Wednesday, May 27, 2015

The Andrew Foye House -- No. 163 West 79th Street

No. 163 was one of six houses that formed a harmonious row.

In 1882 James D. McCabe, Jr. predicted a building boom on the sparsely-developed Upper West Side.  "Instead of expending $30,000 to $50,000 for a corner lot on Fifth avenue, from four to six lots can here be now purchased for that sum, and the indications are that men of foresight and good judgment are availing themselves of the chances that are thus offered."

Within the decade McCabe was proved right.  Among the developers "of foresight" who transformed the Upper West Side was George A. Denig.  In 1893 he laid plans for six rowhouses on the north side of West 79th Street, between Columbus and Amsterdam Avenues.  Denig commissioned architect Clarence True to design the row.

The prolific True was responsible for scores of residences on the Upper West Side.   He drew his inspiration most often from historic styles, freely mixing elements to produce sometimes whimsical, sometimes romantic structures.

On June 10, 1893 the Real Estate Record and Builders’ Guide reported that True had filed plans for the six “four-and-a-half-story stone dwellings.”    For the project he turned to Romanesque Revival, designing the six harmonious houses to form a visual unit—each most likely slightly different; yet flowing one into the other to create a castle-like whole.

Despite their compact width—three were 16-feet wide and three 17-feet—Denig’s speculative homes were targeted to the upper-middle class.  Each cost him $17,000 to build—more than $454,000 today.  Included in the row was No. 163, one of the 17-foot wide homes.  Completed in 1894, like its neighbors it the boasted the romantic elements of a medieval castle.  Rather than the more expected brownstone, rough-cut limestone was used in the quoins, the lower facade and the face of the upper gable.  True incorporated carved decorative panels, a sharply-angled three story bay and a commodious balcony at the fourth floor that probably doubled as a sleeping porch on hot nights.

Inside, according to an advertisement in the New-York Tribune, were a “butler’s pantry, 14 rooms and two baths; hardwood trim, open plumbing, gas, electricity.”

The house was purchased by Andrew Jay Coleman Foye.  The 61-year old was President of the Standard Graphite Co. and was married to the former Katherine Sophia House.  With them in the new home were their two sons, Andrew Ernest and 17-year old Louis Constant Foye.

Young Andrew was a civil engineer and member of the firm Foster & Foye.  He also taught engineering in the School of Mines.

The Foye family was proud of its French Huguenot descent and of their ancestors’ military service during the Revolutionary War.  But Andrew J. C. Coleman was by no means of privileged birth.  Who’s Who in New York City and State would later record that his first home in Ohio “was a double log cabin” and that his “early education [was] acquired in a log school house.”

photograph from History of the Ohio Society of New York, 1885-1905 (copyright expired) 

Now, in addition to his presidency of the Standard Graphite Co., he was a director in the Ryan-Parker Construction Co., the Consolidated National Bank, and a respected member of the New York Chamber of Commerce.

Tragically, on May 6, 1898, 21-year old Louis Constant Foye died in the 79th Street house.  His funeral was held here on Monday afternoon, May 9 at 4:00.

Andrew  J. C. Foye was one of the founders of the Ohio Society and its first vice-president.   Early in 1900 the group invited President William McKinley to a dinner at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel.  The President accepted the invitation “to be present,” but according to the New-York Tribune, he “insisted that he should not be called upon to speak.”

McKinley’s insistence on not speaking melted away after a toast to his health and “he permitted himself to dwell briefly upon the problems which the Nation’s Spanish war had left with the country.”  Specifically he addressed imperialism, saying in part “There can be no imperialism.  Those who fear it are against it.  Those who have faith in the Republic are against it.  So that there is universal abhorrence for it and unanimous opposition to it.”

The Tribune reported that “In a box specially reserved for her, facing the guests’ table, Mrs. McKinley sat.  She came in before the last course was served, and was greeted with tumultuous cheering.”  The newspaper noted that sitting near the First Lady was Mrs. Andrew J. C. Foye.

During the first week of May, 1905, Andrew J. C. Foye became ill.  Three weeks later, on Friday May 26, he died in the house at the age of 71.   In reporting his death, the Ohio Society of New York described him in florid turn-of-the-century prose.

“Few men were endowed so generously with the helpful spirit as he.  The sick and suffering he visited and comforted; the worthy unfortunate he relieved and put in the way to help themselves.  The beggar never went hungry from his door.  His kindly nature embraced humanity in its care.”

The family kept the funeral and interment private.  For those wishing to pay respects, therefore, the New-York Tribune announced “The home will be open to relatives and friends on Sunday and Monday from 4 to 8 p.m.”

By now Andrew Ernest Foye had amassed his own fortune.  He was President and Director of the Andrew E. Foye Co., the Foye-Root Co., the Butte Copper Montana Co., the American Stone Paving Co., and the Hanover Realty and Construction Co.  His club memberships included four different yacht clubs.

Foye moved to No. 247 Fifth Avenue and the West 79th Street house was purchased by real estate operator Albert E. Ponter.   Five years later No. 163 was threatened when the four houses to the east were demolished for the 12-story apartment building designed by Schwartz & Gross. 

The house survived, however, and in 1913 was sold at auction.   It became home to the family of H. E. Exton.  As was most often the case, the title was put in the name of Exton’s wife, Edna.  Exton was a partner in the brokerage firm of Exton & Newborg.   Like many of Manhattan’s wealthy Jewish families, the Extons summered at the upscale Long Branch, New Jersey.

For some reason when the rest of Clarence True’s row was demolished in 1923 for another apartment building—this one 15 stories—No. 163 hung on.   When Edna K. Exton sold the house in May 1929 to the Meydel Corporation, it was wedged in between the modern structures.

Later that year Helene Zeller leased the house for five years at $3,600 per year.  It was sold in 1936 to Rose Lowenstein and again in 1940 to Max Hoffman.   By now it was described as a “five-story apartment building.”
Some interior design elements survive-like the built-in console --

The Victorian holdout continues to have two apartments each on the first through fourth floor and one on the top level.    Vised between the two hulking apartment buildings, the narrow Romanesque house looks woefully squashed; a tempting hint of what Clarence True’s original row must have been.

non-credited photographs taken by the author

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Stephen Decatur Hatch's 1887 No. 168 Duane Street

In 1852 Hungerford's Hotel not only housed travelers; but was home to full-time residents like Magdaline Kessler, the widow of George P. H. Kessler.  She lived with her grown daughter Elizabeth who made her living as a milliner at No. 271 Greenwich Street.  The hotel was composed of four older structures, Nos. 164 to 170, combined internally.

Four years earlier, on April 1, 1848, teenaged sisters, Kate and Margaret Fox, claimed they had communicated with a man who years earlier had been murdered in their house.  It was the start of the rampant Spiritualist Movement and in February 1853 it visited Hungerford’s Hotel.

New York newspapers excitedly reported on three spiritualists who checked into the hotel that February.  The New-York Tribune wrote “Three mediums on a spiritual mission to this city for a few days, [are] now stopping at Hungerford’s Hotel, in Duane-street, near Hudson-street.  They will examine diseases and prescribe for the same.  Price $2; for spiritual investigations $1.”  (The fees for the readings would be about $65 and $32.50 today.)

After investigating noises for a client, one of the mediums, H. Burkhart, told a Tribune reporter, “I feel it my duty as a medium to state to the public that I have investigated the spiritual rappings, and do say that it is spirits, and can prove it to any reasonable mind, at No. 168 Duane-street.”

By the end of the Civil War Hungerford’s Hotel had become the Mercantile Hotel.  On September 27, 1865 The New York Times advised its readers “But few persons are aware of the existence of an organized club of checker or draught players in this city, but such is the case, and they have rooms well supplied with tables and men at their rooms, in the Mercantile Hotel, No. 168 Duane-street, where they meet every Monday, Wednesday and Friday nights for play.”

The patchwork hotel would last another two decades.  Then, as the neighborhood became heavily commercial, the properties that made up the hotel were sold off.  In 1886 No. 168 Duane Street was owned by Fleming Smith.   Five years in the future he would commission architect Stephen Decatur Hatch to design a sprawling and exuberant Flemish Revival warehouse at No. 135 Watts Street.  But for now he would hire the architect to produce a toned down version at No. 168.

The five-story store and loft building was completed in 1887.   The Flemish Revival style—a nod to Manhattan’s Dutch heritage—was just emerging and Hatch splashed it with elements of the equally fanciful Queen Anne style; the multi-paned openings, the cross-hatching between the second and third floors, and the foliate carvings over the first story openings, for instance.   But the Northern Renaissance Revival, or Flemish, style maintained command with the undulating fifth floor gable.

Among the first tenants was The Kaskine Co., makers of Kaskine tonic.  An advertisement promised it “is the only medicine in the world that destroys the germs of disease in the blood, and permanently cures all diseases arising therefrom, such as Malaria, Favors, Rheumatism, Biliousness, &c., and is the GRANDEST TONIC EVER DISCOVERED.”
Kaskine's buxom figure was titled "Science emerging from Darkness."  Democratic Northwest, May 5, 1887 (copyright expired)
The 49-year old wholesale tobacconist and cigar dealer John A. Belvin had moved his operation into the building by 1889.  On November 30 that year he left the office for lunch, telling his employees he would be back in half an hour.  Before leaving he took $150 in cash; the amount he was accustomed to carry around.   The office workers were surprised, but not alarmed when he did not return.

Over a week later, on December 9, The New York Times reported “Mr. Belvin lived in a handsome house at 372 Halsey-street, Brooklyn, and when he did not return to his home one of his sons notified Inspector Byrnes of his disappearance.”  Belvin lived in the house with his wife and six children.  The Inspector had put a detective on the case, but there was no trace of him.

Family members were concerned because of the large amount of jewelry Belvin wore and they “feared that he may have met with foul play.”   His wife had a somewhat fantastic theory.  “Mrs. Belvin said last night that her husband might have gone to see a friend off on some steamer, and have been carried to sea,” said The Times.

The mystery was only partially solved on December 13, two weeks after Belvin’s disappearance, when he returned home.  The New York Times reported “One of his sons said yesterday that Mr. Belvin was unable to tell what had happened since he left his store at noon on Nov. 30, except that on Tuesday last he found himself in St. Augustine, Fla.  He wrote home at once, and the letter was received on Thursday.”

After mailing the letter, Belvin boarded a train to Brooklyn.  “Young Mr. Belvin denied that his father had ever had any mental trouble, and professed to be ignorant of any motive for his going away.”

Other than Belvin’s tobacco office, the tenants tended to be engaged in foods or medicines.   Knapp’s Extract Company manufactured concentrated root beer syrup; and the Pre-Digested Food Co. made and sold Paskola, a “pre-digested starch food.”  An article in The New York Times on February 10, 1894 remarked “Comparatively few people outside the highest medical circles know of this wonderful discovery, but it is known to possess the qualities of flesh-forming, strength-imparting, life-giving power which has never been known before in the history of the world.”

Knapp's suggested "Make the Rootbeer at Home"  The Evening World, July 18, 1893 (copyright expired)

The firm quoted an anonymous doctor “situated in one of the best parts of Fifth Avenue,” as saying “This wonderful preparation is taken during the meals just as it is put up…It requires no digesting when it enters the stomach.   In this way Paskola imparts strength to the weak, and makes thin, fragile persons plump and robust.”

In 1902 Mother Siegel’s Syrup Co. moved in.  Incorporated in December 1901, the firm was connected with the A. J. White Company, Ltd. in London.    In listing the officers of the firm in 1904, the American Newspaper Publishers’ Association’s Bulletin noted “All connected with the above are people of high standing.”

The sales offices of Worcester Salt Company were in the building by 1908.  Its salt works were located at Silver Springs, New York, and that year it produced 500,000 barrels of salt.   An advertisement in Chicago’s Dairy Produce in 1911 boasted “It takes the best to make the best.” 

The salt firm’s choice of location made perfect sense; for by now the area was filling with the city’s egg and butter firms.  Another advertisement promised dairy merchants “The quickness with which Worcester dissolves protects you against mottled butter and then, too, the peculiarly clean, sweet flavor of Worcester Salt is a decided factor in making it the choice of all buttermakers.”

By 1910 Manley & James, manufacturers of proprietary medicines and preparations had joined Worcester Salt, Mother Seigel’s Syrup, and Knapp Extract in the building.   They would all still be here at least through 1912.  But in 1915 No. 168 had an especially unlikely tenant—electrical engineer and manufacturer of wireless apparatus William Dubilier. 

Dubilier was sent to France in 1915 to help the British and French Governments develop submarine detectors.   “They had already succeeded in detecting a submarine’s approach at a distance of five miles, but were bothered by other sounds under water.”  Dublier and another scientist were successful in filtering out the sounds of large vessels.  By the time he returned to New York “we were able to detect the presence of a submarine fifty miles away,” he told reporters.

William Dubilier came home to work at No. 168 Duane Street on another project.  “He has returned to make a wireless apparatus with a low aerial for use in the trenches,” reported The New York Times on October 2, 1915.

Following the war, the building was filled with a variety of dairy and food firms—Ficken, Ullman & Co., butter dealers; dairy agents H. W. Bender Co., who represented firms like the MacLaren Imperial Cheese Co. of Detroit; A. J. White Ltd, patent medications; and Carvalho Cap & Closure Co., manufacturers of bottle caps were all here in 1918.

The Pharmacal Advance was published from No. 168 Duane Street by 1920. Called “A Journal devoted to Progressive Pharmacy and Practical Therapeutics,” it printed articles on issues like Chinese medicine, wound dressings, preventing goiters, and ringworm.  It also liberally advertised for other tenants of the building; suggesting that it was a joint publication.

Like other tenants, Menley & James Ltd advertised in Pharmacal Advance.(May 1920, copyright expired)  

In May 1920 the second through fourth floors were vacant—the rent for each advertised at $7,500 per year.   But they did not remain vacant for long.  Juan A. Babcock, wholesale butter and eggs merchant moved in that month.    The building was now filled with butter and egg dealers; Ficken, Ullman & Co. was still here, having changed its name to Ficken, Coffin & Co. in 1919.

In the early 1930s Carl Ahlers, Inc. a “poultry, butter and egg concern,” moved in.  In the fall of 1945 the Ahlers business and, indeed,  the cherished tradition of thousands of Americans was in jeopardy.    A push was made by the International Brotherhood of Teamsters and Chauffeurs in mid-November to unionize the employees of Carl Ahlers, Inc.

When things did not progress as the union demanded, it picketed the Delaware, Lackawanna & Western Railroad pier at Cortlandt Street.  Shipments into and out of the facility ground to a halt.  A week later it appeared that more than 10,000 turkeys would not make it to the first Thanksgiving dinners since the end of World War II.

At the eleventh hour the union caved.  Arthur Dorf, secretary-treasurer of Local 202 told reporters “We are lifting the picket lines for the sake of the public so they may enjoy the first real Thanksgiving in years.”  But he added a veiled threat.  “We will return soon, stronger and better than ever.”

Carl Ahlers, Inc. remained in the building until the early 1970s.  By now the Tribeca neighborhood was changing from the egg and butter district to one of trendy restaurants and high-end residences. 

In May 1987 Meile Rockefeller, the great granddaughter of John D. Rockefeller, Jr., announced that her conversion of No. 168 Duane Street to upscale condominiums was nearly complete.  The 31-year old, who said “from very early on I wanted to build,” created six units designed by John T. Fifield Associates, completed in 1989.

Stephen Decatur Hatch’s distinctive Flemish structure is as charming and eye-catching today as it was in 1887—a successful recycling of an architectural delight.

photographs by the author

Monday, May 25, 2015

The Lost Dakota Stables - 75th Street at Amsterdam Ave

 A white-uniformed dustman heads to his two-wheels cart outside the Dakota Stables --

When the economy recovered following the Financial Panic of 1873, the Upper West Side exploded with frenzied development.   The extension of the 9th Avenue elevated train and the laying of sewer lines enhanced the desirability of the recently-rural area.

While the streets filled with handsome rowhouses and magnificent mansions appeared on the avenues, a desperate need for boarding stables arose.  As the handsome Dakota Flats was completed on Central Park West in 1885, Alfred Corning Clark laid plans for a stable building that would be as massive as it was architecturally impressive.   

He commissioned the architectural firm of  Charles Romeyn & Co. to design the structure that would stretch from Amsterdam Avenue to Broadway (called at the time “the Boulevard") along 75th Street.  Clark’s father, Edward Clark, who died in 1882, was responsible for the Dakota apartments.

The stable was completed in 1885 at a cost of $70,000—about $1.75 million today.  On June 6th that year The American Architect and Building News reported that the stables were for the use of the Dakota tenants, as well as the general public.  “This structure forms part of a scheme started some years ago by the late Edward Clark…The building is intended to afford stable accommodations for the many tenants of the estate and for the general public of the neighborhood who, until its completion, have been without such a convenience.”

American Architect and Building News, June 6, 1885 (copyright expired)

Romeyn’s regimented take on Romanesque Revival was executed in “Croton brick” and trimmed in “bluestone” and terra cotta.  The cornice and dormers were clad in pressed copper.  A square centered pavilion which contained the entrance broke through the long mansard and relieved the disciplined rows of arched openings.

The yawning arched entrance opened onto a 30 by 30 foot court lined in enameled brick.   Ramps led to the horse stalls on the second floor, and to the carriage storage area on the third where feed was also stored. 

Three years after its opening, the stable, operated by brothers Thomas P. and John A. Kelly, was the center of a messy work stoppage.   On November 30, 1888 the New-York Tribune reported that a strike had occurred the previous day by the Liberty Dawn Association, Knights of Labor.  The newspaper noted “The stables do a large business with coaches and employ between thirty and forty men.  The men say that they are sure to win.”

The strikers were horse shoers and grooms who claimed that the Kelly Brothers owed them about $400 in past due wages.  The Kellys admitted that the men were owed wages; but it was not pay day yet.  They hinted that the strike was based in racial bias.  “The story of the Kelly brothers as to the cause of the strike differs materially from that of the men,” said the Tribune two days later.

Levi Woodly was hired by the Kellys as “a sort of deputy veterinary or horse nurse.”  The Tribune noted “Woodly, who is a negro, has worked in the stables about two years.”    About a week before the walk-out, a union delegate called on Thomas Kelly “and demanded the discharge of Woodly,” as reported in the New-York Tribune on December 1.  “Mr. Kelly refused to discharge the man and a strike was the consequence.”

The union denied the charge.  Walking Delegate Fisher told the newspaper “they did not object to working with Woodly, although he is a non-union man but that he ordered a strike to force Kelly Brothers to pay their men certain arrearages of wages.”

Not intimidated, the proprietors hired replacement workers.  On November 31 two of the strikers were arrested “for assaulting the new drivers and attempting to intimidate patrons of the Kelly Brothers’ stable.”

On December 2 the union men told reporters “that Kelly Brothers are unable to get their horse[s] shot or manure hauled.”   In actuality that was not the case.  The 35 strikers who were “sure to win” found themselves looking for other employment.  On December 4 the Evening World reported that they were “out of a job, non-union men having been engaged in their places.”

Each year, as summer approached, Manhattan’s wealthy citizens prepared to leave for country estates and resorts.  Not only did trunks of clothing need to be packed, but horses and vehicles had to be shipped.  On June 22, 1894 The New York Times reported “At the Dakoa Stables, on Seventy-fifth Street and the Western Boulevard, one of the finest establishments in town, all kinds of vehicles and harness are being burnished and covered with dusters, preparatory for shipment, and by Saturday night there will be comparatively few horses remaining…Among the recent departures for the watering places and the country are Col. Rennard, who has gone to Normandie-by-the-Sea.  Col. Rennard took with him his handsome dog-cart horse and vehicle.”

Also at Normandie-by-the-Sea was lawyer John Townsend, who had taken along “a pair of handsome coachers and a Victoria.”   The Times enumerated many other wealthy patrons of the Dakota Stables, including James Otis Hoyt who sent his horses to Bellport, Long Island; John Osborne, whose four horses and “several traps” were already at his summer estate at Port Chester, New York; and George W. Swain who was at Seabright, New Jersey.  “His roadsters and runabout preceded him thither,” said the newspaper.

“Disengaged” grooms, coachmen and such were permitted to use the stables as their address when looking for employment.   On May 23, 1902 “J.C.” put an advertisement in the New-York Tribune: “Coachman—Aged 30; height 5 feet 6 inches; weight 160 pounds; first class city driver; no objection to country or seashore.”   And on October 5, 1904 “H. B.” advertised “Coachman—Married, 30; height 5 feet 8 inches; private family; good written and personal references.”

The Clark family sold the Dakota Stables in February 1902 to the Atlantic Realty Company.  The New-York Tribune suggested that the 17-year old structure might be torn down.  “It could not be learned yesterday if the property was to be improved,” it reported on February 24.

As automobiles replaced horses, rumors about the impending demolition of the Dakota Stables continued.  On June 22, 1906 The New York Times reported that the Century Realty Company and United States Realty and Improvement Company had sold the building to William Crawford for $325,000.  Two days later the New-York Tribune opined “It is likely that this large site will be used for a high class apartment house.”

The newspaper was about five years premature in its assessment.   The Dakota Stables, while holding on to its name, was converted to an automobile and taxi-cab garage.   Edison Monthly advised that electric vehicle mechanical and battery parts could be obtained there.

But while electric automobiles were commonplace, the Dakota Stables was embarking on an untested venture—the gasoline-powered cab.  On April 10, 1907 The Horseless Age reported that the Dakota Stables was testing a new-fangled concept by Frayer-Miller Automobile Company—a “four cylinder air cooled gasoline cab which follows very closely the general arrangements of the ordinary hansom.”

The Dakota Stables tested the new "gasolene hansom" -- The Motor World, April 11, 1907 (copyright expired)

The magazine noted that the Dakota Stables had been using the vehicle “on trial for some two months” and added “as far as we know, this is the first gasoline cab to be used in this country.”  The following day The Motor World said that the new gasoline cabs “radiating from the Dakota stables” had proved so satisfactory that “the makers are preparing to put out the vehicle in large quantities within a short time.”

It was most likely an electric cab, not the Frayer-Miller model, that caused calamity on the night of January 16 that year.   Cabbie Harry Green was heading to the theater district to pick up a Broadway actress.  “Inside of the machine was the actress’s maid,” reported the New-York Tribune the following day.

As Green entered the intersection of Broadway and 53rd street shortly before midnight, James Cody attempted to cross the street.  He walked directly into the path of Green’s taxi.  According to the Tribune, “Green swerved his car to one side, but the wheels skidded and the machine struck the man with great force.  He was hurled about fifteen feet, and then the machine ran over him.”

Green stopped the car and a crowd immediately gathered around the wounded man.  “The maid ordered them to lift him into the automobile.”  The take-charge maid helped carry the man into the hospital, where he died on the operating table.  “Upon learning of the death, the maid left the hospital, refusing to give her name of the name of her employer.”

Green telephoned the Dakota Stables to report the accident to his employers; then called the police.  He waited there until the police arrived and arrested him for homicide.

In September 1910 plans were filed by architects Radcliffe & Kelly to professionally convert the old stable to an automobile garage.  The $12,000 project included changing the façade at the first floor “by installing show windows and the interior remodeled.”

But only a year later reports of demolition arose again.  On May 13, 1911 The Sun said “The old Dakota Stable property…is to be reimproved, according to a story heard yesterday on the West Side.”  The newspaper said the property “would make an ideal site for an apartment house.  This is an apartment house district, and although the nature of the improvement was not announced, it will very likely be a high class apartment house in keeping with nearby structures.”

This time the newspapers got it right.  By February 1912 the site of the Dakota Stables was a vacant lot.  Adjacent lots were acquired to accommodate the massive apartment building that replaced it; now renovated as the Hotel Beacon.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Self Promotion! Dates of June Events

I promised a reader not long ago that I would publish a schedule of upcoming talks, tours, and such.

True to my word, below are the book events I will be doing in June:

Tuesday, June 16: 6:30 p.m.

The General Society of Mechanics & Tradesmen of the City of New York
20 West 44th Stret
New York, New York  10036

Wednesday, June 17:  4:30 p.m.

Village Alliance Annual Meeting
Amalgamated Lithographers Local 1
113 University Place, 4th Fl
New York, NY  10003

Monday, June 22: 6:30 p.m.

 Mid-Manhattan Library
455 Fifth Avenue
New York, New York  10016

Saturday, May 23, 2015

The Sternberger House -- No. 837 Madison Avenue

On April 24, 1884 John D. Crimmins sold Mayer Sternberger the lot at No. 837 Madison Avenue, between 69th and 70th Street.   The $24,000 price Sternberger paid for the plot (almost $600,000 today), reflected the upscale tone of the neighborhood.  The mansions appearing on Madison Avenue vied with those of Fifth Avenue, just a block away.

The wealthy merchant commissioned the firm of Thom & Wilson to design his new home.  The architects turned to the recently-popular Queen Anne style to produce a five-story confection.  The asymmetrical design—nearly required in the style—melded brick and stone in a feast of angles and shapes.  A generous bay culminated in a deep balcony; a slightly projecting bay above it morphed into a gable that thrust through the cornice into the fish-scaled mansard roof.  Thom & Wilson treated each set of openings differently.

As Sternberger’s house rose, department store owner Isaac Stern began construction of his mansion next door at No. 835.  Stern’s architect, William Schickel, created a harmonious Queen Anne structure.  But the completed Sternberger house would be more fanciful than its slightly wider neighbor.

The Sternberger house (left) was less uptight than its next door neighbor.

Soon after the house was completed, Mayer Sternberger died.  His widow, Henrietta, sold it in 1886 to Georgiana E. Arnold.  The new owner, like Henrietta, was recently widowed.  Richard Arnold had died earlier that year.  A partner in the Arnold, Constable & Co. department store, he had amassed a large fortune.

Following Georgiana’s period of mourning she resumed living quietly in high style.  On March 19, 1892 she placed an advertisement in The Sun that read “Lady leaving for Europe desires situation for her coachman; can thoroughly recommend him both as coachman and useful man in house; sober, willing, and obliging.”

Like most socialites, she immersed herself in charitable causes as well.  She was a founder and continued supporter of the Babies’ Hospital on Lexington Avenue at 55th Street.

A devoted Episcopalian, Georgiana was a member of the fashionable Fifth Avenue St. Thomas’s Church.   When, in 1895, former pastor Frederick Courtney revisited New York from Canada with his wife and daughter they were her house guests.   It was somewhat of a social coup, at least among wealthy EpiscopaliansCourtney had risen to the rank of Lord Bishop of Nova Scotia.

On the afternoon of January 31 that year Georgiana Arnold gave a reception for the Courtneys.  “The Vassar Students’ Aid Society, of which Mrs. Arnold is an honorary member, was present in a body.  Many members of St. Thomas’s Church, of which the Bishop was at one time pastor, were also present,” reported The Sun.

Georgiana’s connection with the church was furthered when, in 1899, she married the Rev. C. Harvey Hartman, rector of St. John’s Episcopal Church in Dover, New Jersey.    Hartman’s church was 31 miles west of New York City, necessitating the couple’s dividing their time between the Madison Avenue house and Dover.

It was in New Jersey that Georgiana died on May 18, 1903.  Services for the wealthy and devout socialite would be complex.   A funeral was held in the Dover church on Wednesday, May 20.  The New-York Tribune reported “At the end of the services the body was taken to Mrs. Hartman’s home, No. 837 Madison-ave., this city.”  The following day another funeral service was held in the house at 1:00; then the body was removed to St. Thomas’s Church for a 2:00 service.

“A special train carried the body to Woodlawn,” reported the New-York Tribune.

A year and a day after Georgiana’s death, on Thursday May 19, 1904, the Madison Avenue mansion was sold at auction.  It was not until June 21 that the buyer, Allister Greene, was identified by newspapers.

If Greene lived in the house at all, it was not for long.  By 1907 No. 837 Madison Avenue was home to the family of the esteemed homeopathic physician Walter Gray Crump.  He was a member of New York University’s medical staff and First Vice President of the Obstetrical Society.  Both an obstetrician and a gynecologist, Crump’s medical papers were widely read.  He tested his theories in controlled clinical experiments and routinely announced his findings at medical conventions.

In 1907 the New York City sanitation workers went on strike.  New York City had recently prided itself on the cleanliness of its streets—a stark contrast to the conditions a few decades earlier.   Now citizens were faced with rotting garbage and stench.  The unpleasant situation turned fearful when Walter G. Crump added his opinion.

For years the theory that “foul air” contributed to disease held sway.  Now Crump saw dead dogs and cats in the gutters and was positive they had died from “the poisonous fumes from the decomposing garbage.”  He suggested that the sanitation workers did not realize the danger their strike presented, and that the normal citizen did not know the danger he was in.  He announced “no one can realize what a serious thing this is unless he understands the situation thoroughly from a medical point of view.”

The third-floor balcony is protected by a fanciful railing.  Disparate carvings over the windows here depict a child's face, at the left, and a basket of fruit to the right.  The complex iron ornament above the gable suggests the cresting that once lined the roof.
By 1910 Crump was attending surgeon at six hospitals.  But his surgical career nearly came to an end in November that year.  He was operating on a charity case in Flower Hospital, removing an abdominal abscess.  During the procedure matter from the infected area splashed into his right eye.  “When Dr. Crump got home that evening he complained of extreme pain in the eye,” reported the New-York Tribune.

An eye specialist, Dr. Helen Cooley Palmer, and several nurses hurried to the Madison Avenue house.  For two weeks they remained there day and night, tending to the severe infection that threatened Crump’s sight.  A team of three other specialists consulted with Dr. Palmer.   Finally on November 17, 1910 the New-York Tribune reported “At his home last night it was said that while he was not altogether out of danger the attending physicians were hopeful of his ultimate recovery.” 

While her husband continued his medical practice, Eudora Leighton Crump’s social life included membership in the Rubenstein Club.  Founded in 1887 by William Rogers Chapman, the club was a women’s choral group that met at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel.  Their concerts there raised money for charitable causes.

One of these, in April 1917, was for the benefit of the New York Medical College and Hospital for Women.  Society pages reminded readers that “Tickets may be obtained from Mrs. W. Crump, 837 Madison avenue.”

In 1934 Albright College bestowed an honorary Doctor of Science degree on Crump.  But his interests and influence went well beyond medicine.  Crump was a trustee of Tuskegee Institute and Howard University and was active in the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

Eurodra L. Crump died in the house on October 12, 1936.  With his son, Dr. Walter Gray Crump Jr. living and practicing in Darien, Connecticut, Walter now lived on in the mansion alone with his domestic staff.
Nine years later, in March 1945 Dr. Crump, now 75-years old, became ill.  He was taken to Flower and Fifth Avenue Hospital where on May 1 he died.   By now the Madison Avenue neighborhood had radically changed.   The Stern mansion next door had sprouted a two-story storefront in 1921 and the houses to the north were replaced by a towering apartment building.

But Crump’s death was not the end of the road for the surviving Victorian rowhouse—at least not yet.  Walter Jr. maintained it as the family’s New York residence.  It was the scene on December 17, 1949 for a debutante dinner for daughter Constance Eudora Crump, who was studying at Smith College.

When Crump sold the house in April 1951 to real estate operator Frederick Brown, The New York Times noted “One of the last of the old brownstone residences along Madison Avenue between Forty-second and Seventy-second Streets still in the private-home category has just changed hands.”

No. 837 Madison Avenue would quickly fall out of the “private-home category.”  Brown resold the house a month later to attorney Irving Kirschenbaum, who sold it again in December to The 837 Madison Avenue Corporation.”  The syndicate announced its plans “to convert the structure into a store and small apartments” on December 21.

The stoop was removed and a storefront carved into the English basement level.  Amazingly, the entrance doors remained—normally converted to a window in similar renovations. Throughout the 20th century the ground floor shop saw a series of upscale home decorating stores.

Today Thom & Wilson’s delightful Queen Anne façade survives much intact above the storefront—a striking reminder of when this stretch of Madison Avenue boasted high-end residences.

photographs by the author

Friday, May 22, 2015

The 1899 Oliver Gould Jennings House -- No. 7 East 72nd Street

As the turn of the last century approached, Oliver Gould Jennings ranked among the wealthiest and most influential of Manhattan’s citizens.  His father, Oliver Burr Jennings, was a founder of the Standard Oil Company; and his own far-flung interests included directorships in Bethlehem Steel Corporation, McKesson and Robbins, Inc. the National Fuel Gas Company, the United States Industrial Alcohol Company, and several others.

Jennings married Mary Dows Brewster, the daughter of Benjamin and Elmina Brewster, on December 16, 1896.  Two years later, the millionaire laid plans for an impressive home for his bride.   For the site, he chose No. 7 East 72nd Street, where Caroline de Forest’s 28-foot wide brownstone home stood, just steps from Fifth Avenue and Central Park.  Next door at No. 9 the massive and elaborate Henry T. Sloane mansion had just been completed.

Architects Flagg & Chambers closely followed the lead of the Sloane mansion—matching the arched first floor openings and continuing the ebullient Beaux Arts motif.  The completed Jennings house appeared nearly as an extension of its neighbor.  Finally, on November 28, 1899, the New-York Tribune reported “Mr. and Mrs. Oliver Gould Jennings will this winter occupy their new home, No. 7 East Seventy-second st.”

When Architectural Record published this photo in 1901, the lot next door was still vacant  (copyright expired)

As with all the grand city mansions, No. 7 was opened only during the winter season--about five months each year.  At other times millionaires occupied their country homes, high-end resorts, and, of course, traveled abroad.  On May 28, 1911 The Sun noted “Mr. and Mrs. Oliver G. Jennings of 7 East Seventy-second street, who are now at their country place at Fairfield, Conn., will go on to Newport in July.”

Oliver and Mary retained ownership of their elegant French home for 15 years.  In April 1914 Jennings purchased the vacant plot at No. 882 Fifth Avenue between 69th and 70th Street and sold the 72nd Street house.  The New York Times reported the buyer as “the Four West Fifty-seventh Street Company, controlled by W. Emlen Roosevelt.”  Jennings had put a $325,000 price tag on the house—about $7.8 million today.

One day later the title to the mansion was passed to Frank Schlitt, “whose name frequently appears as temporary possessor of valuable New York realty,” said The New York Times.   While the new Jennings mansion was being constructed, Oliver and Mary remained in the 72nd Street house.  

The Jennings mansion was in architectural harmony with its lavish neighbor.  To the right of the Sloane residence is the home of Benjamin Guggenheim. 

On August 3, 1915 Jennings was being driven by his chauffeur near Harris Corners, around Westport, Connecticut.  On the same road was Simon J. von Der Lin, a waiter at the Hotel McAlpin.  Von Der Lin had taken his wife and 3-year old daughter for a country drive in a motorcycle with side car.  The meeting of the Jennings limousine and the open motorcycle would end badly.

Jenning’s chauffeur hogged the road and, according to von Der Lin, “forced the motor cycle so far to the side of the road that it collided with a telegraph pole.”  The toddler suffered a compound fracture of the knee, subsequent hemorrhages, and was partially paralyzed.  The waiter sued Jennings for $10,000 in damages in September.

On December 18 that year the Real Estate Record & Builders’ Guide noted that “Oliver Gould Jennings, 7 East 72d street, will soon be able to occupy the handsome dwelling being erected for him at 882 Fifth avenue.”   As Oliver and Mary Jennings moved out of the 72nd Street residence, Sumner Gerard and his wife, the former Helen Coster, moved in.

While undeniably lavish, sections of the Jennings mansion could be considered "cold."  Architectural Record 1901 (copyright expired)

The couple’s first child, James Watson Gerard, had been born a year earlier and his brother, Sumner Gerard, Jr., would be born in the house on July 15, 1916.  Another son, Casper, would come along in March, 1919.

While the Gerards were socially visible, they took active parts in political and patriotic causes.  At the age of 46 in 1920 Sumner held the rank of major in the Army Reserve Corps.   Helen was a member of the Women’s Committee of One Hundred of the Serbian Child Welfare Association.  As the group pushed to collect funds for relief efforts, Helen Sumner was a major player.  On January 2, 1921 the New-York Tribune noted “The most ambitious affair will be a bridge to be held at the residence of Mrs. Sumner Gerard, 7 East Seventy-second Street, on Tuesday, January 11.”

While attending the Hyde Ball in 1905, Sumner Gerald posed for a photograph.  He buttoned his tuxedo trousers above the calf for the shot.  Photograph by Byron Co. from the collection of the Museum of the City of New York

A year later, on January 4, she invited 100 women into the house to discuss fund raising for the Woodrow Wilson Foundation.  The foundation was “organized to perpetuate the memory and ideals of the former President.”

Within four years the Gerards were gone from No. 7 East 72nd Street, replaced by the Henry Ingersoll Riker family.  A member of one of New York’s oldest families, Henry and his wife, the former Mary Jackson, had three children: John, Mary, and Henry, Jr.  Like Mary Jennings, one of Mary Riker’s favorite charities was the Babies’ Hospital and she routinely hosted meetings of the Sewing Circle of the Babies’ Hospital here.  Her husband, who had graduated from the Harvard Law School, never practiced.  The New York Times later mentioned “After a few years in Wall Street, he devoted himself to the management of his property.”

In November 1927 the 55-year old Henry Ingersoll Riker caught a cold, which quickly advanced to pneumonia.  After being sick only a few days, he died in the mansion on November 14.

One by one the Riker children would marry and leave East 72nd Street.   The first was Mary, who wed William Chandler Riker on April 26, 1930 in the Church of the Incarnation “with which for many years the Riker family has been associated,” said The New York Times.  The newspaper noted that the wedding was attended by “a representative gathering of old New York families.”

For readers who wondered about the Riker-Riker connection, The Times explained.  “The bride and bridegroom are distantly related and are descendants of Abraham Van Rycken who came from Amsterdam when New York was New Netherlands.”

The Riker sons both went on to become doctors.  John Lawrence Riker married Isadore Jean Beaudrias in 1932; and his brother married Cornelia Shepard on February 17, 1937.  Mary Jackson Riker now lived alone in the grand relic of the Gilded Age on a street much changed since the days when elegant carriages transported millionaires to and from their mansions.  She died in 1947.

At the time of Mary’s death, Frank Lloyd Wright was busy creating several designs for the Solomon R. Guggenheim art museum.   In February 1957 the Guggenheim opened in the Jennings mansion while its iconic building on Fifth Avenue was under construction.   It shared space with the Danish delegation to the United Nations.  The strange bedfellows would remain in the house until 1959, when the permanent Guggenheim museum opened.  The Danish group left within a few months.

The Jennings Drawing Room as it appeared in 1901 Architectural Record, (copyright expired)
In August 1960 the Lycee Francais de New York leased the mansion as additional facilities to its main school at Nos. 3-5 East 95th Street.  Four years later the school purchased the house along with the former Sloane mansion next door.  Walls were broken through combining the two buildings.

The school added its own touches to the Drawing Room--like fluorescent lighting and required sprinklers -- photograph by JGNY
The school retained possession of the two magnificent structures until 2010 when it sold them as a package to the Emir of Qatar for $26 million.  He commissioned architect Thornton Tomasetti to blend them into a single massive residence the likes of which even the Sloanes and the Jennings would struggle to compete with.

non-credited photographs taken by the author

Thursday, May 21, 2015

The James Kernochan House - No. 18 East 10th Street

By the 1830s Henry Brevoort’s 86-acre farm stretched between what would be 9th Street north to 18th Street, and from the Bowery to Fifth Avenue.   The Commissioners’ Plan of 1811, which, on paper, laid the regimented grid of streets and avenues across the estates of Manhattan’s aristocracy, did not sit well with the powerful and wealthy Brevoort. 

Broadway was pin-straight, running northward up the island, right through Brevoort’s orchards at 10th Street.  The commissioners caved in and Broadway made a crook, heading diagonally to the west rather than disrupt the Brevoort estate.  East 11th Street caused a problem, too, and that street would not be opened until after Henry Brevoort’s death in 1841.

Two years later construction began on Grace Church at the bend of Broadway and 10th Street.  Designed by Brevoort’s nephew, James Renwick, Jr., it was a masterpiece of Gothic Revival architecture.   The style was just emerging and represented the cutting edge in ecclesiastic and residential architecture.  It would not be long before, just two blocks away, the house at No. 18 East 10th Street began rising.

Most of the property along the block between Fifth Avenue and University Place was owned either by the Brevoort or Renwick families.  The street was lined with elegant brick or brownstone-faced Greek Revival residences.  But No. 18 was decidedly different.

Four stories of red brick sat above a brownstone English basement.   Square-headed Gothic drip moldings capped the openings and the doorway was framed in a striking Gothic entranceway.   For the staid merchant class residents of the block, the style may have been just a touch daring.

Nearby was the home of Joseph Kernochan, his wife Margaret, and their six children.  Kernochan was a wealthy dry goods merchant and banker, President of the Fulton Bank.   His son, John Adams Kernochan, was a sophomore at Columbia College in 1852 when he was honored with a “testimonial” for having “most excelled” in his studies.   The following year, on July 27, 1853, he graduated with an A. B. degree.  The scholar was again awarded a testimonial for being the graduate “who has most distinguished himself by his general proficiency in his class, and also by his general good conduct.”

Young John A. Kernochan married Charlotte Walton Ogden and the couple moved into No. 18 East 10th Street.   Kernochan entered the iron importing business and garnered what The New York Times later deemed “a large fortune.”   He was a member of the exclusive Union Club and the family maintained a summer home in Pittsfield, Massachusetts.

In 1868 Charlotte grew ill.  When the annual Liederkranz Ball at the Academy of Music was held on February 17, 1869, John was forced to attend alone.   No doubt already worried about his wife’s condition, a confrontation with a coach driver was most likely the last thing John Kernochan needed.

When the ball was over, John got into one of the coaches waiting at the curb.  Unlike a carriage, coaches were customarily used by parties of passengers and this driver was looking forward to a large fare.  “After getting inside of the coach,” related The New York Times the following morning, “the driver, finding that he had only one passenger instead of four, he, as alleged, refused to take the complainant home, but drove him to the corner of Nineteenth-street and Broadway, and there refused to go any further.”

Dressed in evening clothes Kernochan had no intention of walking the long distance home in the February cold.  He ordered the man to continue driving.  The driver then “became very abusive toward him.”   So John Kernochan had the man arrested.  He was brought before the Marshal and fined $5—about $90 today and much more than the lost fare he had been concerned about.  How Kernochan got home that night is unclear.

Charlotte’s condition deteriorated.  She was suffering from cancer of the uterus and on Sunday, May 30 that year she died.   Somewhat surprisingly, her funeral was not held in the house, but in St. Mark’s Church.  She was buried in the fashionable New York Marble Cemetery on Second Avenue.  She was just 34 years old and John was 35 at the time.

By 1872 Samuel L. Vought lived in the house and would remain at least through 1874.  He was followed by William H. Walker and his wife, Isabella.  She was a member of the nearby Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church.   But things were not going smoothly in the Walker household.   On April 19, 1884 Judge Larremore granted an absolute divorce to Isabella.

Things were a bit less rocky for Jacob Ewing Ward and his wife, the former Mary Kitchell who moved in by 1895.    Called by The Adjuster a descendant of “one of the oldest and most respected of New Jersey families,” Ward’s family had been in New Jersey since Josiah Ward helped settle Newark in 1666.  Following his graduation from Rutgers College in1875, he practiced law, eventually being appointed assistant counsel for The Prudential.  He was also a partner in the Madison Aqueduct Company, incorporated in 1872.

Living in the house with the Wards was Mary’s mother, Mrs. Ambrose E. Kitchell.  The women partnered in their entertainments, announcing their mutual “at homes” in the society pages.    Their stay on East 10th Street would be relatively brief.  In 1897 the Social Register listed them a block away at No. 47 West 11th Street.

At the turn of the century the house was owned by lawyer and journalist Arthur Sedgwick and his wife.  The author of several legal treatises, he was long associated with the Nation and was at one time co-editor with Oliver Wendell Homes of The American Law Review.  Not everyone viewed Sedgwick favorably.  Boston publisher Dana Estes called him an “egotistic marplot.”

In June 1902 Hettie Sherman Evarts Beaman leased the house.   She was the eldest daughter of William Maxwell Evarts, Secretary of State under President Hayes.  Her husband, Charles Cotesworth Beaman, who had died the previous year, had been a partner in the legal firm of Evarts, Choate & Beaman.   His impressive background included his appointment in 1870 as the first Solicitor General of the United States.

Almost two decades earlier, Charles Beaman was taken with the talents of a young artist, Augustus Saint-Gaudens.  In 1885 he rented Saint-Gaudens his summer house in Cornish, New Hampshire.  In trade for the first summer’s rent, he commissioned a bronze bas relief of his son.   In 1894 Beaman commissioned another bronze portrait; this one of himself.  With the money from this work Saint-Gaudens was able to purchase from Beaman the estate named Aspet.

The bronze portrait of Beaman afforded Saint-Gaudens the means to purchase his New Hampshire estate -- Smithsonian American Art Museum
With Hettie in the 10th Street house was her unmarried brother-in-law, 53-year old William Stacy Beaman.  He, too, was a lawyer with Evarts, Coate & Beaman at No. 80 Maiden Lane.  A member of the Harvard Club, he was still in the house in 1917 when he reported to his fellow alumni, “Have continued in the practice of law with office address and residence unchanged.  Voted for Woodrow Wilson’s re-election.”

In May that year Hettie Sherman Beaman died at the home of her daughter in Boston at the age of 65.  William Stacy Beaman left the East 10th Street house by November 1920 when L. J. Praeger leased it “for the season.”   Praeger rented the house for at least two more winters.

The house that had seen the comings and goings of wealthy attorneys, bankers and writers became home to the liberally-bent Civic Club by 1927.  On January 29 that year S. Stanwood Menken, head of the National Security League, spoke to a meeting of the Teachers’ Union here.

“Teachers have a right to hold their academic views and express them freely,” he told the assembly, “irrespective of Boards of Education or State authorities of any kind.  No man is good enough to be another man’s thinker.”

When asked what a teacher who believed in evolution should do, considering the ongoing Scopes Trial in Tennessee, Menken said he would “teach what he wanted to or go to jail for it.”

When anarchists Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti were sentenced to death in 1927, the Civic Club joined other organizations nationwide in dissent.  A protest meeting was held on Friday night, April 15 in the house.   Things had not calmed down by October.   When the Fifth Avenue Restaurant discovered that the “literary gathering” of Le Cercle Victor Hugo scheduled for October 18 was in actuality a symposium titled “Sacco and Vanzetti: What Shall We Do?” it canceled the space.  The organization quickly changed the meeting to the Civic Club, which was happy to oblige.

Although the Civic Club continued to host controversial speakers—like Professor I. Z. Steinberg who lectured on “Trotsky’s Exile and the Future of the Revolution” in 1928—many other topics were on the arts and literature.  But the Club never shied away from protecting basic freedoms.

In 1919 a Queens mother, Mary Ware Dennett, had written a short essay to instruct her two adolescent sons about sex.  When it came to the attention of certain doctors and educators, they wanted copies.  Now a grandmother, Mrs. Dennett published “The Sex Side of Life,” a pamphlet for the instruction of children.

The Y. M. C. A. purchased several hundred copies and it was endorsed and printed by The Medical Review of Reviews.  But on April 29, 1929 Federal Judge Warren B. Burrows fined her $300 and found her guilty “of sending obscene literature through the mails.”

Mary Ware Dennett refused to admit guilt, refused to pay the fine, and was poised to be sent to jail.  “Thousands of intelligent, decent citizens have endorsed my pamphlet during the eleven years it has been distributed,” she told reporters.  “Of the many editorials concerning it that have come to me, not one contains adverse criticism.  Surely the press and these thousands of citizens cannot all be wrong.”

The American Civil Liberties Union held a meeting at the Civic Club the same day that the judge’s opinion came down.  The Mary Ware Dennett Defense Committee was organized, “composed of prominent attorneys, physicians, clergymen and educators,” reported The New York Times.  “The committee, it was announced, will carry the appeal to the Supreme Court of the United States if necessary.”

In 1955 a study and lunch room were installed in the basement level, a library and study on the parlor floor, and two apartments on each upper floor.  The house was converted to one spacious apartment per floor in 1977; and today there is a duplex apartment in the basement and first floor; and a triplex above.  The three-story co-op was listed recently for $9.25 million.

The striking Gothic Revival entrance survives.  The many-paneled door is an Edwardian replacement.

At some point in the 19th century the house was slightly updated with a new cornice and Italianate ironwork.  Sadly, the wonderful moldings over the windows were shaved flat sometime during the 20th century.   But the striking Gothic entrance which sets No. 18 apart from its Greek Revival neighbors still survives—a relatively rare appearance of the style in Manhattan residential architecture.

photographs by the author