Tuesday, March 12, 2024

S. B. Ogden & Co.'s 306 West 102nd Street


photo by Anthony Bellov

In March 1901, the architectural firm of S. B. Ogden & Co. filed plans for a six-story "brick and stone flat" for developer Gerald Fountain at 306 West 102nd Street.  The block between Riverside Drive and West End Avenue was lined with opulent rowhouses built a generation earlier.

Unlike almost all apartment buildings on the Upper West Side, Fountain did not give 306 West 102nd Street a name.  Completed in 1902, its Colonial Revival design included an engaged portico above a short stoop and splayed lintels with layered keystones.  S. B. Odgen & Co. added interest by gently curving the facade and by alternating brick and and stone bands at the first, second and sixth floors to create a striped effect.  A prominent cast metal cornice crowned the design.

photograph by Anthony Bellov

There were just six apartments of eight rooms in the building--one per floor.  An advertisement boasted, "servants' bathrooms, elevator, electric lights," with some rooms 25-feet-wide.  Yearly rents averaged $1,200--or about $3,300 per month by today's conversion.

The building filled with professionals like J. M. Ross, a 1901 graduate of Harvard and member of the Ross, Sprague Sugar Co.; and attorneys Walter Fargo Wood, a graduate of Yale; and Amos Evans.

Evans and his wife had two young adult children, Jack and Eloise.  In 1907, Eloise was engaged to Harvard graduate William F. Eastman, who worked in the advertising department of a fashion magazine.  Both he and his roommate, Barnett Barnett-Powers (who had also been his roommate at Harvard), were frequent guests at the Evans apartment.  Their welcomes, however, were cut short in June 1907.

According to The New York Times, Eastman "had confided to the mother of the girl that he was desperately in love with Miss Evans and wished to marry her."  He invited Eloise and her mother to luncheon at the Waldorf-Astoria on June 26, 1907.  Mrs. Evans declined, while Eloise accepted.  After tea, Eastman proclaimed that he could not wait another moment to marry, and suggested they immediately go to the Church of the Transfiguration to be wed.  

Eloise initially agreed, but when the maid answered the bell of the rectory, she backed down, explaining later, "I got frightened, and decided that it had gone too far."  As they were headed back to the Waldorf-Astoria, they ran into Barnett Barnett-Powers and told him the story of their trip to the rectory.

Barnett-Powers worked for a morning newspaper and had long hoped that a "scoop" would make a name for himself as a reporter.  He and Evans had plotted the incident so Barnett-Powers could report on the elopement.  When that fell through, he concocted a new story.  The New York Times explained, "Barnett-Powers hastened back to the newspaper...and wrote the story, a 'scoop'--the first scoop he had delivered since he entered the field of journalism.  But in the story he made it appear that it was Eastman and not Miss Evans who lost courage at the rectory."  The story made it seem that Eloise "could not get her suitor into the rectory.

When the article was read at the Evans breakfast table the following morning "a stormy scene ensued," according to the newspaper.  Amos Evans demanded revenge against the men who had embarrassed his daughter, and Jack Evans "got out his automobile and started to look for Eastman and Barnett-Powers."

Before Evans could track them down, a reporter went to the young men's apartment and told them of Amos Evans's fury.  Eastman, who already had a business trip to Europe planned, quickly began packing and Barnett-Powers followed suit.  "They did not stop for breakfast," said The New York Times.  Back on 102nd Street, Amos Evans vowed, "Such things as that cannot go unpunished.  I know it will cost me a lot of money and time, but I will have satisfaction from these two," adding, "When I get hold of either one there will be enough material for several scoops."

Among the well-heeled residents in 1929 was Mrs. Anna Costigan and her contractor husband.  On July 16 that year, she was arrested "while kneeling at prayer in a pew in the Church of Our Lady of Good Counsel at 90th st. and 2d ave," according to the Daily News.  Mrs. Sally Nolan accused her of stealing her purse.  Anna Costigan explained she "merely had mistaken Mrs. Nolan's purse for her own."

As it turned out, however, Anna Costigan's journey all the way across town to pray had a nefarious purpose.  A detective told the judge that about 20 purses had been stolen from neighborhood churches in the past three months.  The humiliated woman was held on $500 bail awaiting a hearing.

In 1938, architect Samuel Roth was hired to renovate the building to a convalescent home known as the Lynwood Nursing Home.  The facility initially had ten rooms per floor.  A subsequent renovation, completed in 1951, added a mortuary to the basement level and modern amenities like a television room.

The cornice was intact in 1941.  image via the NYC Dept of Records & Information Services.

An impressive list of residents lived at the Lynwood Nursing Home over the decades.  Among them was journalist Franklin Pierce Adams, who came to New York from a Chicago newspaper in 1903.  His column, "The Conning Tower," successively appeared in the New-York Tribune, the World, the New York Herald Tribune, and the New York Evening Post.  In 1938, he joined the panel of the radio and television program Information Please.  He was, as well, the author of eleven books, and co-wrote the musical comedy Lo with short-story writer O. Henry.

A fascinating resident was Alice G. Palmer.  Born in 1887, she never married.  In 1930, she was appointed director of the Episcopal Mission Society's port and immigration service.  She interrupted that work during World War II to serve with the Motor Corps of the American Red Cross.  Afterward, according to The New York Times, she "found herself in the unusual position of helping men who were not citizens and who remained here illegally after World War II.  In many cases they had obtained jobs here and started to raise families."  

Alice G. Palmer, The New York Times April 11, 1964

Palmer represented them at deportation proceedings, and was often successful in their obtaining permanent visas.  The New York Times recalled, "She enjoyed serving as a witness when many of them were sworn in as citizens."

Broadway producer Richard Skinner lived at the Lynwood Nursing Home until his death on August 3, 1971 at the age of 71.  Born in Watertown, Massachusetts, he started his career as an actor--his Broadway debut came with a minor role in Hamlet starring John Barrymore.  He discovered, however, that his short stature made finding roles difficult.  He turned to producing summer stock in places like Westport, Connecticut, New Hope, Pennsylvania and Philadelphia.

Another theatrical figure here was actress Olive Reeves-Smith.  Born in Surrey, England, she played on Broadway with stars like Ethel Barrymore and George M. Cohan.  She also had roles on radio and television, including appearances on dramatic shows like Studio 1, The Kraft TV Theater, and Death Valley Days.

Olive Reeves-Smith in her role as Dolly in Bloomer Girl.  from the collection of the Museum of the City of New York.

Olive Reeves-Smith died here in 1972.  At the time, the Lynwood Nursing Home was experiencing problems.  On March 19, 1974, The New York Times reported that the Department of Health, Education and Welfare had warned the facility that it faced the loss of Medicare certification if it did not correct violations within two weeks.  A spokesman said that, in addition to fire hazards, there were deficiencies in "nursing services, physicians' services, patient-care policies, dietary services and medical record-keeping."

The Lynwood Nursing Home closed within five years, replaced by Saint Luke's Halfway House, an alcoholism treatment facility, which still occupies the former apartment building.

photograph by Anthony Bellov

At some point in the second half of the 20th century, the metal cornice was removed and the windows replaced.  Otherwise, little outwardly has changed to S. B. Ogden & Co.'s unusual, high-end flat building.

many thanks to historian Anthony Bellov for suggesting this post
no permission to reuse the content of this blog has been granted to LaptrinhX.com

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