Thursday, April 4, 2024

The 1902 Patrick Calhoun Mansion - 9 East 88th Street


In 1902, real estate developer George Edgar's Sons broke ground for three opulent townhomes at 5 through 9 East 88th Street.  Designed by Turner & Kilian, they were completed before the end of the year.  The Beaux Arts design of No. 9, the easternmost house, harmoniously blended with its fraternal siblings.  Five stories tall, its Doric marble portico supported a balustraded balcony at the second floor.  The limestone-faced base upheld four floors of deep red brick trimmed in limestone and marble.  The bowed, three-story midsection featured a wrought-iron railed balcony that fronted round-arched French windows at the third floor.  The fifth floor sat back behind a stone-balustraded balcony.

An advertisement appeared in The New York Times on December 7, 1902, announcing the "just completed," 26-foot-wide residence for sale.  The $150,000 price would translate to about $5.25 million in 2024.  It was purchased by Judge Francis K. Pendleton who leased it to street railroad mogul Patrick Calhoun.

Patrick Calhoun, from History of Atlanta, Georgia, with Illustrations, 1889 (copyright expired)

Calhoun was born on the plantation of his grandfather, Fort Hill, near Pendleton, South Carolina in 1856.  He practiced law in Atlanta and was prominent in Southern politics until 1896, when he turned his focus to street railways.  He married Sarah Porter Williams (known to her friends as Sallie) in 1885, and the couple had eight children--four sons and four daughters.

By the time he purchased the East 88th Street mansion, he owned railroads throughout the country.  This would be just one of his residences.  On November 21, 1908, Harper's Weekly commented, "this man has many homes--his legal residence at Atlanta, Georgia; a spacious home in Charleston, South Carolina; another in Cleveland, Ohio; a fourth in San Francisco; and a delightful house at No. 9 East Eighty-eighth Street, New York city."

Harper's Weekly, November 21, 1908 (copyright expired)

Their many residences made keeping up with the Calhouns difficult for society journalists.  On December 11, 1905, for instance, the New York Herald announced, "Mr. Patrick Calhoun, of No. 9 East Eighty-eighth street, has returned to this city from a trip to California," and on April 22, 1907 the newspaper reported, "Mrs. Patrick Calhoun, of No. 9 East Eighty-eighth street, who has recently returned from a visit to her former home in Charleston, S.C., has as her guests this week Mr. and Mrs. Andrew Pickens Calhoun, of Texas."

Newspaper coverage of the family would soon turn from social events to a serious legal matter.  The New York Times ran a headline on May 25, 1907, "Patrick Calhoun Indicted," and reported that a San Francisco grand jury had delivered 14 indictments against him for "bribery in connection with the fixing of the gas company's rate and with receiving $50,000 in the United Railroad's franchise deal."

Calhoun's trial in San Francisco began on January 12, 1909.  It ended with a hung jury on June 20.  The second trial dragged on for months.  A dramatic turn came the following summer when, on August 14, 1910, the New-York Tribune began an article saying, "The three leading counsel of Patrick Calhoun, president of the United Railroads, began jail sentences for contempt of court this week."

Blanche Barclay purchased 9 East 88th Street from Francis Pendleton in December that year and continued to lease it to the Calhouns.  They remained here until May 1912 when Blanche Barclay sold it to Herbert Adolph and Vivian Scheftel.

A stockbroker, Scheftel was a partner in J. S. Bache & Co.  Born on April 17, 1875, he graduated from Yale University in 1898 and married Vivian Straus on January 17, 1907.  The couple had two sons and maintained a summer home in East Williston, Long Island.  (A month before the Scheftels purchased 9 East 88th Street, Vivian's parents, Isidor and Ida Straus, were lost in the sinking of the RMS Titanic.)  

The Scheftels hired the architect John Russell Pope to make interior renovations and extend the mansion to the rear.  While construction was going on, the couple went to Europe.  On May 5, 1912, the New-York Tribune reported, "Mr. and Mrs. Herbert A. Scheftel and family, of New York, after stopping for a month at the Hotel Carlton, Cannes, have left for the Hotel Majestic, Paris."

The Scheftels had impressive house guests in the spring of 1913.  On March 29, The New York Times reported that Speaker of the House Champ Clark and his wife would be spending the weekend at the East 88th Street home.

Herbert Adolph Scheftel died at the country estate on September 12, 1914.  His funeral was held three days later.  It does not appear that Vivian ever returned to their townhouse.  She rented it furnished in December 1915 to Walter Douglas, and sold it the following year to Leopold Rossbach for $225,000 (about $6.2 million today).

Born in 1853 in Germany, Rossbach came to the United States in 1869.  The teenager joined his brother's leather and hide business, which became J. H. Rossbach & Bros.  (Joseph H. Rossbach had preceded his brother in traveling to America and started the business in 1865.)  Leopold and his wife, the former Leonora Bache, had three sons, J. Henry, Walter S. and Lawrence B.; and a daughter Helen.  Their country home was in Elberon, New Jersey.

Leopold Rossbach, Shoe and Leather Reporter, March 14, 1918 (copyright expired)

On January 19, 1917, The American Jewish Chronicle reported, "There were very gay doings in the new home of Mr. and Mrs. Leopold Rossbach, at 9 East 88th Street.  Miss Helen Rossbach, their daughter, gave a dance for quite a number of her friends on Sunday night, the fourteenth.  What a good time they all had!"

Three months later, on April 6, The American Jewish Chronicle reported on Helen's engagement to Dr. Arthur Lambert Cone.  "It is rumored that she will be married some time in August in the country estate of her parents at Elberon, N. J.," said the article.

On March 5, 1918, Leopold Rossbach suffered a fatal heart attack.  "His death came as a blow to his family and friends who had considered him in good health," said the Shoe and Leather Reporter.  His funeral was held in the East 88th Street house on March 8.  Rossbach left an estate appraised at $2,896,650--around $49 million in today's money.  Nearly the entire estate was left to Leonora.

Leonora Rossbach remained here for six more years, selling the mansion in May 1924 for $200,000 to Paul Baerward.  Born in Frankfort, Germany, he and his wife, the former Edith Jacobi, had four children, Herman F., Pauline, Jane, and Florence.  Like the Rossbachs, their country home was in Elberon, New Jersey.

Baerward was a partner in the investment banking firm Lazard Frères & Co., for which he had worked since 1898.  But he was best known for his philanthropic and relief work.  He helped found the Joint Distribution Committee during World War I and was "credited with having played a leading part in the great work of Jewish relief and rehabilitation in Europe during World War I and its aftermath," according to The New York Times.  In 1932 he was named chairman of the Allied Jewish Campaign and the Joint Distribution Committee.

Baerward retired in 1930 "to devote himself to philanthropy," according to The New York Times.  That year, on May 30, the newspaper reported that he had contributed $100,000 to the New York Allied Jewish Campaign.  The article noted, "An additional $5,000 was contributed by Mrs. Baerwald."  In the letter accompanying his donation, Paul Baerward said that during the troubling economic times, people should be willing "to extend a helping hand to those who are passing through a period of increased misery."

The following year, in October, President Franklin D. Roosevelt named Baerward to "the unofficial committee to report on the feasibility of reorganizing the Bank of United States," as reported by The New York Times.  He was also Roosevelt's first Jewish representative on the President's Advisory Committee on Political Refugees.

The mansion abutted a vacant lot in 1941. from the NYC Dept of Records & Information Services.

On October 17, 1941, The New York Times reported on Baerwald's receiving an honorary degree of Doctor of Hebrew Letters from the Hebrew Union College.  The article said it came as "recognition of his leadership in American Jewish life and his service of almost half a century for the relief of the needy and oppressed throughout the world."

Another significant honor came eight years later when the Joint Distribution Committee opened the Paul Baerwald School of Social Work in France.  The New York Times described it as a "unique school to train Jewish social workers from Europe and North Africa for service in their native communities."  The name honored Baerwald's decades of work "during the First World War and its aftermath, during the Hitler era and during the difficult period following the Second World War."

Paul Baerwald became ill in 1961 and died "after a short illness," according to The New York Times, in Monmouth Memorial Hospital on July 3, 1961.  He was 89 years old.  

The following year the family of Dr. Henry Doubilet occupied the East 88th Street mansion.  They, too, had a summer home in Elberon, New Jersey.  An expert on the biliary and pancreatic systems, Doubilet was an internationally known surgeon.  The family moved to 1040 Park Avenue in 1964, at which time 9 East 88th Street became home to Dr. Arthur and Madeleine Chalette Lejwa.

Born in Poland, Lejwa held two Ph.D. degrees--one in chemical engineering from the University of Toulouse and the other in chemistry from the Sorbonne.  His entire family had been murdered in a Nazi gas chamber during World War II.  In 1950 he drastically changed course when he and his wife opened the Galerie Chalette on Madison Avenue, which specialized in 20th century art.

Upon purchasing 9 East 88th Street, they moved the gallery into the mansion.  The New York Times described it as "emphasizing abstract art and the work of such European masters as Picasso, Marc Chagall and Joan Arp."

Arthur Lejwa died on October 27, 1972 at the age of 77.  Madeleine Chalette Lejwa closed the gallery that year.  She died in 1996 at the age of 81.

The Calhoun mansion remains a single family home.  It was placed on the market recently for $38 million.

photographs by the author
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1 comment:

  1. I don't think that photo shows "a vacant lot," more likely a garden. Note the brick wall and the inset doorway.