Friday, June 16, 2023

The Henry and Isabella Cammann House - 7 Sutton Place


In April 1837 George Sutton acquired property on the east side of Manhattan where only a few years earlier were summer estates of New York’s wealthy.  Not long after the end of the Civil War, development reached the area.  In 1875 Effingham Brown Sutton erected a group of brownstone residences along the eastern section of Avenue A from 57th to 58th Street.  The area was far from the fashionable neighborhoods to the west, yet it enjoyed the breezes from the East River directly behind the homes.  In 1883 the two-block stretch of Avenue A from 57th to 59th Streets was renamed Sutton Place.

By 1920 the neighborhood had noticeably declined.  A brewery, a steam plant, and coal yards surrounded Sutton's brownstone row.  Yet, that year a group of wealthy New Yorkers headed by architect Eliot Cross and W. Seward Webb, Jr. had a vision for the u-shaped group of houses.  They proposed remodeling them into upscale residences, and removing the backyard fences to create a common garden overlooking the river.  Their scheme was described by the Architectural Record in 1922 as "a more or less co-operative plan."

The group as it appeared when Cross and Webb first saw it.  from the collection of the Library of Congress.

The group agreed, for uniformity, that “The brownstone stoops, the window ledges and other protrusions are to be cleaved off, leaving a straight front to the outside world.  Architecturally the façade will be of the American basement style, which has been popular in the Fifth Avenue district for the last decade."  The 18 properties were snapped up at an amazing rate, given their location in what The New York Times unceremoniously deemed "a slum."

No. 7 Sutton Place was purchased by Henry Lorillard Cammann and his wife, the former Margaret Willard Miner.  They hired architect William F. Dominick to remake the vintage brownstone.  He removed the stoop and lowered the entrance to one step above the sidewalk.  The colonial-style door with a leaded transom sat below a fanlight that matched the arched openings of the first floor.  Dominic achieved a tripartite effect with a full-width balcony at the second floor and an intermediate cornice at the third.

Architectural Record, February 1922 (copyright expired)

The Architectural Record noted that in order to enjoy the garden and the view, "the more important rooms are placed at the back of the house, and on the first or entrance floor the dining room opens out through glazed doors upon a balcony, where a few curved steps lead down to the garden."  Dominick had replaced the straight, Victorian staircase with a dramatic winding stairway with an iron railing.

Architectural Record, February 1922 (copyright expired)

On the second floor was the dual purpose living room-library.  "The book-case is recessed in the wall, above two built-in cabinets, the doors of which are designed to frame some old carved Gothic panels," said the article.  Adding to the Gothic motif were an imported marble mantle of the period, and "two Italian Gothic lanterns, which have had electric lights ingeniously introduced," which hung from the ceiling.  Two bedrooms were at the front of the second floor.

Architectural Record, February 1922 (copyright expired)

Born in Dublin, Ireland in 1864, Cammann graduated from Harvard College in 1886, and was now a woolens importer with Henry W. T. Mali & Co.

Henry Lorillard Cammann, 25th Anniversary Report of the Secretary of the Class of 1886 of Harvard College, 1911 (copyright expired)

He and Margaret married in Grace Church on December 4, 1917.  It was the second wedding for both.  Margaret was the widow of Worthington Miner.  Henry's first wife, Grace Huntington Churchill, had died in 1911, The New York Times saying at the time she left "a large fortune to her husband, including the Cammann home in Greenwich [Connecticut]."

The Architectural Record published two views of the living room-library in its February 1922 issue. (copyright expired)

The year they bought the Sutton Place house, the 19th Amendment was ratified, ending a long fight for Margaret.  She had been, as described by The New York Times, "a leader in the woman suffrage movement."  She was, as well, prominent in the Daughters of the American Revolution.

The Queensboro Bridge can be seen beyond the garden in the lower photograph.  Architectural Record, February 1922 (copyright expired)

Not very long after the couple moved in, on April 25, 1924, the house was the scene of the wedding reception of Margaret's niece, Mary Sargeant Spencer.  Her marriage in Grace Church to Kenneth Philips was described by The Buffalo Sunday Express as "a wedding of great interest."

Somewhat surprisingly, only six years after remodeling 7 Sutton Place, the Cammanns prepared to leave.  On November 17, 1926, The New York Times reported that the couple had purchased two adjoining apartments nearby at 430 East 57th Street.  Until the current leases were up and the apartments could be combined, said the article, the Cammanns would occupy a six-room apartment in the that building.  They leased 7 Sutton Place furnished to William V. Griffin and his wife.  

Three years after Henry Lorillard Cammann's death on March 1, 1930, Margaret sold 7 Sutton Place to Marshall Rutgers Kernochan and his wife, the former Caroline Rigney Hatch.  The couple had a 14-year-old son, John Marshall Kernochan.  Their country home was in Tuxedo Park.

Before moving in, the Kernochans hired the architectural firm of Polhemus & Coffin to give William F. Dominick's 1920 design a new look.  On January 4, 1934 The New York Sun reported, "The work will consist of erecting new brick walls, new interior partitions, heating, plumbing and elevator work."  

The renovations were significant, costing the Kernochans the equivalent of more than half a million in 2023 dollars.  The entrance was moved to the opposite side, where the Cammann's service entrance had been.  It featured a colonial-style stone surround capped by a broken pediment.  Dominick's balcony and fourth floor cornice were removed and the second floor windows given prominent cornices and the those on the third floor received pediments that matched the entranceway.

image via the NYC Dept of Records & Information Services.

Kernochan was a musician, publisher and composer.  He had studied music in Frankfurt, Germany under Ivan Knorr and at the Institute of Musical Art (today's Julliard School).

On March 13, 1941, the Evening Star commented, "With the announcement of the engagement of Miss Adelaide Chatfield-Taylor, daughter of the Undersecretary of Commerce and Mrs. Chatfield-Taylor, to Mr. John Marshall Kernochan, son of Mr. and Mrs. Marshall Kernochan of New York, there is promise of additional entertaining for prominent young couples."  John gave his father the honor of being his best man at the wedding.

John would go on to become a law professor, a composer and publisher like his father.  He would found Columbia Law School's Kernochan Center for Law, Media and the Arts.

By the time of John's wedding, Marshall Kernochan was the president of the Galaxy Music Corp., and he and Caroline had established their summer home in Edgartown, Massachusetts.  The couple was there on June 9, 1955, when the 74-year-old Marshall died.

The following year, in September 1956, Caroline sold 7 Sutton Place to the 33-year-old Robert G. Goelet.  The newspaper called the millionaire bachelor "the scion of a real estate dynasty."  The family's history in New York real estate closely paralleled that of the Astor family.  Goelet had service as a Navy flier in World War II and was president of the American Museum of Natural History, the New-York Historical Society, and the French Institute.

Robert G. Goelet, The East Hampton Star, October 17, 2019

Manhattan society may have surmised that Goelet would never marry.  He was 53 years old when, on September 11, 1976, The New York Times reported, "On Gardiner's Island, longtime barony of her mother's family, Alexandra Gardiner Creel was married quietly Thursday to Robert G. Goelet, heir to the real estate fortune of the Goelet family of Manhattan and Newport, R. I."  The newspaper would later add that their marriage "merged two families that date to the 17th-century New Amsterdam."

Upon the death of Alexandra's "idiosyncratic uncle Robert David Lion Gardiner," as worded by The New York Times, the Goelets took possession of the 3,300-acre Gardiner's Island, owned by Alexandra's family since 1639.  Calling it "a storied sanctuary off the tip of Long Island," The New York Times noted it had "27 miles of coastline, lush white pine and oak forests, colonial buildings, a 200-year-old windmill, a family cemetery and considerably more ospreys than people."  The couple maintained the island as a bird sanctuary, while restoring its colonial buildings and habitat.

Continuing the tradition of remodeling that every owner of 7 Sutton Place had done since 1920, The Goelets combined their home with 9 Sutton Place.  In its October 18, 1976 issue, The New Yorker noted they live "in a double house, 40 feet wide, that looks out on the East River across a lawn and garden."  Interestingly, their architect made no attempt to meld the facades.

Nos. 7 and 9 Sutton Place outwardly give no hint that they have been combined as a single residence.

Alexandra died on December 19, 1990.  Robert G. Goelet survived her until his death at the age of 96 on October 9, 2019.  Their double house looks for all the world like two separate residences.

photographs by the author has no authorization to reuse the content of this blog

1 comment:

  1. Looked far more beautiful under the 1875 configuration. Sad to see them get butchered like that. Also didn’t realize that this sort of defacing began as early as the 1920s.