Wednesday, April 24, 2024

Louis Adams's 1890 29 West 12th Street


photo by Anthony Bellov

When the Emmet family acquired the 25-foot-wide lot at 29 West 12th Street in 1816, there was little else in the neighborhood.  That was not the case seven decades later when the heirs of Laura A. Emmet sold the "three story building, used as a bakery," according to the New York Herald on December 8, 1888.  Now surrounded by refined homes, the old structure was purchased by architect Louis Adams for $15,200.

Three months later, Adams filed plans for a "five-story brick and stone flat" on the site to cost $20,000 (just over $1 million in 2024).  Completed within the year, its stoic design featured little decoration.  The pierced, brownstone areaway wall gracefully morphed into the wing walls of the short stoop.  The openings of the brownstone-clad entry level were given delicate frames and a prominent, dentiled band course introduced four stories of brown Flemish bond brick.  A bracketed cornice capped the structure.

Adams reserved one of the apartments for his family.  On February 7, 1891 his wife advertised, "Wanted--An intelligent young woman for general housework.  Adams, 29 West 12th st."

The Huckel family moved into the building in the spring of 1890.  Rev. William M. Huckel was on the board of managers of the Seamen's Church Institute.  Living with him and his wife Christiana was their adult son, John Frederick Huckel, who was a publisher.  

Around 1895, John traveled west, settling in Kansas where he married Minnie Frances Harvey.  (Minnie was the daughter of Fred Harvey, founder of the Harvey House chain of restaurants and hotels that lined the railroads in the West.)  John Huckel would write several books, including American Indians: First Families of the Southwest, and Navaho Sandpainting: The Huckel Collection.

Rev. Huckel was assuredly well acquainted with resident Henry Rogers, who was manager of the Seamen's Mission and the New-York Bible and Prayerbook Association.  Born in 1820, he came from what the New-York Tribune called "old Colonial stock."  On his mother's side, he descended from John Winthrop of the Massachusetts Bay Colony.  His wife, Mary Livingston, was descended from Robert Livingston the Elder, the first Lord of the Manor of Livingston in New York.

Another resident with early American roots was Robert H. Hutchins, a direct descendant of John Alden of Plymouth, Massachusetts.  A bachelor, he attended private schools before entering Trinity College.  He received his law degree at Columbia Law School and was now a partner with attorney David B. Ogden.

On January 22, 1909, the New York Evening Post reported that the 39-year-old Hutchins "died early this morning in his bachelor apartments at No. 29 West Twelfth Street, before the arrival of medical aid."  The article said he had taken "some poison by mistake," explaining, "For the past few months Mr. Hutchins had complained of pains in his head.  He took several kinds of medicine, and recently had used powders to produce sleep."

It was generally assumed that Hutchins had taken an accidental overdose of phenacetin.  The pain reliever had been prescribed by Dr. Victor C. Pedersen two days earlier when Hutchins consulted him for "what he supposed to be neuralgia."  On January 23, however, The New York Times reported that the autopsy revealed the attorney had instead died "of cerebral hemorrhage."

Louis Adams died at the age of 70 on September 7, 1911.  His funeral was held in his apartment two days later.  No. 29 West 12th Street was inherited jointly by Albert I. and Genevieve Adams.  In 1919, Albert transferred his half to his sister.

By now Frederick W. Kendrick; his wife, the former Elizabeth P. de Aguilar; and her son from a previous marriage, F. Paul de Aguilar, lived here.  The New York Social Register listed them at the address as early as 1918.  F. Paul de Aguilar had only recently returned to New York.  The New-York Tribune noted, "Mr. de Aguilar served with the regular cavalry in 1916, and later was transferred to the air service as a private in the World War."  He was still living here in August 1920 when his engagement to Gladys Newbold Black was announced.

The Great Depression does not seem to have greatly affected the residents of 29 West 12th Street.  In 1940, Jane and Elizabeth M. Fullman, presumably sisters-in-law, lived here with a three-year-old daughter Martha Fullman.  The women had a live-in maid, Claudia Hore.

image via the NYC Dept of Records & Information Services

The following year, however, change came.  A renovation resulted in three apartments and "two class 'B' rooms" on the first floor, and two apartments and six class B rooms each on the upper floors.  The Department of Buildings explained, "All Class 'B' rooms to accommodate one (1) person in each room."  That configuration is still in place with a total of 36 residential units in the building.  

Outwardly, however, Louis Adams's reserved design is essentially unhanged after more than 130 years.

many thanks to historian Anthony Bellov for suggesting this post.
uncredited photographs by the author
no permission to reuse the content of this blog has been granted to 

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