Thursday, March 9, 2023

The Clement Tetedoux House - 323 West 112th Street


In 1886 architect Charles T. Mott filed plans for a long row of three-story and basement homes on the north side of 112th Street between Manhattan Avenue and Eighth Avenue (today's Frederick Douglass Boulevard.)  Designed for developer Edward Roemer, the row was a blend of Queen Anne, Renaissance Revival, Romanesque Revival and Gothic Revival styles.  

No. 323 was a mirror-image of 325 West 112th Street.  At just 16.8 feet wide, its entrance above the short stoop was necessarily a single-door.  Stone quoins outlined the pair of homes, and framed the parlor windows.  Above the metal cornice was a brick parapet laid in a waffle pattern--a trademark of Mott.

In October 1890 Clement and Eliza J. Tetedoux purchased 323 West 112th Street.  Born Pierre Louise Clement Tetedoux in Paris, France, in 1825, Clement Tetedoux was among the most prominent vocal coaches in America.  

While a young man, he became the private tutor of the sons of a Russian nobleman.  But his love or music was greater than the lavish lifestyle he enjoyed.  Turning down a great deal of money to remain, he left to study music in Russia, France,  and Italy under masters like Gioachino Rossini.  Composer and tenor Alphonse R√©vial said of him, "Mr. Tetedoux possesses the double advantage of an Italian and French education, a perfect mastery of the bel canto and full command of lyric declamation; a sensitive temperament, poetical nature, dramatic instinct and cultivated intellect."

Clement Tetedoux, from the archives of the University of Pittsburgh.

A singer and vocal teacher, Eliza Cowley was Tetedoux's second wife.  He had divorced Apolline Guilford in 1866.  Living with them were two of their five children, Emile S. and Clementine.  The family maintained a home in Philadelphia, as well.  

Emile, who worked at the Mercantile National Bank, was an ardent bicyclist, or "wheelman."  The fad had spread across the nation and the young man was among its strongest proponents.  A member of the New York Wheelmen, he signed the club's petition on July 26, 1895, urging the Board of Aldermen to consider "the necessity for the cycle path between the upper and lower parts of the city, and recommend immediate adoption of the route via Eighth avenue and Hudson street and College place."  

Two weeks earlier, the New Haven Morning Journal and Courier had reported, "Emile S. Tetedaux [sic]...and Maurice Kerrigan of Southport, Conn., passed through here yesterday on their wheels.  They are spending their vacation on the wheels, and are making a tour of southern Connecticut."

Emile died here on May 18, 1900.  His funeral was held in the house three days later.  

Clement Tetedoux was in Philadelphia the following winter when he became ill on March 17.  On March 23, 1901 the Pittsburgh Daily Post reported that pneumonia developed.  "He grew steadily worse until yesterday, when death came to his relief."  In reporting his death, The Musical Courier called him, "one of the most distinguished of the recognized teachers of the world."

A much happier event took place in the 112th Street house eight years later.  Clementine was married to Dr. Thurston Gilman Lusk on July 17, 1909.  The couple moved in with Eliza.  In 1911 they would have a son, Thurston Tetedoux Lusk.

Like her parents, Clementine was an accomplished musician.  A soprano and a member of the Women's Philharmonic Society and of the Musicians' Club of New York, she taught voice from the house.

Boarding with the family before long was composer Walter A. Phillips and his wife.  Educated in Paris, Phillips wrote popular songs including "A Son of the Desert Am I," "In Sight of the Harbor Lights," and "She Told Me I Was Dreaming."

Eliza Cowley Tetedoux died on February 21, 1913.  Walter A. Phillips was still living with the family, and he died here on November 15, 1914 at the age of 54.

Dr. Lusk practiced from the house.  A week after Phillips's death, for instance, on November 21, the Peekskill newspaper The Highland Democrat reported, "Capt. Irving Van Wart, of Simpson place, went to New York Wednesday to undergo an operation for cancer of the lip.  The operation was performed on Thursday morning at the home of Dr. Lusk, 323 West 112th Street."  The article noted that Van Wart "was doing nicely."

The Lusks were at Water Witch, New Jersey in October 1916, when Clementine died.  Her funeral was held in the 112th Street house on October 5th.  The Tetedoux estate sold 323 West 112th Street in May 1921 to architect Julius Eugene Gregory and his artist wife Mary Lovrien Price.  The couple had two sons, Jules and Alfred Lawrence.  Jules, would go on to become an award winning architect and urban planner.  

Julius Eugene Gregory (original source unknown)

Born in 1875, Julius Gregory had served in the U. S. Navy during World War I as a District Camoufleur, in charged of camouflaging warships.  Following the war, he designed a number of homes in the Riverdale section of the Bronx.  

He and Mary were married on September 18, 1918.  Trained at the School of Industrial Arts at the Pennsylvania Museum, Mary started out as a book illustrator.  By the time the family moved into 323 West 112th Street, she was a recognized muralist.  On March 10, 1925, The New York Sun reported, "Mrs. Gregory has just completed three panels for the new Calvary Methodist Episcopal Church, University avenue, New York, of which her husband, Julius Gregory, is the architect...Two of her paintings measure eight feet in width, the other twelve."  The critic praised her "drawing and color, welded with a spirituality that is rather remarkable in its appeal for even the untrained eye."

Mary Lovrien Gregory created this mural for the overmantle of the R. K. Stritzinger house in Scarsdale, New York.  Decoration magazine, 1921 (copyright expired).

The artistic tradition of 323 West 112th Street continued when the Gregorys sold it author Allan Nevins and his wife, the former May Richardson, in 1926.  An editorial writer for several publications, he was the author of scholarly books like  the 1924 American Social History Recorded by British Travellers; and The American States During and After the Revolution, published in 1925.  While living here he wrote The Emergence of Modern America in 1927.

The Nevins were followed in the house by playwright, poet and author James Maxwell Anderson (who wrote as Maxwell Anderson) around 1930.  He initially moved in alone.  Anderson's first pay, White Desert, had opened in 1923 while he was still working at the New York World.  Following the success of his What Price Glory? in 1924, he resigned from the newspaper to focus on his career as a dramatist.  Shortly after moving into 323 West 112th Street, Anderson's Elizabeth the Queen opened on Broadway starring Lynn Fontanne and Alfred Lunt.  It would be adapted to the screen in 1939 as The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex starring Betty Davis and Errol Flynn.

Maxwell Anderson was living in 323 West 112th Street in 1934 when this portrait was taken.  from the collection of the National Portrait Gallery

It was most likely his affair with married actress Gertrude Higger that prompted his moving into 323 West 112th Street.  He and his wife, Margaret Haskett, had recently separated because of the indiscretion.  Higger divorced her husband and moved in with Anderson in 1933.  Their daughter, Hesper, was born in August 1934.  

323 and 325 West 112th Street were designed as mirror-images.  image via the NYC Dept of Records & Information Services

Maxwell Anderson occupied 323 West 112th Street as late as 1938, when the United States House of Representatives included him on its list of prominent writers, authors and artists.  By then, in addition to his stage plays, he had written the screenplays for films like All Quiet on the Western Front, Death Takes a Holiday, and Mary of Scotland.

Sometime before 1950 the residence was converted to a rooming house.  Not all of the tenants were upstanding citizens, including Roy Davis.  The 20-year-old was arrested on the night of January 11, 1964 after the cries of his mugging victim, Rob Andrew Brown, attracted the attention of Patrolman John R. Power.  

A renovation completed in 2001 resulted in two duplex apartments.  And while other of Charles T. Mott's 1887 row have been heavily modified, 323 West 112th Street is substantially intact.

photographs by the author
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