Thursday, April 6, 2023

The William J. Glackens House - 10 West 9th Street


Although wealthy lumber merchant Thomas McKie erected the handsome brick-faced house for his family's home in 1841, they would occupy it only for a short time.  Three stories tall and 25-feet-wide, 41 Ninth Street (renumbered 10 West 9th Street in 1868) exemplified a high-end Greek Revival style home.  The intricate areaway and stoop ironwork incorporated rosettes, palmettes and Greek key motifs.  The stair railings gracefully and dramatically curved at the bottom of the stoop to embrace the newels.  Recessed within a substantial stone frame, the door was flanked by paneled pilasters capped with acanthus capitals.  Sidelights and a three-paned transom allowed natural light into the foyer.  The warm orange brick was trimmed in brownstone, and short attic windows originally sat below the simple cornice.

Born in 1800, Thomas McKie was also a director with the Williamsburgh Insurance Company.  He and his wife, Elsa Brown, would have a daughter, Margaret Anna, in 1848, around the time they left Ninth Street.

By 1850 the Sedgwick family occupied 41 Ninth Street.  They had previously lived at 42 West Washington Place, on the same block as the Cornelius Vanderbilt I family.  Born in 1785, Roderick Sedgwick was a broker.  His wife, the former Martha Stuart Dean, died in 1850, possibly prompting the family's move.

Six of his adult children lived with him.  John (named for his grandfather, who had fought with Ethan Allen at Ticonderoga during the Revolution) was a partner in the law firm Sedgwick, Colgate & Stewart; Roderick Jr. was in the drygoods business; and Katharine Whetton, Margaret, Elizabeth and Mary operated the Misses Sedgwick School from the house.

Katherine Whetton Sedgwick was the first of the daughters to marry.  She was wed to artist and writer Wilhelm Heine in the Church of the Ascension in April 1858.  Heine had gained a reputation as an artist, especially for his depictions of Central America that he executed while accompanying archeologist Ephraim George Squier; and his views of Japan, done while accompanying Admiral Perry in 1853 and 1854.  Following their marriage the couple sailed to Germany.

The newlyweds were in Berlin in the fall of 1859 when their daughter, Katharine was born.  Tragically, two weeks later, on November 23, Katherine Whetton Heine died at the age of 35.  On December 22, the New York Herald reported, "Her remains were embalmed, and will be sent to America to her home, in the next Hamburg steamer, which she quitted in April last to follow the fortunes of her distinguished husband."

Within months the Sedgwick family left the Ninth Street house.  From 1860 to 1868 it appears to have been operated as a high-end boarding house by widow Hannah M. Cronley.  It was then purchased by General Irvin McDowell and his wife, the former Helen Borden.  The couple had three children, Helen E., Henry Borden, and Elise.

McDowell had shown prospects of an illustrious military career in the early years of the Civil War, being promoted to brigadier general in 1861 and given command of the Army of Northeastern Virginia.  He lead his troops in the First Battle of Bull Run, which ended in defeat.  On August 28 through 30, 1862, the Second Battle of Bull Run was fought.  A report to President Rutherford B. Hayes in 1879 would greatly blame McDowell for that defeat, calling him indecisive and uncommunicative.

When McDowell purchased 10 West 9th Street in 1868, he had just been appointed commander of the Department of the East.  His close personal friendship with James Garfield led to the future President's naming his third son Irvin McDowell Garfield in August 1870.

Major General Irvin McDowell, from the collection of the Brady National Photographic Art Gallery

McDowell was promoted to major general on November 25, 1872 and, while he retained possession of 10 West 9th Street, he would never return to the house after his appointment on December 16 that year as commander of the Military Division of the South.

The McDowells leased the house to affluent families for years.  In the 1870's it was home to Richard Baring-Gould, a British-born banker, and his wife, the former Anna Carrol.  Their daughter, Edith Sabine, was born in 1874.

By the early 1890's, the family of distinguished banker Richard Delafield leased 10 West 9th Street.  Born in 1853, Delafield came from what The New York Times would call "one of New York's oldest and most prominent families."  In 1894 he was elected president of the National Park Bank.  He was also a vice president of the Colonial Trust Company and a director in the Mount Morris bank, the Plaza Bank, and the National Surety Company.  He and his wife, Clara Foster Carey, maintained a summer home in Tuxedo Park, New York, described by The New York Times as "one of the finest homes in this locality."  Richard was Clara's second husband, and living with them was the daughter of her first marriage, Marion de Peyster Carey.

Delafield's money and social prestige afforded him the luxury of an elitist attitude, one that would be found reprehensible today.  On December 18, 1894, The Evening World reported on the nearly unlivable conditions of some of the tenements owned by Trinity Church, including the lack of running water.  A reporter asked several prominent New Yorker for their opinion.  Delafield replied, "Women in olden times carried water, why not now?"

Marion de Peyster Carey was married to William Brown Dinsmore, Jr. in Trinity Chapel on June 3, 1895.  The Evening Telegram called the event, "The notable wedding of this date, which includes the representatives of the circle of wealth and fashion."  The article noted, "Three thousand invitations had been issued to the church.  Two hundred and fifty were bidden to the reception that followed at the home of the bride's mother, No. 10 West Ninth street."

General Irvin McDowell had died in 1885, and in February 1898, Helen E. McDowell sold 10 West 9th Street.  It became home to attorney Winston H. Hagen and his wife, Lucy.  Born in Cincinnati, Hagen was a member of the exclusive Hobby, Grolier and India House Clubs.  He was a collector of rare books, and The New York Post noted, "His collection of old English poetry is said to be one of the best in the East."

Winston H. Hagen suffered a fatal heart attack in his Wall Street office on February 1, 1918.  He was 58 years old.  Lucy sold the 9th Street house the following year.  On August 12, 1919 the New-York Tribune remarked, "The purchaser will probably occupy the premises after alteration."

The purchasers were artists William James Glackens and Edith Dimock Glackens.  And, indeed, there would be alterations.   In 1922 they began a year-long renovation that raised the third floor to full height and replaced two of the openings with a grouping of three.  More impressively, however, a fourth floor in the form of a copper-sheathed mansard with a vast window provided a studio for the artists.

Born on March 13, 1870 Glackens was a founder of the Ashcan School, which ignored the boundaries of beautiful art established by the National Academy of Design.  His work depicted everyday life, much of it centered in New York City.  He was one of the artists known today as The Eight, four others of whom were Ashcan School painters, George Luks, Everett Shinn, John Sloan and Robert Henri.

William James Glackens, from the Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

Glackens had married Edith Dimock, an alumna of Brown University, in 1904.  They would rear their two children, Lenna and Ira, at 10 West 9th Street.  A close friend, artist Jerome Myers, remembered gatherings in the Glackens house in his 1940 biography Artist in Manhattan:

The studio home of William Glackens, on Ninth Street just off Fifth Avenue, partook of the charm of this fine, boasted period.  It was a delightful privilege for my wife and me to participate occasionally in the at-homes of the Glackens during the season.  Surrounded by the masterpieces of William Glackens, friends would gather in congenial remembrance: Edith Glackens, always an amusing hostess; William Glackens, quietly reminiscing with his companions.  The young Glackens, Lenna and Ira, filled out the family picture, happy with their young artist friends, as well as with older friends who had known them since childhood...the whole scene imbued with the spirit of a New York that is now passing.

Several of Glackens's paintings are set in nearby Washington Square, like The Green Car.  from the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Glacken's brother, Louis M. Glackens, lived part of the year with the couple by the early Depression years.  When not in New York, he lived with his father in Philadelphia.  Trained at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, the bachelor was by now a well-known illustrator and cartoonist, and was a pioneer in motion picture animation.  On September 10, 1933, the 64-year-old was on a train, heading to the 9th Street house, when he suffered a fatal heart attack.

On May 20, 1938 William and Edith traveled to Westport, Connecticut to spend the weekend with Mr. and Mrs. Charles Prendergast.  At noon on Sunday afternoon, May 22, William Glackens suffered a heart attack and died within minutes.  He was 68 years old.

At the time of his death, Glackens's work hung in esteemed institutions like the Corcoran Gallery, the Carnegie Institute of Pittsburgh, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Addison Gallery in Andover, Massachusetts.

By 1944, 10 West 9th Street was home to Edith Dwight, a widow.  Her daughter and son-in-law, Betty and Norman C. Strong, lived nearby at 26 East 10th Street.  The 45-year-old Strong was the group manager of the Equitable Life Assurance Society, making an annual salary equal to $539,000 in 2023.  

On the night of October 8, 1944 Edith had dinner at the Strongs' home.  Later that evening, Norman walked her home--and then promptly disappeared.  A nine-state police search was launched, but it proved fruitless for more than a week.  Then, Detective Charles Meyer learned that a semi-conscious man had been found lying in the street at Waverly Place and West 10th Street early on the morning of October 9.  At Bellevue Hospital, where he was diagnosed with a fractured skull, he had given his name as Charles Norrin.  He was unable to recall how he had received his injuries.

In 1951 the house was reconfigured into a two-family house, with a four-floor apartment in the basement through third floors, and a duplex in the top two.  That configuration remains today.

photographs by the author
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