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Title: Old Buildings of New York
       With Some Notes Regarding Their Origin and Occupants

Author: Anonymous

Release Date: September 23, 2019 [EBook #60342]

Language: English

Character set encoding: UTF-8


Produced by ellinora, Charlie Howard, and the Online
Distributed Proofreading Team at (This
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Transcriber’s Note

Cover created by Transcriber by adding a photograph from the original book to the Title Page of the original book. The result remains in the Public Domain.

Old Buildings
New York City




Copyright, 1907, by Brentano’s



Number Seven State Street 19
Fraunces’s Tavern 23
Sub-Treasury and Assay Office 27
Bank of New York 29
St. Paul’s Chapel 33
City Hall 39
Astor Library 43
Langdon House 45
St. Mark’s Church 49
Rutherfurd House 53
Keteltas House 57
Residence of Eugene Delano 59
First Presbyterian Church 61
Former Residence of the Late James Lenox 63
Former Residence of the Late Robert B. Minturn 65
Grace Church 67
Society Library 69
Cruger House 73
Abingdon Square 77
Gramercy Square 81
Residence of John Bigelow 83
Former Residence of the Late Luther C. Clark 85
Former Residence Of the Late James W. Gerard 87
“The Players”—Former Home of Edwin Booth 91
Former Residence of the Late Samuel J. Tilden 936
Former Residence of the Late Rev. Dr. H. W. Bellows 97
Former Residence of the Late Dr. Valentine Mott 99
Rectory of Calvary Parish 101
Former Residence of the Late Stanford White 103
Former Residence of the Late Cyrus W. Field and the Late David Dudley Field 105
Former Residence of the Late Peter Cooper and the Late Abram S. Hewitt 107
General Theological Seminary 111
Former Residence of the Late William C. Schermerhorn 115
Church of the Transfiguration 117
Residence of J. Pierpont Morgan 121
Former Residence of the Late Theodore A. Havemeyer 123
Former Residence of the Late Senator Edwin D. Morgan 125
The Old Arsenal 127
Claremont 129
Hamilton Grange 139
Jumel House 143
Gracie House 151
Gouverneur Morris House 157
Van Cortlandt House 167
Bowne House 171
Billop House 175


Old Buildings
New York City




Recently a writer in a periodical stated that “No one was ever born in New York.” It can be safely said that this is an exaggeration. Nevertheless it showed the confidence of the writer that the statement was not likely to startle his readers very greatly.

Probably not one in a hundred of the men in the street know or care anything about the town of fifty or sixty years ago. Still the number of those who were familiar with it then is large, however small in comparison with the whole number. In fact, the number of those whose predecessors were living here when there were not more than a thousand people in the whole place is much greater than is generally supposed.

It was for people belonging to the two latter classes that these pictures were taken. They may even interest some who have known the town for only a generation.

When a man has traversed the streets of a city for fifty years, certain buildings become familiar landmarks. He first saw them perhaps on trudging to school with his books, and has seen them nearly every day since. He experiences a slight shock whenever such buildings are destroyed. There appears something wrong in the general aspect of the town. Of late years these shocks10 have followed one another so continuously that he may well wonder whether he is living in the same place.

It occurred to the writer that it would do no harm to preserve the pictures of some of the landmarks still standing, especially as they are getting fewer in number all the time, and may shortly disappear altogether.

He regrets that he is unable to show a photographic presentment of many buildings that have disappeared in the last fifty years, or even during the life of the present generation. Some buildings that had a certain historical interest have been razed in the last twenty-five years, as, e. g., the Kennedy house,1 No. 1 Broadway, taken down to make way for the Washington Building, overlooking the Battery Park, or the old Walton house2 in Pearl Street near Franklin Square, removed in 1881, or the Tombs prison, removed in 1899.

11 Among buildings that will be recalled to memory by the older citizens it would have been a satisfaction to have been able to show pictures of the Brick (Presbyterian) Church, that stood, with its yard, on Park Row, taking in the block bounded by Spruce, Nassau, and Beekman streets; or Burton’s Theater in Chambers Street; the Irving House, later Delmonico’s, on the corner of Broadway and the same street; of the old New York Hospital on Broadway near Thomas Street, standing far back with its beautiful lawn and grand old trees; of the St. Nicholas Hotel near Spring Street; of the old Coster mansion (later a Chinese museum), built of granite in the style of the Astor House, near Prince Street; and Tiffany’s place across the way, with the same Atlas upholding the clock over the door; of the Metropolitan Hotel on the next block with Niblo’s Garden; of Bleecker Street with Depau Row;3 of Bond Street with the large Ward (later Sampson) residence on the corner; the Russell residence on the corner of Great Jones Street; the famous old New York Hotel; the Lorillard mansion at Tenth Street; the large brownstone residence of Judge James Roosevelt, near Thirteenth Street, famous for the hospitality of its owners, and the red brick residence of Cornelius V. S. Roosevelt, grandfather of the President, on the corner12 of Union Square, having the entrance on Broadway.

The older resident can recall Union Square when the buildings were nearly all private residences, conspicuous among which were the Parish house on the north side and the Penniman (later the Maison Dorée) on the south. He can recall the stately appearance of Fourteenth Street westward of Union Square: the Haight residence on the corner of Fifth Avenue and Fifteenth Street, with its large winter garden;4 the brownstone house of Colonel Herman Thorn in Sixteenth Street, west of the avenue, standing in its wide grounds (now nearly filled by the New York Hospital); the residence of Mr. and Mrs. August Belmont (so long leaders in society), on the avenue, at the corner of Eighteenth Street, extending with its picture gallery a long distance on the street; the Stuart residence, which shared the block above Twentieth Street with a church; and then the Union Club house at Twenty-first Street. Perhaps of all the landmarks taken down during the time of the present generation, none was so well known as the Goelet house at Broadway and Nineteenth Street, with the grounds extending eastward toward Fourth Avenue. Thousands of people passed every day in the short stretch between the two squares. Mr. Peter Goelet’s penchant for rare and beautiful birds was a never-ending delight to every passing child and adult, and13 a number were always standing gazing past the iron railing. Peacocks white and blue, Chinese golden pheasants, and many other varieties found a comfortable home in the grounds.

The appearance of the entire city now gives the impression of life and bustle. With the exception of Gramercy Square and Irving Place, there is hardly a spot in the lower part of the city that now has any appearance of repose. Thirty years ago the city presented a wholly different aspect. Fifth Avenue, from Washington to Madison Square, was, in the opinion of the writer, one of the finest residence streets anywhere. At most hours of the day the people on the sidewalks were comparatively few and there was a very small proportion of business wagons and trucks that used the roadway as compared with the numbers that do so to-day. University Place was a street of nearly the same character, as was also Second Avenue from Seventh Street to Stuyvesant Square. This street had a charm of its own. Lined as it was on either side with spacious residences, it gave the impression of a street of homes. The façades of the largest houses were simple and unpretentious, forming a marked contrast to some of the houses uptown to-day.

As regards the matter of repose, it may be said that twenty-five years ago the palm would clearly have been given to Lafayette Place. This short street also had a character of its own. From the Langdon house on the east side near Astor Place to old St. Bartholomew’s14 Church at Great Jones Street, and from the Langdon (Wilks) house on the west side to the Schermerhorn house opposite the church, almost every building had its individuality. The street was marred by three or four ancient buildings, which for some reason were not removed, such as the stable between the Langdon house and the Astor Library, once the favorite Riding Academy. The Library still (1906) stands, as does a part of the old Colonnade, but an earthquake could hardly have wrought greater changes than has the march of trade.

The large mansion of the first John Jacob Astor stood separated from the Library by a gateway and broad alley reaching to the stables in the rear. Adjoining was a group of houses of the style of those in Washington Square, broad and “high-stooped.” Opposite, on the corner of Fourth Street, stood a church whose portico of granite Ionic columns (each a monolith brought with great trouble from Maine) was one of the wonders of the town. Almost adjoining was the Swan residence, since converted into the Church House of the diocese, and then the Colonnade with its long row of granite Corinthian columns, considered a marvel in its day. Next to these was the “English basement” house of the late Charles Astor Bristed, with arch and driveway leading to the rear, and on the corner the Langdon (Wilks) house, when it was built, the finest in town. Being a short street, blocked at one end and leading only to Astor Place at the other, the drivers of very15 few vehicles ever took the trouble to turn into it, except the driver of a private carriage, perhaps a closed coach drawn by heavy horses (for the cobble stones were rough); the coachman on a vast hammercloth embellished with fringes and tassels, as was frequently seen forty years ago, the footman sometimes standing behind, his hands grasping two leather loops to hold himself in place. So quiet was the street that on a pleasant afternoon the youngsters who dwelt in the neighborhood carried on their game of ball undisturbed. Perhaps it was this feature of quiet repose which suggested the suitability of establishing there the Library, the churches, the Columbia College Law School, and the Church House.

The writer might go on and refer extensively to other ancient streets and the changed aspect of other places throughout the city, but that is not his present purpose.

There are a few old landmarks that are likely to stand, for example the City Hall, in the opinion of some the most successful building, as to architectural design, in the country.

Abandoned to materialism as the city is and lacking sentiment, nevertheless any proposal to take down the City Hall, or even to alter it ever so slightly, meets with vigorous protests.5

16 Possibly people might object if it were proposed to destroy St. Paul’s Chapel, the oldest church edifice in the city, and so with a few other buildings; but the majority of the landmarks must go and hideous skyscrapers arise, “monuments to greed” as they have been termed, half ruining adjacent properties.

It was with a view of preserving the appearance of some of these landmarks that may be torn down any day that these pictures were taken. Endeavor has been made to present those that have been in existence about fifty years. With two exceptions the buildings represented are now (1906) standing.

Mistakes and errors no doubt appear in the text, and these the writer would be glad to correct. The notes in no sense profess to be thorough. They are, for the most part, mere skeletons of what may be said upon the subjects dealt with.



Number Seven State Street


This house was built by Moses Rogers, a prominent merchant of the latter part of the eighteenth and the first part of the nineteenth century. He was a native of Connecticut, his mother being a daughter of Governor Fitch of that State. He was in business as early as 1785 at 26 Queen (Pearl) Street. In 1793 the firm name was Rogers & Woolsey, his partner being William Walter Woolsey, his brother-in-law, Mr. Rogers having married Sarah Woolsey, a sister of the wife of President Dwight of Yale College. In that year he was living at 272 Pearl Street, near Beekman, “in a large house with hanging garden extending over the yard and stable.”6

Mr. Rogers was a merchant of high character and public spirit. In 1793 he was an active member of the Society for the Manumission of Slaves. He was a governor of the New York Hospital from 1792 to 1799, and in 1797 treasurer of the City Dispensary. From 1787 until 1811 he was a vestryman of Trinity Church, and in 1793 was a member of the Society for the Relief of Distressed Prisoners.7

20 In the year 1806 he was living in the house here presented. His sister had married the celebrated merchant and ship owner, Archibald Gracie. His children were: (1) Sarah E. Rogers, who married the Hon. Samuel M. Hopkins; (2) Benjamin Woolsey Rogers, who married Susan, daughter of William Bayard; (3) Archibald Rogers, who married Anna, daughter of Judge Nathaniel Pendleton; and (4) Julia A. Rogers, who married Francis Bayard Winthrop.8 In the year 1826 Benjamin Woolsey Rogers was living in the next house, Number Five State Street, but after his father’s death he moved to Number Seven and lived there until 1830.9 William P. Van Rensselaer, grandson of General Stephen Van Rensselaer, married successively two of the daughters of Mr. Rogers. The house during the ownership of the Rogers family was the scene of many notable entertainments. These entertainments were frequently referred to by older members of society who have now passed away. In 1830 the house was occupied by Gardiner G. Howland.

The queerly shaped front was to a certain extent a necessity. State Street takes a sharp turn and the house was built at the apex of an angle. The interior was doubtless an improvement on other houses. The ceilings21 were high, and the staircase, instead of being in the hall as in older houses, is at the side. It is winding, of an oval design, with mahogany balustrade. The skylight was of stained glass, made in England, showing the coat of arms.

During the Civil War, the house was taken by the Government for military uses, and afterwards became the office of the Pilot Commissioners.

It is now the house of the mission of Our Lady of the Rosary.



Fraunces’s Tavern


In the year 1671 Col. Stephen Van Cortlandt built a cottage on the corner of Broad and Pearl (then Queen) streets, to which he brought his bride, Gertrude Schuyler. The house overlooked the waters of the river and bay. In the year 1700 he deeded this property to his son-in-law, Etienne de Lancey, probably wishing to retire to his manor on the Hudson. De Lancey was a French Huguenot of rank who had left his native country on the revocation of the edict of Nantes. He came to New York where he established himself as a merchant. On these premises he built a hip-roofed mansion several stories in height, of small yellow bricks imported from Holland. In dimensions and arrangement it ranked among the best in the colony. The property descended through his son James to his grandson Oliver. This part of the town having by that time become the business quarter in 1757, the house was abandoned as a residence and became the warehouse of De Lancey, Robinson & Co. On January 17, 1762, the building was transferred to Samuel Fraunces, who converted it into a tavern under the name of the “Queen’s Head,” and announced that dinner would be served daily at half-past one. In April, 1768,24 in the long room, the Chamber of Commerce was inaugurated with John Cruger as president.

On November 25, 1783, the day of the evacuation of the British, a grand banquet was given by Governor Clinton to General Washington and the French minister, Luzerne, and in the evening the “Queen’s Head” and the whole town were illuminated. More than a hundred generals, officers, and distinguished personages attended the banquet and thirteen toasts were drunk commemorative of the occasion. Ten days later Washington here met his generals for the last time. After a slight repast Washington filled his glass and addressed his officers as follows: “With a heart full of love and gratitude, I must now take my leave of you. I most devoutly wish that your latter days may be as prosperous and happy as your former ones have been glorious and honorable.”10 In silence his former companions then took a final farewell of their chief.

This is one of the oldest buildings in the city, as the great fire of 1776 doubtless swept away most of those of earlier date. During the last century the building has gone through various vicissitudes, mostly on the descending scale. A year or two ago the ground floor was occupied by a saloon. Lately the building has been completely restored by the Sons of the Revolution and now presents very nearly its original appearance.



Sub-Treasury and Assay Office


The Sub-Treasury is built on the site of the original City Hall. In 1789 this was altered and repaired for the use of the first Congress and named the Federal Hall. The balcony of the Hall was the scene of Washington’s inauguration as President, in commemoration of which the statue was erected.

In 1834 the building was demolished and the present structure erected for the Custom House and was used as such until 1862.

The Assay Office is the oldest building in Wall Street, having been built in 1823, for the New York branch of the Bank of the United States. It became the Assay Office in 1853.



Bank of New York


The oldest bank in the country is the Bank of North America in Philadelphia, incorporated by act of Congress, December, 1781, and by the State of Pennsylvania a few months afterwards. Very great losses had occurred from the repudiation of the Continental bills of credit. All the States had issued bills of their own and kept on “making experiments in finance which did not depend on specie as a basis.” Currency was expressed in pounds, shillings, and pence and the currency in circulation was a motley conglomeration of guineas, doubloons, pistoles, Johannes pieces, moidores, and sequins. Thus arose the necessity of a bank that should both assist the Government and benefit the people at large.

On February 26, 1784, a meeting of the principal merchants and citizens was held at the Merchants’ Coffee House. General Alexander McDougal was chosen chairman, and it was unanimously decided to establish a bank. Subscription books were opened at the offices of John Alsop, Broadway, Robert Bowne, Queen Street, and Nicholas Low, Water Street, and the shares were rapidly taken.

On March 15, 1784, the following officers were chosen: General Alexander McDougal, president; Samuel Franklin, Robert Bowne, Comfort Sands, Alexander30 Hamilton, Joshua Waddington, Thomas Randall, William Maxwell, Nicholas Low, Daniel McCormick, Isaac Roosevelt, John Vanderbilt, and Thomas B. Stoughton, directors; and William Seton, cashier.

The bank commenced business at what was formerly the old Walton house in St. George’s (now Franklin) Square. It stood on the east side of Queen (now Pearl) Street, almost opposite the present establishment of Harper Brothers, the publishers. The building (erected 1752) will be remembered by many people to-day as it was only taken down in 1881, but its appearance during its declining years gave a faint idea of its original dignity. In 1787 the business of the bank was moved to Hanover Square, Isaac Roosevelt having been chosen president in 1786.

In 1796 a lot was bought at the corner of Wall and William streets from William Constable for eleven thousand pounds (New York currency). Strange to say, there is no record of the dimensions of the lot, but the present building doubtless stands on part of it.

Early in 1797 steps were taken to remove the house then standing and to put up a new building, and the corner stone was laid by Gulian Verplanck, then president, on June 27th. Mr. Verplanck died in 1799 and Nicholas Gouverneur was chosen president. The corner stone of the present building was laid on September 10, 1856, and the building completed in 1858.11



St. Paul’s Chapel


This chapel built in 1764–66 is the oldest church edifice in the city. The first rector was the Rev. Dr. Barclay, who was succeeded by the Rev. Dr. Samuel Auchmuty. The steeple is in the style of one of Wren’s designs. After the burning of Trinity in 1776, it was used as the parish church. The pews that during the war held Howe, André, the officers of the army of occupation, and the young midshipman who later became King William IV were, when peace was concluded, occupied by the former “rebels” Washington, Clinton, and their followers. After his inauguration, in the Federal Hall in Wall Street, Washington and the members of both houses came in solemn procession to St. Paul’s, where services were conducted by Bishop Provost, Chaplain of the Senate, and a Te Deum was sung.

The square pew on the left with the national arms on the wall was the one used by Washington as long as New York remained the capital. The corresponding pew on the right, designated by the arms of the State, was that of Governor Clinton. On the chancel wall are marble tablets to Sir John Temple, the first British consul general, and to Colonel Thomas Barclay, the eminent loyalist, son of the Rev. Dr. Barclay, rector34 of Trinity Parish. Colonel Barclay succeeded Temple as consul general of “His Brittanick Majesty.” There is also a tablet in memory of the wife of William Franklin, Tory Governor of New Jersey, and several others. The only other reminder of pre-Revolutionary days is the gilded crest of the Prince of Wales over the pulpit canopy. As everyone knows, at the east end of the yard facing Broadway are monuments to three eminent Irishmen who rose to distinction in this country—Emmet, Montgomery, and MacNeven, one at the bar, another in the army, and the third in medicine. Emmet was the brother of the Irish martyr, Robert Emmet;12 Montgomery settled in New York before the Revolution, married a daughter of Chancellor Livingston and fell at Quebec;13 MacNeven, like Emmet, had taken35 part in the Irish rebellion of ’98, acting with him as one of the Directory of Three. Both were imprisoned36 at Fort George in Scotland. He later served in Napoleon’s army as surgeon.

George W. P. Custis, who was one of Washington’s family, spoke of St. Paul’s as being “quite out of town.” No doubt the great fire of 1776, which stopped when it got to the Chapel yard, left the Chapel standing isolated from buildings below it; but Custis, to get there from St. George’s (Franklin) Square, must have had to go some distance “down town.” It tends to show that the water front of the city was covered with buildings before the central part. The fact that the commissioners for making a plan of the future city early in the last century arranged for so many streets running to the water and for so few running north and south would also seem to indicate that they thought easy access to the rivers was of prime importance.

Mr. Astor, with his wonderful foresight, was the first man to realize that the “backbone” of the island was, in after years, to show the greatest advance in the value of real estate.



The City Hall


The plans of the architect who designed the City Hall, John McComb, were accepted in the year 1803, but the building was not completed until nine years later.

It is not always an agreeable business to devote one’s time to destroying a myth which has become lodged in the affections of the people, but sometimes it rests on so slight a foundation that there is nothing gained in keeping it alive. We have lately seen how the tradition that Washington Irving used to live in the house on the corner of Irving Place and Seventeenth Street had no foundation in fact, except that he had a nephew who lived next door. And so the story so often repeated in newspapers and guide books that the City Hall was finished in brownstone at the back because the city fathers thought that nobody of any importance would ever live to the north of it might, it seems, be set at rest, although the attempt is not made for the first time. The story reflects on the intelligence of the people of the day. The reason was economy, but not joined to deficiency of foresight.

The Common Council of that day, instead of being obtuse on the subject were quite the other way, and show by their records that they took a highly optimistic40 view of what they call the city’s “unrivaled” situation and opulence. They state their belief that in a very few years the hall that they were about to build would be the center of the wealth and population of the city. It was at first arranged to build entirely of brownstone, and the contractors got their work done as far as the basement, as can readily be seen to-day. Then the views of the Common Council underwent a change. A halt was made and McComb was requested to make an estimate of the cost in marble.

From an interesting article appearing in the Century Magazine for April, 1884, written by Mr. Edward S. Wilde, it seems that the committee’s report states: “It appears from this (the architect’s) estimate that the difference of expense between marble and brownstone will not exceed the sum of $43,750, including every contingent charge. When it is considered that the City of New York from its inviting situation and increasing opulence, stands unrivaled ... we certainly ought, in this pleasing state of things, to possess at least one public edifice which shall vie with the many now erected in Philadelphia and elsewhere ... in the course of a very few years it is destined to be the center of the wealth and population of the city. Under these impressions the Building Committee strongly recommend that the front and two end views of the new hall be built of marble.”

The corporation then authorized the use of marble on three fronts. The brownstone of the rear received41 its first coat of white paint only a few years ago, as nearly anyone who reads this can testify. In 1858 the cupola was destroyed by fire and was restored in a poor manner, but Mr. Wilde says: “Notwithstanding this change and the damage done less by time than by stupidity, the hall stands to-day unsurpassed by any structure of the kind in the country.”



Astor Library


The Astor Library was founded in accordance with the terms of a codicil to the will of the first John Jacob Astor. It was opened in 1854. His son William B. Astor added a wing to the original building (the present central portion) and presented five hundred and fifty thousand dollars to the library fund.

In 1881 another wing was added by his grandson, John Jacob Astor.



The Langdon House


This house was usually called the Langdon house, although it was never occupied by the family of that name. Mr. Walter Langdon’s house, directly opposite, was built much later. About 1845 the first John Jacob Astor wished to present his daughter, Mrs. Walter Langdon, with a city residence and built this house for her during her absence abroad. He built merely the shell of the house, and on his daughter’s return gave her the sum of thirty thousand dollars for the purpose of decorating it. Carte blanche was given to a famous decorator of that day, and he proceeded to finish it in a style hitherto unknown in the city. The result was that in the end the cost of the interior had risen to sixty thousand dollars, considered a very large sum at that time. A great deal of attention was paid to plaster and stucco ornamentation and woodwork. The most attractive feature of the house was the main staircase, which was made in England especially for the house. This staircase was rectangular and of a dark rich colored wood, was beautifully carved and of a very graceful design. It was lighted by a large stained-glass window overlooking Astor Place. The reception rooms were on the left of the main hall with a conservatory in the rear. At the right were the library, staircase,46 dining room, and offices. Mrs. Langdon, however, returned to Europe and continued to reside there until her death. Meanwhile it was arranged that the house should be occupied by her daughter, who had married an English gentleman, Mr. Matthew Wilks. Mr. and Mrs. Wilks continued to live there until the house was taken down in 1875.

The property had a frontage of about two hundred and fifty feet on both Astor Place and Lafayette Place (now Lafayette Street), from which it was shut off by a high wall. The enclosed courtyard was laid out as a garden, with large trees, and the rear was occupied by the stables. The garden contained a ring large enough for riding purposes.

Of course during the Forrest-Macready riot in 1849 the house was almost in what might be called the storm center. In the midst of it one of the servants, who thought he had secured a perfectly safe point of observation on the roof, was killed.



St. Mark’s in the Bowery


When Stuyvesant retired from office, after the British occupation, he withdrew to his “Bowerie” or farm near the site of the present church, then two miles out of town. In 1660 he built a small chapel near his house for the people of the little village that sprang up about the farm, as well as for his own family and the slaves, of whom there were about forty in the vicinity. This chapel was torn down in 1793, and the Petrus Stuyvesant of that day offered to present the ground and eight hundred pounds in money to Trinity parish if it would build a church there. This offer was accepted. In May, 1799, the church was finished and the body of it has remained intact to the present time, but there was no steeple before 1828. One pew was reserved for the governor of the State, and the corresponding pew on the other side for “Mr. Stuyvesant and family forever,”14 each pew being surmounted by a canopy.15 The negro servants (slaves) sat in the rear of the congregation.

In a vault under the chapel the governor’s body had been placed after his death, in 1672, and in 1691 the50 body of the English governor (Sloughter) was also placed there.

In building the church Stuyvesant’s remains were removed and placed in a vault beneath the walls of the new edifice. The stone which may be seen fastened to the outer wall bears the following inscription: “In this vault lies buried Petrus Stuyvesant, late Captain General and Governor in Chief of Amsterdam in New Netherlands, now called New York, and the Dutch West India Islands, died A.D. 1671–2, aged 80 years.”

In July, 1804, the church was draped in mourning for the death of Hamilton, and was so kept for six weeks.



Second Avenue
Former Residence of the Late Lewis M. Rutherfurd


Lewis M. Rutherfurd was one of the most noted astronomers that this country has produced. As a young man, he began the study of the law with William H. Seward, and was admitted to the bar in 1837 and became associated with John Jay and afterwards with Hamilton Fish. But his tastes were entirely in the direction of science, and he decided to abandon the law and apply his attention to scientific research. With ample means, he had full opportunity to devote his life to the pursuit of his favorite study, astronomical photography. He spent several years of study in Europe and, on his return, he built an observatory in New York, the best equipped private astronomical observatory in the country. He made with his own hands an equatorial telescope and devised a means of adapting it for photographic use by means of a third lens placed outside of the ordinary object glass. He was the first to devise and construct micrometer apparatus for measuring impressions on the plate. It is said that he took such pains in the construction of the threads of the screws of his micrometer that he was engaged three years upon a single screw. He worked for many years at the photographic method of observation54 before the value and importance of his labors were recognized, but in 1865 these were fully acknowledged by the National Academy of Sciences. The remarkable results that he obtained were all secured before the discovery of the dry-plate process. His photographs of the moon surpassed all others that had been made. When overtaken by ill health he presented his instrument and photographs to Columbia College, and his telescope is now mounted in the observatory of that university.

He was an associate of the Royal Astronomical Society, president of the American Photographical Society, and was the American delegate to the International Meridian Conference at Washington in 1885, preparing the resolutions embodying the results of the labors of the conference. He received many decorations and honors from the learned societies of the world, but his dislike of ostentation was such that he was never known to wear one of the decorations, emblems, etc., that were conferred upon him.16

The Mansard roof has been added to the house since its occupation by the Rutherfurd family and the entrance removed from the avenue to the side street.

When the house and grounds of the late Hon. Hamilton Fish, on Stuyvesant Square, were sold a few years ago, it was said that there had been no transfer of the site except by devise or descent since the time of the old Governor. The same might be said of this55 property. Stuyvesant’s house, in which, it is said, the papers were signed transferring the province to the British Crown, stood close to this spot. The house is the property of Rutherfurd Stuyvesant, a son of Lewis M. Rutherfurd.



The Keteltas House


An example of an old Second Avenue dwelling, the residence of the Keteltas family on the corner of St. Mark’s Place.



Washington Square
Residence of Eugene Delano


This house was formed by uniting two of the fine old residences on the north side of Washington Square. The interior has been admirably reconstructed. The house was formerly occupied by Edward Cooper (son of the late Peter Cooper), who was, at one time, Mayor of the City.



First Presbyterian Church, Fifth Avenue


This church, representing the oldest Presbyterian organization in the city, was formed in 1716. The building was erected in 1845.



An Old Fifth Avenue House
Former Residence of the Late James Lenox


James Lenox was born in New York in 1800, and was the son of Robert Lenox, a wealthy Scotch merchant. He graduated from Columbia College in 1820 and entered upon a business life, but on the death of his father in 1839 he retired and devoted the rest of his life to study and works of benevolence. The collection of books and works of art became his absorbing passion, and eventually he gathered about him the largest and most valuable private collection of books and paintings in America. In 1870 he built the present Lenox Library. The collection of bibles is believed to be unequaled even by those in the British Museum, and that of Americana and Shakespeareana greater than that of any other American library, in some respects surpassing those in Europe. He conveyed the whole property to the City of New York. He was the founder and the benefactor of the Presbyterian Hospital.



Another Old Fifth Avenue House
Former Residence of the Late Robert B. Minturn


Prior to the Civil War, the principal merchants and bankers were among the most prominent men in the city. The multimillionaire had not then appeared. The ships of Howland & Aspinwall, N. L. & G. Griswold, A. A. Low & Brother, and Grinnell, Minturn & Co. carried the flag to the farthest quarters of the globe, where their owners’ credit stood second to none. For speed the American clipper was unsurpassed. These “vessels performed wonderful feats—as when the Flying Cloud ran from New York to San Francisco, making 433¼ statute miles in a single day; or the Sovereign of the Seas sailed for ten thousand miles without tacking or wearing; or the Dreadnought made the passage from Sandy Hook to Queenstown in nine days and seventeen hours.”17

Mr. Minturn was a philanthropist and one of the best citizens the town ever had.

The house is now the residence of Thomas F. Ryan.


Grace Church, Broadway



The Society Library


In the year 1700 the Public Library of New York was founded under the administration of the Earl of Bellomont, and seems to have progressed as the city grew, being aided from time to time by gifts from interested persons on the other side, several folio volumes now in the Society Library having been presented by friends in London in 1712, and in 1729 the Rev. Dr. Millington, rector of Newington, England, having bequeathed his library to the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts, it was presented to the New York Public Library. The library, being in charge of the corporation of the city, was evidently not managed in a manner satisfactory to the people in general. In the year 1754 it was determined that a more efficient library was a necessity. In that year the present Society Library had its origin, and what had been the Public Library of the city was incorporated with it. Mrs. John King Van Rensselaer18 states that it had its source in a movement started by Mrs. Alexander, who suggested to some of her friends that a circulating library should be established, the subscribers to collect sufficient money to send to England for the newest and best books. A list was made headed70 by Messrs. William Smith, Philip, William and Robert Livingston, John Morin Scott and William Alexander. After subscription books had been opened and the lieutenant governor (De Lancey) and council had “set their official seal” on the venture, a considerable sum was raised and an institution was regularly organized and later received a charter from Governor Tryon. Down to the time of the Revolution, the collection was constantly increased by the purchase of books, but during the Revolution, with a large part of the city destroyed by fire and what remained being under the control of a hostile army, the library suffered greatly. Mrs. Lamb19 states that “four thousand or more books disappeared at the outbreak of the Revolution and were supposed destroyed, but many were hidden away for safe-keeping and reappeared after the war.”20

In December, 1788, a meeting of the proprietors was called, trustees were elected, and the library again resumed operations.

The library was kept in a room in the Federal Hall in Wall Street and was used as the library of Congress. The first building put up for its use was on the corner71 of Nassau and Cedar streets in 1795, but the growth of the city compelling a change, a new building was erected in 1840 on the corner of Broadway and Leonard Street. The Library has occupied the present building in University Place since May, 1856.

The membership of the library has been from the start among the most prominent and respectable citizens. Many of the original shares of 1754–58 have remained in the same families to the present time, as those of the Auchmuty, Banyer, Beekman, Clarkson, Cruger, De Peyster, De Lancey, Harrison, Jones, Keteltas, Lawrence, Livingston, Ludlow, McEvers, Morris, Ogden, Robinson, Rutherfurd, Smith, Stuyvesant, Van Horne, and Watts families; and from 1790–96 those of the Astor, Bailey, Barclay, Bowne, Coles, Delafield, Fish, Gelston, Greenleaf, Jay, Kemble, Kingsland, Lenox, Low, Lee, Le Roy, Oothout, Peters, Prime, Ray, Remsen, Roosevelt, Sackett, Schermerhorn, Schieffelin, Swords, Titus, Townsend, Van Zandt, Van Wagenen, Van Rensselaer, Verplanck, Waddington, Winthrop, and Woolsey families.



Cruger House


Many old New Yorkers remember the Cruger house in Fourteenth Street about halfway between Sixth and Seventh avenues, when it was occupied by the late Mrs. Douglas Cruger.21

The house, having a frontage of seventy-five feet, stood in the middle of a courtyard extending on either side about one hundred feet, separated from the street by a high wall. Now the courtyard has disappeared and the house, crowded closely on both sides by high buildings, seems completely dwarfed. Decorated with fire escapes and signs it has fallen from its high estate, and the whole street, formerly a quiet dwelling street, is now nearly given over to trade and noisy bustle. The entrance hall, twenty-five feet in width, extended from front to rear eighty-five feet, a wide staircase rising from the center at the end, the conservatory at the rear being of the width of the house. The rooms on either side were rather curiously divided, losing somewhat in what might have made a more imposing effect, not, however, enough to prevent their being an excellent74 place for the disposition of the collection of the Metropolitan Museum, which leased the house in 1873 for five years. The house is described in the annual report for that year as a “large and elegant building surrounded by spacious grounds, upon which grounds new galleries may be built, should they be required....”22 The rooms certainly had more unobstructed light than could be found in most private houses. It is now occupied by the Salvation Army.



Abingdon Square—Greenwich


The peculiarity of the Greenwich section of the town is that it has retained an individuality that no other section has retained. It is very much of an American quarter. The streets are lined with well-kept, comfortable brick houses, dating back sixty years or more, many of them with the elaborately ornamental iron railings and newel posts that are disappearing so rapidly. There is a marked paucity of the conventional tenement house, and although factories and warehouses are crowding it on all sides, its people cling with a stolid determination to their ancient homes.

This square is taken as representative of this quarter of the city, although it is rather in the streets adjoining that the houses are most representative of old dwellings of sixty or seventy years ago. Before the arrival of Henry Hudson, there was an Indian village here near the site of Gansevoort Market, but Governor Van Twiller turned the locality into a tobacco farm. By 1727 it became covered with farms and was joined to the city by a good road very nearly following the line of the present Greenwich Street.

The region was always noted for its healthfulness and when an epidemic of smallpox broke out Admiral Warren invited the Colonial Assembly to meet at his78 house. This made Greenwich the fashion, and for nearly a century when epidemics occurred the people flocked out of town to that village. At one time the Bank of New York transferred its business there.

No history of this part of the city can be written without some reference to that bold Irish sailor, Admiral Sir Peter Warren. Post captain at the age of twenty-four he, in 1744, while in command of the squadron on the Leeward Islands station, in less than four months captured twenty-four prizes, one with a cargo of two hundred and fifty thousand pounds in plate. He also served at Louisburg, Gibraltar, and elsewhere. When at length he tired of a seafaring life, although still young, he decided upon making his home in New York, and proceeded to anchor himself for a time at least by marrying a New York woman, Miss De Lancey. He bought three hundred acres of land at Greenwich, built a house and laid out the grounds like an English park. Here he resided for some years, and then went to England and entered Parliament.

He died at the age of forty-eight and lies buried in Westminster Abbey, with a fine monument by Roubillac above him. After Lady Warren’s death the property was divided into three lots, one lot going to each of the three daughters. The lot containing the house fell to the eldest daughter, Lady Abingdon, and was sold by her to Abijah Hammond, who afterwards sold it to the late Abraham Van Nest. The remainder was sold off in small parcels after three roads had been cut79 through them, the Abingdon, Fitzroy, and Skinner roads.23 The first corresponds to the present Twenty-first Street, the second was almost on a line with Eighth Avenue, and the third was part of the present Christopher Street.


Gramercy Square


Now that St. John’s Park has been destroyed, Gramercy Park is the only private park in the city—that is, one restricted in its use to owners of houses facing it. Fifty years ago it had more seclusion. A high and dense hedge surrounded it on the inside of the iron fence. For some reason this was removed and never replanted. Now people in the park might almost as well be in the middle of the street. The figure on the fountain was then a Hebe perpetually filling her cup with water. In former days the children that played in the grounds had an annual May festival on the first of the month. One of the young girls was chosen queen. Dressed in white and crowned with flowers, she led the festivities around the Maypole, under the trees. Later they all withdrew to the house of her parents, where a collation was served and the dancing continued until the children were sent home by their parents and to bed.

A number of men who have been prominent in the city’s life are living or have lived in houses about the square. We might mention John Bigelow, Stuyvesant Fish, James W. Gerard, Edwin Booth, Samuel J. Tilden, Dr. Bellows, Dr. Valentine Mott, Cyrus W. Field, and David Dudley Field.



Gramercy Square
Residence of John Bigelow


Mr. Bigelow, one of the best-known citizens of New York, was admitted to the bar in 1839 and in 1850 joined William Cullen Bryant as editor of the New York Evening Post. He continued as one of the principal editors until 1861, when he was appointed consul at Paris, and on the death of Mr. Dayton became United States Minister, remaining so until 1866.

While at Paris he published “Les États Unis d’Amerique.” This work corrected the erroneous views of the French as to the relative commercial importance of the Northern and Southern States and was effective in discouraging the supposed desire of the French Government for the disruption of the Union.

Mr. Bigelow also conducted the negotiations leading to the withdrawal of the French army from Mexico. In 1875 he was elected to the office of Secretary of State of New York. He has published “The Life of Samuel J. Tilden,” of whom he was one of the three executors; “The Mystery of Sleep” and numerous other works. He has been honored by degrees from various colleges and universities.24



Gramercy Square
Former Residence of the Late Luther C. Clark


For many years this house was the residence of Mr. Clark, the well-known banker. It is now the house of the Columbia University Club.



Gramercy Square
Former Residence of the Late James W. Gerard


Mr. Gerard was an eminent lawyer. Born in this city in 1794, of French ancestry on his father’s side, he graduated from Columbia College in 1811, and in 1816 took the degree of M.A. and was admitted to the bar. A man of great public spirit, he, in 1824, procured the incorporation of the House of Refuge for Juvenile Delinquents, the first institution of the kind in the country. Formerly, the police or “watchmen,” as they were called, wore no uniforms. Occasionally, an ordinary looking man would be seen wandering about the streets, and, if the wind happened to turn aside the lapel of his coat, one might observe a small metal shield. This was the only indication of his office. Mr. Gerard publicly advocated the adoption of a uniform and by letters, addresses, and persistent action accomplished his purpose. He wore the new uniform at a fancy dress ball given by Mrs. Coventry Waddell, who occupied a Gothic villa, with tower, turrets, etc., on Fifth Avenue, at the top of Murray Hill, and entertained a great deal.

Mr. Gerard devoted much of his time to charitable institutions and was especially interested in the public88 schools of the city. He was a capital speaker. His speeches were witty and always in good taste. That he was in constant demand, in his prime, at dinners both public and private, is readily perceived by looking through the pages of Mayor Philip Hone’s diary.

Gramercy Park was founded in 1831 and this is said to be the oldest house facing it.



Gramercy Square
The Players


Edwin Booth, perhaps the most distinguished American actor, was born in Maryland in 1833. He made his first appearance in 1849 and was ever after devoted to his profession, playing throughout this country and also abroad.

He was crushed by the affair of the assassination of President Lincoln and retired from the stage for a year, but never lost his personal popularity. He opened Booth’s Theater in Twenty-third Street in 1869 and for thirteen years maintained the most popular revivals of Shakespeare’s tragedies ever known in the city. Although forced into bankruptcy in 1873, he retrieved his fortunes by earning two hundred thousand dollars in fifty-six weeks.

In 1882 he went to Europe and was received with the greatest favor. In 1888 he purchased the building here shown (formerly the residence of Valentine G. Hall), remodeled and furnished it and presented it to actors and the friends of the drama as “The Players,” a complete gentleman’s club. Booth made his home at “The Players” from the date of its opening until his death, which took place in this house June 7, 1893.25



Gramercy Square
Former Residence of the Late Samuel J. Tilden


Mr. Tilden had a great reputation for skill as a lawyer. He was also a thorough politician, being chairman of the Democratic State Committee of New York for thirteen years. Nominated for President in 1876, he received a majority of the popular vote, but owing to the fact that the votes of several States were disputed, the celebrated Electoral Commission was appointed, consisting of senators, judges, and representatives. The commission divided on party lines and gave the disputed votes to Mr. Hayes. The house is formed by combining two, one formerly having a front similar to that of “The Players,” and the other with a front corresponding to the brick house adjoining on the west. The larger house had belonged to the Belden family. Both the Hall and the Belden houses once had ornamental iron balconies at the main floor with canopies similar to those now seen attached to the fronts of the houses on the west side of the square, and were alike in appearance, excepting that the Belden house had the coat of arms carved in high relief over the door. One of the beautiful Misses Belden married the late Dudley Field, another the late Colonel Talmadge.

94 The gardens in the rear of these two houses were the largest in the row, extending through the block to Nineteenth Street, a part near the Belden house being formally laid out with box-edged walks and flower beds, while the rest was turfed and shaded by large trees, a few of which survived until a year or two ago, when they were cut down to make way for the new building of the National Arts Club, the present owner. Mr. Tilden, joining with the other owners on the square and the owners of the houses on Irving Place, had all the wooden fences in the angle formed by these houses removed and an open iron fence put in their place. As there were no houses on Nineteenth Street, there remained an unusual effect of greenery and trees for New York City.



Gramercy Square
Former Residence of the Late Rev. Dr. Henry W. Bellows


Dr. Bellows was a distinguished clergyman. Born in 1814, he graduated at Harvard and at the Cambridge Divinity School, and in 1838 became the pastor of the First Unitarian Church, New York, and so continued for forty-four years. Dr. Bellows was an accomplished orator, his extemporaneous speeches being remarkable for their lucidity and style. He published numerous lectures and pamphlets, but is best known throughout the country for his work as president of the United States Sanitary Commission during the Civil War. Under him the commission distributed supplies amounting to fifteen millions of dollars in value and five millions of money. The results of the experience of the commission in their work of reducing the suffering in war have been copied abroad.



Gramercy Square
Former Residence of the Late Dr. Valentine Mott


Dr. Mott was a distinguished surgeon, and one of the best-known citizens of the small town of sixty or seventy years ago. He previously lived at the easterly end of Depau Row. For many years Dr. M. resided in Paris, during the reign of Louis Philippe, whose physician he was. In 184126 a ball was given for the Prince de Joinville at the Depau Row house, and during the Civil War the Comte de Paris and brothers were entertained at the Gramercy Square house.



Gramercy Square
Rectory of Calvary Parish


This rectory has been the home of many clergymen celebrated in the community. One of the early rectors was Dr. Francis Lister Hawks. Born at Newbern, N. C., in 1798, he was ordained in 1827 and was conspicuous in the church up to the time of his death in 1866.

In 1844 he became rector of Christ Church, New Orleans, and president of the University of Louisiana, and in 1849 he became rector of this parish. Being of Southern birth, he, at the outbreak of the Civil War, withdrew to the South, but returned after the close of the war. He published many works on ecclesiastical and other subjects. He declined the bishopric of Mississippi and also that of Rhode Island.

The Rev. Dr. Arthur Cleveland Coxe was at one time rector. He afterwards became the Bishop of Western New York. The Rev. Dr. Henry Yates Satterlee was for many years the well-known rector of this parish. He is now Bishop of Washington.



Gramercy Square
Former Residence of the Late Stanford White


Mr. White was an eminent architect. It is now the house of the Princeton Club.



Gramercy Square
Former Residence of the Late Cyrus W. Field and the Late David Dudley Field


Cyrus W. Field was a business man until about 1854–56, when with Peter Cooper, Moses Taylor, and others he organized the Atlantic Telegraph Company. Although the first cable was laid in 1858, it was not until 1866 that the enterprise was entirely successful, after Mr. Field had crossed the ocean thirty times in the prosecution of the work. He received the thanks of Congress and many other honors.

His brother, David Dudley Field, was conspicuous at the New York bar for over fifty years. For forty years of this time he devoted all his spare moments to the subject of the reform of the law and obtained a marked success. The new system of civil procedure has been adopted in many States and substantially followed in Great Britain. In 1873 he was elected the first president of an association for the reform and codification of the law of nations formed at Brussels in that year.27

The two houses owned by the brothers Field have been united by the present owner, Henry W. Poor, banker and author of the statistical work on American railways universally consulted by bankers and investors throughout the country. The interior has been beautifully reconstructed.



Former Residence of the Late Peter Cooper and the Late Abram S. Hewitt


Peter Cooper was born in New York in 1791. His father being a man of small means, he was at an early age put into business and contributed to the support of his family.

He entered into the manufacture of glue and soon became the best-known maker of that commodity. In 1828, when thirty-seven years of age, he had acquired considerable wealth and was enabled to buy three thousand acres of land within the limits of the city of Baltimore. Here he built the great Canton Iron Works, and the entire investment soon proved extremely successful. About the year 1830 he built, at the West Point Foundry, N. Y., the first locomotive constructed in the United States for actual service. Not long after he disposed of the Canton Iron Works and erected enormous iron works at the city of Trenton, N. J. The firm was a pioneer in the successful manufacture of iron and became one of the largest of the kind in the country.

Mr. Cooper made many inventions in connection with this business. He became associated with Cyrus W. Field in his efforts to lay the Atlantic Cable, and108 the final success of that enterprise was in great measure due to his coöperation. Mr. Cooper is perhaps best known as the founder of the Cooper Institute, of which he commenced the construction as early as 1853. The objects of this institution were to furnish free schools in art and science and a free reading room and to provide free lectures on scientific, artistic, and social subjects. Mr. Cooper died, universally respected, in 1883.

Abram S. Hewitt, a native of Rockland County, N. Y., was the son-in-law of Peter Cooper, and to him, in partnership with his son Edward Cooper, he transferred that branch of his business connected with the manufacture of iron. Mr. Hewitt was a man much interested in the great social problems, being no mere theorist but a man ready to sacrifice his own interests to the well being of his dependents.

It is a fact that for forty years the business at Trenton was carried on with absolutely no profit beyond the amount necessary to pay the wages of the three thousand men employed and the regular expenses of the establishment. He stated at one of the meetings of the Congressional Committee on the grievances of labor that from 1873 to 1879 the business was carried on at a loss of one hundred thousand dollars a year. Of course, one object was to continue the business and to prevent the deterioration of the plant, but the firm also aimed to avoid throwing such a large body of men out of employment, although at times they were placed on half pay.

109 Notwithstanding, the firm became wealthy through ventures not relating to the iron business and also through investments connected with it. As an example it may be mentioned that a large purchase of iron in 1879–80 resulted in a profit of a million dollars. In 1874 Mr. Hewitt was elected a representative to Congress and served with the exception of one term until 1886. In that year he was chosen mayor of New York. Mr. Hewitt was extremely honest and independent. He was neither a free trader nor a protectionist. He was a reformer but not a radical one, and at his death the nation, and especially the Democratic Party, lost a wise statesman and counselor.28



The General Theological Seminary


Some time about the year 1750 Captain Clarke, a veteran of the provincial army, who had seen considerable service in the French war, built a country house, two or three miles north of the city, to which he gave the name of Chelsea. He gave it this name because he said it was to be the retreat of an old soldier in the evening of his days.

It has been thought that the name of Greenwich was given to the neighboring estate by Admiral Warren for a corresponding sentimental reason, but Mr. Janvier, in that very entertaining book, “In Old New York,” shows that the name of Greenwich was in use long before the admiral’s advent. Captain Clarke, unfortunately, was not destined long to enjoy the house he had built. During his last illness, the house caught fire and the captain came very near being burned with it, but he was carried out by neighbors and shortly after died in an adjacent farmhouse. Mrs. Clarke rebuilt the house on the crest of a hill that sloped down to the river about three hundred feet distant.29 The estate descended to her daughter, the wife of Bishop Moore, and in 1813112 it was conveyed to their son, Clement C. Moore,30 by whom the old house was considerably enlarged. The house was taken down when the bulkhead along the river front was constructed by the city. Mr. Moore gave the whole of the block bounded by Twentieth and Twenty-first streets and Ninth and Tenth avenues to the General Theological Seminary of the Episcopal Church, and it became known as Chelsea Square. The building here shown was built about 1835 and is constructed of a gray stone. The modern buildings, however, are of brick and stone, of a Gothic style and, with the old trees remaining and the stretches of green lawn, produce, especially in summer time, a suggestion of English seclusion and repose quite at variance with the bustle and the crudeness of that part of the city.


Former Residence of the Late William C. Schermerhorn



Church of the Transfiguration


It is difficult to realize the position held forty years ago by the old Wallack’s Theater at Broadway and Thirteenth Street. It was in a way a city institution. The company remained nearly the same for years, with occasional changes, and its members were, one and all, accomplished in their profession. The receipts of the theater were as regular as those of a bank.

The elder Wallack, a well-bred Englishman, was a finished actor of the old school. His son, Lester Wallack, was an extraordinarily handsome man of the romantic type, well suited for the more sentimental drama of the day, although his wealth of curly black hair and whiskers would violate our modern canons of taste. By his father’s desire when a young man he became an officer in the British army, but after serving two years resigned and adopted the profession of the stage. His wife was a sister of Millais, the artist.

George Holland was a short, thickset man with a rather large head, who was seldom cast for a very prominent part, but his humor and his evident geniality and honesty made him a favorite with the public. Consequently when the story of his funeral became public, there was some indignation expressed.

118 It is fair to the Rev. Dr. Sabine, however, to say that it is claimed that when approached by the parties having charge of the funeral, he told them that the Church of the Incarnation was undergoing repairs, that the aisles were crowded with workmen and scaffolding, and that it would prove an inconvenience to all parties to hold the services in that church. The late Rev. Dr. Houghton, rector of this parish for forty-nine years, was a clergyman held in the highest esteem by the people of this city.


Residence of J. Pierpont Morgan


Former Residence of the Late Theodore A. Havemeyer



Former Residence of the Late Edwin D. Morgan


Edwin D. Morgan, born in Berkshire County, Mass., in 1811, came to New York in 1836 and founded a mercantile house which became very successful. In 1858 he was elected Governor of the State of New York, and as he continued to hold that office during the first years of the Civil War he is frequently referred to as “The War Governor.” In 1861 he was appointed major general of volunteers and placed in command, but refused to receive any compensation for his services. In 1862 he was chosen United States Senator and occupied that office until March, 1869.

President Lincoln offered him the position of Secretary of the Treasury. The same position was offered him by President Arthur in 1881, but on both occasions he declined the honor.

He was a most generous benefactor to charitable institutions during his lifetime and also by virtue of his last will and testament.31 The grounds attached to this house are extensive for New York City.


The Old Arsenal—Central Park





The view of the Hudson, on a fine day, to a person looking northward from Claremont is one of the best on the river. Being on a high point that juts out somewhat into the stream, the spectator appreciates the river’s breadth. In former days the site of Claremont was remarkable for its magnificent trees, pine, oak and tulip, of extraordinary girth, height and spread, but the building of the railroad (which spoiled so many country seats) sounded its death knell in respect to its being a place of residence with appropriate surroundings. What is now known as Claremont appears at an early period to have been composed of two properties, the upper or northerly one being called “Strawberry Hill,” or “Claremont,” and the lower or southerly, one “Monte Alto.” Some of the early deeds were not recorded and the writer has not ascertained when or how the division was made.

A tract of land including that on which the house stands was conveyed in 1774 to Nicholas de Peyster, and in August, 1776, was sold by him to George Pollock, an Irish linen merchant.

Pollock endeavored to improve the place by clearing and cultivation, as is shown by the statement in a letter130 mentioned below, in which he says: “I have long considered those grounds as of my own creation, having selected them when wild, and brought the place to its present form.” He named the place “Strawberry Hill.” After living there for some years and after the loss of a child (said to have occurred by drowning) he withdrew to England.

Almost everyone who has visited Grant’s Tomb remembers the marble funereal monument in the form of an urn inclosed within an iron railing near the top of the hill. The inscription, much blurred by time, reads: “Erected to the memory of an amiable child, St. Claire Pollock, died 15th. July 1797 in the 5 year of his age.” Then follow some lines of verse. In a letter written from England by Mr. Pollock to Mrs. Gulian Verplanck, who had become the owner of that or the adjoining place, dated July 18, 1800, he writes: “There is a small enclosure near your boundary fence within which lie the remains of a favorite child, covered by a marble monument.... The surrounding ground will fall into the hands of I know not whom, whose prejudice or better taste may remove the monument and lay the enclosure open. You will confer a peculiar and interesting favor upon me by allowing me to convey the enclosure to you, so that you will consider it a part of your own estate, keeping it however always enclosed and sacred. There is a white marble funereal urn to place on the monument which will not lessen its beauty. I have long considered those grounds as of my own creation,131 having selected them when wild, and brought the place to its present form. Having so long and so delightfully resided there, I feel an interest in it that I cannot get rid of by time.”32

In July, 1803, a tract of over thirty-one acres was conveyed by John B. Prevost, former Recorder of the city, to Joseph Alston, of South Carolina, planter. Alston33 seems to have held the property about three years and then to have sold it to John Marsden Pintard. This deed conveys the tract known as “Monte Alto.” In November, 1808, a release was recorded, executed by Theodosia Burr Alston in favor of Michael Hogan, gentleman, Hogan having bought Monte Alto from Pintard.34

There is no record of any conveyance of Claremont,132 by Gulian Verplanck or his executors, to Hogan,35 but a deed made by Robert Lenox, Jacob Stout, and John Wells, trustees, to Michael Hogan, dated July 21, 1819, reconveys to him all property not disposed of in the execution of their trust, which is referred to as having133 been imposed by two previous deeds of assignment or conveyance dated July 25, 1811. It is here that it is generally thought a vagueness and uncertainty as to the true owner exists. It was about this time that Claremont was occupied by a rather mysterious individual, an Englishman named Courtenay, who, it is said, in after years, inherited the title of the Earl of Devon.

Mr. Haswell,36 in his “Reminiscences of an Octogenarian,” says, page 25: “West of Broadway, between Eleventh and Twelfth avenues and One Hundred and Twenty-third Street, there was a large country residence occupied by an Englishman, a Mr. Courtenay, with but one man servant and a cook. He lived so retired as never to be seen in company with anyone outside of his household and very rarely in public.

“There was, as a consequence, many opinions given as to the occasion of such exclusiveness. The one generally and finally accepted was that he had been a gay companion of royalty in his youth, and that his leaving England was more the result of expediency with him than choice.” Lossing’s37 account differs somewhat from this. He says: “When the War of 1812 broke out he (Courtenay) returned thither (to England) leaving his furniture and plate, which were sold at auction.... Courtenay was a great lion in New York, for he was a handsome bachelor, with title, fortune, and reputation—a combination of excellencies calculated to134 captivate the heart desires of the opposite sex. Claremont was the residence for a while of Joseph Bonaparte, ex-King of Spain, when he first took refuge in the United States, after the battle of Waterloo and the downfall of the Napoleon dynasty. Here too Francis James Jackson, the successor of Mr. Erskine, the British Minister at Washington, at the opening of the War of 1812, resided a short time.... He was politically and socially unpopular, and presented a strong contrast to the polished Courtenay.” Courtenay disappeared at the time of the war between this country and Great Britain, after having greatly embellished the place. It has always been a tradition in the Post family (who owned the property for nearly fifty years) that Courtenay built the present house. In March, 1812, Hogan joined with the above-named trustees in conveying the property “commonly called Claremont” to Herman Le Roy, William Bayard, and James McEvers, trustees. By some it has been supposed that while the legal title was in trustees, there may have been an unrecorded declaration of trust, by which Courtenay became the equitable owner. The grantees38 in the last-mentioned deed first leased Claremont and several years later sold it to Joel Post, February 12, 1821. Later, Mr. Post (brother of the distinguished physician of the last century, Dr. Wright Post, who also resided at Claremont)135 purchased the property adjoining on the south, Monte Alto, and united the ownership of the two places, although Monte Alto was for many years occupied as a country seat by the McEvers family.39 In 1868 the house and a portion of the place were acquired by the city from the heirs of Mr. Post.

It seems to have been pretty well shown that the battle of Harlem Heights was not fought in this locality. It is only in recent years that Morningside Heights have been spoken of as Harlem Heights. In conveying Claremont it is described as in Bloomingdale and according to the map (Mrs. Lamb’s “History of the City of New York,” vol. II, p. 129) the westerly line of Harlem excluded all Morningside Heights except a few feet at the base of the high ground at Manhattanville. The high ground was known as Vandewater Heights, and if the battle had taken place there it would have been known by that name. It is more probable that most of the fighting (which was widespread) took place at the base of the Point of Rocks, south of the Convent of the Sacred Heart, and also along the high ground to the west and north. Day’s Tavern stood a little to the northeast of the Point of Rocks, and there Knowlton and the Connecticut troops were stationed.

Major Lewis Morris, Jr., wrote to his father on September 28th: “Monday morning an advanced party, Colonel Knowlton’s regiment, was attacked on a height a little to the southwest of Day’s Tavern.”

136 Morningside Heights would have been considerably more than “a little” to the southwest of Day’s Tavern. The detachment sent out before daylight under Knowlton by General Washington was not his regiment but a small body, probably a single company, and was sent to make a diversion upon the enemy’s rear. It is probable that they followed the river’s edge as far south as Ninety-fourth Street, much below Claremont and Morningside Heights. The actual battle did not begin until late in the day. The resolution of Congress passed October 17, 1776, was “Resolved, That General Lee be directed to repair to the camp on the Heights of Harlem with leave,” etc.

Washington had no camp on Morningside Heights. His camp was on the high ground between the Point of Rocks and the Harlem River.

Finally “nowhere on Manhattan Island, to my knowledge, beyond the limit of the city, have there been found the remains of so many English and Hessian soldiers, as shown by buttons, cross-belt buckles, bayonets, and portions of other arms, as have been excavated, from time to time, in the neighborhood of Trinity Cemetery. There could have been no fight at this point unless it was at the battle of Harlem, while the neighborhood about Columbia University, where it is claimed the battle was fought, has been particularly free from all such evidence.”40 Claremont is now a137 public restaurant.41 The adding of the huge inclosed piazzas has produced an effect that is nondescript.



Hamilton Grange


Alexander Hamilton, although born in another colony, was identified with the city from boyhood and married into a New York family.42 The genuine New Yorker seems always to have had a certain regard for the memory of Hamilton, ascribable perhaps to his untimely taking off, to a sentiment of having been, as it were, robbed of the services of a great man, and to the strong light thrown upon the contrast between his traits and those of his distinguished and brilliant antagonist.

He had faults, but they were very human ones, while those of his adversary tended toward the incarnation of selfishness. His career is probably more familiar to the people than that of any of the other characters connected with the State of New York during the Revolutionary era. The site of the house (named after the estate of his grandfather in Ayreshire, Scotland) was chosen by him in order to be in proximity to the house of his friend, Gouverneur Morris, at Morrisania. The situation at that time, like that of the Jumel house, commanded an extensive view of the Hudson and Harlem rivers and Long Island Sound. It was then about eight miles from town, so that it was his habit to drive140 in every day. It was not to this house that he was brought after the disastrous event of July 11, 1804. His friend William Bayard had received an intimation of the proposed encounter, and was waiting when the boat containing him reached the New York shore. Hamilton was carried to his house and died there the next day. His wife and children were with him. One daughter, overcome by two such dreadful events in the family within a short period, lost her reason.43 The whole city was affected. Business was suspended. Indignation was universal. Burr’s followers walked in the funeral procession. Talleyrand said of Hamilton: “Je considére Napoleon, Fox, et Hamilton comme lest trois plus grande hommes de notre époque, et si je devais me prononcer entre les trois, je donnerais sans hesiter la première place a Hamilton.”



The Jumel House


This house was built in 1758 by Captain (afterwards Colonel) Roger Morris of the British army, who had been an aide of General Braddock. Morris married a daughter of Colonel Philipse. The Philipse estate embraced a great part of the present Westchester and Putnam counties. The manor hall erected about 1745 (the oldest part probably about 1682) now constitutes the City Hall of Yonkers.44 In that house, on July 3, 1730, was born Mary Philipse, and in the drawing-room on Sunday afternoon, January 15, 1758, she was married to Captain Morris by the Rev. Henry Barclay, rector of Trinity, and his assistant, Mr. Auchmuty.

A paper on “The Romance of the Hudson,” by Benson J. Lossing, published in Harper’s Magazine for April, 1876, gives the following account of the wedding: “The leading families of the province and the British forces in America had representatives there. The marriage was solemnized under a crimson canopy144 emblazoned with the golden crest of the family.... The bridesmaids were Miss Barclay, Miss Van Cortlandt, and Miss De Lancey. The groomsmen were Mr. Heathcote, Captain Kennedy, and Mr. Watts. Acting Governor De Lancey (son-in-law to Colonel Heathcote, lord of the manor of Scarsdale) assisted at the ceremony. The brothers of the bride ... gave away the bride.... Her dowry in her own right was a large domain, plate, jewelry, and money. A grand feast followed the nuptial ceremony, and late on that brilliant moonlit night most of the guests departed.

“While they were feasting a tall Indian, closely wrapped in a scarlet blanket, appeared at the door of the banquet hall, and with measured words said: ‘Your possessions shall pass from you when the eagle shall despoil the lion of his mane.’ He as suddenly disappeared.... The bride pondered the ominous words for years ... and when, because they were royalists in action, the magnificent domain of the Philipses was confiscated by the Americans at the close of the Revolution, the prophecy and its fulfillment were manifested.”45

While in New York in 1756 Washington stayed at the house of his friend, Beverly Robinson, who had married a sister of Miss Philipse, and there is no doubt that her charms made a deep impression upon him, but there is no evidence that she refused him.

Manor Hall, Yonkers, 1682

After the Revolution Colonel Philipse withdrew to146 Chester, England, died there in 1785, and was buried in Chester Cathedral, where there is a monument to his memory. Some of his descendants are now living in England, as well as descendants of Colonel and Mrs. Morris. “A part of the Philipse estate was in possession of Colonel Morris in right of his wife, and that the whole interest should pass under the (confiscation) act, Mrs. Morris was included in the attainder.”46 It is believed that Mrs. Morris and her sisters were the only women attainted of treason during the Revolution. “In 1787 the Attorney General of England examined the case and gave the opinion that the reversionary interest was not included in the attainder,” and was recoverable, and in the year 1809 Mrs. Morris’s son, Captain Henry Gage Morris, of the royal navy, in behalf of himself and his two sisters, sold their reversionary interest to John Jacob Astor for twenty thousand pounds sterling. In 1828 Mr. Astor made a compromise with the State of New York by which he received for these rights five hundred thousand dollars, with the understanding that he should execute a deed with warranty148 against the claims of the Morris family, in order to quiet the title of the numerous persons who had bought from the commissioners of forfeitures. This he did.

In 1810 the property was bought by Stephen Jumel, a wealthy French merchant. There he entertained Louis Philippe, Lafayette, Joseph Bonaparte, Louis Napoleon, and Henry Clay. After Jumel’s death it came into the possession of his widow. Aaron Burr, in his old age, married Madame Jumel. After he had made away with a good deal of her money, she got rid of him. He withdrew to other fields of action and died somewhere on Staten Island.

During the Revolution Washington had his headquarters here from September 16 to October 21, 1776, and revisited it, accompanied by his cabinet, July, 1790.

The house is now in the control of the Department of Parks and is shown to the public.



Gracie House—East River Park


Archibald Gracie, a native of Dumfries, Scotland, of an old Scotch family, came to this country about the time of the close of the Revolutionary War and established himself as a merchant. He became one of the largest if not the largest ship owner in the country, his ships visiting, it is said, every port in the world. He was a man of the highest character. Oliver Wolcott said of him: “He was one of the excellent of the earth, actively liberal, intelligent, seeking and rejoicing in occasions to do good.” Washington Irving wrote (January, 1813): “Their (the Gracies’) country place was one of my strongholds last summer. It is a charming, warm-hearted family and the old gentleman has the soul of a prince.” Mr. Gracie lost greatly as a result of the Berlin and Milan decrees, over a million dollars, it is said. It is believed that he was the largest holder of the celebrated “French Claims,”47 which Congress with outrageous persistence refused or neglected to pay for generations. He married Esther, daughter of Samuel Rogers and Elizabeth152 Fitch, daughter of Thomas Fitch, Governor of Connecticut.

There was an old house at Gracie’s Point belonging to Mrs. Prevoost, and this he either altered and enlarged or else removed entirely and built the present structure, but at what time it is not known. In the year 1805 Josiah Quincy was entertained there at dinner. He describes enthusiastically the situation, overlooking the then terribly turbulent waters of Hell Gate. He said: “The shores of Long Island, full of cultivated prospects and interspersed with elegant country seats, bound the distant view. The mansion is elegant in the modern style and the grounds laid out in taste with gardens.”48 Among the guests at that dinner were Oliver Wolcott, Judge Pendleton, Hamilton’s second, and Dr. Hosack, who later married Mrs. Coster.

William Gracie, the eldest son, married the beautiful Miss Wolcott, daughter of Oliver Wolcott, Secretary of the Treasury under Washington. A great reception was given by Mr. and Mrs. Archibald Gracie to the bride at this house. All the bridesmaids, groomsmen, and a large company were assembled when the bride died suddenly of heart disease. His daughter Hester was married in the parlor of the house to William Beach Lawrence, afterwards Governor of Rhode Island. Another daughter married James Gore King, the eminent banker, and another Charles King, afterwards president of Columbia College, both being sons153 of Rufus King of Revolutionary fame. On one occasion during the Napoleonic wars, a French vessel was chased by an English frigate into the neutral harbor of New York. The Englishman lay in the lower bay ready to attack the Frenchman when he should return through the Narrows. Being sure of his prize he was off his guard. The French captain, taking a skillful pilot, slipped up the East River, a feat believed impossible for so large a vessel. In rounding Gracie’s Point a sailor on a yardarm was swept from his perch by the overhanging branches of a great elm that was standing on the lawn as late as 1880. With wonderful agility, the sailor seized the limbs and swinging from one to another reached the trunk, down which he slid to the ground. Charles King, calling to the Frenchman, rushed to the other side of the Point, put him in his boat and followed the man-of-war, although it had then swung over to the other side of the river. By skillful management he reached the vessel and the sailor scrambled aboard. Anyone who remembers the waters of Hell Gate before the rocky bottom was blown up by the Government will admit that Mr. King did some vigorous rowing. The man-of-war escaped by way of the Sound, much to the chagrin of the English.

Many distinguished people were entertained in this house. When Louis Philippe was here in exile he was invited to dine with Mrs. Gracie. The carriage and four were sent to town to bring the royal visitor, and when he arrived the family were assembled to receive154 him. One of the little girls exclaimed aloud, “That is not the king, he has no crown on his head,” at which the guest laughed good-naturedly and said: “In these days, kings are satisfied with wearing their heads without crowns.” An early picture shows an ornamental balustrade on the roof of the house and also on that of the piazza, relieving the present rather bare appearance.




The Gouverneur Morris House49


Gouverneur Morris was one of the most interesting characters of the Revolutionary era, interesting because he had an individuality that distinguished him from the other worthies of the time. Though crippled,50 his versatility and activity of mind and body were very great. An orator of the first rank, when but a few years past his majority he swayed the Continental Congress with his views upon matters of finance, a subject for which he had an especial aptitude throughout his career. Resolving, when a young man, to be the first lawyer in the land, he became so. By reason of his connections, his education and abilities, during his long stay abroad he associated on intimate terms with a vast number of the most influential personages living at the time. The unfortunate King and Queen of France sought his advice and aid in their troubles, as did Lafayette and many others.

158 His diary published in 1888 (now out of print), written in Paris during the early days of the French Revolution, although evidently for his own use, is comparable with those other letters and memoirs of the eighteenth century when writing of the sort was cultivated as a fine art.

His father’s will states: “It is my desire that my son, Gouverneur Morris, may have the best education that is to be had in England or America.” Great pains were taken that this should be carried out, so that he should be fitted for any career that might open to him.51 He was a member of the Provincial Congress of New York, in 1775, “serving on the various committees with such well-balanced judgment as to command the respect of men of twice his age and experience.” Twice elected to the Continental Congress, he was a chairman of three committees for carrying on the war,52 wrote continually on all subjects, especially that of finance, and at the same time practiced law, doing all this before he was twenty-eight years of age. After five years of devotion to public affairs, he became a citizen of Philadelphia and settled down to the practice of his profession.

In 1787, as a delegate from Pennsylvania, he took his seat in the convention which met to frame the Federal Constitution. He had been connected in certain financial ventures with William Constable of New York,159 which had been eminently successful, and in November, 1788, led partly by matters relating to these and partly by the desire to travel, he decided to visit France. His life on the other side became so crowded with interesting and important events that this visit was prolonged far beyond his intention. It was ten years before he returned. He was furnished by Washington with letters to persons in England, France, and Holland. He was present at the assembling of the States-General at Versailles, which has been called the “first day of the French Revolution,” and from that time on was au fait with all the important events of that exciting period. At times he was in almost daily communication with the Duchess of Orleans, Madame de Staël, Talleyrand, and hosts of others equally important.

He was soon recognized as applying a clear brain to the solution of any important question submitted to him, and we find him writing a memoir for the guidance of the king and the draught of a speech to be delivered before the National Assembly. The Monciel scheme, usually mentioned in the biographies of Morris, was a well-conceived plan to get the king out of Paris. Monciel, one of the ministry, consulted Morris as to the details of the plan, and the king deposited with him his papers and the sum of seven hundred and forty-eight thousand francs. Everything was discreetly arranged and success nearly assured when, on the morning fixed for the king’s departure, he changed his mind and refused to budge. Later the money was nearly all withdrawn,160 leaving a small balance in Morris’s hands which he returned to the Duchess d’Angoulême.53

In 1789 Washington had written him a letter requesting him to visit England and endeavor to facilitate the carrying out of the terms of the treaty between the two countries, but the English governing class at that day had no desire to facilitate anything in which this country was interested. He had many interviews with Leeds and Pitt, but was always met with a policy of vagueness, postponement, and unlimited delay, so that he accomplished little. It was partly on this account that when Washington nominated him as Minister to France in 1791, the nomination was opposed. His views also regarding the condition of France were well known. He did not deem that country fitted for a radical change of government nor for the development of the wild theories of government that were there rampant.54 The161 sanity of these views was proved by subsequent events, but many senators did not regard him as suitable to represent this republic. He was, however, confirmed by a moderate majority. He continued to be Minister until Genet was recalled at the request of Washington. Then France requested his recall on the ground of “reciprocity.”

Monroe arrived in Paris in August, 1794. Morris intended to return, but changed his plans and decided to spend another year in Europe visiting some of the principal courts and traveling55 through various countries, but events were so interesting and produced so much stir and excitement that it was fully four years before he returned.

While in England he was presented at court, November 25, 1795.56 Finally in October, 1798, he sent his steward to New York with all his “books, liquors,162 linens, furniture, plate and carriages,” and soon after followed himself.

On his mother’s death in 1786, the estate of Morrisania devolved on his eldest brother, Staats Morris; but he, having no intention of living in this country, willingly sold it to him, including his father’s house, in which he was born. The house he found in poor condition, and at once set about the task of repairing and adding to it. After its restoration, he settled there, and for the rest of his life the house became the scene of a continuous hospitality, not only to the most eminent Americans of the day, but to nearly every foreigner of distinction that came to this country.

He was elected a United States Senator and was always interested in public affairs. He is said to have been the originator of the Erie Canal. In December, 1809, he married Miss Randolph of Virginia. In May, 1804, he was present at the deathbed of his friend, Alexander Hamilton, and later delivered the funeral oration.

Sparks57 says: “The plan of his house conformed163 to a French model, and though spacious and well contrived was suited rather for convenience and perhaps splendor within than for a show of architectural magnificence without.” To a friend he wrote: “I have a terrace roof of one hundred and thirty feet long,58 to which I go out by a side or rather back door, and from which I enjoy one of the finest prospects while breathing the most salubrious air in the world.” The parquet floors of all the rooms were brought from France. The library, wainscoted and ceiled with Dutch cherry panels, also imported, was in the early days hung with white and gold tapestry. The room contained the mahogany desk, still preserved, trimmed with brass (said to have been a present from one of the royal family), at which he carried on his correspondence with so many distinguished personages, correspondence often relating to loans of money to the Duchess of Orleans, Madame de Lafayette, Louis Philippe, and hundreds of others.

The reception room, twenty-two by thirty feet and fourteen feet high, was also a paneled room with mirrors set in the wall in the French style. It contained a number of pieces of gilt furniture, originally covered with white silk embroidered in gold, with designs from Boucher which he had brought with him from France. The dining room of peculiar shape (a half octagon) was paneled in dark wood and contained a curious reminder of life during Revolutionary days, a dumbwaiter164 placed near each guest so that servants need not be admitted to overhear the conversation.59

Morris died on November 6, 1816, in the room in which he was born. Almost the last letter he wrote was to plead with the Federal Party to “forget party and think of our country. That country embraces both parties. We must endeavor therefore to save and benefit both.” What statesman to-day would put forth such a sentiment?60



Van Cortlandt House


The property on which the house stands belonged in the seventeenth century to the Hon. Frederick Philipse and was sold by him in the year 1699 to his son-in-law, Jacobus Van Cortlandt, who had married his daughter Eva. The house was built in 1748 by Frederick Van Cortlandt, only son of Jacobus, who married Frances Jay, daughter of Augustus Jay, the Huguenot. His will, dated October 2, 1749, states: “Whereas I am now finishing a large stone dwelling house on the plantation in which I now live, which with the same plantation will, by virtue of my deceased father’s will, devolve, after my decease, upon my eldest son, James,” etc.61

During the Revolutionary War the neighborhood was constantly the scene of conflicts. Washington visited the house in 1781, and on the hill to the north disposed part of his army, which lighted camp fires while he was quietly withdrawing the rest of his troops to join Lafayette before Yorktown. There was a bloody engagement near the house on August 31, 1778, between the British, under Lieutenant-Colonel Simcoe, and a body of Stockbridge Indians. The Indians fought with great bravery and desperation, dragging168 the cavalrymen from their horses, but were ultimately dispersed, their chief being killed.62

Washington slept here the night before the evacuation of the city by the British, November 25, 1785. The estate has been bought by the city and is now known as Van Cortlandt Park. It contains 1,070 acres. There is a lake covering sixty acres and a parade ground for the National Guard on a level meadow of 120 acres.

The house is used as a museum and is crowded with interesting relics.




The Bowne House—Flushing


This house was built in 1661 by John Bowne, a native of Matlock, Derbyshire, England, in whose church he was baptized in the year 1627. About 1672 George Fox, founder of the sect of Quakers or Friends, visited Flushing and held meetings there. Bowne’s wife63 frequently attended the meetings, and after a time joined the sect. As a result of this, Quakers were often entertained at the house. Governor Stuyvesant had Bowne arrested for “harboring Quakers,” and he was thrown into jail. Prior to this Henry Townsend, of Oyster Bay, had been subjected to the same treatment. Bowne, being a man of considerable independence, remained obdurate. He was then banished to Holland. He presented his case to the Dutch West India Company in such a manner that he was returned in a special ship with the following rebuke to the Governor and Councils of the New Netherlands, 1663: “We finally did see from your last letter you had exiled and transported hither a certain Quaker named John Bowne, and although it is our cordial desire that similar and other sectarians might not be found there, yet, as the contrary seems to be the fact, we doubt very much if172 vigorous proceedings against them ought not to be discontinued, except you intend to check and destroy your population, which, however, in the youth of your existence ought rather to be encouraged by all possible means, wherefore it is our opinion that some connivance would be useful that the conscience of men, at least, ought ever to remain free and unshackled.

“Let everyone be unmolested as long as he is modest, as long as his conduct, in a political sense, is irreproachable, as long as he does not disturb others or oppose the Government.” Signed, “The Directors of the West India Company, Amsterdam Department.”

The house has always remained in the possession of the descendants of the first owner. House and furniture are in a good state of preservation; they are in charge of a caretaker and shown to visitors.




The Billop House


For more than a century Staten Island was practically in the control of the Billop family. The Billops for several generations had led active and valiant careers in the service of the sovereign. One, James, in the sixteenth century, is said to have won the friendship of Queen Elizabeth by risking his own life in order to save hers. They had favors also from the Stuart line.

Christopher, born in 1638, received a naval training by command of Charles I. He was commissioned captain and made important and adventurous voyages, in one of which he was wounded, captured by Turkish pirates and abandoned, to be later rescued by a passing ship. In 1667, whether by order of Charles II or on his own account it is not known, he sailed from England in his vessel, the Bentley, and came cruising in the waters of the New Netherlands. The tradition is that the Duke of York, to determine the ownership of the islands in the bay, decided that any island that could be circumnavigated in twenty-four hours belonged to the province of New York, and Billop, having proved that Staten Island was so included by sailing around it176 in the required time, was presented with 1,163 acres in the southern part of the island. On this tract he built in 1668 the stone house here presented. The stones and lumber were obtained in the vicinity, but the cement was brought from England and the bricks from Belgium.

In the early records his name appears as showing that he had several public positions, but apart from that little is known about him except that he held a military command and had a controversy with Governor Andros to his disadvantage at first, but later he succeeded in having the governor recalled to England.

In the year 1700 he sailed for England in the Bentley, but was never heard of again. By some writers it is thought that he was ordered back, inasmuch as a pension was assigned to his widow by the king. Captain Billop married a Miss Farmer, sister of a Supreme Court judge in the neighboring province of New Jersey. They had one child, a daughter, who married her cousin, Thomas Farmer, and he, succeeding to the manor of Bentley, changed his name to Billop. Both died young and their tombstones are to be seen at the house to-day. Christopher Billop, their only son, born 1735, was a prominent man in public affairs throughout his life. In the Revolution he was intensely loyal to the crown, and became a colonel in the British army. Twice he was captured. The New Jersey colonists were especially bitter toward him, and once by keeping men stationed in the steeple of St. Peter’s177 Church at Perth Amboy they observed him going into his house. Immediately they took boats, crossed the river and made him prisoner. By order of Elisha Boudinot (Com. Pris. of New Jersey) he was thrown into jail at Burlington, hands and feet chained to the floor and fed only on bread and water. Here his companion in captivity was Lieutenant-Colonel Simcoe of the Queen’s Rangers, probably the same Simcoe who was in the engagement near the Van Cortlandt house. Billop was exchanged for a captain who had been on the prison ship. The second time he was taken he was released by Washington at the solicitation of Lord Howe, commander in chief of the British forces.

After the battle of Long Island, Howe thought it an opportune time to offer favorable terms to the colonists if they were willing to lay down their arms. Accordingly he dispatched General Sullivan (then a prisoner) to Congress requesting them to send a committee to negotiate. This committee, composed of Benjamin Franklin, Edward Rutledge, and John Adams, met Howe at the Billop house. “Along the sloping lawn in front of the house, long lines of troops that formed the very flower of the British army were drawn up between which the distinguished commander escorted his no less distinguished guests.”64 The conference was held in the northwest room on the ground floor. It resulted in nothing, the colonists refusing to accede to any terms not involving their independence. About 1783–84 Billop178 withdrew to New Brunswick, and joined that army of estimable persons who, despoiled of their possessions, were driven from the land for their loyalty to their king. There for years he held prominent offices in the Assembly and in the Council and died at St. John, March 23, 1827, at the age of ninety-two. At his funeral the highest honors of the town were paid to his memory.

Billop was evidently a complete type of the country gentleman and tory squire. According to Mr. Morris, in his “Memorial History of Staten Island,” the following description of him was given by a friend: “Christopher Billop was a very tall, soldierly looking man in his prime. He was exceedingly proud and his pride led him at times to the verge of haughtiness. Yet he was kind-hearted, not only to those he considered his equals, but to his slaves as well as to the poor people of the island. No one went from his door at the old manor hungry. It was his custom to gather the people of the island once a year on the lawn in front of his house and hold a ‘harvest home.’... Passionately fond of horses, his stable was filled with the finest bred animals in the land. He was a magnificent rider and was very fond of the saddle. He was an expert shot with the pistol, which once saved his life when he was attacked by robbers. Christopher Billop was not a man to take advice unless it instantly met with his favor.... Lifelong friends pleaded with him to join the cause of independence at the commencement of the Revolution,179 but he chose to follow the fortunes of royalty. He was a good citizen, a noble man!”

Before the Revolution the house was noted for its hospitality and gayety in the Colonial society of the day. The owner entertained lavishly and at the time of the war he received there Generals Howe, Clinton, Knyphausen, Cleveland, Cornwallis, Burgoyne, and many others. The interior of the house is extremely plain. Presumably in the year 1668 the house decorator had not made his appearance. The walls are three feet thick and the woodwork as sound as on the day it was built. There is of course a ghost room, with “that spot on the floor that cannot be washed out” where murder is said to have been done. Below there is a dungeon with massive iron gate, and the marks are still visible where prisoners, American and then British, tried to cut their way out through the three-foot wall and arched ceiling.65 It is said there was an underground passage leading to the river.

In the basement Fenimore Cooper laid one of the scenes in his novel of the “Water Witch.”

The grounds, once laid out with parklike lawns and flower beds, are now in the last stages of dilapidation.


1 Built some years before the Revolution by Captain Archibald Kennedy, R.N. (later Earl of Casillis), who married Miss Watts. It was the headquarters respectively of Generals Howe, Cornwallis, and Carleton.

2 The property of William Walton, brother of Admiral Walton, built in 1752. It was one of the best, if not the best house in town. The gardens extended to the river. This house was mentioned in the debates in Parliament to indicate the ability of the colonists to pay more taxes. What might in some respects be called the mate to this house, the Walter Franklin house, occupied by Washington during his Presidency, stood at the north end of the square. It was taken down in 1856, “and the only bit of it known to exist is the President’s chair of the N. Y. Historical Society, which is made of wood taken from the old house” (“Historic New York,” p. 298).

3 Depau Row was an attempt to introduce the Parisian dwelling or hotel. The houses were entered by driveways, running through them to large interior courtyards. They were taken down to make way for the Mills Hotel for men.

4 It is a little remarkable that none of our multimillionaires have added this feature to their new houses uptown.

5 It seems rather strange that some architect has not taken this façade or some portion of it (as, e. g., the east or west end) as a design for the front of one of the palaces that are now springing up throughout the land.

6 “Old Merchants of New York City,” vol. II, p. 318.

7 Before and after the Revolution, the Hall of Records lately removed was used as the debtors’ prison. There were usually about one hundred and fifty prisoners. It is said that they were allowed only bread and water by the State and depended largely on the kindness of benevolent people to relieve their wants.

8 “Lamb’s History of the City of New York,” II, p. 735.

9 “The Old Merchants of New York,” vol. II, p. 319.

10 New York Herald, May 6, 1906.

11 “Domett’s History of the Bank of New York.”

12 Robert Emmet, member of an old English family that settled in Ireland during Cromwell’s time, was one of the purest and most disinterested of rebels. He is now believed by his family, and with very good reason, to have been instigated to rebellion by a secret emissary of Pitt in Paris, where he had resided since leaving college, as part of an evil scheme to withdraw attention from the disordered condition of English politics at the time. (Vide “Ireland under English Rule, or A Plea for the Plaintiff,” by Thomas Addis Emmet, 1903.)

13 Richard Montgomery, son of Thomas Montgomery, of Convoy House, Donegal, had been a captain in the British army in the French and Indian War. “On his return to England he is said to have formed friendships with Fox, Burke, and Barre, and became strongly imbued with their ideas about the rights of the colonies, and when he was superseded and disappointed in the purchase of a majority, he left England forever.” When in America it had happened that on their way to a distant post, he had come on shore with all the officers of his company at Clermont, the Livingston place on the North River, and there met Janet Livingston for the first time, and on his return, with the full approbation of her parents, he married her in July, 1773. Soon after his arrival he bought a farm at Kingsbridge, near New York, but after his marriage he arranged to build a house at Barrytown-on-the-Hudson on the Livingston property.

The house, known as “Montgomery Place,” was built from designs of his nephew, an architect, son of his sister, the Viscountess Ranelagh. Some relics of the general, including his sword, etc., are still preserved there. When war broke out, Congress appointed him a brigadier general, and such was the confidence in him that he was given carte blanche as to all the officers under him. He fell at the head of his troops in the assault on Quebec, December 31, 1775, at the age of thirty-seven. The estimation in which he was held by his wife’s family continued to the time of his death. In July, 1818, when the State of New York had his remains brought from Quebec, they were interred under the monument now seen at the east end of St. Paul’s Chapel. Forty-three years had elapsed since Mrs. Montgomery had parted with her husband at Saratoga. She was notified by Governor Clinton of the day on which the steamer Richmond, carrying the remains, would pass down the river. She was left alone upon the piazza of the house. The emotions with which she saw the pageant were told in a letter written to her niece:

“At length they came by with all that remained of a beloved husband who left me in the bloom of manhood, a perfect being. Alas! how did he return? However gratifying to my heart, yet to my feelings every pang I felt was renewed. The pomp with which it was conducted added to my woe; when the steamboat passed with slow and solemn movement, stopping before my house, the troops under arms, the Dead March from the muffled drums, the mournful music, the splendid coffin canopied with crepe and crowned with plumes, you may conceive my anguish!” After the vessel had gone by it was found she had fainted.

14 By resolution of the Vestry, August 26, 1803.

15 Removed in 1835.

16 “Nat. Cyclo. of Am. Biog.,” vol. VI, p. 360.

17 “King’s Handbook of New York,” p. 38.

18 Goede Vrouw of Man-a-hata.

19 Magazine of American History.

20 The British took possession of the City Hall and “they also plundered it of all the books belonging to the subscription library, and also of a valuable library which belonged to the corporation, the whole consisting of not less than sixty thousand volumes. This was done with impunity and the books publicly hawked about the town for sale by private soldiers” (“Lamb’s History of the City of New York,” vol. II, p. 134).

21 Mrs. Cruger spent her summers at that quaint castellated structure, Henderson House or Home, seven miles from Richfield Springs, the grounds being part of twenty thousand acres received by letters patent from the English crown.

22 “Bulletin of Metropolitan Museum,” January, 1907.

23 Named after the three daughters, Countess of Abingdon, Lady Southampton (Fitzroy), and Mrs. Colonel Skinner.

24 “Natl. Cyclo. of Amer. Biog.”

25 “Natl. Cyclo. of Amer. Biog.”

26 “Diary of Philip Hone,” vol. II, p. 101.

27 “Natl. Cyclo. of Amer. Biog.”

28 “Natl. Cyclo. of Amer. Biog.”

29 “In Old New York,” by Thomas A. Janvier.

30 Remembered as the writer of that popular poem, “’Twas the night before Christmas,” etc.

31 “Natl. Cyclo. of Amer. Biog.”

32 “N. Y. Standard Guide,” p. 112.

33 Joseph Alston became Governor of South Carolina. Mrs. Alston, the daughter of Aaron Burr, met with a tragic fate. On December 30, 1812, she sailed from Charleston in a small schooner, The Patriot, accompanied by Mr. Green, a friend of her father’s, her physician and her maid. The vessel never reached its destination. Forty years afterwards, three men, two in Virginia and one in Texas, made deathbed confessions that they had been members of the crew, that the crew had mutinied and murdered all the officers and passengers, Mrs. Alston being the last to walk the plank. The expression of her face, one man said, haunted him the rest of his life.

34 Pintard was a very prominent man in the first part of the last century, the founder of the New York Historical Society and many other city institutions.

35 The author of “The Old Merchants of New York City” gives this account of Hogan, written in his peculiar style: “Now look back forty-eight years ago to 1805, and there was but one Hogan in New York. His name was Michael Hogan, and he had only landed in the city a few months, but what attention he received from all the leading men of that day! Robert Lenox at that time lived in good style at 157 Pearl Street. He sent an invitation to the distinguished stranger the second day of his arrival. He was such a man as did not arrive in the then small city of New York every day. Michael Hogan brought with him in solid gold sovereigns four hundred thousand pounds, equal to two million dollars, and he had a wonderful history. What would I not give if I could write it all out! All these 160 Hogan families alluded to above, mostly Irish, are kith and kin of the great nabob, for such he was when he arrived here in 1804, with his dark Indian princess wife. Michael Hogan was born at Stone Hall, in the County of Clare, Ireland, September 26, 1766. ‘So he was thirty-eight years old when he landed in New York, with his dark-skinned lady and his fabulous amount of gold. But what scenes he had been through in these eventful thirty-eight years! He had been a sailor; he had commanded ships bound to ports in every quarter of the world—in Asia, Africa, America, and Europe; he had been to North as well as South America; and he had voyaged to the West as well as to the East Indies; he had made successful voyages to the almost then unknown land of Australia. In the East Indies he had married a lady of great wealth. This was the story that was talked about when Captain Michael Hogan came here.”—Fourth Series, p. 115.

36 Who lately died at the age of ninety-eight.

37 “The Hudson from the Wilderness to the Sea,” p. 388.

38 It has been suggested that these trustees, being relatives, held the property in trust during the minority of Gulian C. Verplanck, who in later life became the noted Shakespearian scholar.

39 Miss McEvers married Sir Edward Cunard.

40 “The Battle of Harlem Heights,” by Thomas Addis Emmet, M.D., Magazine of American History, September, 1906.

41 During the War of 1812, defenses were erected in this section as a protection against anticipated attacks by the British. Mrs. Lamb says (“History of the City of New York,” vol. II, p. 661): “On the bank of the Hudson, near the residence of Viscount Courtenay, afterwards Earl of Devon, was a strong stone tower connected by a line of intrenchments with Fort Laight.” Fort Laight was at the north on an eminence overlooking Manhattanville.

42 Mrs. Hamilton was the daughter of General Philip Schuyler.

43 Some time before this his eldest son had lost his life in a duel.

44 This is one of the best examples of a Colonial manor house now standing with wainscoted walls, ornamental ceilings, carved staircase, mantels, etc. The establishment was a large one for the time, maintaining thirty white and twenty colored servants.—“Bolton’s History of Westchester County.”

45 “Bolton’s History of Westchester County,” vol. II.

46 At the outbreak of the Revolution the manorial families of the province held various sentiments regarding the relations with the mother country. Families like those of Philipse and De Lancey were loyal to the crown and lost everything. Others, like those of Livingston and Schuyler, espoused the cause of the “rebels” or “patriots.” Again, there was a third class, embracing families like those of Van Cortlandt and Morris, that had representatives on either side. The Patroon, being a minor, was legally incapable of choosing and saved his vast estate.

47 The Government of France had certain claims against this Government. An agreement was made to release these claims upon the express consideration that the United States would pay their own citizens the claims that they had against France.

48 Mrs. Lamb’s, “History of the City of New York.”

49 This picture is from a sketch by permission of the New York Herald.

50 While living in Philadelphia during the war he was thrown from his carriage in trying to control a pair of runaway horses. The accident necessitated the amputation of a leg.

51 Diary, p. 2.

52 Commissary’s, Quartermaster’s, and Medical Departments.

53 A laconic entry in the diary gives a hint as to the life of terror which the ill-fated family were leading: “Go to court this morning (August 5th). Nothing remarkable, only they were up all night expecting to be murdered.”—Diary, p. 569.

54 M. Esmein quotes Taine: “Quatre observateurs, écrit Hippolyte Taine, ont dès le début, compris le caractére et la portée de la Revolution française—Rivarol, Malouet, Gouverneur Morris et Mallet du Pan, celui—ci plus profondement que les autres;...” but Esmein says “contre l’auteur illustre et respecté des Origines de la France contemporaine, j’oserais revendiquer pour Gouverneur Morris, la plupart des titres qu’il reconnait a Mallet du Pan.” (“Gouverneur Morris, un temoin American de la revolution Française,” by A. Esmein, membre de l’Institut, Paris, 1906.)

55 “Partout où il a porté ses pas, en Angleterre comme dans l’Europe continentale, il etait accueilli avec une faveur marquée par les hommes d’État les plus en vue; les ministres en charge, les ambassadeurs les plus influents, le consultaient voluntiers et le renseignaient en meme temps.

Il a su recueillir partout des information abondantes et sûre, et très souvent ses prédictions se réalisaient.... Voici le compliment que lui adressait le 2 Juillet, 1790, M. de la Luzerne, ambassadeur de France à Londres—‘vous dites toujours des chose extraordinaires qui se réalisent’” (idem).

56 The king: “Pray, Mr. Morris, what part of America are you from?” Morris: “I am from near New York, sir. I have a brother who has the honor to be a lieutenant general in your Majesty’s service.” The king: “Eh! what! You’re a brother of General Morris? Yes, I think I see a likeness, but you’re much younger.”

Diary, vol. II, p. 135. Some years prior to the Revolution, his elder brother, Staats Morris, had married the Duchess of Gordon and was a lieutenant general in the British army. He was the first lieutenant colonel of the Eighty-ninth Regiment of Highlanders, the duke being a captain, and his brothers, lieutenant and ensign.

57 “Life of Morris,” vol. I, p. 477.

58 Diary, vol. II, p. 418.

59 “The Homes of America,” p. 119.

60 The house was taken down in 1905 to make way for the tracks of the New York & New Haven Railroad Company.

61 Surrogate’s Office, New York, fol. XVIII, 62.

62 “Bolton’s History of Westchester County,” vol. II, p. 622.

63 Daughter of Lieutenant Robert Feake, patentee of Greenwich, Conn., and his wife Elizabeth, niece of John Winthrop.

64 Morris’s “Memorial History of Staten Island.”

65 New York Herald, April 15, 1906.

Transcriber’s Notes

Punctuation, hyphenation, and spelling were made consistent when a predominant preference was found in the original book; otherwise they were not changed.

Simple typographical errors were corrected; unbalanced quotation marks were remedied when the change was obvious, and otherwise left unbalanced.

Inconsistent use of small-caps in the “Subjects” (Table of Contents) has been retained here.

Misspelled French words were not corrected.

Photographs of the buildings usually are just above the chapters referring to them, and the Table of Subjects refers to the chapters, not to the photographs. However, the hyperlinks in the Table of Subjects lead to the photographs.

End of the Project Gutenberg EBook of Old Buildings of New York, by Anonymous


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