Tuesday, April 18, 2023

The 1899 Edward "Ned" Harrigan House - 249 West 102nd Street


An advertisement in The Evening Post on October 21, 1899 was titled, "Only Four Left" and offered 243 through 249 West 102nd Street as "The best laid out Private Houses on the West Side."  The "four-story American basement" houses, it said, were owned and had been built by James Livingston.

The six Renaissance Revival style houses had been designed for Livingston by the architectural firm of Neville & Bagge.  The 18-foot-wide, residences sat above short stone stoops, their bowed upper portions, faced in beige Roman brick, resulted in an undulating motion.  Neville & Bagge designed them in three mirror-image pairs, the subtle differences being in the placement of the splayed lintels of the middle pair at the third floor, rather than the second and fourth as in the other four homes.

Four of the original six houses survive.  249 West 102nd Street is second from right.

Real estate operator Alois Gutwillig purchased three of the houses, including 249 West 102nd Street.  He quickly resold it to Meta Reincke, who in turn sold it in 1902 to Ferdinand Kuhn and his wife Therese.  Kuhn was highly involved in the Jewish community in New York.  The couple had a daughter, also named Therese.  

Their residency would be relatively short-lived.  In 1907 they sold the house to Edward Harrigan and his wife Annie Theresa.  The couple had seven children, apparently six of whom moved into the house with them--Edward Jr., Dr. Anthony Hart Harrigan (named for Harrigan's former partner, Tony Hart), William, Philip, Nolan, and Grace.  (Adelaide was married to Michael Louis Loughran and lived elsewhere).  

Born on October 26, 1843, Harrigan was by now among the most recognizable names in show business.  The son of Irish immigrants, his father was a ship's carpenter.  The boy, who, according to The Mixer and Server in 1911, "wasn't fond of schooling," ran away to work at sea, eventually landing at San Francisco.  By chance he found a job in a minstrel show there in 1867 and his career on the stage was fixed.  The Mixer and Server said, "Harrigan made good by leaps and bounds.  He had the trick of making people laugh."

In 1870 Harrigan met Anthony J. Cannon, whose stage name was Tony Hart.  The pair formed the duo Harrigan & Hart.  Harrigan wrote the sketches which featured comic ethnic characters--Irish, German and Black--pulled from everyday life.  An all-around entertainer--actor, singer, playwright, lyricist, dancer and producer--Harrigan haunted the docks, beer halls and social events, making mental notes of the sayings and personalities of common citizens.

The duo's first hit was the 1873 The Mulligan Guard, with music by David Braham.  Braham would go on to be Harrigan's musical director.  He would also become Harrigan's father-in-law when Edward married Annie Therese Braham on November 18, 1876.  The success of The Mulligan Guard resulted in a series of Mulligan Guard plays.  Harrigan & Hart was one of the most celebrated partnerships in 19th century American theatrical history.

Harrigan in costume for a Mulligan sketch.  from the collection of the New York Public Library

In 1881 Harrigan hired architect Francis H. Kimball to remodel the old Church of the Messiah at 728 Broadway into a theater, the Theatre Comique.  Sadly, it burned to the ground three years later.  Not long after that Tony Hart retired.

Undaunted, in 1889 Harrigan hired Kimball once again to design a theater, this one on the site of an abandoned church near the northeast corner of Broadway and 35th Street.   By the time the Harrigans moved into 249 West 102nd Street, Harrigan's Theatre was being leased to actor Richard Mansfield, who had named it the Garrick Theatre.  

The family's summer home was in Long Beach, New Jersey.  Harrigan was essentially retired by now.  In 1911 The Mixer and Server noted, "In recent years, Mr. Harrigan appeared now and then in revivals of his old pieces...but practically all of his time in late years was spent at the home in West 102d street or summering at Long Beach."  In fact, Harrigan was quietly convinced that American audiences had forgotten him.

In 1909 Edward Harrigan suffered a heart attack.  His condition continued to be tenuous.  On January 18, 1910, The New York Times reported, "Edward Harrigan, the actor, is seriously ill at his home, 249 West 102d Street.  He is suffering from an attack of grip which recently has developed several complications."  (Grip, or the grippe, was the current term for influenza.)

Harrigan had been ill for months.  He had appeared at the Lambs Gambol in May 1909 at the Metropolitan Opera House and became sick soon afterward.  The New York Times said, "Election night last year there was a turn for the worse, and since then he has been under the care of physicians."  Attending him with the family doctor, of course, was Harrigan's son, Dr. Anthony Hart Harrigan.

At one point, death seemed imminent.  But when a reporter knocked on the door of the 102nd Street house on January 17, 1910 Annie Harrigan was reassuring.  "Mr. Harrigan during the last few months has taken many setbacks, but now he is much improved, and we are looking toward a complete recovery."

On June 4, 1911 an old friend, actress Annie Yeamans who had appeared in many of the Harrigan & Hart productions, visited.  The two reminisced about old times and when Annie left, Edward Harrigan was in a good mood.  The next morning, however, he was very weak.  According to The Mixer and Server on July 15, 1911, he called Annie into the room and asked to see a bound volume of programs.  Taking out the program of The Mulligan Guards' Picnic, he wrote on the margin:

My Dear Annie:  My ambition is satisfied.  We own a beautiful theatre which brought to us a home for ourselves and children.  Ned

According to the article, as he handed the program to his wife, he said, "The last curtain is about to ring down, Annie."

At 11:30 on the morning of June 6, 1911, Edward Harrigan died, "with his hand in his wife's and a smile for his children grouped around the bed," as reported by the Mixer and Server.  His coffin sat in the drawing room for two days, visited by a steady stream of actors, producers and theater managers.  He was 66 years old.

The Evening Telegram reported on June 9, "More than a thousand persons, including several score of old time actors, attended the funeral services for Edward Harrigan, better known as 'Ned' Harrigan, the actor, to-day at the Church of the Ascension in West 107th street, near Broadway."  The article said, "As the body was taken from the residence many white haired men followed the hearse through the streets to the church, which was crowded with friends of the old popular actor."  Annie Yeamans, who had sat and reminisced with Harrigan just two evenings before his death, "was unable to be present," said The Evening Telegram.  "Mr. Harrigan's death had been such a shock to her that she was unable to attend."

Pierced limestone wingwalls flank the stoops.

The Harrigan family continued to live in the 102nd Street house for another five years.  In 1916 Philip Braham Harrigan was attending a Federal military training camp.  His brother, Anthony, was an attending surgeon at Fordham and St. Francis's Hospital.  Perhaps because of Annie's declining health, in 1917 249 West 102nd Street was leased to a Mrs. Hamburger, who operated it as a boarding house for unmarried men.

Her advertisement in The New York Times on September 6 that year read:

Real Home for Bachelors: valet service; elegantly furnished private home, table of bountiful excellence, traveling facilities unsurpassed, individual attention and service, quiet, refine, homelike environment, every modern convenience; high class in every detail.  

Annie Braham Harrigan died at the Alston Sanitarium on West 61st Street on March 24, 1918 at the age of 59.  In reporting her death, The New York Times noted, "Mrs. Harrigan aided her husband often in the writing and construction of his plays."  Somewhat surprisingly, Annie left the 102nd Street house to her mother, Annie Braham.  Two years later, on October 23, 1920, the Real Estate Record & Guide reported that Dr. Anthony Hart Harrigan had purchased the house from his grandmother.

If Harrigan had anticipated moving back into his former home, he quickly changed his mind.  Before the year was out he resold it to another physician, Dr. Charles Edmund Carr.

Mrs. Hamburger still had a lease and continued to operate her boarding house through 1920.  She ran, as well, a 16-room vacation home in Far Rockaway.  In May 1920 she advertised, "Mrs. Hamburger wishes to inform her patrons that she is ready for booking for Summer and Winter in Far Rockaway.  Write or phone for appointment, 249 West 102d."

Delicate foliate carving frames the windows and door.

Following the expiration of Mrs. Hamburger's lease, the Carrs moved in.  Born in Monroe County, Indiana in 1883, Carr was a 1905 graduate of Indiana University and of Columbia University in 1913.  He was associated with St. Luke's Hospital.  The family's country home was on the grounds of the Carmel Country Club in Carmel, New York.

The Carrs, of course, had a domestic staff, and in June 1925 were looking for a "Girl, light colored, experienced, general housework."

Charles Edmund Carr died in the West 102nd Street house on May 17, 1933.  His funeral was held in the drawing room two evenings later.

The following year, in November 1934, Carr's estate sold 249 West 102nd Street to Percy Howard Secor and his wife, Miriam.  The couple maintained a country home in Poughkeepsie, New York.

At 10:30 on the night of December 4, 1937 Secor was driving near Peekskill, New York when his vehicle was struck by a drunk driver.  The Poughkeepsie Eagle-News said Secor's car was "forced against the stone ledge at the by-pass."  Secor was taken to the Peekskill Hospital and treated for multiple injuries, but he survived.  Both the driver, Jack Becker, and his passenger were arrested--Becker for driving while intoxicated and Robert Colwell for "public intoxication."

By 1942 the house was being operated as unofficial apartments.  One tenant that year had troubles with a drunk driver, as well, but her experience was much different than Secor's.  Helen Cavanaugh was riding in a taxicab driven by Edward Eberstein on March 21, when it crashed into another automobile at 30th Street and Madison Avenue.  Both drivers were arrested for driving while intoxicated.  Happily, Helen escaped without injury.

The Harrigan house is second from right.

In 1978 the former Harrigan house was officially converted to apartments, two per floor.  One of four surviving of the original row of six, it retains most of its 1899 appearance.

photographs by Anthony Bellov
many thanks to historian Anthony Bellov for suggesting this post
no permission to reuse the content of this blog has been granted to LaptrinhX.com

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