Saturday, May 27, 2023

The Alan L. Dingle House - 245 West 138th Street


photograph by Mark Satlof

In the summer of 1890, developer David H. King Jr. embarked on what the Real Estate Record & Builders' Guide said was "One of the most important building operations ever undertaken in this city."  Called the King's Model Houses, his ambitious project of homes "of a first-class character" would engulf the  entire block between Seventh and Eighth Avenues (today's Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. Boulevard and Frederick Douglass Boulevard, respectively) and 138th and 139th Streets, as well as the south side of  138th Street between the same avenues.

Architects Bruce Price and Clarence S. Luce worked together on the design.  Faced in beige brick and richly trimmed in white terra cotta, the 17-foot-wide homes were three stories tall above English basements.  Their neo-Georgian design featured a single-doored arched entrance that sprouted a dramatic, elongated keystone.  The splayed lintel of the parlor window was composed of alternating, foliate terra cotta sections, matched by smaller versions above all but one of the second story openings.  The exception, at the second floor, was crowned by a lintel in the form of a fasces, and an arched panel with a wreath and garlands.  Above it all was a brick parapet with balustraded openings.  The New York World pointed out that the residences would surround "a great court in the centre of the block."

The houses engulfed a courtyard.  The Real Estate Record & Builders' Guide, April 9, 1892.  image courtesy of the Office of Metropolitan History.

In May 1894 David King sold 245 West 138th Street to Henry W. Harwood.  He and his family remained here for 16 years, selling the house in May 1910 to George H. Walker.  It would not be the last time Harwood held title to the property, however.

Henry Harwood supplied the mortgage to Walker.  In June 1917 he was forced to foreclose, and a month later sold 234 West 138th Street to Chauncey O. Middlebrooke.  That transaction did not work out well either.  The following year Middlebrooke sold the residence back to Henry W. Harwood.

Eight years after he had first sold his former home, Harwood saw the last of it.  It was purchased on August 3, 1918 by Isabel Mackin, starting a game of real estate hot potato.  Macklin resold it three days later to C. Le Roy Butler, who quickly turned it over it to Ernest and Frederica Remaely.  They left in 1920 after purchasing a home nearby on Edgecombe Avenue and 138th Street.

photograph by Mark Satlof

Finally, 245 West 138th Street had a long-term owner in Cecilia G. Dingle and her family.  Almost certainly, her sons, attorneys John Gordon and Alan L. Dingle, purchased the property for her.  The family had come to New York City from their native Savannah, Georgia.

The West 138th Street house was well-populated.  Living with Cecilia were both sons, along with J. Gordon's wife and baby boy, and Cecilia's daughter, Clinton.  Clinton taught in the public schools.  All three of the Dingle siblings were well educated.  J. Gordon and Alan had graduated from Howard University, and Clinton from Atlanta University--a highly unusual achievement for a Black woman at the time.

The brothers' legal office A. L. & J. G. Dingle was nearby at 200 West 135th Street.  The firm quickly became involved in Harlem issues.  On February 2, 1926, for instance, a 14-year-old Black girl was trapped and assaulted in a barn in the Bronx by ten white men.  The men were arrested and each pleaded not guilty.

The Report of the Secretary of the N.A.A.C.P. that month noted that the victim "is in a very critical condition at Metropolitan Hospital on Welfare Island" and "the girl is destitute."  It said:

The National Office has retained Alan L. Dingle, a capable young attorney, who has been instructed to follow the case through for the N.A.A.C.P. both the legal side and the welfare end, and to take such steps as are advisable.  He has also been instructed to visit the girl, to talk with the hospital authorities, and to secure the girl's statement to be used in the event of her death.

In the meantime, the Dingle women made the house a social center.  On March 1, 1930, The New York Age reported, "On Washington's Birthday, February 22, Miss Clinton Dingle of 245 West 138th street, entertained at a luncheon and bridge.  Luncheon served at 3 o'clock after which bridge was in order."

John Gordon Dingle, Howard Academy Year Book 1918, (copyright expired)

J. Gordon Dingle suffered from asthma and was under the care of the family physician, Thomas H. Amos.  He seemed perfectly healthy at the office on January 21, but the following morning he died at the age of 39.  The New York Age said the asthma "finally weakened his heart."

Alan L. Dingle continued the legal practice he had begun with his brother.  Among his private clients were poet Langston Hughes and the estate of Madam C. J. Walker.  His prominence would result in Geraldine R. Segal's saying of him 
in her 1983 book Blacks in the Law, "He has sometimes been referred to as the dean of the black bar of Manhattan."

Dingle's involvement in the Harlem community went beyond his legal practice.  He was President of the Harlem Lawyers' Association, Chairman of the Harlem Y.M.C.A., and upon America's entry into World War II became chairman of the 125th Street Rationing Board.

It appears that J. Gordon's widow died before 1940.  Living at 245 West 138th Street that year were Cecilia, Alan, Clinton, and J. Gordon's 15-year-old son, Gordon.

Alan L. Dingle The New York Age, December 23, 1944

Alan L. Dingle was 37 years old that year, and so the expectations that he would marry were few.  But then, on December 23, 1944, The New York Age reported, "Thursday evening, Atty. Alan Dingle, one of Harlem's prominent lawyers, became a benedict."  (The term, rarely used today, refers to a long-term bachelor who finally marries.)  He had married Ethel A. Gardner, a claims adjuster in the Brooklyn Post Office.  The article noted that the newlyweds would live at 211 West 149th Street.

It is unclear how long Cecilia and Clinton remained at 245 West 138th Street.  Unlike many of the homes along the block during the 20th century, it was never converted to apartments and remains a single family residence.

many thanks to reader Mark Satklof for requesting this post
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Friday, May 26, 2023

The Charles Peters House - 329 West 18th Street


By 1841 Charles Peters and his family lived at 213 West 18th Street (it would be renumbered 329 in 1868).  The two-and-a-half-story Federal style house was one of a row constructed several years earlier.  Faced in Flemish bond red brick it would originally have had one or two dormers at the attic level.  Federal style iron fencing guarded the areaway and elaborate stoop railings terminated in basket newels that perched atop stone drums.

Peters operated a butcher store on Eighth Avenue.  As was common, he and his wife Ann Eliza took in a boarder.  Sarah Hillhouse Percy, the widow of Jonathan Percy died here on March 1, 1848.

The next boarder in the Peters house was Theodore Passavant, a foundry operator.  When he moved into the house in 1851 he was a partner with R. B. Lockwood in Lockwood & Passavant, "Iron Workers and Founders," on West 25th Street near Tenth Avenue.  The business was reorganized on March 7 1853 when the partners parted ways and Passavant brought on George Archer, renaming the foundry Passavant & Archer.  Passavant remained with the Peters family through 1854.  

In 1859 three new boarders arrived.  James Neafie was a carpenter and builder who operated from the rear of 21 Jane Street, John Small worked as a clerk in the post office, and Zephaniah S. Webb was a physician.

Charles Peters died at the age of 61 on January 19, 1861.  His funeral was held in the parlor three days later.  James Neafie and Dr. Webb continued to board with Ann for another year.  She would continue to lease rooms afterward.

In September 1870 valuable items--worth about $3,000 in 2023 terms--went missing from the house.  It was not long before Barbara Hartman (described as "a middle-aged woman" by The New York Times), was arrested for the crime.  It appears that she was a servant, for after she pleaded guilty on September 13 to the charge of "having stolen $138 worth of jewelry and clothing from Ann Eliza Peters, of No. 329 West Eighteenth-street," Ann requested that she be let go.

At the time of the incident, Stephen D. Peters was working as a blacksmith at 659 Hudson Street.  He advanced in his craft, and in 1873 was listed in directories as a "wheelwright," a more specialized craftsman who built and repaired wagon and carriage wheels.

Following Ann's death, 329 West 18th Street was sold to Charles Edward Shopp and his wife, the former Thirza Maria Marshall in 1876.  Worked into the deal, it seems, was Stephen Peters's being permitted to live on in his childhood home.  He would remain until 1880.

It is certain that the Peters and Shopp families knew one another.  Like Charles Peters, Charles E. Shopp was a butcher and operated two stores on Eighth Avenue.  (It is possible he took over the Peters store upon Charles's death).  

Charles and Thirza had four sons.  Moving into the West 18th Street house with them were son John Marshal Shopp and his wife, the former Georgiana Eliza Huyler.  The newlyweds were married in 1874.  The population of the house was increased by one in October 1877 when their daughter Ethel May was born.

Tragically, on February 6, 1878, Georgiana E. Shopp died.  The wife and mother was just 24 years old.  Her funeral was held in the house on February 9.

The Shopp estate sold the West 18th Street house at auction on January 28, 1879 to Stephen S. Baker, who paid $7,875, or about $221,000 today.  He and his wife, Sarah J., had a daughter Eva Gertrude.

It was almost assuredly the Bakers who remodeled the house, raising the attic floor to full height and giving it a modern, neo-Grec cornice, and embellishing the openings with molded metal lintels.

Boarding with the family were Joshua Denby and his son, Edward, both builders.  Unfortunately, the Denbys' residency would be cut short when Joshua died at the age of 66 on November 3, 1879.  Once again a funeral was held in the parlor.

A more much joyous event occurred there on the night of December 12, 1894.  Eva Gertrude Baker was married at 8:00 to G. Harry Abbott in the Eighteenth Street Methodist Episcopal Church.  The New York Herald reported, "A small reception followed at the home of the bride's parents, No. 329 West Eighteenth street."

The following year Stephen S. Baker died.  Sarah sold the house on April 2, 1896 to real estate operators Eva G. Abbott and Lillie J. Mott.  They leased it to George H. Clark by 1899, who worked for an advertising company.

Clark's firm employed men to paste advertising posters where they would be seen by the most passersby.  Companies like his paid for the privilege of posting on blank walls, but fences around building plots and vacant lots were up for grabs.  That made for serious competition.

On May 16, 1899 a well-dressed Clark was walking along Broadway at 106th Street.  Ahead of him were four "bill posters" who worked for a rival firm, Van Buren & Co.  The workers, who were plastering advertisements on a fence, saw him coming.  The New York Press reported, "The men had always been enemies, and they decided that they would put some paste on his clothing."

As Clark began to pass the crew, they assaulted him with their brushes full of thick paste.  The article said, "He resented their actions and struck Ottinger with his cane.  A free fight followed."  A policeman "interfered" with the melee and placed all five men under arrested.  While the four bill posters were charged with disorderly conduct, Clark was charged with assault.

At the turn of the century John J. Hennessy purchased 329 West 18th Street.  A native Irishman, he was ardently proud of his heritage and was a long-term member of the American-Irish Historical Society.  He would remain in the house for decades, leasing space to one boarder at a time.  

In 1941 the original entranceway and stoop, with its basket newels, were intact.  image via the NYC Dept of Records & Information Services.

Dr. Charles S. Baker was living with Hennessy in 1903.  He was in love with Myriam V. Levison and beseeched his fiancée to marry him as quickly as possible.  But, explained The Daily Standard Union, "Miss Levison had desired a church wedding and reception at her home and consequently refused Dr. Baker's pleading for a June wedding."

Myriam's mind was changed by a peculiar incident.  On July 5, 1903 The Daily Standard Union reported, "The other day, while riding with a few friends near Prospect Park, she had her future foretold by a gypsy woman who told her that she was engaged, but that she would never marry, as her fiancée [sic] was to be killed while trying to stop a runaway before the marriage day."

The article said that Myriam's friends laughed off the prediction, but that it haunted her.  On June 29, while they had dinner at the Hoffman House, Myriam related the story to Charles.  The Daily Standard Union wrote, "Promptly taking advantage of the opportunity, the doctor solemnly announced his decision to watch for runaway horses...unless she consented to be married to him at once."  And it worked.  Immediately after dinner the couple was married.

The Irish Callahan family boarded in the Hennessy house by 1916.  Living with Joseph F. Callahan and his wife was his widowed father-in-law, Daniel Dillon who was born in Cavan, Ireland.  Dillon died on November 18 that year.

The two families shared the house at least through 1929.  By 1940, when it was home to another Irish-American, James M. McNally, it had been converted to apartments and an iron fire escape attached to the facade.

The stoop is new, but the wonderful ironwork is original.  At the second step, boot scrapers worked into the railings helped keep mud from being tracked into the house.

At some point the stoop and entrance were rebuilt.  Sadly, while the Federal ironwork was preserved, the stoop drums and basket newels were lost.  A somewhat disproportionate and ungainly lintel was applied above the new entrance.

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

Thursday, May 25, 2023

Mann & MacNeille's 1925 424 East 57th Street


The transformation of Sutton Place in 1920-21 from a dingy block to one occupied by some of New York's wealthiest citizens quickly affected the surrounding blocks.  Coal yards and a brewery were eliminated to make room for upscale apartment houses.  In 1925 Horace Borchsenius Mann got in on the trend.

Mann was a partner with Perry R. MacNeille in the architectural firm of Mann & MacNeille.  They were best known for large urban planning projects such as Bristol, Pennsylvania, described by the American Architect in 1918 as "America's greatest single industrial housing development."  This project would be considerably smaller.

In 1925 Horace B. Mann purchased and demolished the three old buildings at 422 through 426 East 57th Street, half a block west of Sutton Place.  Mann & MacNeille then designed a six-story apartment building on the site.  Completed within the year, it was faced in rough-faced brown brick.  Its somber design was inspired by medieval Italian architecture and featured an arched corbel table below the understated cornice and tiled roof.  The firm handled the regulated fire escapes--often visual obstructions--by placing them in front of vast sets of French doors and windows, giving them a balcony effect.  The second through fifth floor windows on either side sat within slight recesses that rose to dramatic full-relief terra cotta rosettes nestled within rounded corbels.

Among the initial residents were Philip S. Platt, his wife and daughter.  He had long been involved in public health and social welfare.  In 1914 as Superintendent of the Bureau of Public Health and Hygiene, he had lobbied for sanitary public drinking fountains, saying in part, "The miles which one may walk in New York without finding a place to quench one's thirst, unless it be a restaurant, saloon, or soda fountain, is a deplorable fact."  The family was still in the building in September 1944 when Philip S. Platt was appointed executive director of the New York Association for the Blind.

The building attracted a number of artistic residents.  Living here in 1926 were illustrator and painter Eliza Buffinton, landscape artist George M. Bruestle, illustrator Herman Pfeifer, and concert pianist Howard Brockway.

George M. Bruestle, 1931, © Peter A. Juley & Son Collection, Smithsonian American Art Museum J0119275

George Bruestle and his wife, the former Emma Thompson moved into 424 East 47th Street in 1925.  Born in 1872, he had studied at the Art Students League under H. Siddons Mowbray, and in Paris.  A member of the Lotus Club and the Salmagundi Club, by the time he and Emma moved into the building, his works were in the permanent collections of the Gibbes Museum in Charleston, South Carolina, and the Reading Museum in Pennsylvania.  (Today his paintings hang in other prestigious institutions like the Smithsonian.)

Stewart Woodford Eames and his wife, the former Jessie D. MacNeal, were also initial residents.  Born in December 1866, Eames came from an old New York family and was a member of the Society of Colonial Wars.  He had recently retired from the H. B. Claflin Company, a drygoods concern, founded by his maternal grandfather Horace Bringham Claflin.

Not long after moving into 424 East 57th Street, Jessie Eames died.  In November 1930, Stewart leased a bedroom in their apartment to a 28-year-old architect, John A. Frank.  With the Depression slowing construction projects, Frank seems to have come to New York City from Pittsfield, Massachusetts in hopes of finding work.  His chances, however, were bleak.  A report issued by the American Institute of Architects on January 20, 1931 revealed that more than 500 architect were unemployed, and institute spokesperson Julian Clarence Levi, said some were "in desperate need."

Early on the morning of January 20, 1931, Stewart Woodford Eames attempted to enter the bathroom and found the door locked.  His knocking and calling brought no response, so he had the building superintendent open the door.  They walked into the bathroom to find a horrifying scene.  Frank was in the half-filled bathtub, having slit both wrists and ankles.  A note on a nearby chair said in part, "to live longer would only prolong the agony."

The following year, on February 9, 1932, the 66-year-old Eames was crossing Fifth Avenue at 57th Street when he was hit by an automobile.  He died at Flower Hospital several hours later.

Resident Luella A. Palmer had an impressive career at a time when women normally held more subservient roles in the workplace.  Never married, she began working as a kindergarten teacher in 1897.  On February 15, 1912 she was appointed assistant director of kindergartens and six years later was made director.  She still held that title when she died on January 13, 1934.  Her funeral was held in her apartment on January 16.

Newspapers printed the praises from colleagues like associate superintendent William E. Grady, who called her "a progressive school woman," and said "The kindergartens of our schools achieved, under her able direction, a place among those outstanding in this phase of the process of education."

Another outstanding educator living here at the time was Sarah M. Dean.  Also never married, she was an 1895 graduate of Radcliffe College.  After teaching high school in Newton Massachusetts, she became head of the history department of the Brearley School for girls, noted as one of the most esteemed private schools in New York.  She was later appointed its principal and held the position until her retirement in 1921.

In the spring of 1935, Vera Stretz rented a five-room apartment here, paying $100 a month rent (about $2,000 in 2023).  A graduate of New York University and former substitute school teacher, the 26-year-old had just taken a job as bookkeeper and secretary to Dr. Fritz Gebhardt.  A German native, the 43-year-old Gebhardt was a political scientist.

Vera Stretz's residency at 424 East 57th Street would last only six months.  A romantic affair developed between her and her employer, who lived at the Beekman Tower at 3 Mitchell Place.  Gebhardt convinced her to move there, in an apartment discreetly two floors below his.  Presumably he subsidized the higher rent, and he could certainly afford to.  His personal fortune was reported by The New York Sun to be approximately $5 million in today's money.

Gebhard proposed to Vera with a engagement ring containing "a large diamond circled by emeralds," according to The New York Sun.  But the love-struck young woman's world came crashing down when she discovered in November that her lover had a wife and family in Germany.  On the night of November 11, a Beekman Tower resident notified Leslie Taite, the assistant night manager, that he had heard gunshots.  Taite responded to the 21st floor.  The New York Sun reported, "Miss Stretz was sitting on a settee beside the elevator.  He nodded to her as he walked past, but she seemed lost in thought."

He found Gebhart's apartment door open, and inside was the scientist's body, dressed only in a nightshirt.  Patrolman Holden arrived shortly afterward.  Vera told him, "Yes, I did it.  I was on my way to the station house to give myself up."

Resident Clarence Burgher (here by 1939) graduated from Princeton University in 1885.  Rather than enter the family business (his grandfather had co-founded the sugar-refining firm of Burgher, Hurlburt & Livingston), he became an attorney and inventor.  An avid yachtsman, his pastime spilled over to his professional life.  He was retained by yacht clubs and steamship companies as counsel.  In 1899 he invented the subsurface torpedo and for a decade was president of the company that manufactured it.

Living with Burgher and his wife Edith was their son, Fairfax Carter Burgher, who had also attended Princeton, and a maid, Irenie Ingmire.  The family's country home was in Rye, New York.

When the United States entered World War I, Fairfax left school to become an army aviator.  Following the war Princeton awarded him an "honorary war diploma."  But Fairfax's chosen career following the war may have been a bit of a disappointment to his parents.  Going by the stage name "Fairfax," he was a professional magician.  On January 25, 1939 The New York Sun reported, "A crowd of old and young Princeton graduates is to gather in the Mary Murray Room of the White this afternoon at cocktail time for a special Princeton party honoring Fairfax, socially prominent magician and fellow alumnus who entertains there."

An aspiring actor, as well, Fairfax played the role of Bersonin in the 1922 silent film The Prisoner of Zenda, and had a small part in the short 1929 film A Princess of Destiny.  Although his career continued to be chiefly as a magician, he would appear in television shows in the 1950s such as I Spy and Pulitzer Prize Playhouse.

The 49-year-old Fairfax was still living with his parents here as late as 1946.

The Billboard, October 26, 1946

Living here in 1980 was Carol Louise Conrad.  When she had to leave town on business for an extended period, she sought permission from the landlord, Third Sutton, to sublet her apartment to Mary Lou McGlynn.  Third Sutton replied with a letter dated September 19, 1980 denying that permission, but giving no reason.  Instead, the firm offered to allow Conrad to break her lease without penalty.

Conrad sued and in October won her case.  The ruling was upheld on appeal, the five-judge panel saying that a landlord's refusal to allow a sublet had to come with a reason.  "If he does not give a reason, the landlord has, in effect, consented to the sublet," said the court.  David Saxe, counsel for the Center for Consumer Advocacy, Inc. called it an "impressive and forward-looking decision for tenant rights."

Mann & MacNeille's 424 East 57th Street--a somber departure from the other Jazz Age buildings that were going up in the neighborhood in 1925--is little changed since those early years when this section of Manhattan was changing from what The New York Times had called "a slum" to one of the city's most exclusive residential districts.

photographs by the author
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Wednesday, May 24, 2023

The Altered Charles H. Haswell House - 111 East 31st Street


photo by Ted Leather

In 1851 Charles Haynes Haswell and his family lived in the recently completed house at 59 East 31st Street.  (The address would be renumbered twice, to 61 East 31st Street in 1855, and to 111 East 31st Street in 1868.)  The high-stooped Italianate style house reflected the affluence of its owners.  The floor-to-ceiling parlor windows were, most likely, fronted by an ornate cast iron balcony.  The arched entrance was crowned by a prominent cornice upheld by foliate brackets, and the house was crowned with a handsome bracketed cornice.

Born on May 22, 1809 to a prominent family (his father, Charles Haswell, was a member of the British foreign service and his mother Dorothea Haynes was born on her family's plantation in Barbados), he began the study of engineering at the age of 19.  In 1846 he wrote the Engineers' and Mechanics' Pocket Book, which would have at least 17 printings throughout the 19th century.  In 1851, while living here, he was appointed Chief Engineer of the United States Navy, the first in its history, a newly formed position.

Charles Haynes Haswell in later years.  (original source unknown)

Haswell had married Ann Elizabeth Burns in 1829.  The couple had six children who survived into adulthood, Sarah, Edmund, Frances Roe, Gouverneur Kemble, Charles, and Lillie Bulwer.  

Living with the family was Haswell's widowed mother, Dorothea.  She died on November 21, 1854 at the age of 76.  Her funeral in the parlor was most likely the first in the 31st Street house, but it was by no means the last.

Almost immediately afterward, Haswell sold the house to James Theophylact Bache and his family.  It appears that the two families were well acquainted.  A stockbroker, Bache had married Rosabella Trueman (sometimes spelled Truman) on February 22, 1833.  The couple had seven children, two of whom died in infancy.

James T. Bache's business partner was Wallace Truman, possibly Rosabella's brother or father.  A year earlier, Bache suffered embarrassment when he was arrested on April 28, 1853, for running a "lottery policy."  According to George S. Meshural's complaint, Bache ran a side gambling operation from his brokerage office at 174 Broadway.  A gambling addict, Meshural claimed he went there every day for eight months and, according to The Sunday Dispatch, "frequently during that time he has paid him as much as $300 per day."  According to Meshural, said the article, "the sum total of his purchases of policies from the about $8000."  (It was a substantial amount, equaling nearly $290,000 in 2023.)

Despite the humiliation, Bache seems to have continued his illegal sideline.  On October 22 the following year, the New-York Dispatch reported, "James T. Bache and Wallace Truman, keeping an office in Broadway, near Maiden-lane, were on Friday arrested by Officer Rose...charged with selling lottery policies to Warren Matton."

In 1855 the Baches' eldest son, John Henry, was 19 years old and entered the leather business.  Within three years he would join his father in the brokerage office.  In the meantime, the close relationship between the Haswell and Bache families resulted in a romance.  On May 18, 1859 John Henry Bache and Francis Roe Haswell were married in the nearby St. John the Baptist Church.   The newlyweds moved into the 31st Street house that Francis had once called home.

The Bache family's affluence was evidenced in James's stable of thoroughbred racing horses and his yacht, the Mallory.  In 1859 Bache was elected the commodore of the Hoboken Yacht Club.

On August 11, 1861 John Henry and Francis had a baby boy, James Henry Bache.  Their joy turned to grief three months later when the infant died on November 18.  His funeral was held in the house on November 20.

The following year, on August 9, 1862, James Theophylact Bache died, "after a lingering illness," according to the New-York Daily Tribune.  Once again there was a funeral held in the house.

Almost immediately, Bache's son and executor, James Phillips Bache, began selling his father's racehorses.   An advertisement on November 9 listed "three valuable horses," Morgan Jackson, Nonpareil, and Lady Irving, with their pedigrees and details.  The following year, in October, he advertised a pair of trotters:

For Sale--A cross match team of mares, a black and a gray, beautifully formed, long tails, 15 hands high; can trot in three minutes together; also one light Phaeton, with top, Harness, Blankets, Whips, &c.; will be sold as the owner has no use for them.

The family that had experienced so much pain over the past few years had something to celebrate when Charlotte Barclay Bache married William H. Crossman in the Church of St. John the Baptist on June 16, 1863.

With all his father's horses and racing vehicles sold, James offered the private stable for rent in April 1866.  His ad read, "To Let--The stall and yard 63 East Thirty-first street; accommodation for seven horses and all conveniences."

Rosebella and her unmarried children remained in 111 East 31st Street until 1870.  To liquidate her husband's estate, it and seven other Manhattan properties were sold at auction on March 15, 1870.

The new owner briefly leased 111 East 31st Street to Dr. Wilson Peterson.  Born in 1831 he had graduated from the Hahnemann Medical College in Philadelphia in 1858.  During the Civil War he served at the hospital at Annapolis.  While living here he worked at the city hospitals on Ward's and Blackwell's Islands.

In 1873 111 East 31st Street became home to the family of attorney Stephen Henry Olin.  Born on April 22, 1847, he had graduated from Wesleyan University in 1866 and two years later began his law practice in New York City with Olin, Rives & Montgomery.  His wife Alice Wadsworth Barlow came from a socially prominent family, the daughter of Samuel Latham Mitchill Barlow and Alice Cornell Townsend.  The couple had two daughters, Alice and Julia.

The ancestral Olin country estate, Glenburn, was just outside of Rhinebeck, New York.  The family also maintained a summer home in Glen Cove, New York.

A turn of the century postcard depicted Glenburn.

Stephen Olin narrowly escaped death on June 28, 1880 when he boarded the steamboat Seawanhaka, which ferried passengers to and from Long Island.  The vessel was near Wards Island when a boiler exploded, setting fire to the boat.  The New York Times reported that among the wealthy passengers, "near a score of them were consigned to a horrible death, while many more received painful injuries."  

Olin escaped without harm and, somewhat coldly, seemed to blame the deaths and injuries on the victims' actions.  "Few of the passengers behaved quietly," he told a reporter from The Sun.  "Some were crying out and appeared panic stricken.  Those who were cool escaped."

Alice Barlow Olin died in the Glen Cove residence on November 7, 1882 at the age of 29.  Stephen sold the East 31st Street house to banker Charles B. Henderson not long afterward.  (Stephen H. Olin would marry Emeline Harriman, the widow of William Earl Dodge and sister of Anne Harriman Vanderbilt, in 1903.)

Henderson and his wife, Jeanie North, had two daughters, Frances Beatrix and Janet Louise.  Living with them was Janie's widowed mother. 

Like the families before them in the house, the Hendersons moved among the highest levels of society.  Their social position was reflected in The New York Times report of Frances's wedding to Nathaniel Thayer Robb in St. Bartholomew's Church on November 27, 1895.  (The Robb mansion at 23 Park Avenue, incidentally, was a showplace.)  The article said the church was crowded "with people prominent in society in this city, Boston, and Philadelphia."  After the ceremony, a reception was held at 111 East 31st Street.

This portrait of Frances Henderson Robb was painted in 1899.  from the collection of the New-York Historical Society.

Exactly two years later to the day, Janet Louise was introduced to society.  On November 27, 1897 The New York Times reported that Jeanie "gave a coming-out reception for her second daughter," noting, "Sixteen young society women, several of them buds of last season, helped the debutante and her mother receive."  Their names came from the highest echelons of Manhattan society, including Schieffelin, Iselin, Delafield, Alexander, Howland, and Biddle.

As the turn of the century approached, the once exclusive residential neighborhood was seeing the incursion of commerce.  In 1899 Henderson sold 111 East 31st Street to Charles L. Hesselbach and his wife, the former Henrietta Scheuplein.  Hesselbach installed his upholstery shop in the basement level.  He and Henrietta moved into residence proper.

In 1907 Hesselbach branched out, buying two acres of land in Newark, New Jersey.  On June 6 that year, The Iron Age reported that he was "purchasing machinery for a structural iron plant to be erected" on the site.  The article noted, "While Mr. Hesselbach has an office at the New York address, he is spending much of his time in Newark at the site of the proposed plant."  The Calmuet Iron Works was completed that year.

Henrietta Hesselbach died in the East 31st Street house on June 2, 1910.  Her funeral, on June 4, would be the last to be held in the residence.

In 1941 the stoop and Victorian detailing survived.  The shop that had been home to Hesselbach's upholstery business is below curb level.  image via the NYC Dept of Records & Information Services.

Charles V. Hesselbach continued to live and run his upholstery store in the building at least through 1924.  In 1955 a renovation resulted in the removal of the stoop and the shaving off of the Victorian details, leaving only a hint of the once elegant mansion.  There were now an office on the first floor and two apartments each above.   

many thanks to reader Ted Leather for suggesting this post
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Tuesday, May 23, 2023

The James D. Simons House - 175 West 88th Street


In 1891 a row of six brown-faced rowhouses was completed for developer William S. Mercer on the north side of West 88th Street, between Columbus and Amsterdam Avenues.  Architect Frederick G. Butcher had designed the row as three pairs of matching designs.  The western-most pair, 175 and 177 West 88th Street, were a mixture of Romanesque Revival (seen in the rough faced basement and parlor levels and the aggressive stone voussoirs above the parlor openings) and Renaissance Revival.  The latter, more formal style resulted in dressed stone at the second and third floors, and molded framing that embraced the grouped openings at these levels.  At 175, a carved Renaissance style spandrel panel between the second and third floors depicted viny dragons snarling at a placid bowl of fruit and flowers.

The family of James D. Simons briefly occupied 175 West 88th Street.  The erudite attorney was a warden of Trinity Church and a long-time member of the Grolier Club.  For some reason the family seemed in a hurry to leave when they posted an advertisement in the New York Herald on March 18, 1894:

For Sale--175 West 88th st., three story brown stone private house; great bargain; immediate possession.

The new owner leased the house rather than live here.  The rent in 1896 was $1,350 a year, or about about $3,750 per month in 2023 terms.

The widow of Jacob Greenwood leased the house in 1897.   That year was a socially important one for her and her two daughters.  On April 14, 1897 the parlor was the scene of Celia Greenwood's marriage to Henry J. Abrahams.  The Sun reported, "The bride was attended by her sister, Miss Juliette Greenwood, as maid of honor."

Five months later, on September 5, the New York Herald reported, "Mrs. Jacob Greenwood, of 175 West 88th, announced the engagement of her daughter, Juliette to Mr. William Aarons, of Philadelphia, Pa."

The house next became home to Dr. Antonio Terry and his wife.  A native of Venezuela, he had graduated from the Homoeopathic College in Philadelphia in 1888, and immediately set up practice in New York.  The couple's residency would be tragically short-lived.  On August 20, 1898 The Sun reported, "Dr. Antonio Terry died at his home, 175 West Eighty-eighth street, last night of blood poisoning."  The physician was 56 years old.

Following the culmination of Mrs. Terry's lease, the house was offered for lease again in April 1898.  "An attractive three story Dwelling; modern appointments; open plumbing; pantry extension; desirable private block, being newly decorated."  The term "private block" meant that restrictions were in place barring any of the homes to be used for business.

Another physician, 27-year-old Dr. Augustine C. McGuire moved in within the month.  Born in 1871, he had attended Columbia and Dartmouth Universities, obtaining his medical degree from Dartmouth in 1894.  He would live and practice from the house only through his one-year lease period.

The wealthy widow of Warren Gardner rented 175 West 88th Street next.  Living with her was her unmarried daughter, Mabel.

Like all well-to-d0 New Yorker women, the Gardners spent the summer months away from the city.  In 1902 they summered at Saranac Lake, New York.  Unlike most socialites, while there Mrs. Gardner did not limit her activities to garden parties and teas.  On November 7, 1902 the New-York Tribune reported, "There has been considerable fishing lately, and Mrs. Warren Gardner, of New-York, distinguished herself by bringing in a fourteen-pounder the other day."

As was common, the Gardners leased a room in their home.  In 1902 their tenant was psychiatrist Dr. H. R. Humphreys.  He was described by The New York Press as "an expert in insanity."  In 1901 he had treated Caroline Kopper, the daughter of Colonel Frederick Kopper.  According to Humphreys, at the time she "was suffering from severe mental trouble."  But then the Koppers refused to pay his bill, despite whatever methods Dr. Humphreys tried.

Humphreys noticed a newspaper article in June 1902 that mentioned the "influx of gifts" that were arriving at the Kopper home in advance of Caroline's marriage to Stewart Woodford Capen.  The New York Press said they ranged from "china to elaborate groups of silver pieces, and their value was almost as large as their variety."  And so, Dr. Humphreys acted.

On June 11, the day of the wedding, deputy sheriff Max Altman arrived at Colonel Kopper's house on West 81st Street.  The New York Press reported, "Altman looked over the glittering mass set out for inspection, and said he was sorry, but he'd have to levy on some of the pieces.  He did."  Altman hauled out wedding gifts, the value of which approximated the outstanding doctor bill.  The New York Press said, "Despite the natural anger of the Kopper family, Dr. Humphrey's action was not permitted to interfere with the wedding," and at the reception, "of course, there were no comments as to the heavy hand that had fallen upon the bridal gifts."

A two-day auction was held at 174 West 88th Street on February 23 and 24 1909.  The announcement titled "Mrs. Warren Gardner" said it would liquidate the "entire contents of her luxuriously furnished private residence."  The New-York Tribune reported that the first day's sale, which covered "furniture, crystal, sterling silver, bronzes and other art objects belonging to Mrs. Warren Gardner, attracted a large throng of bidders and buyers."  That day's auction realized $4,500 in sales--or just under $140,000 today.

Thomas Thatcher, who next leased the house, rented rooms.  Two of his tenants in 1910, Laura Owens and M. W. Van Zandt, were feisty unmarried women.  The pair headed to a matinee on January 12 with another friend, Beatrice Miller.  At the corner of Broadway and 37th Street, they saw Sabotto Grossio standing in his truck and savagely beating his horses.  The Sun reported that "one of his horses was down and the other trembling."

Laura Owens was the first to act, yelling "Stop that!" and running into the street.  According to the young women, Grossio responded "in curses and redoubled his blows."  Laura jumped on the hub of the wheel "and wrenched the whip from Grossio's hand with enough force to topple him over.  He landed in the street on his back."  The article noted parenthetically, "His clothes suffered."

While her companions ran to find a policeman, Laura Owens "stood guard over the driver."  He was arrested, and The Sun reported on January 13, "Laura Owens of 175 West Eighty-eighth street, then went to the Jefferson Market court and saw that the driver...was held in $100 bail for trial."  Presumably the women missed their matinee.

No. 175 West 88th Street was returned to a single family home when it was rented in August 1912 by Julian Heath and his indomitable wife, the former Jennie Dewey.  The couple had a son, Julian Dewey Heath, who entered the University of Virginia the year his parents rented the 88th Street house.  

Julian Heath was a chemist, but it was his wife who garnered the attention in the family.  Born in Stonington, Connecticut in 1863, she was an ardent reformist.  She had begun working with the underprivileged at the age of 15.  Woman's Who's Who of America called her a "pioneer in settlement, kindergarten, playground and fresh air work" and one of three founders of the Jacob Riss Settlement."  She also established tenement cooking classes and schools of housekeeping for tenement women.

Although the entrance transom has been lost and the parlor window replaced with an architecturally unsympathetic example, its brilliant stained glass transom survives.

The year before she and Julian leased 175 West 88th Street, she founded the Housewives' League after the price of butter soared to 60 cents a pound.  On November 28, 1912 Mary Dudderidge, writing in The Independent, explained that when housewives pondered, "What shall we do?" over the skyrocketing price of butter, Jennie Heath responded, "Don't eat any."  The article said, "One hundred and sixty-five thousand housewives responded with enthusiasm, and an appeal to the public to join with them in boycotting butter fell on willing ears."

By the time of the article, Jennie's Housewive's League had branches in every state.  The fear of having their products boycotted nationwide resulted in reform.  The Independent article explained that already, "an army of inspectors has been turned loose on the industries that serve the home, and each one is backed up by a power of enforcement which official inspectors might envy."

The West 88th Street house served as the headquarters of the Housewives' League.  A report in The New York Times on a meeting here on December 5, 1913 reflected the power the organization had achieved.  "A letter had been prepared to send to President Wilson and Attorney General McReynolds, but this was withheld because the President of the New York State Cold Storage Association, Floyd Shoemaker, wrote...that the association was prepared to co-operate with the league."

The resolute Jennie Heath is at right in this photo from 1910.  from the collection of the Library of Congress.

Jennie Heath's tireless efforts expanded to widows and mothers of fallen World War I soldiers.  After hearing the story of Mary Blake, an impoverished widowed mother of a slain soldier who was unable to receive any allotment or insurance money from the government, Jennie took on the case.  The New-York Tribune reported she "wrote to Washington last night and expects to trace the matter further...Mrs. Heath is planning to form an organization of mothers of soldiers, who will assist in obtaining allotments or insurance money for those who have been unable to get it."

Jennie Heath was still relentlessly working at her causes when 175 West 88th Street was sold in August 1919.  She would appear regularly on radio in the 1920s discussing home economics.

The house was, once again, operated as a rooming house by Mrs. Mary Hampton.  Her tenants in 1920 were unremarkable, like Frances L. Kilmartin, the widow of a policeman.  But that changed in the spring of 1921 when the 25-year-old Countess Claude de Montesse, and her brother Prince Lippe Lipski took rooms.  

The Evening World noted that the countess "came of a well known French family."  In 1921 a friend, Roy J. Pomeroy, told the newspaper, "the Countess and her husband, who was Captain in the French Army, went to Russia from Paris three years ago.  Shortly after they had arrived at Petrograd her husband was taken from a sick bed by the Reds and shot."  According to Pomeroy, the countess had escaped to Constantinople before she ended up in New York City.

On June 7, 1921, The Evening World reported, "Countess Claude de Montesse, twenty-six...died at her home, No. 175 West 88th Street Sunday morning."   An autopsy revealed she had died from peritonitis.  The prince, according to Mrs. Hampton, stayed on in the house for two more months.

Then two years later, on December 22, 1923 scandal erupted.  The New York Times reported that Princess Nicholas de Lippe Lipski had applied for an exhumation and autopsy of the countess's body.  She charged that her husband, Prince Lippe Liski had been living illicitly with Countess Claude de Montesse, posing as brother and sister, and that her death was the result of an abortion.

In July 1925, Dr. Alcinous Burton Jamison purchased the house from Hamilton Hampton.  Born in Wooster, Ohio, he had come to New York City in 1885.  A proctologist, he was the author of several books and articles on intestinal disorders and the founder of the American College of Proctology.  As Dr. Augustine C. McGuire had done decades earlier, he both lived and practiced at the address.

Jamison was still actively practicing medicine at the age of 87 in October 1938 when he became ill.  Seven weeks later he died in St. Luke's Hospital.

The second half of the century was unkind to the block.  In 1962 the West Side Urban Renewal Plan was established that encompassed the area from 87th to 97th Streets, between Amsterdam Avenue and Central Park West.  Properties were seized by the city for nonpayment of back taxes, including 175 West 88th Street.  In 1995 a potential buyer made an offer on the house to the city, triggering a grueling back-and-forth of red tape.

Frederick G. Butcher's quaint 1891 dwelling with its astounding history--now a two-family house--retains most of its 1891 appearance.

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