Thursday, July 2, 2015

The Ashbel P. Fitch House -- No. 1388 Lexington Avenue

In 1879 Ashbel and Elizabeth Cross Fitch moved into the new house at No. 1376 Lexington Avenue with their three children.  Little Bessie was four, Ashbel Jr. was two, and Ella was just a year old.  The couple had been married five years.

The impressive brownstone-fronted house was three stories high above an especially deep English basement.  The regulated symmetry of the design was upset by the unusual dormers that punched through the steep mansard—one being twice the width of the other.  A high stoop led to the centered entrance on the parlor floor.

The brackets of the unusual dormers match those of the cornice directly below.

Ashbel Fitch leased the impressive home from wealthy brewer George Ehret.  Lexington Avenue had been extended this far north only nine years earlier and other impressive residences were still appearing along the thoroughfare.

The 30-year old Ashbel Parmelee Fitch had received “his rudimentary education…in the common schools here,” said The New York Times in 1899.  But he then studied in Europe, at the Universities of Berlin and Jena.  Five years after moving into the Lexington Avenue home he essentially gave up his legal career to turn to politics.  (In the meantime two more children were born in the house—Morton in 1881 and Littleton two years later.)

In 1883 Fitch purchased the house from Ehret for $23,000.  The brewer had not only been Fitch’s landlord, but one of his most important legal clients.  Fitch paid him $5,000 in cash, and then essentially traded legal work over a period of four years to pay off the debt.

from the collection of the New York Public Library
Highly ethical and adamant about the human rights of the working class, Fitch declined the Republican nomination for Congress in 1884 “on the ground the he was not in sympathy with the high protection doctrines of the Republican Party,” according to The Times.   In 1886 he was elected to the House of Representatives.

On February 8, 1887 Fitch’s father, Edward, died suddenly at the age of 66.  He had been one of the founders of the New York State Republican Party and the first New York Republican in the Legislature.  Since 1869 he had been a partner in son’s law firm.    His funeral was held in the Lexington Avenue house on February 10.

That same year another child was born in the Fitch house—daughter Doris.  Elizabeth, called Lizzie by her friends, had a staff of servants.  None was as important as Lizzie Petrie, the children’s nurse.  She was hired in 1876 and lived with the Fitches for years, becoming a de facto family member.

In 1888 the address of the home was changed to 1388 Lexington Avenue.  According to David F. Remington in his Ashbel P. Fitch: Champion of Old New York, “Fitch was not please when the address changed because 1376 held two ‘13’s,’ his lucky number.”

Fitch’s popularity among the people was evidenced on September 30, 1889.  As the family prepared to leave for abroad, citizens bid an impressive farewell.  The following day The New York Times reported “The Old Homestead Club and about three thousand citizens of Yorkville and Harlem assembled in front of the residence of Congressman Ashbel P. Fitch, 1,388 Lexington-avenue, last evening, headed by Leibold’s Band and gave him a serenade on the eve of his departure for Europe.”

Fitch was called back to New York from Washington in September 1893 on reports that his 72-year old mother was ill.  Fanny Fitch, like her husband and son, had led an impressive life.   During the Civil War she had been active in the formation of the Sanitary Commission which, according to The Times, “did so much good work for soldiers.”  She remained active in the Commission throughout the war.  Afterward she turned her focus to charitable organizations like the Orphan Home and the Magdalen Asylum.

By the time Fitch returned, Fanny’s condition had deteriorated.  She had contracted pneumonia and two weeks later on September 22, she died.  Her funeral, like that of her husband, took place in the Lexington Avenue house.

By 1895 the Fitches’ two eldest children, “Miss Bessie C. and Mr. Ashbel P. Jr.” were old enough to appear in The Social Register along with their parents.  But the following year the publication would have to update the addresses.  In the fall of 1895 Fitch sold the house to Josephine Schmidt, who had inherited about $1 million when her beer brewer husband, August Schmid, died. 

If Josephine, disparagingly called “the brewer’s wife,” by New York society, intended to live in the house, she changed her mind.  On March 14, 1896 the Real Estate Record and Builders’ Guide reported that “Under-Sheriff Henry H. Sherman has bought of Josephine Schmid the four-story stone front dwelling.”  In reporting the sale, the newspaper noted that Fitch had sold it “for a consideration of $27,000 in a trade for a larger residence in East 80th Street.”

Henry H. Sherman was making $5,000 in his city job at the time.   A comfortable salary equal to about $145,000 today, it afforded his wife to enjoy the life of a Manhattan socialite.  She was a strong supporter of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston and donated several important works over the years.

By 1908 No. 1388 Lexington Avenue had become home to Dr Frederick Charles Heckel.   Aside from his medical practice, Heckel was Vice President and Director of the Crystal Chemical Company.  Although the well-established physician would remain in the house at least through 1922, by 1921 he was renting rooms.  On May 3, 1921 an advertisement appeared in the New-York Tribune offering “Large front room; also one with two beds; running water.”

In 1918 Lexington Avenue was widened for the Lexington Avenue subway line and it was most likely at this time that the stoop was replaced by a less impressive staircase.  A business entrance in the English basement was most likely installed for Dr. Heckel’s medical office.

Despite the changes, when the Willis Gemmell Mitchell family moved in by 1931, life in the house became upscale once again.  The Mitchell’s summer house was in Ossining, New York and they owned a “summer camp” on Lake George.

On August 13, 1937 George D. Chinn photographed the house with its commercial street level entrance and odd staircase to the first floor. from the collection of the New York Public Library.
The society pages routinely reported on the entertainments given by Mrs. Mitchell: a “small dinner” at the house in March 1931; another dinner “for her daughters, the Misses Helen Annette and Betsy Mitchell” in July that year; and a luncheon at the Pierre “for Dame Rachel Crowdy of England, Chief of the Social Section of the League of Nations,” for instance.

On September 20, 1931 The New York Times updated its readers on Mrs. Mitchell’s movements, saying she “has left her summer camp on Lake George and is at 1,388 Lexington Avenue for the Autumn and Winter.”

In 2015 some of the original interior shutters survive.

Eventually dinner parties and receptions in the old house would come to an end.  Before the middle of the century it had been converted to apartments—two per floor--with a store on the ground level.   From at least 1958 through 1972 poet Marie B. Jaffe lived here.

Despite the abuse at street level, Ashbel Fitch’s brownstone home is still recognizable.  Inside a remarkable amount of original elements survive.  But few passersby notice one of the first residences in the developing neighborhood and the home of a popular Congressman.

non-credited photographs by the author

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Cathedral Free Circulating Library -- No. 203 West 82nd Street

Many New Yorkers could not afford the luxury of buying books in the 19th century; and prior to 1880 the few libraries that existed were not open to the public.  But that year the Free Circulating Library was incorporated.   The response was so great that the sidewalks around the first library—a single room in a building on 13th Street near Fourth Avenue—were blocked.  At closing time on one occasion, of the 500 books only two were left on the shelves.

The movement caught on and circulating libraries began appearing throughout the city, including the Cathedral Free Circulating Library, established in 1892.   Five years later acting president John Hayes noted “That in the year ended June 30, 1897, said Cathedral Free Circulating Library loaned to the individuals in the City of New York more than ninety-four thousand volumes to be read by them at their homes.”  He also pointed out that “additional facilities must be procured.”

David W. Bishop owned a four-story brick apartment and store building at the northwest corner of Amsterdam Avenue and 82nd Street.  In 1899 he constructed a one-story structure directly behind it, designed by architect A. E. Westover.  The unlikely building pretended to be quite grand, despite its minimal proportions. Its cast iron pilasters supported a pressed metal bracketed cornice.  Above this was a Roman-style parapet with a miniature temple.  Within its pediment was the date of construction.  It was topped by an antefix which added to the classical grandeur of the diminutive building.

No doubt the blank space below the pediment held a plaque announcing the Cathedral Free Circulating Library.  John Hayes had gotten his wish and No. 203 West 82nd Street was now one of three Cathedral Free Circulating Library locations.   

 By 1901 the number of volumes lent to Manhattan residents had risen to 342,980. That same year Andrew Carnegie offered $5.2 million to the City of New York to establish the largest free circulating library system in the world.  Carnegie’s generous gift may have spelled the end of the Cathedral Free Circulating Library on 82nd Street; but for whatever reason, by the end of 1902 it was gone.

In its place came a less lofty, but no less necessary, concern—a plumbing shop.  J. J. Falihee converted the library for his plumbing business.  His was no small operation and by 1910 he had joined forces with Thomas F. McCaul to form Falihee & McCaul.  That year The Plumbers’ Trade Journal reported “Faliee & McCaul, of 203 West 82d street, Manhattan, are over their heads in new plumbing contracts. We haven’t the space to enumerate them all, so we will mention the most important, as follows: An apartment of 10 stories on Claremont avenue and 177th street, an eight-story apartment on 113th street and Broadway, a six-story apartment on 153d street and Broadway, a six-story on 109th street and Amsterdam avenue and a few others.”

Falihee and McCaul were members of the Master Plumbers’ Association; a situation that placed them in hot water with the Government in 1921.  Investigators discovered that the union plumbers submitted their bids for jobs to John T. Hettrick before sending then to the contractors.  According to court papers “Hettrick revised the bids so that the plumber who was ‘entitled’ to the contract had the lowest bid.”

Falihee and McCaul were investigated, along with scores of other plumbers for violating the Donnelly Anti-Trust law.  The pair escaped jail time; but they were fined a significant $2,500 on March 22 1921—more in the neighborhood of $33,000 today.

The highly-successful plumbers soon branched out, acting as general contractors and operators.  Within a year of the court’s decision, they had formed F. M. Construction Co. and filed plans for a $130,000 apartment building on Shakespeare Avenue in the Bronx, designed by John P. Boyland.

It was possibly their expanded business that prompted their need to relocate; but by the mid-1930s Faliee & McCaul had moved on.   No. 203 West 82nd Street was converted to a neighborhood grocery store.

Out of the Great Depression came desperation; and it may have been that which impelled three teen-aged boys to attempt a hold-up of the little grocery store on the night after Christmas in 1938.  Their attempt at robbing the store failed and the boys fled in various directions—one of them running across rooftops to escape.  It ended badly.

Fifteen-year old David Holmes fell five stories from a tenement building, seriously injuring himself.  He and another 15-year old accomplice were arrested and charged with juvenile delinquency.  The third boy was older, 17, and was charged with burglary.  David’s charges were made in Roosevelt Hospital.

Throughout the rest of the century, up until today, the little building has suffered much disrespect.  Today, separated into two shops, it is home to a cleaners and a second hand store.  And yet No. 203 West 82nd Street refuses to be ordinary, maintaining its rather haughty air.

photographs by the author

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

The 1826 Willletts Street Methodist Episcopal Church -- 7 Bialystoker Place

With the end of the Revolutionary War and a renewed sense of normalcy, New York City again looked northward for expansion.  James de Lancey Jr. had been banished from New York as a Loyalist and his expansive country estate was confiscated and later sold as building lots.   By the 1810s and ‘20s, Grand Street, once a wide drive through de Lancey’s property, was becoming lined with Federal-style homes.

The residents of this new neighborhood required schools, shops and churches.  In 1826 the handsome Willett Street Methodist Episcopal Church was completed just steps from Grand Street.  The undressed schist of the fa├žade had been quarried nearby on Pitt Street.   Simple and refined, its perfectly-symmetrical temple-inspired front featured three doors and corresponding openings, each trimmed in contrasting stone.  A striking lunette window enhanced the low-pitched pediment.

Religion for the congregants of the Willett Street Methodist Episcopal Church was not taken lightly.  Four years after the building was completed a 19-year old man entered its doors.  According to his obituary in 1874, William F. Gould’s life would forever change.  The Minutes of the Annual Conferences of the Methodist Episcopal Church noted that when he found the Willett Street church “he had become deeply convicted of sin, and was led to embrace the Saviour by faith in the Willett-street Methodist Episcopal Church, New York city.  His conversion was clear and powerful, giving indubitable evidence of a thorough and radical change of heart.”

The Willett Street church had a burying ground in the adjoining yard.  The 1881 pamphlet The Cemeteries of New York and How To Reach Them explained that “In early days every church in New York had a graveyard connected with the church building.  In 1822 there were 23 graveyards below the City Hall.” 

But the city’s desperate need for land and the threat of disease led to the 1851 city ordinance that prohibited any burials south of 86th Street.  The trustees of the church, therefore, agreed to move their dead to Cypress Hills Cemetery in Brooklyn.  The transfers began in 1854 and continued for two years.  What the families of deceased loved ones were unaware of was that the final resting spot was more ornamental than respectful.

A reporter from the Brooklyn Daily Eagle interviewed a watchman at the plot who admitted that the “bones and coffins” were buried in long trenches.  Above, the headstones were nicely arranged--“put up to look good.”

No doubt highly involved in the removals and re-burying of the graveyard denizens were undertakers G. W. Relyea and his son, Peter Relyea.  The men lived steps away from the church, at No. 3 Willett Street, and Peter was one of its sextons.

The 49-year old Peter Relyea was contacted on April 21, 1865 by the Board of Aldermen and given a nerve-wracking commission.  He was put in charge of President Abraham Lincoln’s funeral procession through the streets of Manhattan.  He had three days to build the elaborate catafalque that would carry the assassinated President’s remains.  Peter Relyea’s hearse for the occasion was so large and so elaborate that it required 16 horses.

Twelve pallbearers carry Lincoln's coffin to Relyea's elaborate creation -- Harper's Weekly May 13, 1865 (copyright expired)
The immense pressure and the sleepless nights (he told reporters he and 60 employees worked day and night without sleep to design and construct the catafalque) would be worth it.  Not only did he receive the staggering sum of $9,000, he would use the honor as a marketing tool for the rest of his career.

Peter Relyea's business card would forever note "Undertaker for President Lincoln"
Peter Relyea’s life could continue to be far more colorful than that of the average undertaker.  He was sued by Margaret E. Bonifice three years later following the elaborate funeral of her father.   While he supplied “a certain number of carriages and horses” to transport family and guests from Manhattan to the cemetery and back; a problem ensued on the return.

The driver of the carriage in which Margaret Bonifice rode made an unscheduled stop.  Her complaint read in part “the driver of the carriage wherein was the plaintiff, stopped at a hotel, and left his horses unhitched; and while he was absent they ran away and throwed the plaintiff out of the carriage and injured her.”

Relyea was back in the news in 1878 when he walked into Police Headquarters and told Inspector Dilks that he knew the identity of one of the grave robbers of millionaire Alexander T. Stewart.  The investigator chided Relyea for waiting so long to inform on the criminal.  Not intimidated, “Mr. Relyea replied that he had a business to attend to, and that he could not afford to neglect it for the purpose of going about the country playing detective,” reported The New York Times.

In the meantime, the Willett Street church ministered to the neighborhood and offered occasional lectures and musical programs.  In September 1868 Rev. Antonio A. Arrighi delivered an address on “Late In Italy.”  The Times said “The church was thronged by an attentive audience.”   The lecture apparently poked some fun at the Italians.  “He gave a graphic description of the process of eating macaroni by the lazzaroni, which excited much mirth.”

In 1877 the 50-year old building received a make-over.  On November 5 The New York Times reported that “Large congregations attended yesterday at the exercises in the Willett-Street Methodist Episcopal Church, which has been recently remodeled and improved, and which has just been reopened for divine worship.”  Special appeals were made to the congregation “to aid in defraying the expenses of the recent improvements, and was liberally responded to.”

In December 1883 Rev. John E. Searles returned to the Willett Street church as its pastor.  He commented on the changes since he first took the pulpit in 1843.  “Since I came here first both the church and those who meet within its walls are changed.  Those who formed the congregation 40 years ago have since then passed away.  The building itself has been enlarged.  I used to stand in a pulpit made like a box, so that when I sat down no one could see me.”

The minister noted “In the old times the population hereabout was quite different” and he blamed the dwindling membership on a “growing indifference to Christian duty.”  In realty, the Grand Street area was changing rapidly.  What had been a quiet residential neighborhood was now bustling with commerce.  Already a large immigrant population had pushed the former residents northward and tenement buildings were replacing private homes.

Peter Relyea was one of the old congregants to surrender to the changes.  In 1894 he sold No. 3 Willett Street for $16,000 and moved to Brooklyn.  With its congregation dwindling, by the turn of the century, the Willett Street Methodist Episcopal church was in financial trouble.   What had been a solely Christian neighborhood was rapidly filling with those of the Jewish faith.

On May 19, 1902 The New York Times noted “Once the church had a large congregation, but to-day it has a hard struggle to maintain itself amid the encroaching foreign population.”  Pastor J. L. Smith tried a desperate scheme.   For the church’s 83rd anniversary, he sent messages to all the old members who had moved away to attend the ceremony.

Former congregants responded—some from the Bronx and Brooklyn and others as far away as Philadelphia.  At the end of the day “it was resolved that each member of the organization should provide himself with a toy savings bank shaped like a jug.”  The members were to deposit a coin into the bank now and then throughout the year.   Then, “at the end of the year the church is to hold a grand jug smashing contest, and turn over the funds to the pastor,” reported a newspaper.   The somewhat far-fetched idea was hoped to “help keep up the church.”

The jug smashing fund-raiser was not enough.  On May 20, 1905 The Christian Work and Evangelist reported “After an existence of eighty-one years, during the early part of which it was the place of worship of many of New York’s wealthiest families, the old Willett Street Methodist Episcopal Church was sold late week to the Congregation Anshai Chesed Ballystok, and soon will be used as a synagogue.”

The journal got the spelling wrong, but was otherwise accurate in its reporting.  The congregation Chevra Anshei Chesed of Bialystok had been organized in 1865 by a group of Polish immigrants from the town of Bialystok.   With their merging with the Congregation Adas Yeshurun (whose members also came from Bialystok), they needed a larger place of worship.

Alterations were completed within three months and the new synagogue was dedicated on August 20, 1905.  But it was not without incident.  The Sun reported that “The new synagogue itself is small, but nearly 3,000 packed themselves inside of it, while others filled the adjacent streets and he fire escapes and windows.  The interior of the building was hung with flags and banners, while ribbons of bunting festooned the gallery.”

The celebration had started at 3:00 when the congregation marched from its former synagogue at No. 84 Orchard Street, led by a band of 75 boys from the Hebrew Orphan Asylum.  Behind them 300 girls dressed in white bore flags.  “A string of carriages, many blocks in length, bore the aged and infirm members of the congregation, while the rest marched on foot.”

But once they were in the new building, near tragedy happened.

The following day the New-York Tribune reported “A piece of bunting caught fire from an unprotected gas burner at the dedication festival of the congregation of Beth Hakneseth Anshei Bialystok, at No. 7 Willett-st., yesterday afternoon, and instantly the entire audience, which numbered about three thousand, was in an uproar.”

Captain Joseph McGlynn, in charge of the police reserves that day, ordered the choir to start singing as he headed for the burning drapery.  But six-year old Gertrude Rosenblum got there first.  The plucky little girl climbed onto a chair and pulled the flaming cloth down, burning her hand in the process.  A grown-up stomped out the fire.

But panic had already set in.  “Those in the gallery came piling down the stairs upon those on the floor below,” reported The Sun, “and in an instant the house was filled with a fighting, frightened mob.  Outside, the crowd took up the cry ‘Fire!’ and there was a rush to the scene.  The police, fifty of whom surrounded the place, were swept aside, unable to check the rush.”
Little Gertrude Rosenblum tried her best to calm the hysterical mob.  “The crowd looked back, saw the little girl swinging the blackened stick in her hand and sat down.”  It took 200 additional police to restore order and Captain McGlynn cleared the street each way for a block.

The Sun said “Those who wanted to leave the church were allowed to do so and in ten minutes the meeting was in full swing again.”

What started out in chaos and terror ended with joy.   Immediately after the service, Ida Gottlieb and Benjamin Goldberg drove up in a closed carriage.  The couple insisted on being the first to be married in the new synagogue.  They were greeted with cheers “that took the nerve of the bride, while her husband-to-be turned the color of a Chinese laundry check,” said The Sun.

The newspaper added “To be the first married in a new synagogue is accounted a high honor and the privilege is usually well paid for.  After the ceremony was over yesterday one of the members said that the parents of the bride and bridegroom would probably contribute $500 to the synagogue.”

Eventually the stretch of Willett Street was renamed Bialystoker Place.  Throughout the 20th century the synagogue survived even as the neighborhood’s Jewish community slowly abandoned the Lower East Side.   In 1988 the congregation restored the sanctuary, which is noted for its vibrant and colorful decoration. 

According to Gerald R. Wolfe in his 2013 The Synagogues of New York’s Lower East Side, “Among the synagogue’s restored treasures is its nearly three-story-high hand-carved wooden Aron Kodesh, which is flanked by brilliantly colored stained glass windows of comparable magnitude and majesty. The Italian master restorer and decorative painter, Paolo Spano, performed the extensive restoration of the Ark.”

The nearly 200-year old fieldstone structure survives essentially unchanged since is 1905 change-of-hands--a remarkable relic from a time when the Lower East Side was a new suburb of New York City.

photographs by the author

Monday, June 29, 2015

The Lost 1883 Hoyt Mansion, No. 934 5th Avenue

The mansion looked slightly out of place on the east side of the Park -- sketch from "Our firemen : a history of New York Fire Department" 1887 (copyright expired)
A young and ambitious Alfred Miller Hoyt left his native city of Manhattan to study at Kenyon College.  There surrounded by the farmlands of Ohio he met Rosina Elizabeth Reese and the pair was married on October 20, 1858 in Lancaster, Ohio.

The Midwest appealed to Hoyt and he briefly went into the dry goods business in Ohio, then worked in the lumber regions of Michigan.  But eventually he returned to New York where he and his brother formed the commission firm of Jesse Hoyt & Co.   By the time the Civil War drew to a close, the brothers had each amassed a fortune. 

When Alfred retired in 1881 he had established his own banking firm, A. M. Hoyt & Co. and was also a trustees in the Bank for Savings in the City of New York, a trustee in the Continental Trust Company, a director in the Fidelity and Casualty Company, a director in the Merchants’ Exchange National Bank, and a trustee of the New York Produce Exchange Safe Deposit and Storage Company.  He also had interest in the Consolidated Ice Company and the Bowling Green Safe Deposit Company.

Alfred and Rosalina Hoyt were socially prominent and Alfred held memberships in an exhausting list of the most respected mens' clubs in town—the Metropolitan, the Union League, the Harvard, the University, the Ardsley, the Riding, the Racquet and Tennis, the Grolier, the Seawanhaka-Corinthian Yacht Club, and the Century Association.  He was also active in operations of the National Academy of Design, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the American Geographical Society, and the American Museum of Natural History.  

Now retired, Hoyt laid plans for a new home along Central Park where New York's millionaires were just beginning to venture.  The Hoyts would be among the first of the wealthy families to venture as far north as 75th Street.   By the 1890s the migration would be in full swing; but in 1881 the Hoyts’ building site near the corner of 75th Street was still somewhat undeveloped other a few brownstone townhouses erected a decade earlier.   

Hoyt commissioned the firm of McKim, Mead & White to design his residence..   It was a relatively early commission for the three--Stanford White had just joined the firm in 1879.  And yet the resultant townhouse smacked of the style of Clarence Fagan True who would be busy filling the Upper West Side with similar structures through the turn of the century.

As Beaux Arts and Italian Renaissance palaces clad in limestone or marble crowded around it, the Hoyt mansion looked rather out of place--as though it belonged on the other side of the Park.  Built of buff-colored brick, limestone and terra cotta it rose over an English basement guarded by a stone wall with an attractive lacy iron gate.  Construction began in 1882 and was completed a year later.  The Real Estate Record & Builders' Guide called it "plain but elegant."

Like so many of Clarence True’s rowhouses, it featured rounded bays, a central section of brick sitting on a variegated base, a highly-decorative terra cotta top floor, surmounted by a tiara-like balustrade.  A Juliette balcony with a waist-high ornamental railing added a touch of Venice.  Clever manipulation of the design created the illusion of symmetry at first glance; but a closer view revealed that the southern bay was significantly wider and the doorway slightly offset.

When the Hoyts and their servants moved in to No. 934 5th Avenue, at least three of their five children were with them.  Alfred W. Hoyt was attending Harvard, his brother John Sherman Hoyt was still a student at Columbia College, and Rosina was still unmarried.

The house, as well as their Southampton estate, was the scene of society teas and dinner parties given by Rosina and the Hoyt name appeared in the society pages often.   As the turn of the century approached and the 5th Avenue neighborhood filled with costly mansions, the Hoyts remained busy in political as well as social endeavors.  Both Alfred and Rosina signed the Woman Suffrage Amendment petition in 1894.

In June 1903 Alfred Miller Hoyt was taken ill.  A few days later, on June 18, he died in his bed at No. 934 5th Avenue.   After the appropriate mourning period, the family reentered the social scene.  In January 1908 Rosina gave a dance at the elegant Sherry’s in honor of her granddaughter, Rosina Otis.   But mourning crepe would reappear on the door before the decade was out.

On November 20, 1911 48-year old bachelor Alfred W. Hoyt—now head of the family banking firm—died in the house after battling typhoid fever for two weeks.  Like his father he held multiple directorships including a seat on the board of the Belnord Realty Company that built the Belnord Apartments at 86th Street and Broadway, and the Fidelity and Casualty Company.

The two Rosina Hoyts—mother and daughter—remained on in their beloved house catered to by a sizable staff.   Young Rosina immersed herself in club activities becoming secretary of the Garden Club of America and hosting the meetings of the Colonial Dames Sewing Class in the house in 1914.  

By now Alfred and Rosina’s grandchildren were reaching adulthood and a year later the house was the scene of a wedding reception for son Henry’s daughter, Elizabeth Sherman Hoyt, following her marriage to Thomas H. Frothingham of Philadelphia in St. Bartholomew’s Church.  Rosina’s buffet lunch was catered by Sherry’s and among the socially-prominent guests included Percy R. Pyne and his family, Mr. and Mrs. George B. Post and daughter, and the John R. Suydam family.

On October 19, 1920 the mansion was boarded shut.  photograph by Wurts Bros. from the collection of the Museum of the City of New York,

The two women lived on in the mansion until February 26, 1922 when Mrs. Rosina M. Hoyt died upstairs in her bedroom.   Daughter Rosina received the house, as well as half of her mother’s estate.  Mrs. Hoyt expressed her appreciation to her faithful servants in her will.  Longtime coachman, Hugh McGuire, received $10,000.  Chauffeur Herman Hartmeyer and butler Axel Swenson both received $5,000.  And every employee of within the household who had been in service for over three years received $2,000—about $21,500 today.

Rosina sold the house to George E. Mitchell, nicknamed “Sunshine Charley” who had been elected president of National City Bank (now Citibank).  The millionaire banker demolished Alfred Hoyt’s architecturally-incongruous mansion and commissioned architects Walker & Gillette to design a $500,000 Renaissance-inspired limestone mansion on the site.   The mansion exists, complete with Mitchell’s furnishings and artworks, as the Consulate General of France.

Mitchell replaced the Hoyt mansion with a more geographically-appropriate structure -- photo by te author