Saturday, May 13, 2023

The 1888 Trolan Stable Building - 515 West 19th Street


In 1856 a wooden stable edged up to the property line at 341 West 19th Street (renumbered 515 in 1868).  To the rear of the property was a three-story brick house, home to Samuel Weekes and his family who would remain through 1858.  Weekes listed his occupation as carman, suggesting he either owned the cartage firm that occupied the stable, or worked for the proprietor.

The rear building continued to house carmen over the ensuing years.  James Johnson and the appropriately named James Carr were listed here in 1863, followed by John O. Sharon and his family.  Sharon would remain through 1871.  Occupying a room in the house from 1867 through 1869 was John McIlvaine, a laborer.

The following year Joseph Greene and his wife, Mary lived here.  Joseph listed his occupation as "foreman," suggesting that he possibly managed the stable, which was owned by Charles White at the time.  (White owned a second stable downtown.)

One can imagine the hard life Mary Greene lived.  She would have endured foul smells from the stable just steps away from her home, the neighborhood less than a block from the riverfront was sketchy at best--making it unsafe for her to leave home at night--and there was, of course, no running water nor electricity.  Mary died in the house at the age of 37 on August 7, 1870.

Charles White was operating the stable as a livery rather than a cartage business by now.  An advertisement in the New York Herald on July 24, 1870 offered:

For Sale--A very fine pair of carriage horses (brothers), 5 and 6 years old, 16-hands high, perfectly matched; sound, kind and gentle.

In 1872 Andrew Arthur purchased the property, and he and his wife Margaret moved into the rear house.  Arthur was a stevedore and its proximity to the docks was convenient.  Joseph Greene remained, apparently still managing the stable for Arthur.  Sadly, there would be another funeral in the house that year.  The Arthurs' 7-month-old daughter, Annie, died on October 14.

Andrew Arthur died in 1886 and in September that year Margaret sold the 19th Street property to Joseph Granger for $5,000 (just under $150,000 in 2023).  He would not own it long.  Eight months later, in June 1887, he sold what the Record & Guide described as the "frame stables and three-story brick dwelling on rear" to Dennis J. Trolan.  Granger made a tidy profit, selling it for $6,000.  Trolan and his wife Mary moved into the rear house along with his parents William and Catherine.  

One year later, early on the morning of June 19, 1888, fire broke out in the four-story piano case factory next door at 517-519 West 19th Street.  The Daily Graphic wrote, "Three alarms were sent out this morning for a fire which was discovered about five o'clock."  The Trolans surely scrambled to rescue the horses from the wooden stable.  They succeeded in saving the animals, but the building suffered damage.

On September 22, 1888 The American Architect and Building News reported that Trolan had hired architect Frederick Jenth to replace the wooden stable with a brick one.  

The two-story structure was somewhat unusual.  Its narrow, 18-foot-width precluded the traditional stable design of a centered carriage bay flanked by a pedestrian entrance and window.  Jenth elevated the first floor above the sidewalk level (presumably adding a ramp for the horses and carts) and placed a horsewalk, or passage to the rear yard, at grade.  His otherwise utilitarian design took flight at the cornice, where he created a distinctive table of stepped brick corbels below a delicate row of dentils.

There would be another funeral in the house in 1889.  Dennis's mother, Catherine Trolan, died on February 28 at the age of 67.

In 1893 the city purchased two piers on the Hudson River and initiated a massive project to rebuild them.  It included dredging the waterfront, resetting piles, and other related labor.  Dennis J. Trolan landed the contract for servicing and repairing "horses, carts, etc."  (Unfortunately for him, what must have appeared to be a lucrative deal was less so.  There was little work to be done on the city's horses and vehicles, amounting only to $105--about $3,260 today.)

Trolan attempted to be a good Samaritan on the night of May 6, 1894, but ended up a victim.  The Evening World reported, "Trolan says he was near his home about 10:30 o'clock last night when he saw three men chasing a boy.  He interfered, and one of the men struck him with a hammer, knocking him down."  Trolan fought back, but a fourth man appeared "and took a hand against him."

Trolan was overpowered in the four-against-one battle and the thugs stole his gold watch, which he valued at $110 (around $3,500 today).  His cries alerted a policeman, who took chase.  The ruffians ducked into a building at 509 West 19th Street, two doors away from the stable.  The officer apprehended three of them, the other "had evidently escaped by a window," according to The Evening World.  Dennis J. Trolan was in the Jefferson Market Court the following day to testify again them.

In July 1902 Trolan transferred title to the property to Mary J. Trolan.  The deed listed the transaction as "gift."  Two years later the stable was leased to W. B. Smiths' Sons Trucking Co. "for a term of years," according to the Record & Guide.  The building was described as having 17 stalls and being "in first class condition."

After having lived in the rear house for more than three decades, Dennis and Mary Trolan left West 19th Street in October 1910.  They leased both buildings to Taggart Brothers.

In 1913 the stable building was renovated for the Hydro-Bar Waterproofing Co.  Listing itself as "engineers, contractors, manufacturers," the firm employed "practical men experienced in building work and the chemistry of building materials." 

A year after moving in, on May 27, 1914, the building was broken into.  Somewhat surprisingly, the beat cop William Schwartz was charged with failing "to prevent, discover or report [the] burglary." 

That same year Hydro-Bar Waterproofing Co. received the contract to work on the renovation of 146 East 19th Street.  The well-known artist George W. Bellows was converting part of the house to his studio.

In March 1916 the Silox Pure Water Company leased the property, and four years later its owner Amos R. Cahoon purchased it.  In 1924 the building was renovated by architect William M. Farrar.  Department of Buildings documents noted it was to be used for storage throughout.

Used as a storage warehouse in 1941, a loading dock had been installed.  image via the NYC Dept of Records & Information Services.

The neighborhood once lined with riverfront saloons and factories saw art galleries and luxury apartment buildings appear in the late 20th and early 21st centuries.  In 2010 515 West 19th Street was home to the publisher David Zwimer Books, and in 2016 the London-based Timothy Taylor gallery opened here.  ArtReview noted on July 8, 2016 that it would be named "Timothy Taylor 16 x 34, after the dimensions."  (Unfortunately, they were two-feet short of the actual width.)

Today the space is home to the gallery A Hug From the Art World.  After many incarnations, the unlikely survivor retains much of its 1888 appearance, including the wonderful brick cornice.

photos by the author
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