Thursday, October 5, 2023

J. E. R. Carpenter's 3 East 85th Street


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Spencer Fullerton Weaver already had a broad career by 1913.  Born in 1880 to James Buchanan Weaver and Mary Fullerton Weaver, his great-great-grand uncle was President James Buchanan.  He earned his engineering degree at the University of Pennsylvania in 1902.  After traveling extensively, he settled in New York City in 1910 and turned his attention to real estate, forming the Fullerton Weaver Realty Co.  He would later add architect to his resume, partnering with Leonard Schultze to form Schultze & Weaver, well-known for their hotel designs.

In 1912, Weaver hired architect J. E. R. Carpenter to design an upscale apartment house at 3 East 85th Street, steps from fashionable Fifth Avenue and Central Park.  Completed in 1913, the nine-story Renaissance Revival building featured a three-story rusticated base.  A projecting bandcourse below the fourth floor and a prominent intermediate cornice below the seventh defined the three sections.  Venetian style windows at the fifth floor and Renaissance carved panels at the ninth added to the Italian motif.  A deeply overhanging copper cornice with close-set brackets completed the design.

An advertisement in November 1913 touted, "Extremely attractive apartments, one to a floor.  Magnificent view of Central Park and Reservoir, unobstructed outlook East, South and West."  The typical apartment had eleven rooms, although there were suites of twelve and one of eight (that one most likely on the ground floor).  Living at 3 East 85th Street was not inexpensive.  Rent for a twelve-room apartment with three baths in 1913 ranged from $3,000 to $4,500 per year--around $11,400 per month in 2023.

Among the building's first residents were its builder, Spencer Fullerton Weaver, and his family.  He and his wife, the former Emily Stokes had three children.  The couple were both avid tennis players, although Emily seems to have outshone her husband.  In 1914 and 1918 she won the national indoor tennis doubles championship.

The American Architect, June 21, 1922

Perhaps the most socially visible couple were the Lucien Hamilton Tyngs.  Born in Illinois in 1873, Lucien had married Ethel Hunt on February 9, 1907.  The couple's sprawling country estate was in Southampton.  They had barely moved in before Ethel began entertaining.  An announcement in The Sun on December 14, 1913 noted that she would be giving a "dansant for Miss Blanche Tyng," and a week later The New York Times reported, "Mrs. Lucien Hamilton Tyng gave a tea at her new home, 3 East Eighty-fifth Street yesterday to introduce her husband's cousin, Miss Blanche E. Tyng, a daughter of James A. Tyng."

It may have been Blanche's recently established role in society that prompted an interesting gathering in the Tyng apartment on January 4, 1915.  The New York Press reported that Ethel, "entertained at tea yesterday afternoon in her home. No. 3 East Eighty-fifth street, for the young members of society.  A feature of the afternoon was the recitation in costume of 'Haensel and Gretel' by Miss Margaret Sumner."

Later that year resident Margaret Krebs Shope Busk would be busy planning debutante entertainments.  Margaret had married Frederick Thielcke Busk in 1891.  In 1913, the year they moved into 3 East 85th Street, the couple purchased their country estate, Spruce Brook Farm, in Litchfield, Connecticut.  

Margaret and Frederick had four children, Mary Laird, Frederick Wadsworth, Joseph Richard, and Margaret Krebs (known familiarly as Peggy).  The winter social season of 1915-1916 was Peggy's debutante season.  It started on November 27, 1915, when, as reported by the New York Herald, she "made her debut at a reception given by her mother at their house, No. 3 East Eighty-fifth street, which was followed by a dinner.  Mrs. Busk took the members of the receiving party and some young men who were guests at dinner to the Belasco Theatre to see 'The Boomerang.'"

A young woman's introduction to society was often closely followed by an engagement, and such was the case with Peggy.  On June 23, 1916, The New York Times reported that the Busks had announced her engagement to Edward Allen Whitney, adding that since her debut she "has been prominent in the doings of the younger set."  The wedding took place in St. James's Church on Madison Avenue on April 15, 1917.

The American Architect, June 21, 1922

America entered World War I that year, and Spencer Fullerton Weaver answered his country's call.  He joined the U.S. Army and served with the 306th Infantry in France.  He returned safely to 3 East 85th Street in February 1919 with the rank of major.  He immediately turned his attention to ensuring that his fellow veterans would not find themselves jobless.  On February 19, he told a reporter from the New-York Tribune, "All of the men of the division, except 5,600, have been assured they will get their old jobs back when they return.  Other officers and myself are going to see to it those 5,600 get theirs or others equally as good."

The Busk's sons, Frederick Wadsworth and Joseph R., had also served in the war.  A 1916 graduate of Harvard, Frederick was a captain in the 310th Infantry; and Joseph was a second lieutenant with the 38th Infantry.  They, too, returned to 3 East 85th Street safely, and in August 1919 Frederick's engagement to Harriet Lee Fessenden was announced.

Joseph Busk had seen more intense action than his brother or landlord.  His actions during the battle at Chateau-Thierry, France on June 17, 1918, earned him a Distinguished Service Cross "for extraordinary heroism."

In the meantime, there had been some changes in the tenant list at 3 East 85th Street.  On August 4, 1917, The Sun reported that John Hudson Poole and his wife had taken, "a large apartment occupying the entire top floor and part of another floor, with a large outdoor playground on the roof."  The Tyngs moved out in 1918, and their apartment was taken by the Robert McKelvys.  Also living here were Charles Edwin Mitchell, president of the National City Company (the investment branch of the National City Bank), and his wife; and leasing an apartment in September 1919 were the Benjamin Princes, whose summer home was in East Hampton.

Mitchell and his wife were sitting in the living room with Mitchell's secretary, Edward Barrett, on the evening of May 3, 1919.  When the butler, Andrew Salo, entered the room at 7:00, they assumed he was there to announce dinner.  He was not.

Salo was born in Finland, a country ravaged by civil war since Lenin's Bolsheviks took power in 1917.  Sympathetic with the Bolshevik movement, he no doubt closely followed the news reports about the ongoing tumult in his homeland.  A friend had given Salo a bottle of whiskey, and about an hour before the Mitchell's dinner was ready, the butler began imbibing.  After an hour, said the New-York Tribune, he "began to feel proletarian corpuscles running red in his arteries."

He walked into the living room and "declared himself a Bolshevik, and announced his intention of demonstrating to all present 'how we do things in my country,'" reported the New-York Tribune.  As his three-person audience listened thunderstruck, he declared "his fellow countrymen would come over to America and carry on where he left off."

The article said that at 7:02, "Mr. Mitchell made an announcement himself.  He announced that Andrew was discharged."  The inebriated Salo was not going quietly.  "Andrew allowed that the announcement was an emanation of capital and was null and void; he was going to stick around and play Bolshevik."

Edward Barrett slipped out of the living room and called the East 88th Police Station.  When Patrolman Heitman arrived and sized up "the 6-foot Finn," he called for back-up.  The two policeman managed to removed Salo from the apartment "by main force."

Charles Edwin Mitchell, Who's Who in Banking, 1922 

By the time Salo appeared before Magistrate Tobias in night court, he had noticeably sobered up.  He admitted to being drunk, but denied being a Bolshevik.  The judge was not swayed, saying he believed "the spirits had moved Andrew to speak the truth."  But, just as he was about to send Salo to the workhouse, Edward Barrett intervened on the part of his employer, and asked for leniency.  Salo was fined $10 instead, but unfortunately had lost his job.

Known as "Sunshine Charley," in 1921 Mitchell was elected president of National City Bank (later Citibank) and president of National City Company.  It would not end well, however.  At the dawn of the Great Depression, in November 1929 Senator Carter Glass claimed "Mitchell more than any 50 men is responsible for this stock crash."

The building continued to see wealthy families come and go.  On October 31, 1930, the Emil Kluges leased an apartment, and two years later announced the engagement of their daughter Thais, to Eric Holzer.  And on November 28, 1936, The New York Sun reported that "Mr. and Mrs. Edwin Boynton Dickinson...are host and hostess this afternoon at a large reception to introduce their debutante daughter, Miss Frances Boynton Dickinson."

Then, in 1946, no leases were renewed and in early 1947 the building was vacant as the owners made renovations and converted the structure to cooperative apartments.  The changes resulted in four apartments on the first floor, four each on the second through fifth, three apartments each on the sixth through eighth floors, and one on the ninth.  

The exterior of J. E. R. Carpenter's dignified building has remained unchanged since it opened in 1913.

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