will be several weeks with Mr. and Mrs. Eugene D. Hawkins, her son and daughter-in-law, at Irvington on the Hudson."

Mrs. Henry Wolcott Warner was Eugene's sister, Estelle.  The summer estate Sophia visited was, actually, in Lattington, Long Island.  Warner had built the sprawling mansion in 1898 and it served as The Money Pit house in the 1986 Steven Spielberg comedy.  The Hawkins would later give up their summer home at Irvington-on-Hudson for one in Cedarhurst, Long Island.

A troubling incident occurred in Eugene's office on June 14, 1904.  A client, Samuel M. Burbank, was one of two nephews of millionaire Ambrose Brackett Burbank, who died on January 17 that year leaving an estate estimated at "from $750,000 to $1,250,000" according to the New-York Tribune.  The massive estate would equal more than $39 million on the higher end in 2023.

As his uncle's health deteriorated, Samuel had come from Arizona in 1902 to look after him.  He moved into the mansion and "cared for him to such an extent that his health was impaired," said the New-York Tribune.  In addition, he managed his uncle's business affairs when he could no longer do so himself.  When the will was probated, Samuel Burbank was not mentioned.  Now Eugene Hawkins was attempting to remedy that.

On June 5, 1904, the New-York Tribune reported that Burbank, "attempted to kill himself yesterday by cutting his throat with a pocket knife while in the offices of his counsel, Eugene D. Hawkins."  Burbank was taken to the Hudson Street Hospital, where he was placed under arrest (attempted suicide was a jailable crime at the time.)  He explained that "he attempted [to take] his life in a moment of temporary mental aberration."

Dexter followed his father's educational footsteps almost exactly.  After graduating from the Middlesex School, he entered Harvard University, and then the Columbia Law School.  When the United States entered World War I, Dexter joined the army, earning the rank of second lieutenant in the infantry.  Upon his return, he re-joined his fathers law firm.

The family was at the Cedarhurst estate on July 9, 1919 when Eugene Dexter Hawkins died of a heart attack at the age of 59.  His mother, wife and son continued living at 51 East 67th Street.

Dexter Hawkins seems to have been in no hurry to marry.  He was 31 years old when his engagement to Evelyn Byrd Eliot was announced on July 24, 1929.  The New York Times mentioned, "His clubs are the Union, Racquet and Tennis and the Fly Club of Harvard."  

The couple was married on December 2, 1929.  A few months later Julia Hawkins sold 51 East 67th Street.  It became home to Cadwallader Washburn Kelsey, his wife Marian Sherwood, and their son teen-aged son Cadwallader.

Kelsey was an inventor who built his first four-wheel automobile in 1897.  In 1910 he formed the C. W. Kelsey Manufacturing Company to produce the three-wheel Motorette car.  Perhaps his most remarkable invention was the Kelsey Skycar, described by the Danville, Virginia newspaper The Bee as a two-seater "designed to take off like a helicopter and land in a back yard."  Kelsey left the automobile industry in 1924.

The Kelsey Motorette had three wheels.  C. W. Kelsey Manufacturing Company Brochure 1910 (copyright expired)

On December 2, 1927 the younger Cadwallader was in Central Park when he came upon park attendant James Sullivan and two other persons standing over Charles A. Klein.  The 60-year-old was dying of self-inflicted wounds.  He had stabbed himself then jumped from a bridge onto the East Drive.  In an apparently impetuous move, Cadwallader decided "to put him out of his misery."  He later told Assistant District Attorney Lawrence J. McManus "that he struck the suffering man on the jaw to 'knock him out,'" as reported by The New York Sun.

Although witnesses confirmed he had struck Klein, Cadwallader rethought the prudence of his actions.  He firmly denied ever having struck the man.  No charges were pressed however, and McManus's death report said "the blow struck him by Mr. Kelsey was not a factor in his death."

Cadwallader, who was now 22 years old, stretched the truth again.  He had told McManus that he was a member of the exclusive New York Athletic Club during the initial interview.  When the facts of the case were published, the club's secretary, John P. Leo, denied that he "was a member of or connected with that club."

In 1941 the original stoop and portico were intact.  via the NYC Dept. of Records & Information Services

On July 12, 1946, The New York Sun reported that Maurice Epstein had purchased the house.  "The purchaser intends to convert the ground floor into a garden apartment for professional use," said the article.

By now almost all of the post-Civil War rowhouses along the block had either been razed or transformed to modern homes.  The new owner's remodeling of 51 East 67th Street, however, left the 19th century design greatly intact.  The stoop was removed and the entrance lowered to the former basement level.  But the window surrounds, brownstone facade, and iron cornice were preserved.

A subsequent renovation completed in 1954 resulted in one apartment each in the basement through second floors, and one each on the third and fourth.

Then, in 1997 a significant renovation-restoration began that returned to the house to a single family home with a medical office in the basement.  The stoop was refabricated and a laudable attempt to reproduce the entrance, without the portico, was made.  While historically convincing, its narrow proportions are somewhat off putting.  Nonetheless, the house is an unexpected survivor of the 1879 row.

photographs by the author
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