Saturday, January 6, 2024

The Ira and Fanny Horton House - 36 Dominick Street


A wave of development engulfed the area above the newly-laid Canal Street in the 1820s.  In 1826 twelve similar Federal style houses were erected on the south side of Dominick Street between Hudson and Varick Streets, five of them by Smith Bloomfield.  Like its neighbors, 36 Dominick Street was faced in Flemish bond brick and rose two-and-a-half stories, its peaked roof punctured by two prim dormers.

Bloomfield maintained the house as a rental property.   The close relationship between the builders of the twelve houses was evidenced when Azariah Ross, who was responsible for building 38 through 46 Dominick Street, moved into Smith's 36 Dominick Street in 1826.  He was living here by February 14, 1826, when he advertised a list of his own houses for sale.  He added a line to his resume in 1827 when he was appointed the Fire Warden of the Eighth Ward.

The house received a celebrated tenant in the spring of 1829.  According to Thomas A. Bogar in his his 2018 biography Thomas Hamblin and the Bowery Theatre, English actor Thomas Hamblin and his wife, actress Elizabeth Blanchard, moved in on May 1.  Born in 1800, Hamblin had immigrated to the United States at the age of 25, first performing at the Park Theatre where he received glowing reviews.  

Thomas Hamblin, from the collection of the Folger Shakespeare Library

Hamblin's reputation would be mixed.  In 1830 he began theater management at the Bowery Theatre.  He changed the face of American theater by offering starring roles to American actors rather than British.  However, he was a widely-known as a philanderer, prompting Elizabeth to file for divorce in 1831.  He would continue to have multiple out-of-marriage affairs (one of which ended when the actress Naomi Vincent died in childbirth).

No. 36 Dominick Street saw a regular turnover of tenants.  In 1836 it was home to the family of George Opdyke, owner of George Opdyke & Co., clothiers on Hudson Street; in 1840 it was occupied by Robert Malcolm, a tailor; and in 1852 by John Alexander, who earned his living as a clerk.

Bloomfield found a long-term tenant in Henry A. Morgan in 1853.  A hardware merchant, he and his family would remain for a full decade, during which he was appointed an Inspector of Elections for the Eighth Ward.  In 1863 he moved his family to MacDougal Street.

Change came in 1866 when the house was purchased by Ira C. and Fanny M. Horton.  Ira was in the milk business at 24 Harrison Street.  The couple immediately embarked on a renovation project.  The Semi-Annual Report of the Superintendent of Buildings documented that construction was begun on March 1, 1866 to "raise and build upon" the structure.

The original appearance of the house can be seen in its neighbor at 32 Dominick Street.

The renovations resulted in the attic being raised to a full floor, molded lintels being installed above the windows, a pediment over the entrance, and a handsome Italianate bracketed cornice added.  

Ira and Fanny Horton may have considered the project to be what today is called a "flip."  In 1868, shortly after the renovations were completed, they sold 36 Dominick Street to Charles H. and Ann Eliza Applegate.

Charles H. Applegate listed his profession simply as "merchant" at 328 Broadway.  Both he and his wife were highly involved in charitable causes.  Charles was a vice-president of the New-York City Sunday-School and Missionary Society, and Ann was a manager of The New York Ladies' Home Missionary Society.

The Applegates' residency, too, would be relatively short.  In 1871 they sold the house to Hugh and Alice Taylor.  Hugh was a baker at 456 Greenwich Street.  Living with the couple were their adult son, Wilson, who was a photographer on Eighth Avenue; their teen-aged daughter Mary; and their married daughter Alice and her husband John S. Berry.  Sadly, Alice Taylor Berry died on May 29, 1872 at the age of 20.  Her funeral was held in the house on June 2.

With the house increased to three floors, the Taylors were able to take in a boarder for extra income.  In 1872, William C. Hickox, a dealer in "machines," lived with the family; and in 1875 through 1877 George W. Fuller, a bell merchant was here.  In 1888 Mary E. Taylor began teaching in the Boys' Department of Grammar School No. 35 on West 13th Street.  

The house changed hands again in 1890 when the Taylors sold it to John and Jennie Geagan (often spelled Geagen).  Living with them was their son, Edward J.  In 1899, he was appointed a notary public by the city.

Edward was rushed to the New York Hospital on the night of December 2, 1912.  The Leader-Observer reported that he died there "very 4 a.m, Thursday, December 3rd, following an attack of meningitis."  The funeral was held in the Dominick Street house the following day.

There would be another funeral in the parlor just over a year later.  Jennie Bateman Geagan died in the house on February 15.  Her funeral was held two days later.

On October 28, 1919, the New-York Tribune reported that John Geagan had sold the 20-foot-wide residence, adding, "The seller has lived in this house over thirty years."  The buyers were the Galante family, the head of which seems to have been Leonard A Galante.  Living with the family in 1921 was Maria Grace, a widow who lived on her deceased husband's police pension of $300 (about $4,900 per year in 2024).

The Dominick Street neighborhood had greatly changed by now.  The elegant St. John's Park to the south had been wiped out in the years following the Civil War to make way for the Hudson River Railroad's freight terminal.  Shortly after the Galantes purchase 36 Dominick Street, that would be erased by the construction of the Holland Tunnel and the elevated Miller Highway.  In 1922 demolition of houses along the 1826 Dominick Street row began.  Of the 12, only four, including 36 Dominick Street, remained.

The upheaval may have been too much for the Galante family.  They sold the house in 1925 to Carlo Salvati.  It was resold in 1957, and at some point was converted to three rental apartments.  Although the owner opposed the move, in 2012 36 Dominick Street was designated an individual New York City landmark.

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

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