Friday, February 23, 2024

The 1853 Adolphe LeMoyne House - 62 West 11th Street


The floor-to-ceiling parlor windows were possibly originally fronted by cast iron balconies.

Having inherited the land from his brother Andrew, in 1853 Wall Street broker James N. Gifford began construction of four upscale homes on West 11th Street between Fifth and Sixth Avenue.  Their three stories of red brick sat upon brownstone-clad English basements.  Transitional in style, their Italianate elements included the prominent window cornices and foliate-bracketed terminal cornices.  The architect's treatment of the entrances was a unique blend of Italianate and Greek Revival, the flat pilasters and entablatures of the latter style married to the arched framing of the doorways.  The deeply recessed double doors were crowned by sweeping fanlights.

The eastern-most house, 62 West 11th Street, became home to the family of cotton merchant Adolphe Desire Joseph LeMoyne.  LeMoyne had arrived in America from France in 1829 and co-founded the cotton commission firm of LeMoyne & Bell.  He and his wife Henrietta had two daughters and two sons.  At least three of them, Adolphe Jr., Edward Mitchell, and Henrietta J. still lived with their parents.

The house was the scene of Henrietta's wedding to Edward Bonaffe Heydecker on February 20, 1862.  The ceremony was performed by the rector of St. Bartholomew's Church, Samuel Cooke.

By 1864, both Adolph Jr. and Edward were working in their father's firm, which was renamed LeMoyne & Sons.  The ongoing Civil War was, no doubt, seriously affecting the business since, according to The Yonkers Statesman, "Their principal business was shipping cotton to France."

Following Edward's marriage, he and his wife, the former Josephine Maria Bond, moved into the West 11th Street house.  Their daughter, Elizabeth Goodrich was born here on April 22, 1864.  Known among the family as Bessie, she was five years old when a piece of jewelry was lost.  Her parents' ad on April 27, 1869 read:

Lost--On Sunday noon, either in Lafayette place, Eighth street or Broadway, between Eighth and Tenth streets, or in Tenth street, a Child's Handkerchief Pin, with Bessie engraved on it.  The finder will be suitably rewarded by returning it to 62 West Eleventh street.

The parlor was the scene of Adolph Jr.'s funeral on April 27, 1876.  The 44-year-old had died "suddenly," as reported by The New York Times, three days earlier.

The LeMoyne family left 62 West 11th Street by 1879, when it was occupied by Mary Lenox Kennedy.  Wealthy and unmarried, she was the daughter of David S. Kennedy and Rachel Carmer Lenox.  She had grown up in the family mansion half a block away at 41 Fifth Avenue where her unmarried sister Rachel Lenox Kennedy still lived.

On February 17, 1880, James Lenox died in his brownstone mansion at 53 Fifth Avenue.  A month later, to the day, The Evening Times of Albany, New York reported on his will, which listed among the heirs his nieces Mary Lenox Kennedy and Rachel Lenox Kennedy.

Before 1890, Mary moved back into the Kennedy mansion on Fifth Avenue.  The 11th Street house became home to Reverend Samuel M. Hamilton.  He was the pastor of the Scotch Presbyterian Church on West 14th Street.  

Sharing the house with him was his brother, the Rev. J. S. Hamilton, who had formerly been pastor of the Rutland Square Presbyterian Church in Dublin, Ireland.  He died here on April 20, 1890, and his funeral was held in the parlor three days later.

By 1896, 62 West 11th Street was being operated as a boarding house by a "Mrs. Ribber."  Among her residents that year was J. P. Williams.  On June 22, he was approached by a teenaged boy carrying a valise, who asked him where he could find a "lodging house."  The boy said his name was Howard Ott and that he had an uncle in the city with whom he intended to stay after that night.  The New York Herald noted, "He was dressed in a light knickerbocker suit, with a blue cap--a good looking lad."

In fact, the 14-year-old was Edward Frank Allen who had arrived from Newtown, Pennsylvania around 6:30 that evening.  His story did not fool Williams, who "told the lad of his suspicions" that he was a runaway.  It did not take long before "the little fellow broke down and confessed."

As it turned out, Edward's school was closed for vacation.  He said he could not find a job and his father would not let him play ball.  Frustrated, he drew a $15 check on the First National Bank, signed his mother's name, endorsed it with his own and his grandmother's names, then boarded a train for Philadelphia, eventually making it to New York.  He still had $13 in his pocket.  Williams brought the teen back to 62 West 11th Street.  The New York Herald wrote, "Mr. Williams has telegraphed to Mr. Allen to come on to New York and get his boy.  But Edward does not know that."

H. C. Johnston listed his address here two years later when he left New York to fight in the Spanish-American War.  On July 3, 1898, The Sun listed Private Johnston among the volunteers "who were civilians two months ago" and who now had fought in the Battle of the Aguadores.  The article floridly reported, "Side by side with the Indian fighters of the regular army they endured the broiling sun and the torturing tropical brush, and played a manful part in the struggle that won the enemy's outworks and established our advance where the Spanish front had rested."

De Forest Deyon, a paymaster in the U.S. Army, also fought in the conflict.  He was on leave in February 1899 when, recently married, he and his "young and pretty wife," as described by the New York Morning Telegraph, took rooms here.  The newspaper said Mrs. Ribber, "is a good, meek woman, of respectable appearance and typical loquacity.  Like most women, she greatly admired the gallant soldiers and battle-scarred veterans of smoke and thunder.  Indeed, she considered herself fortunate in securing such a distinguished guest as Paymaster Deyon, and told the other boarders all about his great exploits at the front."

Trouble came, however, on the night of February 20--the night before Deyon's leave expired.  He returned to 62 West 11th Street "afflicted with alcoholic hallucinations of the San Juan battle," reported the New York Morning Telegraph.  The article said both Mrs. Ribber and Mrs. Deyon were "surprised and troubled" when he came home disheveled and acting strangely.  He went to his room and "dislodged his young wife, who was hiding behind a door.  The paymaster thought she was a Spaniard and chased her all over the house.  He then made a detour to the basement below stairs and stirred up the portly Mrs. Ribber, who was lying in ambush behind a trocha of flour barrels."

The soldier was no match for the feisty landlady.  She pretended to flee, then suddenly turned on Deyon.  The newspaper said she "charged into the enemy's breastworks, to which she clung until reinforcements arrived in the shape of Policeman Passent."   Arresting the soldier, who was suffering from hallucinations that might be diagnosed as symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder today, was not easy.  The Morning Telegraph reported, "Four other policemen came to the rescue and were kept busy for ten minutes before the enemy surrendered."  Deyon was taken to the alcoholic ward in Bellevue Hospital and his wife paid his $10 fine for disorderly conduct.

Samuel Stormer lived here in 1903.  The 28-year-old had recently left his job as a piano salesman for the Stephen T. Musical Automaton Company in Jersey.  As it turned out, he had come to New York City to hide out.  Stormer had sold a number of pianos for half price, writing the full price in the books and noting that the customer had paid $50 on an installment plan.  He then pocketed the remainder of the cash.  "Stormer had carried his alleged shady transactions to a point where he decided it was best to skip out," reported the Jersey City News on December 4.

New Jersey detectives Dan Lee and Frank Bennett searched unsuccessfully for the fugitive who "remained secluded in New York."  Then, in December some "special occasion" came up that necessitated Stormer's return to Jersey City.  The Jersey City News opined he "thought he could by changing his style of dress venture safely over the river.  He had scarcely more than set his foot here when he was nabbed by the two keen-eyed detectives."

Living here in 1910 was Albert Brown, a theater ticket speculator (what today would be known as a scalper).  He would approach patrons in front of various theaters before curtain time, offering cut-rate tickets.  He was working in front of the Metropolitan Opera House on February 2, 1910 when trouble ensued.  Edward Johnson was a carriage starter--the person who kept the line of vehicles smoothly moving along at curbside.  Brown approached two women who alighted from a carriage.  They already had their tickets and Johnson stepped in to move him along.  On February 7, The New York Times reported that Brown had been arrested "on complaint of Edward Johnson, a negro carriage starter, who charged the speculator with striking him."  Brown's arrest was, perhaps, surprising given the gross racial inequities of the period.

Following World War I, unofficial apartments were being rented within 62 West 11th Street.  Living here in 1922 was Dr. Victor O. Freeburg.  His diverse resume included commanding a submarine chaser during the war, serving as a professor of English at Columbia University, as a line officer on the steamship Wisconsin, and writing books on drama and motion pictures.  On August 11 that year, he married Mildred Ekblad.  The well-educated bride held degrees from Yale and Columbia Universities.

That year an advertisement in the New York Herald offered, "Entire parlor floor, 3 rooms and bath, 3 open fireplaces, 3 large mirrors; immediate possession; rent $125."  The rent would translate to about $2,100 in 2024.

From 1985 through 1987, the basement level was home to Batons, described by The New York Times as a "California-style American restaurant."  In its relatively short lifespan, Batons catered to some high-profile customers.  On December 31, 1985, The New York Times noted, "This cold season is also a good time to try hot restaurants.  Calvin Klein, Annie Leibovitz, Elle McPherson, Sean Penn and Madonna, Margaux Hemingway and Cristina Ferrare have all recently sampled the California cuisine served by carefully stubbled waiters in a dazzling black and white room at Batons, 62 West 11th Street."

While there are 14 apartments in the LeMoyne house, outwardly (other than replacement stoop railings and windows) little has changed in just over 170 years.

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


  1. 14 apts must be a typo

    1. The Dept of Buildings documents 14 dwelling units within this house. The Corcoran Group recently listed an apartment, showing "16 units" in the building. So take your pick. Either way, not a typo.

  2. Great house! The windows look original to me.

  3. Doug Floor Plan
    Some very interesting stories related to this house. The one that stood out to me was Mary Lenox Kennedy, who was wealthy and unmarried, with family in the City, moving into a house for her to live in without a husband or other family member. I'm thinking this was not very common and might even be considered improper at the time. Am I wrong?

    1. It was highly unusual and shocking. I'm guessing she had either a relative (such as a niece) or some other arrangement. It is not surprising that she soon went back to live with her sister.