In 1896 architect Edward W. Gayle designed a five-story flat and store building at the northeast corner of Lexington Avenue and 87th Street. Called the Marion, it was completed the following year. The ground floor housed four stores, two on either side of the centered entrance. The upper floors were clad in beige brick and trimmed in brownstone. Gayle had successfully melded two currently popular styles. Renaissance Revival was evidenced in the cast metal cornice, the overall orderly lines, and the centered entrance on Lexington Avenue. The doorway sat within an engaged portico decorated with Renaissance style carvings atop a three-step stoop. And yet, the chunky, undressed brownstone blocks that created the quoins and lintels of the arched, top-floor openings were influenced by Romanesque Revival.
The Marion filled with professional, financially-comfortable residents, as was evidenced in one lovelorn man's personal advertisement in the Utica Sunday Journal on August 8, 1899:
A wealthy gentleman, alone and quite lonely, will appreciate with all his heart a kind wife. Genuine. 1297 Lexington ave. New York.
A well-known occupant was attorney Ira Edgar Rider. Born on November 17, 1868, he had graduated from Saint Lawrence University. In 1898, the same year that he married Sophia Regine Funke, he was appointed secretary to James Jay Coogan, president of the Board of Aldermen. It was the first step in his political career. The couple had one child, John Edgar Rider.
Ira Edgar Rider, The Brown Book: A Biographical Record of Public Officials of the City f New York for 1898-99 (copyright expired)
On October 3, 1902, The World reported, "The delegates in the Fourteenth Congressional District met at No. 1297 Lexington avenue, and named Ira E. Rider as the Democratic nominee." Two weeks later, The Newtown Register noted, "The candidate for Congress in the fourteenth Congressional District has fully earned the new honor accorded him."
Rider easily won that election. But the Tammany bosses who ran the Democratic party in New York City soon found their newest congressman was his own man. And so Charles F. Murphy, also known as Boss Murphy and "Silent Charlie," chose a replacement. In 1903 he offered Ira Rider "the Secretaryship of the Fire Department and the assurance that he would be well cared for by Tammany in the future," according to The New York Times, if he would resign. Murphy intended to fill the seat with Charles A. Towne.
On January 22, 1904, The New York Times reported that Rider refused to resign his seat, "and Murphy, it is said, was sorely vexed as a result of this contumacy." The following month, on February 14, The New York Times ran the headline, "Murphy Planning A Congress Shake-Up" and reported that the Tammany head planned "the greatest shake-up this Fall New York delegations have known in years." Ira Rider apparently realized he had no future within the New York Democratic machine. The article noted, "It is understood now, however, that when March 4, 1905 comes Mr. Rider will end his career, for the present at least, as Congressman."
Rider returned to his practice of law with the firm of Lexow, MacKellar, Guy & Wells. Just before his term ended, Sophia died, leaving him to raise their young son alone. Then, on May 26, 1906, Ira Edgar Rider suffered a fatal heart attack in his apartment at the age of 35. Newspapers barely mentioned his death.
The stoop extended beyond the property line into the sidewalk, what was known at the time as an "encumbrance." from the collection of the Museum of the City of New York.
In the meantime, the Marion was home to several real estate developers and builders (Abraham D. Weinstein, Saul Wallenstein, and A. Bernstein were all here in 1903), educators and musicians. Elizabeth L. Plaisten was a teacher in Public School 184, and musician Hans Kronold was the musical director of the Trio Club, organized in 1902. A women's club whose president the wealthy Mrs. Gustav Schwab, it had just ten active members. Nevertheless, it held weekly meetings and gave six public concerts per year.
Artist J. Andre lived here by 1909, at which time he was looking for work. His advertisement on January 1, 1910 read:
Artist, Designer. first class designer, decorator; best reputation; reference; requests orders or somebody who could recommend in better families. J. Andre, 1297 Lexington ave.
Two weeks later, he rethought the wording of the "work wanted" ad, and changed the title from "Artist, Designer" to "Artist, Sculptor."
Police Lieutenant William V. Keeling of the 79th Precinct lived here in 1916. On July 6 that year, The Daily Argus reported that he was "ill at his home, 1297 Lexington avenue, last evening." He was still here in 1923 and held the same rank. Keeling was injured on duty that year, but not by a gunshot or other criminal cause. The Brooklyn Standard Union reported that on February 12 he was in Central Park when he saw William Foley lose control of his sled on Cedar Hill. Foley and his runaway sled, said the article, was "heading toward a tree." Lt. Keeling jumped into action, saved Foley from injury, and broke his left leg in doing so. Eight months later he was still on sick leave.
Moritz Neuman owned the building at the time. He vehemently rallied against a proposed garage on East 87th Street in 1928, testifying before the Board of Standards and Appeals, in part, that:
The noise of exploding gas, the rattling of faulty engines and motors and the odor of gasoline, grease, oil and rubber emanating from a garage in the proposed locality would seriously affect the peaceful and quiet possession of the tenants.
He added, "Besides, a garage in the proposed locality would be a cause of danger to school children who live in the immediate vicinity."
Moritz Neuman's estate sold 1297 Lexington Avenue to real estate operator Henry Payson in 1955. In reporting on the sale, The New York Times mentioned, "There are five stores and twelve suites in the property."
There are still twelve apartments in the building. Other than the lost stoop and the brick and stone being painted, little has outwardly changed to Edward W. Gayle's handsome structure after more than 125 years. Most remarkably, the delicately carved Renaissance Revival entrance is intact.
photographs by the author
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