Friday, September 29, 2023

The 1904 Lyric Apartments - 352-356 West 46th Street


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At the turn of the last century, three four-story flats had stood at 352 through 356 West 46th Street for years.  In 1903, they were purchased and demolished by Gotlieb W. Karpas, who hired architect George F. Pelham to design a modern replacement.

Completed in 1904, the Lyric's rusticated limestone base upheld four stories clad in gray Roman brick.  The sixth floor was faced in stone.  Pelham's Renaissance Revival design featured scrolled keystones, splayed lintels, and Renaissance style pediments.  The courtly entrance portico, however, stole the show.  Four Scamozzi columns upheld the intricately carved entablature and balustraded balcony.

Despite its proximity to the dangerous Hell's Kitchen neighborhood, the Lyric was intended for financially comfortable residents.  There were five apartments per floor, ranging from four to seven rooms.  Apartment Houses of the Metropolis noted:

Hardwood trim throughout.  Dining rooms are paneled seven feet high, capped with Dutch shelving.  All floors are double, noiseless, with hardwood border and parquet finish.  Baths are tiled and wainscoted with porcelain tile four feet six inches high, opal glass and tile lined refrigerators, porcelain plumbing fixtures, private telephone in each apartment.

Residents paid between $540 and $900 per year, or around $2,500 a month by today's terms.

Apartment Houses of the Metropolis, 1908 (copyright expired)

The Lyric had a wide variety of tenants, and its location near the theater district attracted several in that industry.  Among the first were Charles Zimmerman, a partner in the theatrical management firm of Nixon & Zimmerman, and his wife.  On the evening of May 19, 1905 the couple was walking their fox terrier on Eighth Avenue.  The World reported, "When they reached Fifty-third street a large bulldog which was with a negro sprang at the fox terrier, and the animals started to fight."

Zimmerman tried to separate the animals, but was bitten twice in the left hand.  The newspaper reported, "The bulldog sprang at Mrs. Zimmerman.  She turned her back on the animal, and several men beat the brute off.  Mrs. Zimmerman then pulled off her automobile coat and threw it over the fighting dogs."  The distraction ended the fight and Mrs. Zimmerman retrieved her bleeding dog.  "Mr. and Mrs. Zimmerman then called a cab and were driven to Dr. Van Loen, who cauterized the bites," said The World.

The Zimmermans were by far not the only dog lovers in the Lyric.  Oscar A. Hirsch, who lived here in 1910 owned a pedigree Boston terrier; W. Beardsley Judson, here at the same time, was treasurer of the Bulldog Breeders' Association of America; and Rita Stamwood owned a cocker spaniel.

Another of the initial residents was actress Minnie Seligman.  Twice divorced, her family was closely related to the massively wealthy Seligman banking family.  Both her first husband and her family had forbidden her to go on stage.  She did anyway.

Minnie Seligman, from the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

While Minnie was away on the night of August 31, 1905, four teenage boys were discovered in her apartment.  Arrested for burglary, they provided a questionable explanation.  The teens said they had, indeed, entered the building, but "they were frightened away by a man in the house and went into Miss Seligman's apartments to escape to the street."

Louis R. Rothchild's marriage to Carrie Adams in Jersey City on June 27, 1905 was initially kept secret.  The groom's brother was David Rothchild, president of the Federal Bank, who had been arrested the previous year for "stealing $200,000 of the funds of the Federal Bank," according to The New York Times.  The newlyweds moved into Carrie's apartment in the Lyric.  A reporter from The Press arrived at the apartment on July 16, the day after the marriage was finally made public.  Carrie explained, "The reason we did not announce it before was partly because I knew it would mean a lot of notoriety.  Recently we decided it might as well come out now as at any other time."

In 1908 the building's name was changed to the Lansdown.  Typical of the tenants at the time were Russell Seipt Wolfe, a 1909 graduate of the University of Pennsylvania and a law clerk with Strong & Cadwalader.

Drawing unwanted publicity to the Lansdown in 1912 was actress Beatrice Walsh.  On the afternoon of October 28, she was seen by a Herald Square department store detective taking money from the purse of another shopper.  When he approached, Beatrice initiated what would develop into an astounding foot chase.  The Evening Telegram reported she, "startled a throng of women shoppers in the aisles of the store by leaping from a balcony to the first floor, narrowly missing several women who were beneath the balcony."

Scrambling to her feet, Beatrice darted out of the store onto West 34th Street, now closely pursued by several store detectives.  "Dashing madly across Thirty-fourth street, the fleeing woman ran into the pathway of a crosstown car, and was only saved from being knocked down and crushed by the frantic efforts of the motorman to halt the car."  Beatrice's flight was about to come to and end.  She "ran almost into the arms of Policeman Zorn" on the opposite side of the street.  The actress was arrested and charged with stealing $5 from the purse of Elizabeth Krowehl.

Stockbroker Harry Lattimer Bloodgood left his wife, the former Helen Hamler, in January 1912.  He moved into his mother's apartment on West 56th Street, and filed for divorce.  The rift greatly affected Helen's mind.  The Sun reported on March 10 that since the couple separated, "Mrs. Bloodgood ahs been in Broadway restaurants nearly every night and until early in the morning," and that she "had spent $3,000 in entertaining her friends in three weeks."  The article noted, "It was also learned that a piano player was kept on duty for twenty-four hours."

A concerned friend notified authorities who went to Helen's apartment in the Lansdown.  According to The Sun, the "physicians who were finally called in to treat Mrs. Bloodgood found the apartment wrecked."  On March 10, The Sun reported that she "was taken to the Bellevue psychopathic ward on Wednesday night, and was later committed to the Rivercrest Sanitarium."

In 1921, little had changed within the Lansdown.  An "elegant apartment of five large rooms" rented that year for $1,500 per year, or about $2,000 a month today.

Interestingly, the building continued to attracted dog lovers.  In 1919, Mrs. G. D. Crawford's pedigree Boston terrier Dandy Tim was registered at the address, and on July 31, 1922 The American Kennel Gazette and Stud Book listed Frederic H. Schader and his two German shepherds Westy Q and Asta here.

And theatrical types, too, continued to live in the Lansdown.  Among them in 1925 were Albert E. Johnston, of the vaudevillian act the Musical Johnstons, and his wife, Dorothy Drew.

Dr. Eugene C. Mowry was a well-known resident.  On April 19, 1935 the New York Post remarked that he had "befriended hundreds of residents in the West Forties during two score years as a physician."  The widower lived with his adult daughter Maude Blanche.  Mowry died in the apartment on April 27, 1935, and his funeral was held there two days later.

image via the NYC Dept of Records & Information Services.

Included in Maude Mowry's inheritance was a vacant property at the southwest corner of Roosevelt Avenue and 72nd Street in Jackson Heights.  Her father had purchased it in 1920.  In 1938, she attempted to erect a gasoline station on the plot, but was rebuffed by the Board of Standards and Appeals.  Members of the Elmhurst Heights Taxpayers' Association "contended there was no need for the station in the locality as there are three such stations within five blocks there," reported the Long Island Daily Star.  Undaunted, Maude went to court.  State Supreme Court Justice George H. Furman overturned the Board's decision, calling it "arbitrary and unreasonable."

Living here in 1977 was 20-year-old tow truck helper Alexander Esau.  His long-time girlfriend was Valentina Suriani, an 18-year-old student at Lehman College.  On April 17, 1977 Alexander borrowed his brother's car to take Valentina to a movie.  Afterward, he drove to a service road on the Hutchinson River Parkway, about a block from Valentina's home.

The spring of 1977 was not a good time for lovers to park in secluded areas.  A serial killer had begun stalking the area nine months earlier.  John Keenan, Chief of Detectives of the New York City Police Department was unable to provide a motive, saying only, "It seems to be the work of a psychologically disturbed person."

At around 3:00 in the morning, David Berkowitz, who would later be known as the Son of Sam, walked up to the driver's side window of Esau's car and opened fire.  Valentina, shot twice in the head, died almost instantly.  Alexander, also shot in the head, lingered for two hours before dying at Jacobi Hospital.

Once again called the Lyric, George F. Pelham's handsome building still has five apartments per floor.  While the interiors have been stripped of 1904 details, the exterior is little changed.

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