Saturday, October 7, 2023

The Twin Houses at 260 and 262 West 25th Street


Most likely part of a larger row of identical houses, 194 and 196 West 25th Street (renumbered 260 and 262 in 1867) were completed around 1850.  Their formal Anglo-Italianate design included short stoops that led to the rusticated, brownstone-clad first floor.  Just two bays wide, the upper three floors were clad in red brick and trimmed in brownstone.

No. 194 was home to the Isaac Watts Ayres family.  Born in Oyster Bay, Long Island in 1806, Ayres married Emeline Smith Underhill around 1829.  Despite what must have been crowded conditions (the couple had eight children), they took in a boarder, Charles P. Chamberlain.  A china and crockery merchant, he would live with the family for years.

Only months after moving into the house, Isaac Ayres died on December 20, 1852.  Four years later it was sold to John W. Clark, who listed his profession as "carver," but who also dealt in real estate, possibly as a contractor or developer.  The Clark family would remain until 1861.

Three families occupied 196 West 25th Street in 1851, and would continue to do so through 1859.  John Osborn was a physician, William A. Viets was a broker and merchant, and Amos Leeds ran a coal business with two locations, one on Wall Street and another on Troy Street (later West 12th).  The Gomien family next occupied the house.  Joseph H. Gomien was a teacher, and Justin M. Gomien was in the frames business on Broadway.  

When attorney Bailey Underhill purchased 262 West 25th Street in 1867, the house got its first really long-term occupants.  The Underhills were Quakers.  Bailey was born in Yorktown, New York in 1809 and was "married by Friend's Ceremony" to Mary K. Griffen on September 18, 1833.  The couple had three children, Eugene, Augustus, and Mariette.  Of them, at least Eugene and his wife, Susan, moved into the house with his family.  

Bailey Underhill died on February 15, 1873 at the age of 63.  In August the following year, Eugene and Susan had twin daughters, Mary Libbie and Florence S.  Tragically, the parlor would be the scene of both their funerals within months.  Mary Libbie died shortly after birth in August 1874, and Florence died on November 25.  Mary K. Underhill would remain in the house, taking in a few boarders at a time, until 1890.

In the meantime, George Rudd and his wife Mary had purchased 260 West 25th Street around 1867.  In 1872, they leased it to the Desvernine family, who were originally from Cuba.  Peter F. Desvernine was a grocer, Charles Maria was a physician, and Pablo Desvernine was among the world's preeminent pianists.  (Pablo would eventually anglicize his name to Paul).

Pablo (Paul) Desvernine (original source unknown)

Born in Havana on July 31, 1823, Pablo had first performed on stage at the age of 13.  He trained in Europe and was decorated by Queen Isabella II of Spain.  He and his extended family moved to New York City in 1869.  Among his students was Edward MacDowell.

Dr. Charles M. Desvernine had earned medical degrees from the University of Havana, the University of Paris, and the University of Madrid.  A neurologist, he was a member of the American Electro-Therapeutic Association, and the New York Neurological Association. 

Members of the extended Desvernine family remained at 260 West 25th Street at least through 1880, after which Mary Rudd continued to lease the house.  She was between tenants in 1893 and the house was temporarily vacant.  It was a situation that did not go unnoticed by Henry Ruland and William Franklyn.

On the night of April 21, 1893, police officer Garner Ruland walked into the Jefferson Market Police Court to testify against a prisoner, only to see his son among those being arraigned.  The New York Herald reported that Henry Ruland and William Franklyn "had rifled a house at No. 260 West Twenty-fifth street, which was untenanted, and, packing up a lot of lead pipe and two copper boilers, were about to drive away in an express wagon belonging to George Cornellisse."  Mary Rudd, who now lived on 124th Street, was there to press charges.

After the significant damage was repaired, 260 West 25th Street was operated as a boarding house by Mrs. George Bory.  On April 28, 1895, her ad appeared in The World offering a reward for her missing terrier, Frouette.  Three days later, the newspaper reported, "That evening the dog was brought home.  She was overjoyed, and gave the man who returned her pet $5."  (It was a generous reward, equal to about $180 in 2023.)

Unfortunately for Mrs. Bory, a boarder named Charles Broomhead saw her take the money from a roll in her bureau drawer.  The young man had until recently served with the Sixth Cavalry.  The World reported, "He left the house in a few minutes, and has not been seen since.  The roll of money--$30--also disappeared."

Boarder Charles Serkis was the victim of a thief, as well.  Describing himself as "an Egyptian pawnbroker from Colombia, South America," he came to New York to sell South American gold.  He and his partner, B. Felix Rodriquez, drew the suspicion of police, who arrested them for selling "gold bricks," or fake ingots.  The bars were tested and discovered to be "real gold," as disclosed by Magistrate Barlow in court, and the men were released.  Unfortunately, when Serkis returned to his rooms 260 West 25th Street, he discovered that while he had been detained, thieves had made off with $10,000 in gold bars and diamonds.

The large tree that obscures the houses today had not yet been planted in 1941.  image via the NYC Dept of Records & Information Services.

Both houses were being operated as boarding houses when they were sold by Loretta Kiple in 1925.  The new owner, who bought them "for investment," according to The New York Times, continued to rent rooms.  

Astonishingly, in 1946 at least one of the houses still had not been electrified.  The situation nearly ended fatally on October 4 that year.  The Sun reported that 28-year-old Glenda Sullivan "was overcome by illuminating gas in her third-floor furnished room at 260 West 25th street today."  She was given oxygen for half an hour before being transported to St. Vincent's hospital where her condition was reported as critical.

There are four apartments in 260 West 25th Street today.  A renovation to 262 West 25th completed in 1971 resulted in a duplex apartment in the basement and parlor floors, and a triplex apartment above.  Sitting back from the sidewalk and squeezed between two late 19th century apartment buildings, they present a charming reminder of the block in the 1850s.

photographs by the author has no authorization to reuse the content of this blog

1 comment:

  1. Hi, 260 W. 25th has been the home of Joseph & Tamara DiMattio since 1972. Our 2 children, Alexander and Francesca DiMattio were born here at NYU Med Ctr. across town where I worked as a vision scientist for many years. Now we still live downstairs while Francesca and her husband live upstairs with her young children Bruno and Petra. Francesca and Garth have remade their floors as living quarters and an Art project that has been recently featured in Elle Decor and World of Interiors publications. Tamara was instrumental in getting trees on our block in 1975 which was no easy matter. We have seen many changes over the years and still love our home. For further info contact me at Thank you for the interesting and informative article.