Wednesday, June 14, 2023

The Ralph W. Lobenstein House - 162 East 71st Street


In 1871 real estate men Andrew F. Barry and Ira G. Lane embarked on an ambitious string of seven speculative rowhouses stretching from 150 to 162 East 71st Street.  Barry & Lane commissioned W. O’Gorman to design the buildings.  The architect was busy in the area, and was working simultaneously on four rowhouses on the same block for C. Smith, three more for him on East 73rd Street, and a tenement building for Haree & Smith on East 74th Street.

The houses were intended for middle-class to upper-middle class owners.  Clad in brownstone, the Italianate-style homes rose three stories over an English basement and were handsome, if not remarkable.  Barry & Lane listed the completed homes for sale in 1872 at $24,500 each—about $560,000 in 2023 terms.

No. 162 East 71st Street was originally home to the Webster family, who remained for a decade before selling it in March 1882 to real estate operator Moritz Bauer.  There seems to have been an urgency to sell, for the price of $13,000 was nearly half of what the Websters had originally paid.

Bauer was president of the Manhattan Investment and Construction Company.  With development rampant on the Upper East and West Sides, his business, which The New York Times said "was extensively advertised," flourished.  But greed led to Bauer's downfall.

In 1897 he was "charged with swindling people by selling lots and failing to deliver the deeds," reported The New York Times on January 8.  But arresting the well-to-do developer would prove to be a task.  The Brooklyn Daily Eagle reported that Detective Farley arrived at Bauer's "handsome brown stone house" on the night of January 6.  The man who answered the door did not remove the chain, and sent him away.

The following morning Farley returned.  The Brooklyn Daily Eagle reported, "A servant came to the door.  Before she knew it Farley had stepped into the hall."  Chaos broke out when, according to The New York Times, "the servant girl would not let him go beyond the hall."  She "seized" the detective and yelled upstairs for Bauer to lock his door, as there was a policeman in the house.

"When the detective broke away from her and started up the stairs, she grabbed his coat tails and pulled at them till they came off," said The New York Times.  Outside Bauer's locked bedroom door, Farley announced, "I have a warrant for your arrest!  You had better come out."

A two-hour stand-off ensued.  Farley refused to leave the hallway and Bauer refused to exit the room.  It came to an end, said The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, when the detective "said he would send for two policemen to break the door in."

On December 22, 1899, the once-affluent Bauer declared involuntary bankruptcy.  In 1901 Rev. Joseph Hines Rylance purchased the former Bauer house.

Born in Manchester, England in 1826, his wife was the former Ellen M. Coe.  Living with them were their only son Joseph Hinesford Ryland, his wife, and his in-laws, Dr. Nathan G. and Aurelia Lamar Bozeman.

Joseph Hinesford Ryland had married the Bozeman's only daughter, Fannie Lamar, on April 26, 1882.  Rev. Ryland performed the ceremony.  The high social status of the families was evidenced in the guest list, which included socially elite couples like the Cornelius Vanderbilts, the Oliver Iselins, the Maturin Livingstons, the John Jacob Astors, and the William H. Vanderbilts.

Fannie and her father-in-law went abroad for the summer in 1894, traveling through England, Scotland, and Wales.  On September 7, one day before they were to sail back home, Fannie died in London.

In 1904 Nathan and Aurelia Bozeman purchased the East 71st Street house.  Dr. Bozeman was born in Butler County, Alabama on March 26, 1825.  He was a noted surgeon and a specialist in gynecology.  During the Civil War he had served as a surgeon in the Confederate Army.  Aurelia was his second wife.  His first, Mary Frances Lamar (it is unclear what the relationship between the two Lamar women was), had died in 1861.  The Bozemans' country house, Waldeck, was in East Quogue, Long Island.  

In December 1905 Dr. Bozeman suffered a stroke.  A week later, on December 16, he died in the East 71st Street house at the age of 80.  In reporting his death, The New York Times called him "a surgeon well known in this country and in Europe."

Aurelia remained at 162 East 71st Street until June 4, 1911 when the house was sold at an estate auction.  It was purchased by another physician, Dr. Ralph Waldo Lobenstine and his wife, the former Anne Munroe Williams.  Before moving in, the couple hired the architectural firm of Crow, Lewis & Wickenhoefer to renovate the outdated brownstone.

The stoop was removed, the front pulled forward nearly to the property line, and a dignified neo-Federal facade installed.  The three openings of the main floor--the main and service entrance and a window between--sat below blind arches.  The architects identified the main entrance by giving it a handsome carved stone tympanum of a wreath and ribbons.

Clad in Flemish-bond brick, the midsection was introduced by a full-width stone balcony with iron railings.  The grouped windows were unified within a wooden frame.  A faux balcony fronted the top story windows, and a single dormer sat above the deeply overhanging cornice.

A marble tympanum marked the main entrance.  image via

Born in Kansas on July 24, 1874, Ralph Waldo Lobenstine graduated from Yale University in 1896 and received his medical degree from the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Columbia University in 1900.  He and Anne were married in 1906.  Like Nathan Bozeman, he was a specialist in gynecology and obstetrics.  When the couple moved into 162 East 71st Street he was adjunct assistant attending gynecologist at Bellevue Hospital.

Somewhat surprisingly, only seven years after remodeling their home the Lobenstines sold it in August 1919 to Dr. Warren Hildreth and his wife, the former Kathleen Whitaker.  The following year, on August 23, 1920, the Hildreth's son, Edward Jr., was born.  The family's summer home, Long Springs Park, was in Southampton.

Dr. Hildreth was a 1906 graduate of Princeton University and  a 1910 graduate of the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Columbia University.  The Hildreth family soon expanded to include daughters Hope and Priscilla.

Warren Hildreth died at the age of 53 in the Southampton house on October 18, 1937, an hour after suffering a cerebral hemorrhage.  Kathleen sold the 71st Street house within the year to Dr. Henry T. Burns.

Burns was going through divorce proceedings from his wife Frances at the time.  The couple had two daughters, Frances, who was 4 years old, and Mary, who was 2.  

Burns would not live alone long in his new home.  On November 14, 1938, The New York Times reported that the doctor had married Janet Robertson Luke.  Two years later, on December 18, 1941, the couple had a baby girl.

Burns's former wife sued for exclusive custody of Frances and Mary in 1942.  During the hearings she accused Henry and Janet Burns of maltreatment of the girls, protesting, for instance, that they were forced to sleep together in "a hall room" in the East 71st Street house when visiting.

Dr. Burns brought a bevy of servants to testify on his behalf--including a cook, chauffeur, governess and maid.  And as to the "hall room," Janet Burns told the judge that "the children always insisted upon sleeping in the same room," and that the room was a 13.6 by 13.6 foot room "with a private bath and play room."  Despite his efforts, Burns lost his case.

On July 14, 1951, The New York Times reported that Dr. Henry T. Burns had sold 162 East 71st Street to yet another physician, Dr. Richard J. Bellucci.  The article noted he "will occupy it as his office and residence."  Bellucci converted the house to an apartment in the basement, his medical office on the first floor, and a single family home above.

Bellucci was a pioneer in in ear surgery, one of the first surgeons in the United States to use a microscope during operations.  He developed his own instruments for the exacting procedures, including the Bellucci micro scissors.  A glimpse into his work can be gleaned from a letter he wrote to Helen Keller on August 3, 1960, which said in part:

Miss Keller:

Doctor Schneider and I wish to thank you for being so kind in allowing us to examine you with our new ultrasonic equipment.  Although it is obvious to you that you did not hear these high frequency sounds you did make a scientific contribution of importance as it gave us a new lead with regard to the hearing organs of the deaf-blind.

We now plan to examine a group of patients at the Industrial Home for the Blind which have hearing organs similar to yours.  We will probably report our findings soon and it may be that you would want your name mentioned in conjunction with this publication.  If this is the case please notify us to that effect.

A renovation to 162 East 71st Street in 2011-12 returned it to a single-family home.  While the interiors were gutted, the exterior remained unchanged.  The residence sold in September 2015 for $13 million.  It was at this time, it seems, that the marble tympanum over the main entrance was removed, and three elaborate replacements were installed over all three openings.

The identical tympana include the date 2015 and the German inscription, "God bless this house and everyone who goes in and out of it."  

photographs by the author
many thanks to Carole Teller for requesting this post
no permission to reuse the content of this blog has been granted to


  1. Beautiful house. Pics of the inside:,-NY-10021_rb/31535184_zpid/?

  2. Nathan Bozeman: