Thursday, July 4, 2024

The Thomas F. Byrne House - 146 East End Avenue


The entrance to 146 East End Avenue was recessed within a large arched, shared with the doorway of 144 East End Avenue.

The architectural firm of Lamb & Rich was given an ambitious project in 1880--the designing of 32 middle-class rowhouses for John C. Henderson on a one-half acre plot engulfing the East End Avenue blockfront from 86th to 87th Streets and wrapping both corners.  The charming collection of Queen Anne style houses was completed in 1882, their red brick and terra cotta facades splashed with bits of Elizabethan, Flemish and classic styles.

Among the most picturesque were the mirror image houses at 144 and 146 East end Avenue.  A split brownstone stoop rose to a yawning arch that embraced both entrances.   Two stories of brick trimmed in brownstone gave way to a steep, slate shingled mansard.  The upper portions of the windows were outlined with small, square panes, a hallmark of the Queen Anne style.

Henderson leased No. 146 to Thomas F. Byrne.  Born in New York City in 1856, he was a partner in the law firm of Byrne & Cowan.  He and his wife had seven children.

In 1898 Byrne was appointed "a four-thousand-dollar deputy," as worded by The New York Times, by District Attorney Asa Bird Gardiner.  The deputy assistant district attorney's salary would convert to about $145,000 in 2024.  The newspaper said he "had charge of the cases against the discretionary brokers and bucket-shop operators of the Wall Street district."  ( (A bucket shop was an illegal gambling operation that took bets on the rise and fall of stocks.) 

While Byrne fought crime in the financial district, his boss was profiting from it.  Gardiner accepted bribes from figures like saloonkeeper Frank J. Farrell, who reportedly operated 300 illegal gambling parlors in New York City, protecting them from prosecution.  Gardiner and his cronies became the target of reform Governor Theodore Roosevelt, who cleaned house in 1900.  

Gardiner was replaced by District Attorney Eugene A. Philbin, who initiated a purge.  On January 1, 1901, The New York Times ran a headline reading, "Philbin Lops Off Four More Official Heads."  The article also listed the attorneys who were not disgraced, but were instead promoted.  Thomas F. Byrne became a full assistant district attorney with a salary of $7,500 (about $266,000 today).  The article said he was now in charge of the indictment bureau.  He was quickly promoted to assistant corporation counsel and became a member of the Tammany Hall Law Committee.

On November 20, 1908, The New York Times reported that Byrne "died last night at his home, 146 East End Avenue, of anaemia, after about a month's illness."  Byrne was 52 years old.

On January 10, 1910, John C. Henderson's son, Ernest F. Henderson, sold 146 East End Avenue to Sarsfield J. Turley.  He and his wife Margaret had a son, William Burns Turley.

Turley was born in 1874 and began his career in the wholesale carpet and rug department of Arnold Constable & Co.  Nine years later, he left to become a carpet salesman with W. & J. Sloane.

William was a corporal with the Seventh Regiment in the pre-World War I years.  A close neighbor, Beatrice Ann Tagg, who lived around the corner at 548 East 87th Street stole his heart and the couple was married in the Church of St. Ignatius Loyola on July 26, 1917.  The Sun reported, "A squad from the Seventh Regiment in uniform acted as an escort of honor, and after the ceremony a wedding breakfast was served in the Hotel Majestic."

About the time of William's marriage, his father left W. & J. Sloane to partner with John Rodgers to form Turley & Rodgers, a carpet and rug concern.  He brought William into the firm.

After visiting a friend on the evening of October 9, 1921, Sarsfield Turley headed home at 8:30.  He darted into the street in an attempt to catch a bus that had just pulled away from the curb and was hit by an automobile.  Price's Carpet and Rug News said, "He was taken in the autocar to the hospital where his identity was not established until the next day."  Turley had suffered a fractured skull and several broken ribs.  A lodge card in his wallet identified the unconscious patient.  The lodge was called, which in turn notified the office of Turley & Rodgers.  "J. Samuel Ross, a member of the office staff of the firm, immediately went to the hospital and identified his employer," said the article.

Turley died in the hospital without regaining consciousness two days later.  He was 47 years old.  His funeral was held in the East End Avenue house on October 14.

In 1929, Westmore and Esther J. Willcox, who lived at 142 East End Avenue, purchased the house as a rental property.  (Not long afterward, they purchased 144 as well.)  Their initial tenant was Blake I. Lawrence.  In 1930, the house became home to newlyweds Henry Parish II and his wife, the former Dorothy May Kinnicutt whose nickname was Sister.  The couple was married on February 14 that year.

Sister Parish's parents, G. Hermann Kinnicutt and May Appleton Tuckerman, not only leased the house for them, but had it professionally decorated.  Sister Parish is quoted in her biography, Sister Parish, The Life of the Legendary American Interior Designer by Apple Parish Bartlett and Susan Bartlett Crater, saying:

My parents provided our beautiful house, which had been done entirely by Mrs. Brown of McMillen--with Mother's help and suggestions, of course.  Wedding presents provided almost all of the furnishings.  We had to buy one upholstered chair, at Macy's, and I was appalled at having to spend forty dollars.

Sister Parish recalled, "Our house was a dream of beauty; 146 East End Avenue--the street was then cobblestone, every window had a flower box, and we looked across to Carl Schurz Park."  The couple appeared in society columns for their entertaining.  On December 11, 1931, for instance, the New York Evening Post reported, "Mr. and Mrs. Henry Parish 2d are giving a small dinner at their home, 146 East End Avenue next Monday night."

In 1933, the 23-year-old Sister Parish opened a decorating business, "Mrs Henry Parish II, Interiors."  She would go on to help Jacqueline Kennedy decorate her Georgetown house.  After John F. Kennedy's election to President in 1960, the First Lady hired Sister Parish to help in the redecorating of the White House.

The year she opened her business, the Parishes left East End Avenue.  On May 26, 1933, the New York Evening Post reported that Westmore Willcox had leased "his modern three-story house at 146 East End Avenue to Dr. R. Townley Paton of Baltimore."  The article noted, "Dr. Paton will use the house for his New York residence."

Born in 1902, Robert Townley Paton was an ophthalmologist who pioneered corneal transplants.  He and his wife, the former Helen Meserve, had two children, Joan and David.  Paton would found the Eye-Bank for Sight Restoration in 1944.  The facility would eventually have around 100 branches throughout the country and provide 1,200 corneas for transplant operations in the New York area.

David Paton was three years old when the family moved into 146 East End Avenue.  Following in his father's professional footsteps, he would become a renowned ophthalmologist, a founder of Project Orbis, and its first medical director.

The Willcoxes had painted 144 and 146 East End Avenue white by 1941.  image via the NYC Dept of Records & Information Services.

In 1943, Westmore and Esther Jenkins Willcox moved into the house they had owned since 1929.  A few years earlier they had painted the brick white.  A banker and financial consultant, Willcox had led American economic missions to other countries during and after World War II.  A graduate of Harvard College, he was for many years a partner in the investment banking firm of Dillon, Read & Co.  When the couple moved into 146 East End Avenue, he had been retired from Jackson & Curtis for two years.

The Willcoxes appeared occasionally in society pages.  On November 21, 1946, for instance, The New York Sun reported, "Mr. and Mrs. Westmore Willcox of 146 East End Avenue gave a dinner in the St. Regis Maisonette last night in honor of Miss Mary Ellen Plant and Algernon Sidney Roberts, whose wedding will take place on Saturday."

By the early 1960s, 146 East End Avenue was home to the William A. Read family.  Still a single-family home, it recently received a renovation that included removing the paint from the façade.

photographs by the author has no authorization to reuse the content of this blog

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