Friday, December 15, 2023

The Charles C. Dyer House and Store - 510 Greenwich Street


The canal that drained the boggy Lispenard Meadows was completed in 1811.  Its covering over in 1819 created Canal Street, and now the northern expansion of the city could continue.  Greenwich Street developed as a shopping thoroughfare, and so many of its houses would include ground floor shops.  Such was the case with 510 Greenwich Street.

In 1831 the three-story brick front house was first advertised.  Its builder's design drew on the emerging Greek Revival style, no doubt taken from style books.  The peaked roof and dormers of the Federal style, still popular, were replaced with a flat roof.  But not everything Federal was brushed aside.  The arched entrance to the residential space upstairs was crowned with an elegant fanlight.

No. 510 Greenwich Street became home to Samuel Montgomery, who ran his pharmacy from the shop.  Unfortunately, he would not live here long.  He became seriously ill in June 1834 and died at the age of 64 a few days later.  His funeral was held in the house on June 21.

The following year an advertisement appeared in the New York Morning Courier:

TO LET—The store No. 510 Greenwich street, now occupied as a drug store—it is a first rate stand for any kind of retail business, being in a business part of Greenwich street, near to Spring street and in the immediate vicinity of Clinton market.

The store was leased to P. Burnet & Co., another drugstore.  Like all pharmacies of the day, it sold a variety of patent medicines.  Several ads on a single page of the New York Herald on January 7, 1836 offered products like "Genuine Polandria Oil," touted as "a sure East Indian cure for the Rheumatism;" and Dr. Stillman's Magnetic Odonitca, an "invaluable preparation for the Teeth."   

Two tenants lived upstairs that year, the families of William Fischer, a tobacconist; and William Johnston, a cooper.

The property was offered for sale in 1836.  It was purchased by Charles C. Dyer, who moved his family into the upper portion and ran his "tool store" below.  Dyer catered to the building trade, a fact make clear in his advertisement in the New-York Tribune in 1841:

Mechanics' Tools--Charles C. Dyer 510 Greenwich st. between Spring and Canal, has just received large additions to his former stock, and has on hand a general assortment of Carpenters', Cabinet Makers', Chair Makers' and almost every description of Wood Workers' Tools at the very lowest city prices. A general assortment of Wood Saws ready filed and set. Call at CHAS. C. DYER's Tool Store, 510 Greenwich.  Saws re-cut, re-toothed, framed, filed and set, as usual. 
Born in Vanceborough, Maine in 1807, Dyer came to New York City as a youth.  The New York Times later said, "he was for a long time one of the most active members of the old Spring Street Church and took a deep interest in religious matters."  His intensive studies of the Bible and Christian history prompted him to draw "with his own hands four topographical views of Jerusalem."  The newspaper said, "He took great pride in these views, and was very fond of showing them to his visitors and friends."  Dyer was active in local politics, as well, and in 1855 he was nominated for City Inspector on the Whig and Reform ticket.

Charles Dyer may have been widowed.  Living with him was his only child, a daughter, Eliza, who became a teacher around 1851.   She taught at Primary School No. 17 at 461 Greenwich Street, earning $250 per year (approximately $9,870 in 2023).  

Eliza continued teaching until 1858, when she married George H. Dunham, a clerk.  (Teachers were expected to be single, and marriage put an end to their careers.)  The newlyweds moved into 510 Greenwich Street and, while he continued briefly to run his store here, Charles moved to Newbridge, New Jersey.  George and Eliza took in a boarder that year, a "presser" (or ironer) in a tailoring establishment, Joshua Cakebread.

The Dunhams remained at 510 Greenwich Street through 1861, by which time George W. Whiteman operated the hardware shop.  (Like Charles Dyer, he lived in New Jersey.)  He shared space with the office of Ogden & Mount, builders.

In 1864 Michael Shonborn (sometimes spelled Schonborn) purchased 510 Greenwich Street.  Ogden & Mount moved a block north to 608 Greenwich Street, and Shonborn opened his hardware store here.  Living with him and his family that year was John Hines a "huckster" at the nearby Clinton Market.  (Hucksters sold a variety of small items, unlike the more pervasive provision merchants or butchers in the market.)

On Sunday, June 28, 1878, Michael Shornborn joined a group of friends in the shed behind 506 Greenwich Street.  Among them was Martin Sheedy.  The New York Times said they spent the day "playing euchre and other kindred games."  It appears there may also have been alcohol involved, and reckless male horseplay turned deadly.  On July 2, The New York Times reported:

One of the crowd had a single-barreled pistol, which through some means fell into the hands of Schonborn. The latter, in a jesting way, carelessly pointed the weapon at Sheedy, at the same time giving expression to the words. "I'll shoot you." Schonborn had hardly uttered these words when the pistol was discharged, the contents entering the mouth of Sheedy, who received a dangerous, if not fatal, wound.

Sheedy was taken to the New-York Hospital, "suffering intensely," while Michael Shonborn was arrested and held in jail "to await the result of Sheedy's injuries."  The facts that newspapers did not run follow-up stories and that Shonborn was soon operating his hardware store again strongly suggest that Sheedy survived.

In May 1889, Shonborn hired contractor L. Sibley to install a new storefront.  The updating cost him the equivalent of $6,500 in 2023.  It was possibly at this time that the fanlight over the residential entrance was removed and the arch bricked in.  (A vague scar can still be seen.)

A ghost of the Federal doorway survives.

Edward Shonborn was born upstairs in 1877.  By the time he was 17, he was working for his father making deliveries.  Edward was driving the delivery wagon up Fifth Avenue near 75th Street on April 15, 1894, when he smashed into the wagon of Joseph Efinger.  The Sun reported, "Efinger's wagon was smashed to pieces."  Police apparently placed the blame on Shonborn, who was arrested, "but was released upon promising to pay for the damage."

Although Michael Shonborn retained possession of the property, in 1897 he retired.  An auction was held on December 20 of the vast array of hardware and tools, and the "show cases, counters, shelving, wall cases."  Edward now had to find a job.  His ad in the New York Herald early in 1898 read, "Young man 21 years, requires position in wholesale hardware store: furnish best of references.  E. Schoborn, 510 Greenwich st. New York city."

The store was taken over by Glessner B. Childe, who ran G. B. Childe Co. here, an "oils and grease" store.  Four years after opening, Childe ran an advertisement in the New York World that read, "Boy--Wanted, bright, intelligent boy in oil business; good opportunity; references required."

G. B. Childe Co. remained at least through 1908 when Michael Schonborn sold the property to George Bartholomew.  He immediately signed a five-year lease with William Lord.  The store saw a variety of occupants over the years, and the upper floors seem to have been operated as rented rooms.  

Michael Shonborn's 1889 storefront survived in 1941.  image via the NYC Dept of Records & Information Services.

By 1941 a grocery occupied the ground floor.  It was not the store itself, but the activities in the basement that caught the attention of the Federal Government in 1943.  On November 16 Treasury Department agents raided the store, found a wine press and seized "approximately 619-1/2 gallons vinegar stock."  

The owners apparently did not learn their lesson.  Two years later, the District Supervisor of the Alcohol Tax Unit announced that "on Jan. 8, 1945, approximately 175 gallons of alleged wine was seized at 510 Greenwich St., N.Y.C."

The Soho neighborhood had greatly changed by the third quarter of the 20th century.  The store where Charles Dyer had sold and sharpened saws for years was home to the Sun Lin Chinese restaurant in 1988.  It made way for Pintxos in 1998, one of only two Basque restaurants in Manhattan.  It survived at least through 2005, after which 510 Greenwich Street was renovated to a single family home.

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


  1. Nice article (as always). You write "The canal that drained the boggy Lispenard Meadows was completed in 1811." Is it apocryphal that the former canal on the site of Canal Street drained Collect Pond too?

    1. Prior to the arrival of the Dutch, the Collect Pond was almost surrounded by ridges. The exception was to the northwest, a ravine through which a creek running from the pond drained into the Lispenard Meadow. The 'canal' was dug to augment and improve the flow of the creek, and was intended to drain the Collect Pond and the Lispenard Meadow. That 'canal' still flows today, underground in a culvert, and continues to drain the water from the springs that created the Collect Pond.

  2. 510 typoed as 501 in last sentence of first paragraph.