Wednesday, April 17, 2024

The 1853 John P. Faure House - 238 West 11th Street


Linus Scudder was a well-known builder in Greenwich Village in the decades prior to the Civil War.  In 1852, he broke ground for two identical 20-foot-wide, brick-faced homes at 38 and 40 Hammond Street (renumbered 238 and 240 West 11th Street in 1864).  Three stories tall above brownstone English basements, they were completed in 1853.  Trimmed in brownstone, they were capped by wooden bracketed cornices, each of the closely-spaced corbels dripping an onion-shaped finial.

No. 38 Hammond Street was first home to Charles Griffith, a merchant at 61 Cedar Street.  He and his family lived here until about 1858, when broker Henry Pray was listed at the address.  He and his wife Abby had a teenaged daughter, Sophia.  

Sophia A. Pray died on May 1, 1862 two months before her 20th birthday.  Her funeral was held in the parlor three days later.

It was common for even affluent homeowners to take in a boarder.  L. Blanchard lived here on August 20, 1863 when The New York Times reported on the draft lottery held the previous morning at 10:00 to bolster the Union Army's troops.  At the headquarters at 185 Sixth Avenue, crowds had gathered to witness the pulling of the names from "the wheel of destiny," the article saying they "tremble while they hear."  Among the names drawn that day was L. Blanchard's.

The Faure family purchased 238 West 11th Street around 1869.  Born in 1814, John R. Faure was a partner in the dry goods commission business of Faure & McCash and a director in the Excelsior Fire Insurance Co.  Sharing the house with him and his wife Catherine were their adult son John P. Faure and his wife, the former Lucie J. Halpin.  John P. was a wool merchant, specializing in hosiery.  (Interestingly, Lucie Halpin was an author during the Civil War years, writing under the pseudonym of Miles O'Reilly.)

Like their predecessors in the house, the Faures took in a boarder.  In 1870, for instance, it was Elie Bonin, an attorney, and in 1879 William V. Smith, a surveyor, lived with the family.

John R. Faure died on April 6, 1874 at the age of 60.  He was buried at St. Peter's Stone Church Cemetery in Dutchess County.

By the 1890s, Catherine's widowed cousin, William L. Elseffer lived with the family.  His wife, Amanda Shaw, had been "a writer of considerable abilities," according to the 1895 History of Dutchess County.  Elseffer had "attained considerable celebrity as a civil engineer," said The New York Times.  He worked on the development of Central Park, engineered the drainage of the salt meadows between Jersey City and Newark, and in 1887 issued a report to the United States Senate on the Pacific railways.  Elseffer died at the age of 71 on January 2, 1898.  His funeral was held in the house two days later.

The following year, on October 20, 1899, Catherine A. Faure died at the age of 85.  She was buried next to her husband at St. Peter's Stone Church Cemetery in Dutchess County.

By the time of his mother's death, John P. Faure had turned his professional attention from hosiery to civic matters.  He had been appointed a Trustee of the Common Schools of the Ninth Ward on December 19, 1888, and in 1894 was appointed secretary of the influential Committee of Seventy.

The committee was organized in September that year as a response to public dissatisfaction with political corruption, notably in Tammany Hall.  Among its stated principles were that "municipal government should be entirely divorced from party politics and from selfish personal ambition or gain," and "the economical, honest, and businesslike management of municipal affairs has nothing to do with questions of national or State politics."

When reform Mayor William Lafayette Strong took office in 1895, he appointed Faure Commissioner of Charities.  By 1897, Faure was secretary of the St. John's Guild, which provided medical treatment to the children of New York's poor.  The group maintained a Floating Hospital and Faure was chairman of its governing committee.  And when the Spanish-American War erupted in 1898, he became highly involved in Red Cross work.

On July 7, 1898, The New York Times reported, "The Floating Hospital of St. John's Guild yesterday made its first excursion of the season down the North River and bay to the Seaside Hospital of the Guild, with 440 mothers and sick babies and children aboard."  The article said, "Nearly a hundred women, carrying sickly infants in their arms, had already been waiting over half an hour on the pier, so as not to miss the chance of giving their dear ones an opportunity to have a day's outing on the water."  Also on board that day were John P. Faure, who "appeared in a delightfully cool-looking yachting suit, and was accompanied by Mrs. Faure."

The esteem in which the public held John P. Faure was reflected in a letter to the editor of The New York Times on September 1, 1901.  Signed "Conservative Republican," it read:

Allow me to call your attention, for Mayor of Greater New York, to Mr. John P. Faure, former Commissioner of Charities and member of the School Board, a philanthropist, by whose extraordinary efforts 40,000 poor women and children, through St. John's Guild, have been permitted to get fresh air and be restored to health.  Doubtless hundreds of lives have been saved by his humane, but unselfish, devotions to their welfare.

Like all well-heeled New Yorkers, the Faures summered outside of the city.  They spent the summer of 1902 at the fashionable Peninsula Hotel at Seabright, New Jersey.  On August 16, the hotel hosted a "progressive euchre" in the dining hall.  "The spacious hall was cleared and decorated for the occasion, and presented a scene of beauty.  Mirth and jollity reigned supreme," said the New-York Tribune.  Although Lucie Faure did not win the first prize of a cut glass and silver cracker jar, she was awarded a parasol.

In 1904, the Faures acquired a summer home in Ossining, New York.  They were there in 1912 when John headed to Manhattan for business on the morning of June 19.  The next day, The Sun began an article saying, "John P. Faure, Commissioner of Charities under Mayor Strong, dropped dead of heart failure on the station platform at Ossining yesterday.  The unexpected passing of an express train had startled him.  He was 67 years old."

It does not appear that Lucie returned to West 11th Street.  In 1914 the house was occupied by Harry X. Stinson and his wife.  Like John P. Faure, Mrs. Stinson was interested in reform issues and was corresponding secretary of the International Pure Milk League, which lobbied to have inspections of dairy farms and cattle every six months.

Lucie Halpin Faure sold 238 West 11th Street to Charles W. Knight in March 1920.  The Real Estate Record & Guide reported he "will alter [it] into high class studio apartments."  Knight apparently changed his mind, and on July 20, 1921 the New-York Tribune reported he had sold it, saying, "the house will be renovated by the new owner."

Those renovations did not come for another six years.  A fourth floor with a vast, sloping skylight was added, the third floor windows were extended, and a charming multi-paned window was installed at the parlor level.  Among the tenants living here by 1936 was Hila C. Meadow, whom Congress's Special Committee of Un-American Activities tracked through 1940 as voting for the Communist Party ticket.

image via the NYC Dept of Records & Information Services

In 1987 the house was renovated again, resulting in a duplex apartment in the basement and parlor floors, one apartment on the second, and a duplex on the third and fourth.  Among the residents was Brazilian-born handbag and accessories designer Carlos Falchi.  Born on September 26, 1944, he began his business in Greenwich Village.  Having once worked as a busboy at a Park Avenue South restaurant and nightclub, his high end bags would eventually sell for as much as $5,000.

Falchi sold his unit in 2013.  The purchasers bought the other two apartments in 2021 and 2023, and are currently returning 238 West 11th Street to a single-family home.

many thanks to reader Scott McDowell for requesting this post
photographs by the author has no authorization to reuse the content of this blog


  1. Beautiful place (that ironwork!) and the building next door looks equally intriguing.

    1. The building next door is the 1881 North Baptist Church: