Friday, May 24, 2024

The 1840 Ichabod Price House - 42 King Street


Born in 1781, Ichabod Price was a sergeant in the New York State Artillery Corps at the outbreak of the War of 1812.  Decades later, the Arkansas City Daily Traveler would recall, "He suggested to the war department both rifle cannons and conical balls, which now perform destructive work at long distances, but he was not listened to.  President Madison was so well satisfied of the genius of the sergeant that he was commissioned a sergeant in the regular army of the United States."

Price was a successful hatter when he rented the newly built house at 42 King Street in 1840.  It was a year of change for Price, who also relocated his business.  On September 9, a notice in The Evening Post read,

Fashionable Hats--Ichabod Price has removed from 190 to 290 Broadway, one door above Washington Hotel.  Fashionable Hats made in superior style, of the best materials.  The fall fashion is now ready for exhibition.  The public are respectfully invited to call and examine for themselves.

The King Street house was one of a row of identical Greek Revival style homes.  Three stories tall, it was faced in brick above the brownstone clad basement level.  Handsome iron stoop railings descended to wrap the short newels atop sturdy brownstone drums.  In contrast to its heavy stone framework, the elegant doorway was flanked by narrow sidelights.  A delicately dentiled cornice ran along the roof life.

The Prices' two daughters were grown and married, so the couple subleased a portion of their new home to the Brown family.  Charles P. Brown was in the lime business on West Street, and his son James G. Brown was a clerk.

Around 1847 Ichabod Price moved two doors away, to 46 King Street where he died at the age of 81 on February 22, 1862.  

A succession of tenants lived at 42 King Street after Price.  John W. Taylor lived here in 1847.  On September 12, 1849 an auction of the household goods was held.  The announcement explained the furnishings belonged to "a family breaking up housekeeping."  The following year the house was occupied by spring manufacturer William B. Oakley, and in 1853 by James Mettler, a wholesale grocer.

The family of John Brown, an oyster dealer in the Fulton Market, lived here beginning in 1856.  Like the Prices, they rented extra space.  Their advertisement on October 19, 1858 read, "A private family, residing in a very respectable neighborhood, will let a very nicely furnished front room to a gentleman, with fire, gas and bath, on moderate terms.  Inquire at 42 King street."

The mention of "gas and bath" reflects the up-to-the-minute amenities.  Although Samuel Leggett had installed gas lighting in his house at 7 Cherry Street in 1823, it would not become widespread until the 1880s.  And indoor plumbing had only become possible in 1842 (with the opening of the Croton Reservoir) to homeowners who could afford the renovations.

In the 19th century, a common method for widowed women to eke a living was the running of a boarding house.  Mary Cook, the widow of James Cook, lived here starting in 1861, taking in two boarders at a time.  

Patrick and Catharine McKenna moved into 42 King Street in 1871.  McKenna listed his profession as "liquors" in two locations, at 109 and 172 Varick Street.  The couple had barely moved in when tragedy struck.  On November 20, 1871, their son Peter Joseph died 12 days after his first birthday.

McKenna may have been in the liquor business, but an advertisement for a room to rent in the New York Herald on October 6, 1875, indicated the couple would not abide a disreputable tenant.  

A nice front room on second floor to let, furnished--gas, bath and fire; nice for two gentlemen or light housekeeping to respectable people; private house.  42 King street.

The McKennas remained here until 1879, when they sold 42 King Street to Charles McDonnell and his wife.  The couple maintained a country house near Derby, Connecticut where The Evening World noted that McDonnell enjoyed "working a little farm, of which he was very proud."

McDonnell had good reason to be proud of his achievements.  Born on November 15, 1841 on Anthony Street (later renamed Worth Street), The World said that "while quite small boy Charley tried to earn his own living by selling newspapers."  Newsboys were almost always impoverished and many of them were homeless, living in newsboy lodging houses.  The newspaper said, "He was assisted to an education by friends, and later ex-Sheriff Matthew T. Brennan, Judge Dowling and other prominent Democrats took a great interest in the lad."

Saved from the street by chance, he joined the police force on January 21, 1863.  When he purchased 42 King Street, he had risen to the rank of captain and had been assigned to the Prince Street stationhouse since 1874.  He was known among the force as "Lightning Charley" because of his reputation of apprehending perpetrators with lightning speed.

The World recalled a few of those instances.  "During his term in the old Twenty-eighth Precinct a man named Sheridan killed a German at the corner of Thirty-seventh street and Second avenue, and within two hours the Captain had captured the murderer."  Another case The World recounted was, "One afternoon a poor woman was found lying dead in a pool of blood in a miserable garret in South Fifth avenue, and that night the captain arrested the woman's son, who proved to have been the murderer."

Captain Charles "Lightning Charley" McDonnell, The Evening World, August 14, 1888 (copyright expired)

Charles McDonnell appeared to be near death in the winter of 1886.  He caught pneumonia and, thinking he had recovered sufficiently, on January 15 ventured out of the house.  The New York Herald reported, "While in the street he was suddenly taken sick and had to be conveyed home, and is now suffering from a relapse."  The article said he was "lying dangerously ill at his home, No. 42 King street."

In August 1888, because his wife was at the Connecticut house, McDonnell chose to sleep at the station house.  At 9:00 on the morning of August 14, Doorman McDermott (the officer who interacted with civilians) went to awaken him, since he had apparently overslept.  The Evening World reported, "A gentle shake of the shoulder failed to have the desired effect, and on looking down into the Captain's face, the doorman noticed the stamp of death on his countenance."  He had apparently suffered a fatal heart attack in his sleep.

Charles McDonnell's funeral was impressive.  The New York Times reported, "A battalion with music will escort the hearse from 42 King-street to the Grand Central Station."  Eight full companies of police officers marched in the procession, which went "from the late residence of the deceased, at 42 King street, to [St. Anthony's Church], thence to South Fifth avenue, to and through Washington Square, to Fifth avenue, to Fortieth street, to Park avenue, and thence to the depot."  A special train car transported the casket to Birmingham, Connecticut for burial.

Five months later, on January 23, 1889, 42 King Street was sold at auction.  Michael Higgins paid $13,500 for the property.  The figure would translate to about $433,000 in 2024.

Once again the residence became a boarding house.  Living here in 1892 were Peter Thompson and James O'Neill, who were arrested on May 4, 1892 as "policy-dealers," according to The Evening Post.  (Policy rackets were a version of a numbers game or illegal lottery that preyed on the desperate poor.)  A much more respectable resident in 1896 was Lewis C. Von der Hosen, who was appointed a city marshal on March 30 that year.

Disparate tenants continued to live in the house.  In 1903, for instance, Peter C. Hunter and Ignatius Canali lived here.  Hunter was a member of the Caledonian Club and "a faithful employe [sic] of James Stewart, the hide and leather dealer," according to the New York Herald.  Canali, on the other hand, was arrested on October 20 that year with his brother-in-law, Edward Basso, "on a charge of selling bogus naturalization papers."  The two had targeted naïve Italian immigrants, charging them $20 for fake papers.

At the time, the King Street neighborhood was seeing an influx of Italian immigrants.  In 1920, 42 King Street was purchased by John and Olindo D'Anna.  They sold it the following year to Vincezo Lanza.

Lanza was born in San Fele, Italy, in 1861.  He opened a drugstore in Greenwich Village in 1881.  In 1894, he married Maria Antonia Maffia.  They had three children, Frank, Joseph and Mary.  When the couple moved into the King Street house, Lanza's drugstore had been located at Bleecker and Macdougal Streets since 1901.

While living here, the Lanzas converted the house to unofficial apartments, one per floor.  Occupying one of them in 1934 was the Alonzo family.  Joseph Alonzo and his son Frank worked in a toothpaste factory in Jersey City.  The two were arrested with four other men on February 12 that year, charged with "having been involved in the theft of about $27,000 worth of tooth paste...during the past six months," according to the New York Sun.  The in-house ring stole inventory by simply shipping it from the mail room.  It was a significant theft, equal to nearly $600,000 today.

Vincenzo Lanza retired in 1951.  Widowed, he died at the age of 98 on October 11, 1959.  The Villager noted, "He resided at 42 King St., a four-family house which he owned for 37 years."  The article added, "His family ascribe his longevity to the European mode of life-regular habits, rest in the afternoon and 'particular attention to the stomach.'"

In 1967 42 King Street was officially converted to apartments, one per floor.  Other than the iron fire escape, its outward appearance is little changed after 185 years.

photographs by the author
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  1. It almost looks like there was a fire at some point, the area above the door looks blackened (or maybe it's just stained from the fire escape.

    1. You're right, that's staining from the fire escape (plus a little shadow as well)

  2. Birmingham, Connecticut is an old name for Derby. So in death he went back to where he enjoyed his vacations.