Tuesday, December 6, 2016

The Old Guard Hdqtrs - No. 307 West 91st Street

In 1896 construction began on a row of seven brick and stone rowhouses at Nos. 303 through 315 West 91st Street.  Developers Smith & Stewart had commissioned prolific architect Clarence True to design the structures, and he created a string of harmonious, yet individual, Renaissance Revival homes completed early the following year.

In February 1897 The Real Estate Record & Builders' Guide noted that Smith & Stewart had sold No. 307 to Frank Koewing.  The bow-fronted house was clad in rough-cut limestone above a planar rusticated base.  The columned entrance portico, just one step above the sidewalk, provided a stone-balustraded balcony to the parlor level.  Here a three-part opening was capped by a handsome pediment filled with Renaissance-style carving.

Born in Bremen, Germany, Koewing had started his career with the Butterick Publishing Company in Chicago, the first firm to print and distribute sewing patterns.  He left to established his own company, the Standard Fashion Publishing Company in New York.   He and his wife, the former Jessie Smith, had three daughters.

Frank Koewing's fortunes grew; but his health failed.  Finally, he sold his company to his former employers, Butterick Publishing, and retired at the age of 45.  As the family prepared to relocated to their expansive home in West Orange, New Jersey, they sold No. 307 in November 1904 to Dr. Thomas Linwood Bennett.

The 35-year old physician was already well known and respected in medical circles.  Considered the first professional anesthetist in America, he had arrived in New York in 1897.  He invented the Bennett Inhaler, which The New York Times described in 1932 as "an apparatus which for many years was considered standard equipment for the administration of anesthetic and which, with minor modifications, is commonly used today."

He and his wife, Ida, who were married in 1893 had two daughters.  The family had been living at No. 17 West 90th Street.  Upon moving into the 91st Street house, Bennett made at least one significant alteration by installing a custom-made mahogany-cased pipe organ, constructed by the Hutchings-Votey Co. of Boston.  While domestic pipe organs were, at the time, a hallmark of high-end residences; there was another reason for the expensive addition.  Ida was a graduate of the Cincinnati College of Music and a well-known organist.

The doctor also splurged on his fast-moving mahogany "runabout" boat designed by Henry J. Gielow.  Capable of carrying 10 passengers, Bennett boasted it was "fast, about 25 miles" and the "highest grade boat built."

The 91st Street house was filled with watercolors and oils by contemporary American artists.  The Times later said Bennett was "considered an amateur connoisseur."

Considered the expert in his field, the physician was "increasingly he was called more and more to difficult and hazardous cases," according to The Times.  And he was called to cases concerning the very wealthy, as well.

Such was the case on January 16, 1909 when the immensely wealthy philanthropist Mrs. Russell Sage fell in the hallway of her mansion at No. 632 Fifth Avenue while escorting a visitor out.  The 80-year old's right arm was fractured.  Her personal physician summoned a surgeon to help set the bone; but nothing was done until Thomas L. Bennett arrived.

On February 23, 1910 Ida Bennett died unexpectedly in the house at the age of 40.  Her funeral was held in the house.

Perhaps a bit shocking to some, almost immediately after the expected period of mourning Bennett remarried in June 1911.  He and his bride, Ethel Hope, were married at her parents' home in Bayside, Long Island.  The New York Times explained "Dr. Bennett met his future bride on a professional call to New York Hospital, where she was a trained nurse."

Ethel may have had reservations about moving into the home Bennett had shared with Ida.  A month after the wedding the Record & Guide reported he had sold the house.  If there was a pending transaction, it fell through and the Bennetts remained for another nine years--during which time two daughters were born.

The parlor floor hall as it appears today.  photo via Century 21

A sale did come about in February 1920 when Bennett sold No. 307 West 91st Street to The Old Guard of New York.  Perhaps the city's most venerated military organization, it was formed in 1826 as the Tompkins Blues.  Over the decades it had served as honor guard at the funeral of President James Monroe and traditionally was present in all Gubernatorial and Mayoral events, such as inaugurations.
Dr. Bennett did not donate the pipe organ to the Old Guard.  He sold it instead.  The Architectural Record, June 1920 (copyright expired)

The Old Guard brought an extensive collection of military memorabilia to its new headquarters.  It also relocated the impressive stained glass window that had graced the former armory.  Somewhat coincidentally, the main panel fit perfectly into the parlor floor opening.

In 1898 the casket of Isaac E. Hoagland laid in state in the former Old Guard armory.  In the background can be seen the stained glass window.  photograph by Byron Company, from the collection of the Museum of the City of New York

The old stained glass panel fits perfectly where, originally, French windows led to the balcony.  photo via Century 21

Typical of the pomp and grandeur of the Old Guard events was the celebration of its 100th anniversary in 1926.  On April 22, a reception and installation of officers in the house was followed by an impressive and lengthy parade.  "Next the Old Guard, accompanied by an escort of United States soldiers, sailors and marines and military organizations from Boston, Hartford and Philadelphia, will march to St. Thomas's Church at Fifth Avenue and Fifty-fourth Street, for a memorial service," reported The New York Times.  Later that evening a dinner was held at the Waldorf-Astoria.

While that centennial celebration may have been a bit more elaborate, the memorial service and procession were an annual event.  So too was the Annual Ball, held traditionally on the last Friday of January since 1826 when Governor De Witt Clinton and Mayor William Paulding were among the guests.

In reporting on the Ball in 1936, The Times mentioned "The midnight parade, traditional feature of the ball, will be repeated and in this ceremony will be seen uniforms worn in every American war since the Revolution."

Captain Frank H. Clement had died on February 18, 1921.  He left $250,000 to the Old Guard; part of which was used later to refurbish the library on the third floor of the 91st Street headquarters.  Around 100 members and guests attended the dedication ceremony on January 10, 1953.

Unfortunately, funds like those bequeathed by Captain Clement were rarer as years passed.  The New York Landmarks Conservancy examined by building in 2016 and noted "The house is in generally good condition, but has suffered some deterioration due to deferred maintenance.  The roof and parapets in particular are in poor condition and require attention."

photo via Century 21

Sadly, the august organization did not have the funds to address the problems.  Former Commandant Arthur Gallagher told the New York Post "If Donald Trump decided he wanted to be a friend to the Old Guard and give $4 million so we could renovate our building, that would be great.  We'd love to be able to keep the building, but we need to have the money to keep it."

No such windfall came.  And so in 2016 the house was put on the market for $9.5 million, signaling what is no doubt the end of an era in Manhattan history.

photographs by the author

Monday, December 5, 2016

The Lost St. Andrew's Church - Duane St and City Hall Place

An early 20th century postcard depicted "crowd leaving noonday mass."
On the evening of November 3, 1839 a "lecture" was delivered in the Fourth Universalist Church, on the corner of Duane Street and City Hall Place.  Its subject was "Being cast into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth."

Fourth Universalist Church was the frequent scene of similar hell-fire sermons.  A week later, on November 10, the subject was "The consequences of sin and the impossibility of escaping them."  Earlier that year, in April, the Boston minister, The Reverend Mr. Ballou, preached here for several days, "raising up his voice, and awakening the sinner to a deep sense of his sins," according to the Morning Herald.

The church building was erected in 1808--two years before construction began on the elegant City Hall.  Originally a Congregational church, and then a Methodist, the Universalists would soon leave as well.  Decades later The New York Times remembered "When the residential sections of the city began to move uptown the church was abandoned, and for some years the building was used as a wine warehouse.  In 1842 it first became a Catholic church.  Cardinal Hayes served as an altar boy there in his early days on the east side."

That church was the newly-organized parish of the Church of St. Andrew.  After first worshiping in the nearby Carroll Hall, it took over the former Fourth Universalist church.  By 1861, when the Common Council ordered Duane Street to be widened, the venerable structure was showing its age.   As a consequence of the widening, seven feet at the front of the church was lost.

Two abutting lots were purchased; one for the new pastor's residence and the other to compensate for the lost square footage.  The New York Herald remarked "The lot added to the church has an historical interest, from the fact of its being the site of the house in which Washington resided for three days during his stay in New York."

On October 20, 1861 the remodeled structure was to be dedicated by Archbishop John Hughes.  He did not make it.  The New York Times remarked "Much disappointment was felt at the absence of the most Reverend Archbishop; but causes which he could not conquer precluded his attendance."  Nevertheless, the dedication went on as scheduled.

The New York Herald noted "This edifice has been so altered and improved that it may be said to be almost wholly a new church."  And The New York Times remarked "Every one in the habit of passing the corner of Duane-street and City Hall-place, a year or more ago, must have remarked on a dingy-looking edifice, of most unprepossessing exterior, which bore testimony to its use only by the cross which rose above its gable.

"All that has been changed."

The Herald reported that "a heavy expense has been put upon the church by the opening and widening of Duane and Reade streets."  And indeed, the purchase of the two lots cost $22,000 and the renovations cost another $18,000.  In today's dollars the total price would be about $1.4 million.

But newspapers agreed that the expense was worth it.   The New York Herald said "The front has undergone a complete transformation, and instead of its former plain appearance, has assumed architectural proportions and finish that render it equal to some of the finest structures of the kind in our metropolis."  And The Times chimed in saying "Now...rises a lofty church, with a tall and imposing spire.  The interior is one of the most exquisitely finished of any in the City."

photo by Beecher Ogden, from the collection of the Museum of the City of New York

While journalists took care to list the contracting firms--carpenters, masons, painters, gas-fixers and even the furnace supplier--they neglected to mention the name of the architect.  His Victorian Gothic re-do was severe in its angularity.  The red brick facade was touched with brownstone details--like the beefy Gibbs-like quoins that surrounded the openings.  A side tower rose three stories before morphing into an octagonal belfry.

The remodeled structure could now accommodate 1,500 worshipers.  The Herald reported "The inside has been frescoed, and the altar may be classed among the most beautiful in the country."  The Gothic-style altar had been imported from Rome.  Flanking it were oil paintings of St. Patrick and St. Andrew.  The New York Times deemed the interior "one of the most exquisitely finished of any in the City."

By 1874 St. Andrew's Church was crowded in by commercial structures.  The New York Herald described it as "an unpretentious brick building [which] nestles in sheer humility beside the tall building lately occupied by Mr. J. Shaw, a dealer in crockery ware, which separates it from Sweeny's Hotel."   A substantial fire in Shaw's building that year, left it essentially a burned-out shell.  On February 26, 1875 The Herald complained "It is very probable that the matter was never sufficiently inquired into; for though the walls appeared bulged, the reconstruction of the interior portions of the house was proceeded with."

As the renovations continued, the fears of the parishioners diminished.  The pastor had expressed "apprehension" regarding "the proximity of the charred walls"; but, according to The New York Herald, "this feeling of insecurity died away as time progressed, and the condition of the neighboring house was forgotten."

But then, on the stormy night of February 25, 1875, congregants assembled for mass.  There was standing room only, The New York Times noting that "it held fifty or a hundred persons more than its seating capacity."  A guest priest, Father Carroll of St. Stephen's Church, was preaching on "Death and the necessity for preparation."  It was an unexpectedly relevant topic.

The Herald reported "Outside the storm came down, and windy gusts swept over the buildings of the city, but within the church all was peace and quiet."  While the congregation, "reverentially silent, listened to the impassioned words of the preacher," a blast of wind toppled the weakened wall of Shaw's burned building onto the Church of St. Andrew's.

There were approximately 250 people in the east balcony when the roof overhead collapsed, burying well-dressed worshipers in mortar, timbers and bricks.  A panicked crowd rushed toward the exits and stairways screaming.  "Others, bolder in their frenzy, jumped over the balustrade into the pews beneath, and so the terror was communicated from one to another until the whole congregation joined in a wild stampede, in which the strong used their strength to preserve their own lives with the supreme selfishness of humanity."

Nearly two-thirds of the congregants that night were women and children.  In the rush from the galleries, two women and a boy were trampled to death.   The jam of terrified people, certain that the entire building was about to collapse upon them, pushed against the doors--which opened inward and prevented their escape.

When it was over, six worshipers were dead and more than 50 had been severely injured by the falling walls "or thrown down and trampled upon by the fleeing crowd."  The Herald reported "when the church was cleared of the panic-stricken people, the victims were thickly strewn about, some with life still remaining." 

Because of the St. Andrew's tragedy, a movement was begun to mandate that all doors in civic or public structures open outward.

The area around St. Andrew's Church was no longer one of tidy brick homes.  The funerals and weddings conducted here in the 1880s reflected a much-changed neighborhood.  One of the most notable funerals was that of Jeremiah "Jere" Hartigan on December 13 1887.  Born in Ireland in 1841, he arrived in New York at the age of 6.  Over the years he had driven a cart team, served in the navy from 1861 to 1863, and kept a tavern at Pearl and Chatham Streets.  He was well-known to the politicians and residents, and was appointed a court officer.

Stories surrounding Jere Hartigan was endless.  Once, when a fight broke out on Franklin Square on election day, he and a friend went "to quiet things."  On the way, there was what The Times called "a fracas" and Jere, reportedly in self-defense, shot and killed Daniel Freel.  Hartigan was shot twice.  He was fined six cents by Judge Russell.  Another time he was stabbed by a "drunken ruffian" while standing in front of his saloon on Chatham Square.  Although he had to remain in the hospital three months, he refused to file charges against the assailant,

As he lay dying in December 1887, he told his sister about a poor family nearby.  "They are broke for money, and I am not able to attend to them myself.  I want you to look after them as well as you can.  Give them what they want."  He died shortly after.

His funeral in St. Andrew's on December 13 required the closing of streets.  "While the services were in progress the broad steps and sidewalk could not begin to hold the overflow, which spread out along both sides of Duane-street nearly to Chatham," reported The Times.  "Silk-tied, sleek-dressed politicians rubbed elbows against the rags and patches of Mulberry Bend, and the white-haired and tottering stood with children, eager and silent, clustered about them."

Another remarkable funeral was that of Annie Connor, known as "Aunt Annie, the apple woman."  For 35 years she had sold apples around Park Row.  On March 20, 1889 The Evening World ran a sub-headline which read "The Well-Known Apple-Woman Buried from St. Andrew's Church."  The article noted "'Aunty' had been a faithful worshiper at this church for the past thirty-five years."

St. Andrew's Church was first threatened in 1890 when the City looked for a location for the new Municipal Building.  Following a committee meeting on July 22, The Times reported that the proposed site "would cause the removal of St. Andrew's Roman Catholic Church, Sweeny's Hotel and other buildings."  Three months later Archbishop Corrigan lobbied against the location in a letter to the Building Commission.  On October 12 The New York Times noted "He objects on the ground of historical association."

The archbishop got his way and St. Andrew's survived.  On July 10, 1900 it received an updating of sorts when the old wooden cross on the steeple was removed to be replaced by a replacement of galvanized tin over seven feet tall.  The process attracted an enormous crowd who watched steeplejack George V. Wing "swinging to and fro seated in a boatswain's chair 150 feet in the air," according to The Times.

Wing, who was known as the Wizard of the Steeple," had been brought in from Zanesville, Ohio.  He told reporters that he would look out for whiskey bottles in the steeple.  Wing and another steeplejack, "Steeple Bob" Merrill said that "whisky bottles were very often found in church steeples," having been left there by the original construction workers.

Newspaper workers along nearby Park Row, known as "newspaper row," worked nights; making church attendance difficult if not impossible.  They petitioned Archbishop Corrigan in 1901 to establish nighttime services so "they could attend without sacrificing time which is usually devoted to their business,"  That May the archbishop approved the services in St. Andrew's Church and it quickly gained the nickname  of The Printers' Church.

The arrangement did not escape the notice of the Vatican.  On April 1, 1907 the New-York Tribune reported on the Easter service for the newsmen.  "Old St. Andrew's, in Duane street, was crowded at 2:30 o'clock yesterday morning, when the Easter service for night workers was begun."  The newspaper made note that "Before the sermon Father Evers read the cable dispatch from the Pope to the night workers."

Rather remarkably, the old James Shaw crockery store building which had caused the 1875 disaster, is still standing in this 1908 photograph.  photo by George F. Arata, from the collection of the Museum of the City of New York
Irish priests in the early years of the 20th century had often grown up as street-wise kids from gritty neighborhoods.  Father Gilmore showed his mettle on June 21, 1912 when he heard Policeman Thomas Donahue's whistle--a call for assistance.  When Donahue had attempted to arrest one of a "crowd of rowdies" on City Hall Place, he was accosted by about 20 others who beat and kicked him.

The Times reported "Father Gilmore fought his way through the crowd, striking left and right, until he reached the side of Donahue.  The priest seized the two nearest men and held them until other patrolmen arrived."

While the church had escaped demolition in 1890, it was repeatedly threatened.  On September 18, 1911 the Illinois newspaper the Urbana Daily Courier reported "Night workers in the down town section of New York have started a strong fight against the proposed destruction of St. Andrew's Roman Catholic Church...to make room for a new Court House."  The newspaper explained "The little 'red church,' as it is best known, has been standing since 1808, and is a landmark in lower Manhattan."

The threat remained and three years later The Sun reported on April 20, 1914 that "The Rev. Father L. J. Evers of St. Andrew's Roman Catholic Church made an earnest plea to his parishioners yesterday to protest against the proposed change of the site of the new court house.  He said the change would mean the condemning of the church property."

As the battle dragged on, the country was pulled into world war.  On May 30, 1918 St. Andrew's made history when the congregation sang "The Star Spangled Banner" during mass.  The Sun said the "departure from the prescribed routine of the service that was perhaps unprecedented in New York, marked the conclusion of a cerebration of high mass for the repose of soldiers fallen in battle."

Rather surprisingly, in 1927 it was not the City which proposed the demolition of St. Andrew's Church, but its pastor.  That fall, after years of wrangling over a courthouse site, the City decided on one which included the old tenement building where Cardinal Patrick Joseph Hayes had been born in 1867.  Father Cashin decided the sanctity of the site was more important than his venerable church building.

The neighborhood around St. Andrew's Church in 1929 would be unrecognizable today.  photo from the collection of the New York Public Library

He proposed trading the church property, directly across the street from the site, for Nos. 15 through 19 City Hall Place, as well as No. 25 Duane Street.  Cashin admitted "My preferable plan would be to retain the old structure...and restore it to its original Colonial appearance."  Yet a more pragmatic solution was called for.  He continued "But I am afraid that would look out of place buried in the midst of the modern municipal structures.  So I am afraid we will have to sacrifice sentiment to utility.

"I would like, therefore, to build a new church that would harmonize in its architectural and structural quality with the buildings the city is erecting in this area.  And we would include in this the birthplace of his Eminence Cardinal Hayes, and make of it a shrine.  It would be as justifiable to erect a shrine to a living saint as a dead saint."

What seemed to be a logical and mutually-advantageous concept (the plots were essentially the same size and value) dragged on contentiously for years.  Finally, on July 12, 1932, a truce was accomplished.  The Times noted "In the intervening three years three plans for a new church and rectory were drawn, each based upon a different idea of what the ultimate church site would be."

When this photo was taken in 1933, the end of the line for the old church was nearing.  from the collection of the New York Public Library
Plans for a new $300,000 church, drawn by Maginnis & Walsh of Boston and Robert J. Reilly of New York, were not filed for another year.  It would be another five years before demolition of the old St. Andrew's Church began.  On January 21, 1938 The Times reported, "The Roman Catholic Church of St Andrew, landmark of Duane Street and Cardinal Place, where the night workers' mass was born just after the turn of the century and where newspaper men from Park Row for years attended services during the small hours of the morning, was turned over yesterday to a wrecking crew."

The new St. Andrew's Church on its new site at No. 20 Cardinal Place was dedicated on November 30, 1939.

photo by Lucascb

Saturday, December 3, 2016

The Stephen C. Clark Mansion - Nos. 42-46 East 70th St

Although his grandfather, Edward C. Clark, had been passionately involved in the development of the Upper West Side (including the construction of The Dakota Flats); Stephen Carlton Clark chose the opposite side of Central Park as the site for his new mansion in 1910.

Born in Cooperstown, New York in 1882, Clark was married to the former Susan Vanderpoel Hun.  The couple had three sons, Alfred Corning, Robert Vanderpool. and Stephen Carlton. Jr., and a daughter, Elizabeth.  Immensely wealthy, Clark was a director in the Singer Sewing Machine Company, co-founded by his grandfather, and in other corporations.

The block of East 70th Street between Madison and Park Avenues was lined with high-stooped brownstones in the 19th century.  The Union Theological Seminary was also located on the block and in 1897 remodeled the abutting house at No. 46 into a "commodious modern residence" for the it's new President, Rev. Charles Cuthbert Hall.

Hall and his family lived comfortably in the handsome home until 1909, when the Seminary relocated.  On Christmas Day 1909 The New York Times announced that "the remaining portion of the Union Theological Seminary property, consisting of three dwellings...known as 42, 44 and 46 East Seventieth" had been sold.

The following year, on October 29, The Real Estate Record & Builders' Guide noted that "jewelry and diamond merchant," Louis Morris Starr had commissioned architects Tracy, Swartwout & Litchfield to design a mansion on the site, "to cost in the neighborhood of $125,000."

Starr apparently changed his mind.

It was, instead, Stephen C. Clark who would erect a massive mansion here.  The Record & Guide noted on August 19, 1911 that plans had been filed by Frederick Junius Sterner.  The projected cost would translate to about $2.57 million in 2016.

The house was completed a year later.  Rising six stories, it was like no other residence in New York City.  Sterner earned a reputation by transforming outdated brownstones into modern, sometimes quirky, takes on romantic architectural styles--Tudor, Gothic and Mediterranean fantasies, for example.  There would be nothing whimsical, however, about the neo-Jacobean Clark mansion.

Faced in ruddy brick laid in Flemish bond with burned headers to suggest age, the symmetrical facade was highlighted by vast leaded openings, and an imposing Tudor-style entrance flanked by octagonal brick-and-stone buttresses.  Two stone figures topped the Flemish gables.

While Clark went about his busy schedule (he had been elected to the New York State Assembly in 1910).  Susan Clark was actively involved in charitable causes, most notably those connected with the Cathedral of St. John the Divine.

The Clark family maintained a summer estate in Stephen's hometown of Cooperstown.   He and his brother, Edward Severin Clark, built the Otesaga Resort Hotel there in 1909, the he was President of the Leather Stocking Corporation, based in Cooperstown, which directed the Clark enterprises.

Later Clark would found the Farmers Museum in Cooperstown, and in 1945 would donate the Fenimore House as the headquarters of the State Historical Association, of which he was Chairman of the Board.

The East 70th Street mansion would seem to have been designed for grand entertainments like balls and dinners.  But Susan's entertaining was, in seems, almost exclusively related to her charitable works.  For years the residence was the scene of the Cathedral Sewing Class and meetings of the Fresh Air Association of St. John the Divine.

The Fresh Air Association ran the House of Saint John the Divine, a facility encompassing about 30 acres on the Hudson River near Tomkins Cove.  Its purpose was "to promote the physical and spiritual welfare of the poor in the City of New York' to care for the sick, the young, the aged and disable; to minister to the needs of mothers and children during the hot summer months."

More than 500 mothers and their children would stay for about two weeks at a time each year.  The organization also ran "a well equipped boy's camp" on the property.

The Cathedral Sewing Class was related to the Fresh Air Association, and provided all the clothes worn by the children at the House during the summer.  Similarly, in February 1921 Susan Clark held the first meeting of the Clothing Committee of St. Luke's Hospital in the mansion.  During that meeting, according to the New-York Tribune on February 13, "Miss Rachael Jane Hamilton will sing songs on costume."

While Susan conducted her charity work, Stephen had offered his services to the country during World War I.  In 1922 he received a Distinguished Service Medal for his services as a lieutenant-colonel in the Adjutant General's Department.

All the while the Clarks collected art.  The 70th Street house was filled with masterpieces by Rembrandt, Renoir, Cezanne, van Gogh, Degas, Hals, Picasso, El Greco, Seurat, Corot, and Braque. Deemed by The New York Times as "long known in the art world as a collector of discrimination," Stephen Clark assembled an important collection of works by Henri Matisse.

Millionaires' mansions were highly-private domains, rarely glimpsed by those outside of the highest social circles.  In a highly-unusual move, in 1926 the Clark home was opened to the public.  On December 5 The New York Times reported "Mrs. Stephen C. Clark...is giving the use of her house on Wednesday, from 10:30 A. M. to 6 in the afternoon, for a sale of articles made by blind men and women who are cared for by the Society for the Relief of the Destitute Blind."

And with the onslaught of the Great Depression, the mansion was opened again.  On November 16 and 17, 1932 the public was invited to view the Matisse collection for $2 admission.  The funds were to benefit Hope Farm, a community school for needy boys and girls in Dutchess County New York.

The Matisses hung in a room on the top floor of the mansion, "devoted entirely to that artist."  In various rooms on the lower floors, a sale of holiday gifts was conducted, including toys, home-made jellies and marmalade, infant clothing and similar articles.

The exhibition was so successful that it was repeated in April 1933 to assist the jobless.  Over the next few years the  Clarks' Matisse collection would be shown several times to benefit Depression Era charities, like the Unemployment Relief Fund.

It was about this time an old baseball came into Clark's possession.  He put it on display in the Cooperstown village library with other baseball paraphernalia in 1937.  The collection caught the attention of the President of the National League (later Baseball Commissioner) Ford Frick, who suggested a permanent hall to commemorate the game and hits heroes.  Stephen C. Clark donate the funds to erect the Baseball Hall of Fame, opened in 1939.

By now Clark was Chairman of the Board of the Museum of Modern Art and a Director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, a trustee of St. Luke's and Roosevelt Hospitals, and a director of the New York Trust Company.

He had also founded the Clark Foundation in 1931 to direct his several interests like the Fenimore Art Museum and the Farmers' Museum.  The Foundation's work in New York City still offers grants to organizations "that help people out of poverty."

The Clark children married and left the East 70th Street mansion.  Stephen Jr.'s engagement to Nancy Young Wickes was announced on April 11, 1934; Elizabeth's engagement to Henry R. Labouisse Jr. was announced the following year; and in 1939 Robert V. Clark married Suzanne de Lasalle Hiteman.  Alfred Corning Clark became engaged to Dorothy Tweedy Potter in April 1941.

In the summer of 1952 Robert and his wife were visiting his parents at their Cooperstown estate.  Robert was suddenly afflicted with "a spinal ailment" and taken to a nearby hospital.  The 32-year old died on August 27.

On September 17, 1960 Stephen Carlton Clark died in the 70th Street house at the age of 78.  His important art collection was donated, in part, to his alma mater, Yale University, and to the National Gallery of Art in Washington DC.  But the majority was divided between the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Museum of Modern Art.

In 1965 the Clark mansion was acquired by the Explorers' Club, founded in 1904.  Among the club's impressive roster of members over the decades were Robert E. Peary, Richard Evelyn Yeager, Neil Armstrong, Charles A. Lindberg, Lowell Thomas, Sir Edmund Hillary, Theodore Roosevelt, Sally Ride, and Eric Shipton.

The interiors were carefully preserved, and the walls were now appropriately hung with valuable paintings reflecting the club's legacy.   Albert Operti's Rescue at Camp Clay depicts the 1884 rescue of the scientific expedition of Adolphus W. Greely in 1884.  Commissioned by the United States Government to hang in the Capitol, it was acquired by the Club in 1946.  It is only one of dozens of Operti's works displayed in the clubhouse, including his memorial portrait of Robert E. Peary.

Also represented in the collection are Arctic paintings by artists like Frank Wilbert Stokes and Tappan Adney.  The mansion houses other artifacts, as well--Thor Heyerdahl's globe from the Kon-Tiki; polar bear mittens worn by Matthew Henson on the first successful expedition to the North Pole; and a replica of a Yeti scalp.

Few casual passersby would guess that the remarkable building at Nos. 42-46 East 70th Street was once a private home.  Through its careful treatment of the mansion, the Explorers' Club has preserved the Clark mansion as a fascinating survivor of the glittering Edwardian era.

photographs by the author

Friday, December 2, 2016

The 1828 No. 30 Water Street

At high tide during the 18th century, the East River washed over the roadway that ran along its banks; earning Water Street its name.  Subsequent land fill would push the riverfront more than a block away.  But in 1747 when Hendrick Remsen purchased most of the block front from  Broad Street to Coenties Slip from the Van Horne family, he was buying waterfront property.

In 1828 Edward Remsen, Hendrick’s great grandson, partnered with Obadiah Holmes to construct three matching Federal style buildings at Nos. 26 through 30 Water Street.  The four-story commercial structures were faced in Flemish bond red brick with brownstone trim.  The plain fascia boards and cornices of Federal buildings were commonly made of wood.  Here, however, they were executed in brick.  Before not very long, most likely in the 1840s, a granite Greek Revival storefront was added. 

Michael Viola was doing business from No. 30 Water Street around that time.  The river front neighborhood was a rough one.  When Viola was walking past the corner of Dover Street, a few blocks north of his business, on Sunday November 3, 1845, he ran into serious trouble.

The New York Herald reported later that day that “about noon today, he was grossly insulted by some boys who made use of the most abusive language to him, and on taking hold of one of them, the young rowdy immediately drew and knife and stabbed Viola in the lower part of the left groin, severing an artery.” 

The street toughs escaped while Michael Viola lay bleeding profusely on the sidewalk.  Deputy Coroner “Mr. Milliken” was summoned and he had Viola transported to the City Hospital.  The Herald reported “His life however is despaired of, in consequent of the great loss of blood which he sustained before he was taken to the Hospital.”

The following day, however, the New-York Tribune reported heartening news.  “We learned yesterday afternoon by inquiring at the Hospital that Michael Viola, who was stabbed Sunday in a quarrel with some boys in Water-street and who was reported to have died yesterday morning, is still alive with every prospect of recovery.”  By the time of the Tribune’s report, Frederick May, who went by the street name “Flukes,” had been arrested as an accessory to the assault.

In 1869 James McCombie ran his wholesale produce business at No. 30.  He had full trust in his bookkeeper, David F. Wright.  But in the spring of that year he discovered his trust had been ill-advised.  It all started on March 12 when he left two signed, blank checks with Wright.  One was to pay a cartman’s bill of $10, and the other to pay supplier Van Bokkelsen’s open invoice of $56.  David Wright, instead, made the first check out payable to “cash” in the amount of $1,100; and the next day did the same with the second check, this time in the amount of $363.  The total amount of the fraudulent checks the bookkeeper cashed would amount to more than $26,000 in 2016.

But he was not done yet.  The following day, March 14, James McCombie was absent from the office.  He complained in court that while he was gone Wright “procured a cartman and took and stole from him 106 packages of butter, valued at $3,000, which he secreted in a store, on West and Washington streets.”

Wright was arrested at his home and “denied each and every general allegation.”  Nevertheless, he was able to pay his $7,500 bail, around $135,000 today, supposedly on his bookkeeper’s salary.

Hardware dealers Reilly & Guy Company were listed in the building at least by 1894.  Various tenants in the upper floors through the coming years included architect John V. Knoth whose office was here by 1910.

Reilly & Guy Company moved to White Hall Street in the first years of the 20th century; but the firm would be back in 1921 when it shared a lease on the entire building with the recently-formed W. D. Blood & Co.  Incorporated in 1918, W. D. Blood & Co. was formed to export “American manufactures in foreign fields, especially automotive and hardware manufactures,” as reported by Automotive Industries on May 22, 1919.

Wilfred D. Blood in 1919.  Automotive Journal, June 1919 (copyright expired)
W. D. Blood & Co. was still at No. 30 Water Street in 1931, when it took over the export business of the Motor Wheel Corporation.  In the 1930s the firm was no longer exporting merely automotive hardware, but “automotive vehicles,” as mentioned by The New York Times in 1938.  The increased growth had forced the company to move to larger quarters on Whitehall Street by then.

In 1943 ship chandlers I. K. General Marine Contracting Corporation took over the building.  But change was coming to Water Street in the second half of the century as the Financial District edged closer to the waterfront.  The gritty blocks around the docks slowly became the lunchtime haunts of tie-wearing brokers rather than merchant mariners.  In 1969 No. 30 was converted to an “eating and drinking” establishment on the first through third floors.  City documents noted “fourth and attic floors to remain vacant.”

Despite the noticeable change to Water Street, and to the other two of Remsen’s and Holmes’s 1828 buildings, No. 30 retains much of its original flavor.

photograph by the author

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Our Lady of Sorrows School -- No. 219 Stanton Street

By the middle of the 19th century thousands of German immigrants had settled in New York’s Lower East Side.  In 1857 only Berlin and Vienna had larger German populations.  That year Rev. Bonaventure Frey founded Our Lady of Sorrows parish for the area’s German Catholics.

Construction on a permanent church building at No. 105 Pitt Street began in 1867 and was completed the following year.  In 1873 the trustees obtained the lots next to the church building, extending to Stanton Street, as the site of a school.

Another German immigrant, J. William Schickel, was given the commission to design the building.  Known professionally as William Schickel, he had arrived in New York just four years earlier at the age of 20.   Trained in Bavaria, he designed Our Lady of Sorrows School in the Victorian Gothic style popularized by John Ruskin. The plans, filed on February 13, 1874 called for a “four-story brick school house.”  It was an understated description.

Construction progressed rapidly and was completed before the end of the year.  On December 14 the church ladies staged a “grand fair” in the hall of the school to offset the construction costs.  Church fairs were a common means of fund-raising in the 19th century; and The New York Herald said “a number of tables well covered with objects of art and virtu will surround the spacious hall, and tasteful draping depend from the walls and ceiling.”  The newspaper reported that the shopper could find articles “some of great value and rare curiosity, and there is little doubt that with the efficient corps of lady attendants the fair will be an entire success.”

Five stories tall including the mansard roof, the red brick structure was trimmed in limestone.  Ruskin’s influence appeared in the polychromatic alternating of stone and brick over the openings.  The slate-shingled mansard was punctuated by a row of delightful, stone-faced dormers; a centered gable on the Pitt Street elevation; and pyramidal corner caps.  At the fourth floor a stirring sculpture of the Virgin and Child perched below an ornate Gothic canopy.  Internally, the structure was essentially two buildings.  Girls entered on Pitt Street, while boys used the entrance at No 219 Stanton Street. 

The stenciled transom over former boys' entrance on Stanton Street survives.

The Catholic students from the surrounding tenements were expected, of course, to attend Our Lady of Sorrows Church.  That meant getting up hours before sunrise, at least for their First Communion mass on November 7, 1886.  The New York Times reported that the high mass commenced at 5:30 a.m.  “After the mass 100 little girls robed in white, with veils and flowers, 60 small boys in black clothes and red sashes, 30 other boys, and the clergy marched through the aisles of the church.”

The school hall of Our Lady of Sorrows was used for various events.  On Monday, November 15 that year, for example, the St, Aloysius Sodality, a men’s fraternal organization of the church, gave a “musical and dramatic entertainment” to benefit the purchase of a bell for the tower of the new Church of Our Lady of Angels far north on 113th Street.

Like the church, Our Lady of Sorrows School was run by the Capuchin Fathers.  On February 14, 1888 The Evening World reported on the status of the facility, saying it was “now in a most prosperous condition.”  At the time of the article the boys’ school had an enrollment of 352 and the girls’ school 450.  The difference in “average daily attendance” could be explained by the need for young boys to find work rather than attend school, in order to help with family finances.

The school hall was the scene of a reunion of sorts on May 2, 1915.  The New-York Tribune reported that “Present and former inhabitants of Pitt Street foregathered to swap reminiscences in the old school hall…last night.  The meeting, which was termed ‘A Monster Smoker and Oldtimers’ Night,’ was under the direction of the St. Aloysius Young Men’s Benevolent Association.  A vaudeville show and refreshments enlivened the evening.”

As late as the 1970s the dormers and the delightful cast iron finials of the roof survived.  photo from the collection of the Museum of the City of New York

The hulking Victorian building served the Pitt Street neighborhood into the 21st century.  Then, in January 2011, it was closed by Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan.  The building was converted for the Cooke Center for Learning and Development.  A non-profit provider of special education services for students aged 5 through 21, it also provides consulting and training services.

 photographs by the author