Tuesday, April 4, 2023

The 1894 Moses Goldsmith House - 334 West 89th Street


In 1893 architect Ralph S. Townsend designed a row of five identical homes on West 89th Street between Riverside Drive and West End Avenue for real estate developers Wilcox & Hoyt.  The rowhouses at 326 through 334 West 89th Street would have to compete with the mansions that were rising along those elegant thoroughfares.  Completed in 1894, they did just that.

Each 25-feet wide and rising four stories above tall English basements, they were designed in the Renaissance Revival style.  Handsome limestone newels carved with wreathes and torches anchored the stoops, which were flanked by pierced stone wingwalls.  The elegant entrances stood in stark contrast to the surprisingly spartan limestone bays at the parlor level.   Delicate carving framed the doorway, above which foliate brackets upheld arched pediments filled with carved shells.  Limestone gave way to red Roman brick on the upper floors.  The three-sided bays continued through the second floor where they were crowned with limestone railings that matched the stoop walls.  Renaissance inspired terra cotta frames surrounded the windows of the upper floors, and identical metal cornices unified the row.

On May 13, 1894 Wilcox & Hoyt placed an advertisement in the New York Herald that read:

For Sale--We would call the attention of investors and those in search of residences in one of the choicest parts of the city to the five Houses, 326-334 West 89th st., just completed...For solidity of construction, elegance of finish and general plan of interior these houses, for their size, cannot be matched on the west side.

The western-most house, 334 West 89th Street was sold to Moses Goldsmith and his wife, the former Adelaide Biddeford Lunt.  Goldsmith had been an importer and manufacturer of women's cloaks, but was now highly involved in real estate development.  The couple had four young children.  When they moved into the West 89th Street house their eldest, Myra Bell, was nine years old, Hilda Moses was seven, Samuel Lunt was five, and Nathaniel Manson was three years old.

Adelaide's parents were both deceased, and so living with the family was her unmarried sister Olive Hooper Lunt.  On December 11, 1899 the Goldsmiths announced Olive's engagement to Nathaniel Goodwin Manson of Boston.  The  summer home of the well-to-do groom was Camp Leatherstocking on Richardson Lake.  Field and Stream magazine reported on December 23 "The couple proposes to spend most of the summer of 1900 at Camp Leatherstocking."

The Goldsmith's summer home, Myhisana, was in Maine.  The name of the estate was an amalgamation of the first two initials of each of the children's names. It was there that Moses harbored his steam yacht.

On December 15, 1904, Nathaniel's teacher took him to the Y.M.C.A. at 302 West 56th Street and introduced him to superintendent J. J. Harvey who enrolled him as a member.  Two days later Nathaniel, who was 13-years-old, went to the gymnasium.  After working on the horizonal bar for about five minutes, he let out a cry and fell to the floor.  It was a fall of only about a foot and a half.  The New York Times reported, "He sat up immediately and no one in the gymnasium thought his fall had injured him."  

But he did not stand up.  Other boys brought a chair.  The article said flatly, "he suddenly became unconscious and died."  Doctors were puzzled, as no injuries could be found.  The New York Times reported that they proposed that "he may have suffered from heart disease brought on by overexertion, but his parents say his heart never troubled him."

Adelaide was overcome by the death of her youngest child.  Margaret Anne Goldsmith, a descendant, wrote in The Bernstein Herstein Schiffman and Goldsmith Collection, "I also remember my grandfather saying that Mo's wife had a breakdown when their youngest son, Nat died as a child.  The family had what my grandfather called a 'trained nurse' with her after the tragedy."  The family now closed Myhisana and spent their summers in the city.

On November 15, 1904 Myra Belle was married to George Rose MacKenzie Ewing in Sherry's restaurant.  The New York Herald reported that the reception would take place there.  Myra's younger sister, Hilda, was her maid of honor.  Five years later Hilda's engagement to Henry R. Treadwell of Norwalk, Connecticut was announced.

Now only Samuel lived with his parents in the West 89th Street house.  Seven years after Nathaniel's death, Adelaide may finally have started to heal.  On June 15, 1911, the Maine Woods reported, "We are glad to learn that Mr. and Mrs. M. Goldsmith of New York, after an absence of several summers, will this year open Myhisana Lodge."

Samuel purchased a DeDion automobile in 1914.  By now he was a stockbroker.  His engagement to Margaret Elizabeth T. Thurston was announced on May 15, 1915.

The Goldsmiths sold 334 West 89th Street in September 1927 for $50,000--about $780,000 in 2023.  In reporting the sale, The New York Times mentioned, "Mr. Goldsmith purchased this house from the builder in 1895.  He is a retired real estate operator and was a pioneer developer of Washington Heights and Kingsbridge."

It appears the new owner rented rooms within the house.  Living here in 1929 was 22-year-old John Taylor, a garment worker.  He was a member of the Needle Trades Workers Industrial Union.

The Daily Worker ran a banner headline on April 16 that read, "STRIKE TWO MORE TEXTILE MILLS AS TROOPS MOBILIZE / 1,000 Workers Join Mass Picketing in Food Strike."  The Hotel, Restaurant and Cafeteria Workers Union had gone on strike in the garment district.  In solidarity, garment-related unions joined the protest.  John Taylor was among the 45 protestors arrested as the "mass picket demonstration" on April 15.  The Daily Worker reported that he paid the $20 fine "in preference to serving five days in jail, in order to join the picket line today."

334 West 89th Street is at the far right.

A renovation completed in 1983 resulted in seven apartments, including a duplex in the fourth floor and new penthouse level, unseen from the street.  

photographs by the author
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