Wednesday, May 24, 2023

The Altered Charles H. Haswell House - 111 East 31st Street


photo by Ted Leather

In 1851 Charles Haynes Haswell and his family lived in the recently completed house at 59 East 31st Street.  (The address would be renumbered twice, to 61 East 31st Street in 1855, and to 111 East 31st Street in 1868.)  The high-stooped Italianate style house reflected the affluence of its owners.  The floor-to-ceiling parlor windows were, most likely, fronted by an ornate cast iron balcony.  The arched entrance was crowned by a prominent cornice upheld by foliate brackets, and the house was crowned with a handsome bracketed cornice.

Born on May 22, 1809 to a prominent family (his father, Charles Haswell, was a member of the British foreign service and his mother Dorothea Haynes was born on her family's plantation in Barbados), he began the study of engineering at the age of 19.  In 1846 he wrote the Engineers' and Mechanics' Pocket Book, which would have at least 17 printings throughout the 19th century.  In 1851, while living here, he was appointed Chief Engineer of the United States Navy, the first in its history, a newly formed position.

Charles Haynes Haswell in later years.  (original source unknown)

Haswell had married Ann Elizabeth Burns in 1829.  The couple had six children who survived into adulthood, Sarah, Edmund, Frances Roe, Gouverneur Kemble, Charles, and Lillie Bulwer.  

Living with the family was Haswell's widowed mother, Dorothea.  She died on November 21, 1854 at the age of 76.  Her funeral in the parlor was most likely the first in the 31st Street house, but it was by no means the last.

Almost immediately afterward, Haswell sold the house to James Theophylact Bache and his family.  It appears that the two families were well acquainted.  A stockbroker, Bache had married Rosabella Trueman (sometimes spelled Truman) on February 22, 1833.  The couple had seven children, two of whom died in infancy.

James T. Bache's business partner was Wallace Truman, possibly Rosabella's brother or father.  A year earlier, Bache suffered embarrassment when he was arrested on April 28, 1853, for running a "lottery policy."  According to George S. Meshural's complaint, Bache ran a side gambling operation from his brokerage office at 174 Broadway.  A gambling addict, Meshural claimed he went there every day for eight months and, according to The Sunday Dispatch, "frequently during that time he has paid him as much as $300 per day."  According to Meshural, said the article, "the sum total of his purchases of policies from the about $8000."  (It was a substantial amount, equaling nearly $290,000 in 2023.)

Despite the humiliation, Bache seems to have continued his illegal sideline.  On October 22 the following year, the New-York Dispatch reported, "James T. Bache and Wallace Truman, keeping an office in Broadway, near Maiden-lane, were on Friday arrested by Officer Rose...charged with selling lottery policies to Warren Matton."

In 1855 the Baches' eldest son, John Henry, was 19 years old and entered the leather business.  Within three years he would join his father in the brokerage office.  In the meantime, the close relationship between the Haswell and Bache families resulted in a romance.  On May 18, 1859 John Henry Bache and Francis Roe Haswell were married in the nearby St. John the Baptist Church.   The newlyweds moved into the 31st Street house that Francis had once called home.

The Bache family's affluence was evidenced in James's stable of thoroughbred racing horses and his yacht, the Mallory.  In 1859 Bache was elected the commodore of the Hoboken Yacht Club.

On August 11, 1861 John Henry and Francis had a baby boy, James Henry Bache.  Their joy turned to grief three months later when the infant died on November 18.  His funeral was held in the house on November 20.

The following year, on August 9, 1862, James Theophylact Bache died, "after a lingering illness," according to the New-York Daily Tribune.  Once again there was a funeral held in the house.

Almost immediately, Bache's son and executor, James Phillips Bache, began selling his father's racehorses.   An advertisement on November 9 listed "three valuable horses," Morgan Jackson, Nonpareil, and Lady Irving, with their pedigrees and details.  The following year, in October, he advertised a pair of trotters:

For Sale--A cross match team of mares, a black and a gray, beautifully formed, long tails, 15 hands high; can trot in three minutes together; also one light Phaeton, with top, Harness, Blankets, Whips, &c.; will be sold as the owner has no use for them.

The family that had experienced so much pain over the past few years had something to celebrate when Charlotte Barclay Bache married William H. Crossman in the Church of St. John the Baptist on June 16, 1863.

With all his father's horses and racing vehicles sold, James offered the private stable for rent in April 1866.  His ad read, "To Let--The stall and yard 63 East Thirty-first street; accommodation for seven horses and all conveniences."

Rosebella and her unmarried children remained in 111 East 31st Street until 1870.  To liquidate her husband's estate, it and seven other Manhattan properties were sold at auction on March 15, 1870.

The new owner briefly leased 111 East 31st Street to Dr. Wilson Peterson.  Born in 1831 he had graduated from the Hahnemann Medical College in Philadelphia in 1858.  During the Civil War he served at the hospital at Annapolis.  While living here he worked at the city hospitals on Ward's and Blackwell's Islands.

In 1873 111 East 31st Street became home to the family of attorney Stephen Henry Olin.  Born on April 22, 1847, he had graduated from Wesleyan University in 1866 and two years later began his law practice in New York City with Olin, Rives & Montgomery.  His wife Alice Wadsworth Barlow came from a socially prominent family, the daughter of Samuel Latham Mitchill Barlow and Alice Cornell Townsend.  The couple had two daughters, Alice and Julia.

The ancestral Olin country estate, Glenburn, was just outside of Rhinebeck, New York.  The family also maintained a summer home in Glen Cove, New York.

A turn of the century postcard depicted Glenburn.

Stephen Olin narrowly escaped death on June 28, 1880 when he boarded the steamboat Seawanhaka, which ferried passengers to and from Long Island.  The vessel was near Wards Island when a boiler exploded, setting fire to the boat.  The New York Times reported that among the wealthy passengers, "near a score of them were consigned to a horrible death, while many more received painful injuries."  

Olin escaped without harm and, somewhat coldly, seemed to blame the deaths and injuries on the victims' actions.  "Few of the passengers behaved quietly," he told a reporter from The Sun.  "Some were crying out and appeared panic stricken.  Those who were cool escaped."

Alice Barlow Olin died in the Glen Cove residence on November 7, 1882 at the age of 29.  Stephen sold the East 31st Street house to banker Charles B. Henderson not long afterward.  (Stephen H. Olin would marry Emeline Harriman, the widow of William Earl Dodge and sister of Anne Harriman Vanderbilt, in 1903.)

Henderson and his wife, Jeanie North, had two daughters, Frances Beatrix and Janet Louise.  Living with them was Janie's widowed mother. 

Like the families before them in the house, the Hendersons moved among the highest levels of society.  Their social position was reflected in The New York Times report of Frances's wedding to Nathaniel Thayer Robb in St. Bartholomew's Church on November 27, 1895.  (The Robb mansion at 23 Park Avenue, incidentally, was a showplace.)  The article said the church was crowded "with people prominent in society in this city, Boston, and Philadelphia."  After the ceremony, a reception was held at 111 East 31st Street.

This portrait of Frances Henderson Robb was painted in 1899.  from the collection of the New-York Historical Society.

Exactly two years later to the day, Janet Louise was introduced to society.  On November 27, 1897 The New York Times reported that Jeanie "gave a coming-out reception for her second daughter," noting, "Sixteen young society women, several of them buds of last season, helped the debutante and her mother receive."  Their names came from the highest echelons of Manhattan society, including Schieffelin, Iselin, Delafield, Alexander, Howland, and Biddle.

As the turn of the century approached, the once exclusive residential neighborhood was seeing the incursion of commerce.  In 1899 Henderson sold 111 East 31st Street to Charles L. Hesselbach and his wife, the former Henrietta Scheuplein.  Hesselbach installed his upholstery shop in the basement level.  He and Henrietta moved into residence proper.

In 1907 Hesselbach branched out, buying two acres of land in Newark, New Jersey.  On June 6 that year, The Iron Age reported that he was "purchasing machinery for a structural iron plant to be erected" on the site.  The article noted, "While Mr. Hesselbach has an office at the New York address, he is spending much of his time in Newark at the site of the proposed plant."  The Calmuet Iron Works was completed that year.

Henrietta Hesselbach died in the East 31st Street house on June 2, 1910.  Her funeral, on June 4, would be the last to be held in the residence.

In 1941 the stoop and Victorian detailing survived.  The shop that had been home to Hesselbach's upholstery business is below curb level.  image via the NYC Dept of Records & Information Services.

Charles V. Hesselbach continued to live and run his upholstery store in the building at least through 1924.  In 1955 a renovation resulted in the removal of the stoop and the shaving off of the Victorian details, leaving only a hint of the once elegant mansion.  There were now an office on the first floor and two apartments each above.   

many thanks to reader Ted Leather for suggesting this post
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