Born in Queens County, Ireland in 1836, Richard Deeves established his construction firm in 1869. By the early 1880s his son John Henry was involved in the business, which was now known as Richard Deeves & Son, Inc. The firm would erect well-known buildings like the Chamber of Commerce, the Engineers' Club, The Casino Theater and the New York Athletic Club. In 1884 Richard Deeves turned his attention to a more personal project.
He purchased two building plots on the south side of West 83rd Street between Central Park West and Columbus Avenue--one as the site of his own family's home and the other for a speculative dwelling. Deeves hired the architectural firm of D. & J. Jardine to design the pair. Completed the following year, the nearly matching homes were designed in the popular Queen Anne style.
The Deeves house, at 58 West 83rd Street, differed from its fraternal twin at the parlor level. A three-sided bay rose from the basement to the second floor, where it was crowned with lacy iron cresting. The entrance above the high stone stoop sat within a dignified, columned portico that supported a stone-railed balcony. The fourth floor took the form of a slate-shingled mansard, distinguished by pedimented dormers.
In addition to their son, Richard and Margaret Deeves had two daughters. As the children married, the population of the 83rd Street house increased. On April 10, 1894, John Henry married Elizabeth H. Cunningham in Christ's Protestant Episcopal Church on 71st Street and Broadway. His sisters would marry J. Floy Quin, a relative of Lord Dunraven of Britain; and William J. Dixon.
Margaret and her daughters entertained together. On February 1, 1899, for instance, The Daily Standard Union announced, "Mrs. Richard Deeves, assisted by her daughters Mrs. J. Floy Quin and Mrs. William J. Dixon, will give a reception at her residence, 58 West Eighty-third street, Manhattan, Saturday, Feb. 11, from 4 until 6 and from 8 until 10 o'clock." The article noted, "Mrs. Deeves is the wife of Bridge Commissioner Deeves."
Richard Deeves had been appointed a commissioner of the proposed East River Bridge, today known as the Williamsburg Bridge, on June 12, 1895. The position added another $3,000 per year to Deeves's income--about $100,000 in 2023 terms.
Margaret Deeves died "after a short illness," according to the New York Herald, on March 29, 1902. Her funeral was held in the drawing room of 58 West 83rd Street two evenings later. Quite possibly attending the funeral was Minnie Crooks Quin, the sister of J. Floy Quin.
Just after Deeves's mourning period ended, on May 28, 1903, The Evening World ran the headline, "Rich Man Weds; Family Absent / Aged Richard Deeves, Millionaire Clubman, Causes a Great Stir by Marrying the Sister of His Son-in-Law." The 66-year-old Deeves had married Minnie Crooks Quin, who was "a few years the junior of Mr. Deeves." The article noted, "Incidentally, the children and grandchildren of Mr. Deeves...are said to have been absent from the ceremony, although invited."
The newly weds left on their honeymoon and were "not expected to return for several months," said the article. In the meantime, a reporter went to the 83rd Street house to ask John Henry Deeves about the marriage. He was less than receptive, saying:
The family dislikes notoriety of this kind. If we wanted anything to be said we would have given it out before. We want no further mention made of the marriage than is contained in the notice printed this morning.
One can imagine that the reunion of the families, all living in the same house, was tense, at least initially.
There would be another funeral in the parlor of 58 West 83rd Street on January 6, 1912. Minnie Quin Deeves had died two days earlier. Richard Deeves had already shown that being a widower did not suit him, and he soon married Alice Augusta Reed.
The Deeves summer home was in Long Branch, where Richard Deeves was president of the Long Branch Property Holders' Association. In Manhattan both he and John Henry were long-time members of Ye Olde Settlers' Association of Ye West Side. That group was not merely a men's social club, but lobbied relentlessly for improvements and preservation of quality of life on the Upper West Side. Deeves's concern for his neighborhood was reflected in a letter to the editor of The New York Times on March 24, 1915, about dog waste. It said in part:
The dogs in New York City, even when led by strings, are a great nuisance to people on sidewalks and on stoops, and should be prohibited. Any dogs committing nuisances on stoops, steps, or sidewalks should be carted off to the dog pound and the owners made to pay fines. It is next to impossible for owners living in their own private houses in New York City to keep their stoops, steps, newels and sidewalks clean on account of dogs.
John Henry Deeves died "suddenly" at the New Jersey house on June 21, 1919. His body was brought back to New York and the funeral held at 58 West 83rd Street on June 24.
The 1921 Ye Olde Settlers' Association yearbook placed In Memoriam photographs of the son and father on a single page. (copyright expired)
Only three months later, on October 18, Richard Deeves died. On October 20, The Brooklyn Standard Union reported, "Funeral services for Richard Deeves, builder of numerous theatres, office and club buildings and one of the commissioners for the construction of the Williamsburg Bridge, who died Saturday at his home...were held there this morning." The article noted that the house was crowded with mourners from the New York Board of Trade and Transportation, the Merchants Association, the Chamber of Commerce, and the Republican and Engineers clubs.
In March 1920 the Deeves estate sold 58 West 83rd Street to playwright Bruce B. Reynolds. The New York Times reported that he "will remodel it into suites of two, three and four room apartments, converting the first and third floors into a duplex apartment for his own occupancy."
Reynolds removed the stoop and converted the former entrance to a window. Instead of placing the duplex apartment on the top two floors, as he originally intended, he installed it in the basement and parlor levels. There were now six apartments in the upper portion.
Among Reynolds's initial tenants as Mme. Marcella Lindh, who described herself as "master of song." Born Rose Jacobson in Kalamazoo, Michigan, she had trained as a singer in Berlin. She had been the first soprano to sing with the John Philip Sousa Band.
Mme. Lindh coached vocal students of her apartment, advertising, "Lieder singer of European fame, formerly member of Metropolitan Opera House under Damrosch. Will accept very talented scholars."
In December 1925 Reynolds sold 58 West 83rd Street to real estate operator Joseph G. Abrahamson. A renovation completed in 1941 did away with the duplex, transforming it into three apartments in the basement level and two on parlor floor. A third remodeling in 2002 resulted in one apartment in the basement, two each on the second and third floors, and a duplex in the top two.
photographs by the author
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