Monday, May 29, 2023

The Lost Frederick's Photographic Portrait Gallery - 770 Broadway


Renovations in 1885 resulted in a striking make-over.  from Illustrated New York City and Surrounds 1889 (copyright expired)

George Parker was born in Boston on March 2, 1793.  After graduating from Harvard College, he added his middle name Phillips, and entered the counting room of his father, John Parker.  In 1844 he moved his family to New York City and into the recently completed mansion at the southeast corner of Broadway and 9th Street, in the exclusive Bond Street neighborhood.

The Italianate style house was faced in brownstone, its entrance accessed by a high stone stoop.  The Parkers would have as their neighbors some of the wealthiest families in New York, with names like Jones, Mason, and Astor.

Parker and his wife, the former Anna Mitchell Moore, had a daughter, Mary Trapman Parker.  Parker's daughter from his marriage to Harriet Walker, Harriette Lydia Boardman, was married to Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr. 

By now George Phillips Parker was nationally known for his passionate stance against alcohol.  Upon the formation of the United Brothers of Temperance of New York on May 17, 1844, he was appointed vice president, with publisher and mayor James Harper as president.  Five months later, on October 7, the New York Herald reported:

We are happy to learn that active and efficient measures have been adopted for the establishment of a fund in this city for the relief of reformed drunkards.  This benevolent and much wanted movement has been originated by George Phillips Parker, Esq., a wealthy gentleman, formerly of Boston, but now a resident of this city, and who has for a considerable time devoted his personal labor and abundant means to the promotion of the great temperance cause.

Sadly for Parker, in 1845 he was expelled  from the United Brothers of Temperance for divulging the "private business of the order" to a newspaper reporter.  Undaunted, Parker forged on with his temperance work on his own.

An 1844 silhouette by Auguste Edouart depicts Parker (right) handing the United Brothers of Temperance pledge to Dr. David Osgood.  from the collection of the National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution.

George Phillips Parker died at the age of 63 on January 19, 1856.  His funeral was held in the Broadway house two days later.  In reporting his death, the Necrology of Alumni of Harvard College recalled his temperance work, saying he "contributed liberally from his ample means to promote its objects."

By the outbreak of Civil War, the Bond Street neighborhood was experiencing the incursion of commerce.  It is unclear how long Anna Parker remained at 770 Broadway, but in 1863 the basement was converted to a store, and she rented the house proper.  In the April 23, 1864 issue of The Round Table, book publisher Anson D. F. Randolph announced, "Will remove about the 1st of May from No. 660 to No. 770 Broadway, corner of Ninth street, east side."

Randolph published and sold "religious, standard, miscellaneous and juvenile books in a great variety," as worded in an advertisement that year.  Shortly after moving into the former Parker mansion, he turned his attention to the Civil War.  He was instrumental in the formation of the Soldiers' Free Library at the Battery Barracks.  

The following year he lent his support to the family of Union Army Sergeant Humiston, killed on the first day of the Battle of Gettysburg.  So mutilated was his body that he was initially unidentifiable and buried among the unknown.  Then, as reported by The New York Times, "In his hand, however, was grasped a photograph of three little children, and this picture months afterward, let to his identification."  Now, to benefit his wife and children, Randolph sold copies of that photograph.

In 1876 the Parker family did not renew the lease of the upper floors.  An auction was held on June 21 of the furnishings which the auctioneer deemed "all strictly first class work and well worth the attention of purchasers."  The Parker estate then hired architect W. N. Griswold to install a storefront and make other alterations.  The new tenants were Fredericks & O'Neil, photographers; and publisher, Richard Worthington, who replaced Randolph.

Like Randolph, Richard Worthington dealt in a wide variety of books.  Among his many offerings in 1882 were the American Portrait Gallery, History of the American Fauna, Lavater's Essays on Physiognomy, Charles Dickens's Complete Works, and Thackeray's Complete Works.

R. Worthington published Baby's Picture Primer in 1880.

Charles DeForest Fredericks' photographic career was already firmly established.  In 1853 he had moved to Paris where he became the world's first photographer to create life-sized bust portraits, which were then hand-colored.  Returning to New York the following year, his studio at 585 Broadway was popular for its cartes de visites, or cabinet card photographs.  Among those he photographed were Civil War generals Philip Henry Sheridan and George B. McClellan, and the President's son, Tad Lincoln.  Ironically, actress Laura Keene who would be on stage when the President was assassinated, was photographed by Fredericks, as was actor John Wilkes Booth, who fired the fatal shot.

Charles D. Fredericks's portrait of Laura Keene, from the collection of the National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution.

On November 23, 1882 the New-York Tribune reported that R. Worthington "intends to close his retail department and to confine his attention to his own publications."  A month later an announcement in the newspaper was entitled "Closing Out" and offered "fine, standard and illustrated books" at sale prices.

Charles D. Fredericks now expanded into most of the building.  Mary J. Parker hired architect Jonathan B. Franklin to make renovations, including the removal of the stoop and a new storefront.

In January 1885 Richard Worthington declared bankruptcy.  Charles Fredericks now took over the entire building and in May that year brought Franklin back to make massive changes.  The architect's plans called for "raising attic to full story, new flat roof, also internal alterations, new beams, &c."  The changes would cost Fredericks the equivalent of $145,000 in 2023.

Charles DeForest Fredericks, from Anthony's Photographic Bulletin, January 1, 1894 (copyright expired)

Jonathan B. Franklin's renovations resulted in a fashionable Second Empire building.  The new, elegant cast iron storefront featured stained glass transoms that announced the firm's name and an elaborate entablature with a cast iron banner that read "Photographic Portrait & Art Gallery."  Decorative panels and frothy lintels embellished the second and third floors, and the new fourth floor took the form of a stylish mansard capped with ornate cresting.

On February 8, 1893, The Evening World commented on Fredericks's esteemed career.   "He has been taking pictures for fifty years [and] is the oldest photographer in New York...He has taken the pictures of most of our recent Presidents, including Harrison and Cleveland."  Only a year later, on May 25, 1894, Charles DeForest Fredericks died at the age of 71.

At the time of his death, the massive A. T. Stewart & Co. store covered the Broadway block from 9th to 10th Street.  In November 1896 Philadelphia retailer John Wanamaker moved his department store into the building.  Almost immediately he began buying up the properties on the block to the south, and by 1902 had successfully acquired the entire parcel, including 770 Broadway.  The buildings were demolished to make way for the Wanamaker Annex, which survives. has no authorization to reuse the content of this blog

1 comment:

  1. I would like to mention something of interest regarding the Wanamaker Annex Building at 770 Broadway. There are two square structures roof of the Building. At one time they were used as the base for two gigantic antennas for the most powerful wireless telegraph station on the east coast. Shoppers in the Wanamaker's Department store, and others, could send wireless telegraph messages to people traveling on passenger ships and to other points by wireless radio.
    On the night of April 15, 1912 a wireless radio operator working for the Marconi Wireless Co. was on duty in the building. His name was David Sarnoff, a young man who had originally lived on the Lower East Side. While on duty he began to receive messages from another wireless station at Cape Race Newfoundland, Canada. The message reported that the ocean liner Titanic that was on her maiden voyage, had struck an iceberg and was in distress and required immediate assistance from any ships in the area. As the hours went on the messages from other ships were relayed that the Titanic had been lost. This message was passed on to the radio station atop 770 Broadway which became a bee hive of activity for the press and the public regarding the loss of the Titanic. The radio operator, David Sarnoff is reported to have stayed at his post for two days transmitting the latest news of the tragedy and lists of those saved and who was lost to a City eager for news about this event.
    This young man, David Sarnoff, who saw the promise of wireless radio, and the possibility of voice radio, went on to found RCA and NBC. I believe he opened the first civilian voice radio station in America I think, the beginning of NBC. In the late 1920s he saw the promise in a new technology called television and promoted the development of that medium.