Friday, June 21, 2024

The George Paulding House - 24 Charlton Street


In 1817 John Jacob Astor I took over the land lease of Aaron Burr's country estate, Richmond Hill, from Trinity Church.  Within a decade, he had leveled the land, laid out streets, and begun construction of scores of two-and-a-half story brick-faced homes.  Among them was 24 Charlton Street.  Similar to most of its neighbors, it featured a stone stoop and two dormers at the attic level.  The narrow doorway, devoid of extras like leaded sidelights, marked the house as a middle-class dwelling.

In 1827 the house was shared by two families.  William G. Burk was a carpenter, and Matthew Carter did not list a profession, suggesting he may have been retired.  Burk was most likely what we would call a contractor today.  

On March 31, 1830, an auction was held of "all the household & kitchen furniture of a family breaking up housekeeping."  Despite the modest appearance of the house, it contained items like a mahogany sideboard and chairs, "china tea sets, cut glass," and "pillar & claw feet breakfast tables."

William G. Burk may have been acquainted with the new owner of 24 Charlton Street.  George Paulding was also listed as a carpenter, with an office at 30 Gold Street, and was a well-known builder, or contractor.  Paulding was born in Peekskill, New York in 1792, the son of Revolutionary War hero John Paulding.  John was one of three militiamen who captured Major John André, who was associated in the treason of Benedict Arnold.

George and his wife, the former Eleanor Van Mater, had ten children.  In addition to his building business, George was highly involved in politics.  When he was appointed its candidate for assemblyman in 1848, the Free Soil Democracy of the Empire Ward called him, "a man whose feelings and principles are identified with the advancement of the best interests of our city."  In 1863, Biographical Sketches would remember him as, "a leading man in the Metropolitan city."

On September 13, 1855, George Paulding died at the age of 60.  His funeral was held in the parlor two days later.  

Two years later, Eleanor had a horrifying experience.  At about 6:30 on November 18, 1857, she was walking along Grand Street near Christie Street.  She carried a net handbag known as a reticule which, according to The Evening Post, "was of considerable value, containing, among other articles of value, a $50 check on the Pacific Bank."  (The amount would translate to about $1,800 in 2024.)

The newspaper said, "a ruffian, who gave his name as Rob Laton, came behind her, seizing the reticule...Her cries drew the attention of persons passing by, who made chase after the rascal."  The would-be purse snatcher found himself trapped.  The article continued, "others headed him off, and he was seized and given over of Officer Holmes."  During the chase, Laton had tossed Eleanor's purse, but it was later found and returned to her.  

One of the Pauldings' sons was John, who was born in 1819.  Like his father, he was involved in politics.  Biographical Sketches said, "He has always maintained a leading position in the Democratic party."  An attorney, John was elected to the State Assembly.  He and his wife, the former Jane Cosgrove, had four children.  Jane died in 1862 at about 35 years old, and John died in 1871.  

Following her father's death, Abbie Paulding moved into the Charlton Street house with her grandmother.  Sadly, she died within weeks--on June 8, 1871--and her funeral was held here two days later.

In the meantime, another son, E. E. Paulding, had distinguished himself during the Civil War, meriting the rank of lieutenant colonel.  After the war he relocated to St. Paul, Minnesota where he was editor of the Pioneer Printing Company.  In 1872, he returned to New York to visit his mother.  While here he contracted bronchitis, and died at the age of 41.

The following year Joseph Paulding, a broker at 24 New Street, moved in with his mother.  He may have convinced her to move, and on April 9, 1875, two years before her death, the "genteel household furniture" of 24 Charlton Street was sold at auction.

The house Eleanor Paulding had called home for 45 years was purchased by Hugh Gallagher, who was in the "waters" business.  Living with the family was Gallagher's widowed mother-in-law, Eleanor Cassidy.  She died at the age of 77 on November 12, 1875 (the year they moved in).  Following her funeral in the house, a requiem mass was celebrated in St. Patrick's Cathedral.  

The Gallaghers would not remain long at 24 Charlton Street.  In 1878 it was home to Adolph Ode and his family.  He was associated with his father, Casimir, in the confectionery business Battais & Ode.  (Interestingly, Casimir lived across the street at 19 Charlton Street.)  The Odes had at least three children, Randolph T., Lottie and Clara.

Boarding with the Odes in 1878 was the Redden family.  John Redden, who was 17 years old, "works with his father sewing grain-bags on Pier 38," according to the New York Evening Express.  He was arrested on November 28 that year for a serious offense.

The New York Evening Express explained that each year on every national holiday, a group of young men known as the Original Hound Rangers "turn out in costume and parade the streets with the accompaniment of fifes and drums."  John Redden and several friends walked along the sidewalk, following the parade.  Suddenly, at Greenwich Street and Battery Place, Redden "was surrounded by a number of boys living in the neighborhood, who began to plague and assault him."  Finally, Redden, "exasperated at his tormentors," drew a knife from his pocket and plunged into the stomach of James Kenney, fatally wounding him.

Redden ran to the Staten Island ferryboat Middleville, but did not escape.  He was arrested on board by Officer Edward Scanlon.  The knife was found in his pocket.  The teen was held for trial in the Tombs.

The Odes' boarder in 1896 was Lawrence Bauerschmidt, who lived in the attic level.  He was described by the Brooklyn Daily Eagle as "an old man."  Bauerschmidt nearly lost his life on May 28 that year, when an overheated range caused a fire.  The family escaped, but Bauerschmidt was found in his room by Fireman Biorman "partially overcome by smoke."  Biorman carried him through the skylight "and down into an adjoining building.  He soon revived," said the article.

A touching episode involving Randolph T. Ode that played out in 1905 was reported as far away as Australia.  The young man, who was a civil engineer, was afflicted with "incipient tuberculosis" and traveled to Colorado Springs in hopes of a cure.  Describing him as "the son of Adolph Ode, a wealthy wholesale confectioner," the Oshkosh Northwestern related that he "wrote home that he thought he would feel better if he could see Miss Harris."  Miss Harris was May Amanda Harris.  

The newspaper reported, "Mrs. Ode and Miss Harris hastened to Colorado, where, under the shadow of Pike's peak, and largely through the young woman's nursing, Mr. Ode rapidly regained his health.  Colorado Springs will be the objective point of the honeymoon tour."

At the time of the heartwarming wedding, the Odes had been gone from 24 Charlton Street for several years.  In 1897, the year after the fire, it was home to Jeremiah and Elizabeth (known as Lizzie) McCarthy.  Jeremiah ran a saloon on West Street.  As had been the case twice before, only months after moving into the house, Jeremiah died on November 30, 1897.

Apparently a self-reliant woman, Lizzie McCarty took over running the saloon, and she took in a boarder.  In 1897 it was William A. Virtue, a clerk; and in 1898 Thomas Reagan lived here.  He died at the age of 30 on March 18 that year.

Following Lizzie McCarty's death on May 29, 1899 (her funeral was held in the house on May 31), 24 Charlton Street became home to Irish immigrant George H. Brennan and his wife.  The 26-year-old was looking for a job in August 1900, describing himself in his ad as, "Barkeeper, experienced, understands the business."  

Brennan's luck did not improve.  On February 27, 1903, the New-York Tribune reported he had filed for bankruptcy, listing liabilities of $3,658.67 and assets of $100.  It appears that Brennan's actual income came from less than honest enterprises.

On February 14, 1904, The Sun reported that the police had raided the "poolroom" at 15 West Houston Street.  (The term did not refer to billiards, but to horse betting.)  The article said, "Three hundred men were caught in the place, but only six of them were held...Capt. Brennan lined up the 300 men in the room and picked out those he wanted.  The first man he spotted was George Brennan of 24 Charlton street.  The captain knew him from past experience."  Previously, Captain Brennan (who was by no means related to George) had tried to gather evidence at the place, "but his namesake threw him out."

In 1919, William Sloane Coffin and his wife Catherine purchased 14 vintage houses in the neighborhood, including 24 Charlton Street.  They gently renovated the house, connecting the dormers in the process.

image via the NYC Dept of Records & Information Services.

Interestingly, only a year after the renovations were completed, the Coffins sold 24 Charlton Street to Margaret F. Clarke.  It initiated a series of turnovers in owners throughout the next two decades.

A relic of Manhattan life when America was just 50 years old, today the venerable Paulding house is a two-family residence. 

photographs by the author
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