Friday, May 17, 2024

The Eugene and Josephine Arnstein House - 16 East 80th Street

image via

Developer Anthony Mowbray began construction of a trio of high-stooped rowhouses at 16 through 20 East 80th Street in 1884.  Designed by McElfatrick & Sons & Debaud in the Queen Anne style, they were faced in brownstone at the basement and parlor levels, and red brick above.  Interestingly, while construction was still ongoing in July 1885, Mowbray brought in architect William E. Mowbray (presumably a relative) to make minor "internal alterations" to 16 East 80th Street.  The changes were most likely requested by Anthony Mowbray's potential buyers August and Josephine Schmid.

August Schmid arrived in America from Switzerland at the age of 12.  His father co-founded the Lion Brewery and, after learning the fundamentals of the business, August traveled to Munich to study beer making.  In 1879, he was made a full partner and, by now, he had amassed a fortune.

Their new home was completed in 1886.  August Schmid would not enjoy his impressive residence for long.  On June 7, 1889, the New York Evening Post reported, "The funeral of the well-known brewer, August Schmid, took place at ten o'clock this morning at his late home, No. 16 East Eightieth Street and was largely attended."  The article said representatives "from nearly every prominent German organization, as well as from the different brewing and malting associations," attended the service.  Josephine inherited approximately $1 million--about 34 times that much in today's money.  She stepped into her husband's position as a partner in the Lion Brewery.

On February 9, 1893, shortly after her 21st birthday, Josephine's eldest daughter, also named Josephine, died.  Her funeral was held in St. Patrick's Cathedral.  

At the time, Asbel Parmelee Fitch and his family lived at 1388 Lexington Avenue.  Two years later, in the fall of 1895, the Real Estate Record & Guide reported that Fitch had sold the house to Josephine Schmid, "for a consideration of $27,000 in a trade for a larger residence in East 80th Street."  Fitch and Schmid no doubt knew one another well, since he was a director in the Lion Brewery.  (Josephine did not intend to live in the Lexington Avenue house.  Instead, she would erect a striking mansion at 807 Fifth Avenue.)

Including his Lexington Avenue property, Fitch paid $75,000 for the 25-foot-wide East 80th Street house, according to The New York Times on October 29, 1895.  (The figure would translate to about $2.8 million in 2024.)  He and his wife, the former Elizabeth A. Cross, were married in 1874 and had three children, Elizabeth (known as Bessie), Ashbel, Jr., and Ella.  The family's country home was in Tarrytown-on-the-Hudson.

Ashbel Parmalee Fitch, The National Magazine, December 1893 expired)

Born in 1848, Fitch had deep American roots, descending from William Bradford of the Mayflower.  A graduate of Columbia Law School, he served in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1887 through 1893.  When he purchased 16 East 80th Street, he had been Comptroller of New York City for two years.

Ashbel Jr. was attending Yale in 1897.  On June 22, he boarded the Richard Peck in New Haven headed to New York City with three other Yale students.  When the boat landed, the 20-year-old and his companions were promptly arrested "on charges of intoxication, disorderly conduct, and malicious mischief," as reported by the New York Evening Post.  The captain complained "that they were noisy, smashed beer bottles on deck, and did various objectionable things."

The captain said he was "especially goaded" into pressing charges "by young Fitch's conduct."  The Evening Post quoted him:

He told me that his father was the Comptroller of New York, and that he would have me discharged from my job, and that he would have any policeman broke who attempted to arrest him.  He blustered up a great deal, and I called Policeman Snydecker aboard, and he, with three other officers, placed the young men under arrest.

In court, Magistrate Meade let the four go, but not before admonishing them, "you should be ashamed of the disgrace you have brought on yourselves, your parents, and your college."  One can imagine the more severe talking-to Fitch received at home.

More positive press centered around the Fitch daughters.  On January 5, 1898, The New York Times reported on Ella's debutante reception in the house, "an event of widespread social interest."  The article said, "There was a large attendance of fashionable people."

Ella was married to Henri George Chatain on November 15, 1902 in the Madison Avenue Presbyterian Church.  The reception was held in the East 80th Street house.  In reporting on the wedding, The New York Times commented, "Mr. Fitch has made his daughter a wedding present of a house on West End Avenue."

In the meantime, Fitch was defeated in the election for Comptroller in 1897.  Two years later, he co-founded the Trust Company of America, becoming its first president.  He was, as well, a director of the Bowling Green Trust Company, the Germania Bank, the Title Insurance Company of America, and the American Light and Traction Company.

The first hint that Ashbel Fitch's health was failing came in the fall of 1903.  On November 1, The New York Times reported, "Ex-Controller Ashbel P. Fitch, President of the Trust Company of American, who has been seriously ill at his house, 16 East Eightieth Street, for three weeks, is reported as improving, although still seriously ill."

Five months later, on April 19, Elizabeth Cooke Fitch was married in the drawing room to Harold Webster Ostby.  The decision not to have a church ceremony was almost assuredly based on Ashbel Fitch's health.  Nevertheless, The Sun reported, "There were many guests at the reception afterward.

Three weeks later, on May 3, 1904, Ashbel Parmalee Fitch died "from a stroke of apoplexy," according to The New York Times.  His funeral was held in the drawing room where his daughter had been married.  The Evening Post reported on May 6, "The gathering was so large that many persons were compelled to stand on the sidewalk, admission to the house being impossible."

The following year, Elizabeth Fitch sold 16 East 80th Street to Eugene and Josephine Mendelbau Arnstein.  Before moving in, they hired the architectural firm of Janes & Leo to remodel the outdated residence.  While the architects retained a stoop, they replaced the brick and brownstone facade with limestone.  The toned-down Beaux Arts design featured a large, arched parlor window, a full-width balcony at the second floor with an elaborate French railing, and a balustraded stone balcony at the fourth floor.

The New York Architect, 1907 (copyright expired)

Born in Germany in 1840, Eugene Arnstein was a manufacturer of paints and varnishes.  He and Josephine had four adult children.  As had been the case with August Schmid, he would not enjoy his home long.  The couple was in Munich, Germany on October 10, 1907 when Arnstein died at the age of 67.

The first floor had just three rooms--the parlor, music room, and dining room.  The New York Architect, 1907 (copyright expired)

At least two of Josephine's children, Edna and Hugo, lived with her.  In 1909, Hugo and his brother Leo partnered to found The Thread-Tight Company, a "plumbing, heating, and gas fitting business," according to Domestic Engineering on September 18 that year.

Although Josephine rarely appeared in society columns, Edna did.  On February 27, 1910, for instance, The New York Times reported, "Miss Edna Arnstein gave a fancy-dress dance at her home, 16 East Eightieth Street, on Saturday evening.  The first prize, given for the most attractive costume, was won by Miss Dorothy Drey, and the second by Miss Rene Seligman."

In May 1914, Josephine leased 16 East 80th Street to James J. Imbrie and his wife, the former Marie McCrea Pritchett.  Imbrie was the principal of the financial firm Imbrie & Co.  The couple had five children, James, Jr., Dorothy Jane, Janet Morris, Marie Dawn, and Robert McCrea.  The mansion on their Englewood, New Jersey summer estate in Englewood, New Jersey was inspired by Washington's Mount Vernon.

The house was originally similar to the as-yet unchanged neighbor to the right.  image via the NYC Dept of Records & Information Services.

Joseph Arnstein sold the house in October 1916 for the equivalent of $1.5 million today.  The Sun remarked, "The new owner will occupy the property."  If Irving C. Miller and his family did move in, their residency was not long-lived.  By 1920, architect Albert H. Stursberg was leasing the house.  In July that year, he designed $10,000 in alterations for the residence.

Mrs. R. M. Morriss Betts occupied 16 East 80th Street in the 1930s.  She announced the engagement of her daughter, Marjorie Morriss MacCollom (from her former marriage to Donald Hoyt MacCollom) to Benjamin T. Fairchild 3d on June 27, 1938.  The couple was married in St. Thomas' Church on October 7, the El Paso Herald-Post noting the bride "wore the white satin gown lavishly trimmed with rosepoint and duchess lace which has been in the Fairchild family for generations."

A renovation to 16 East 80th Street in 1962 resulted in the removal of the stoop and the lowering of the entrance to the basement level.  There were now 19 apartments in the once-opulent mansion.  A subsequent remodeling reduced the number of apartments to 16.

no permission to reuse the content of this blog has been granted to

1 comment:

  1. I'm sure I passed this house numerous times when I lived 2 blocks away in the 1960s, but it was just another good looking building.