Friday, September 1, 2023

The Hannah Barker House - 127 East 26th Street


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In March 1865 Hannah Angevine Barker and her daughters were living at 77 East 26th Street when the house next door at 79 (renumbered 127 in 1865) was placed on the market for $10,500--or about $195,000 in 2023 money.  It was one of a row of identical homes built around 1859, and had been home to the family of Joseph W. Bartlett, who dealt in "machines."

Hannah Barker had apparently been renting, and now moved into a permanent home.  The narrow, 14-foot-wide house was faced in brownstone and rose three stories above the English basement.  Its understated Italianate design featured gently arched openings, a molded doorframe, and delicate Italianate stoop railings.

Hannah was the widow of shoe and boot maker Nathaniel Barker, who died in 1855.  Her home was well-populated.  Living with Hannah were her daughters Emeline, Harriet, and Amanda; as well as her widowed sister Susan A. Underhill and a servant.  Possibly to add security to the all-female household, Hannah took in two male boarders in 1867, Alfred and Ira Starr (presumably brothers) who were partners in the dental office of A. Starr & Bro. on Grand Street.

Susan A. Underhill died at the age of 90 on May 11, 1872.  Her casket sat in the parlor until her funeral there at 1:00 on the 14th.

In 1878, the Barker women were pulled into a dispute between two neighbors.  Miss Henry, a spinster who lived at 131 East 26th Street, filed charges against "the widow Pettigrew," as described by The Sun, who lived across the street at 130 East 26th Street.  Mrs. Pettigrew had a pet mocking bird.  Miss Henry complained that the singing of the bird had frayed her nerves and damaged her health.  She told a judge on July 17, 1878 that "she could not eat her meals, the bird made her so nervous," as reported by The Sun.

Mrs. Pettigrew testified that she had done everything she could to assuage the situation.  "Since this complaint was made I have smothered myself and my bird shutting down my windows.  But certainly I can't choke my bird, and I'd be very sorry to part with it."  (The six-year-old bird had been purchased by her deceased husband.)  Mrs. Pettigrew's attorney submitted affidavits from neighbors, including Amanda Barker, that insisted the bird was not a nuisance, but "a pleasure" and a "delight."

Hannah Barker died at the age of 90 in 1880.  Her estate was divided among her daughters and her grandchildren (the children of Hannah's daughter Susan Angevine Place, who died in 1869.)  The three elderly sisters, Emeline, Harriet, and Amanda Barker, remained at 127 East 26th Street for years.  (It seems they passed much of the time doing needlework, for an exquisite Mariner's Compass quilt executed by Emeline is on display at the American Folk Art Museum.)  

By 1903 the Barker women shared the house with their nephew, Barker Place, his wife Grace, and their daughter Marian.  Barker Place was the son of Susan Angevine Barker and James Keyes Place (who had been the State Commissioner of Public Works).  He was born in 1849 and was a veteran of the elite Seventh Regiment, known as the Silk Stocking Regiment because of its spate of wealthy members.  Barker could trace his American ancestry on both sides to the 17th century.  He married Grace Fuller on November 19, 1872.

By the time Marian Place was married in the Cathedral of St. John the Divine on June 8, 1904, her parents had moved far north to West 130th Street.   

Emeline Barker died in the East 26th Street house on October 13, 1906.  After having lived here for 55 years, Amanda died on September 2, 1919.   Friends were possibly confused by a typo in her death notice in The New York Times that transposed the numerals in the street address, reading "127 East 62d St." rather than 26th.

Having had one owner for more than half a century, the house saw a rapid succession of purchasers.  It became home to Sam Strauss in 1919.  He sold it in July 1921 to Mary G. Richardson, who rented rooms.   In December 1924 she sold it to Joseph Schwartz, who quickly resold it in January 1925 to one of the tenants, Isidor Zimmerman.

Among Zimmerman's tenants in 1928 was Everett M. Daly, an undertaker.  Daly was affluent enough to afford an automobile, one that got him in serious trouble on March 13.  While driving on Queens Boulevard in Woodside, he slammed into the back of Joseph F. Trenkler's vehicle.  The Queens newspaper The Daily Star disclosed, "Trenkler was reported to have suffered serious injuries to his legs as a result of the accident."  Daly was arrested for "driving while intoxicated."

The handsome Italianate double doors, used by the Barker women for half a century, survive.  photo by the author

A renovation completed in 1974 resulted in an apartment in the basement level.  While the Barker house is essentially intact on the exterior, much of the 1850s interior details have been stripped away.  

many thanks to reader Ted Leather for suggesting this post
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