Saturday, January 27, 2024

The 1856 Geagan-Reed House - 419 West 22nd Street


In 1856 William H. Smith, Daniel Townsend, and John Lane partnered to erect three matching houses at 295 through 299 West 22nd Street, between Ninth and Tenth Avenues.  Smith listed his profession as a builder, and his partners identified themselves as masons.  They would more likely be termed contractors today.  

The speculative homes were completed within the year.  Each of the 16-feet, 8-inch wide residences was intended for upper-middle-class families.  Their Anglo-Italianate design placed the impressive, arched entrances above short stoops.  Above the rusticated brownstone basement and first floors were three stories of red brick.  Each house had its own unpretentious bracketed cornice.

It is unclear who originally occupied 295 West 22nd Street (renumbered 419 in 1864), since "name refused" accompanied the address in city directories until 1859.  That year William Y. Clark and his family lived here.  He been appointed a public notary by the state governor in 1840, a position he still held.

Like many families, the Clarks took in a boarder.  Living with them in 1865 was Jonathan Waters.  The young man's residency would be cut short when his name was pulled in the Civil War draft lottery on March 17, 1865.

John Cowles, a clothing merchant, moved his family into the house in 1871.  They, too, accepted boarders.  Their advertisement on January 10, 1875 read:

A private family, living in own house, having more room than required, will let, to gentlemen and wives or single gentlemen, handsomely furnished rooms, with all conveniences and first class board.

That the Cowles did not accept unmarried women testified to the respectability of the household.  The morals of single women living on their own were highly suspect.

John Cowles sold 419 West 22nd Street to Dr. William H. Scott in February 1878.  The family moved into the house three months later.

Born in 1801 in Philadelphia, Scott had originally been in the wholesale "small wares" business there, selling "buttons, needles, pins, tapes" and similar items.  He sold the business in 1837 to pursue a career in medicine.  Scott graduated from the Jefferson Medical College in 1841, but four years later was induced by his brother-in-law to become a partner in his importing business, James A. Stewart & Co. in New York.  He retired from the business the year he purchased 419 West 22nd Street.

Dr. William H. Scott died at the age of 82 on November 6, 1883.  His funeral was held in the parlor three days later.

The following year, in February, William Scott, Jr. sold the 22nd Street house to Charles H. and Adelaide L. Butler for $14,500 (about $415,000 in 2024 money).  

Apparently renting a room from the Butlers in 1884 was 19-year-old Victor Dayton.  He and two others broke into the house of Joseph Farrington at 19 West 11th Street early on the morning of March 7, 1884.  When family members were awakened, two of the burglars escaped but Dayton found himself trapped.  The New-York Daily Tribune reported that he "was found curled up under the bed of an old blind man in an upper chamber."  The teen was held on $1,500 bail awaiting trial.

It seems the Butlers made renovations to the house, but soon lost it in foreclosure.  It was sold at auction on May 5, 1885.  The announcement described it as being "well built" and containing "modern improvements...having been recently thoroughly overhauled."

The property was purchased by Lansing Zabriskie, who resold it in March 1887 to John Geagan and his wife Mary for $15,000.  Geagan was a builder and owned several Manhattan properties.  Within weeks of receiving title to the house, he filed plans for installing a new dumbwaiter, listing himself as both contractor and architect.  (It may have been at this time that the exquisite stained glass fanlight was placed over the entrance doors.)

The Geagans entertained sumptuously.  On May 15, 1888, for instance, The Evening Telegram reported, "Mrs. Gegan [sic], No. 419 West Twenty-second street, gave a reception last evening.  One hundred guests were present.  Mazzetti served."  (Louis F. Mazzetti was a society caterer, called by The New York Times "a master of the mysteries of the cuisine.")

John Geagan died at the age of 62 in the West 22nd Street house on September 7, 1893.  Somewhat surprisingly, his funeral was not held in the parlor, but at the Church of St. Paul the Apostle on 59th Street and Columbus Avenue.

Mary E. Geagan sold 419 West 22nd Street in 1895 to Mary A. and William W. McLaughlin.  They quickly resold it to Julia Gwinea in December for $20,000 (about $720,000 in 2024 terms).  The new owner operated it as a boarding house.

Living here in June 1902 were Thomas F. Crawford and his bride.  He was the shipping clerk of the wholesale grocery firm Francis H. Leggett & Co.  It may have been his newly-married position that prompted him to make a rash decision.  On June 17, he and two of the company's drivers were arrested.  The New York Sun reported, "Crawford, without entering on his books barrels of sugar that were received, turned them over to the drivers, who in turn gave them to Jacob Fried of 60 Hester street, also arrested."

That night, said the article, "a pretty young woman went into the Leonard street station and asked Sergt. Holse to be allowed to speak with Crawford.  When she was told that this was impossible, she broke down and began to cry.  She said that Crawford had married her fourteen days ago."

In a somewhat bizarre turn of events, around 1905 William J. A. and Mary E. Reed took title to 419 West 22nd Street.  William was in the printing business.  The couple, who had a son William N. P. Reed, were apparently somehow related to Mary E. Geagan, who now returned to her old home.  In 1909 Mary E. Reed issued a $1.00 "life lease" to Mary E. Geagan.

Boarding with the family in 1909 was Irish immigrant Mollie O'Connell.  She applied to the city for a job as Hospital Clerk that year, but was rejected "for non-citizenship."

After living in the West 22nd Street house for more than three decades, Mary E. Geagan died in 1920.  

Boarding with the Reeds at the time was Adele Mortimer Woodward.  Born in 1866 in Rutherford Park, New Jersey, she had taught French at the Wadleigh High School since 1897.  During the St. Louis Exposition in 1904 she sat on the international jury on awards for both the French and Italian Governments.   Never married, she died here at the age 55 on June 11, 1921.

Following Mary E. Reed's death, William J. A. Reed and his son continued to live in the 22nd Street house.  Unwilling to retire, Reed was known in the printing industry as "The Deacon."  

In February 1941, the "Big Six" Typographical Union held a dinner in honor of printers who had been members of the union for more than half a century.  The American Labor World reported, "'The Deacon,' was the oldest working printer present."   Within months of the dinner Reed was dead.

The house was soon foreclosed upon and sold by the bank in 1943 to Charles Farrugla.  It was converted in 1951 to apartments and furnished rooms and a fifth floor, nearly unseen from the street, was added.  In an effort to modernize the vintage structure, the lintels were shaved off, the brick painted, and the rustication of the first floor covered over and painted white.

That configuration lasted until a renovation completed in 1978 resulted in one apartment per floor in the first through third, with a duplex in the fourth and fifth.   More recently, the facade has been restored.  The paint was carefully removed, the lintels refabricated, and the first floor returned to its 1856 appearance.

photographs by the author
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