by Tom Miller
On October 22, 1887, Richard V. Harnett held a property auction. The Real Estate Record & Guide said, “These include the two eligibly situated lots on the southwest corner of the Boulevard and 75th street.” Developer Henry B. Helmke paid $36,000 for the vacant property or just over $1 million in today’s money. The architectural firm of A. B. Ogden & Son filed plans in July 1888 for a five-story brick “flats and stores” building, that would cost Helmke another $40,000 to construct.
Completed in 1890, the structure was a marriage of the neo-Grec and Queen Anne styles. Faced in red brick and trimmed in stone, it was decorated with terra cotta plaques and creative brickwork. An attractive brick corbel table ran below the pressed metal cornice. In order to install two stores on the Boulevard (soon to be Broadway) side, the residential entrance was placed around the corner at 226 West 75th Street.
The apartments, of six or seven rooms and bath, filled with professional tenants, like Dr. Frank Canfield Hollister, assigned to the 4th Medical Division of the Army and an intern at Bellevue Hospital in 1892. Other early residents were the family of Olney Baldwin Dowd. Dowd had founded the Dowd Lumber Company on Avenue A in 1868, but unlike many lumber dealers, he was passionately interested in scientific forestry and was a member of the American Forestry Association. He and his wife, Emma, had two daughters, Florence and Agnes.
The MacConnell family was among the most visible. Hugh P. MacConnell was an early “automobilist,” and a member of the Society of Automobile Engineers. On September 15, 1906, The Automotor Journal, in reporting on the Skegness Sands Race, reported, “The accident in the Isle of Man to the Bianchi car, driven by Mr. Hugh P. MacConnell…was not so bad as might be gathered from the reports which have appeared in the Press. Mr. Hugh P. MacConnell and his assistant are now, we learn, quite well, and the car is being put in working order, and will be run in the Tourist Trophy Race.”
[Dowd] was passionately interested in scientific forestry and was a member of the American Forestry Association.
His wife, Sarah Warder MacConnell, was an accomplished writer and author. Her short stories appeared in periodicals like the Ladies’ Home Journal, the Delineator, and Everybody’s magazine, and she was the author of popular novels like Why Theodora, Many Mansions, and One.
Living with the MacConnells was Hugh’s widowed mother, Anna. Her elevated social status made her a victim of sorts of Edgar A. Washburne, who operated a bogus tourist guide agency in 1896. Washburne lured young “typewriters” (the 19th-century term for secretaries) with the promise of making extra money by guiding tourists around New York. He guaranteed $10 per week income after they provided $50 deposit as a “guarantee of good faith.” A professional-looking brochure gave the names and descriptions of 45 women who purportedly worked for him. Among them was “Mrs. A. MacConnell, No. 226 West Seventy-fifth street; American; speaks English only; tall, fair appearance, good dresser; also experienced shopper.” Anna MacConnell was no doubt surprised and shocked when she read the description of herself in the New York Herald following Washburne’s arrest on January 13, 1896.
The incident behind her, Anna MacConnell, like other society women, announced her “at homes” in the society pages. The practice allowed ladies the ability to schedule their social calls. In December 1904 the New York Herald announced, “Mrs. Anna MacConnell, of No. 226 West Seventy-fifth street, is at home this month on Saturdays.”
Living here at the time was the self-reliant Sarah Ann Abbott. Born in Blackburne, England, in 1840, her parents brought her to America by 1854, when they purchased a farm in Jamaica, Long Island. Widowed, she opened a livery business around 1877. She was still running the stable in 1907 when she suffered “a lingering illness, which was borne with patience and fortitude,” according to the Brooklyn Daily Eagle. Sue died in her apartment on August 22 at the age of 67. The newspaper said, “Mrs. Abbott was probably the best-known business woman on the upper West Side of Manhattan.”
In the meantime, John M. Buck’s grocery store occupied 2137 Broadway, and 2135 Broadway was home to Paul Weinrig’s tailor shop.
The building was renovated in 1920. On August 11, The Sun reported that it had “just been altered into high class bachelor apartments, with elevators and stores on the Broadway front.” (There were still just two stores.) Bachelor apartments did not necessarily mean that they were only for unmarried men, but that they had no kitchens.
The store in 2137 Broadway was leased that year to the London Luggage Shop. It was a short-term arrangement, and by April 1922 the Lillian Sloane women’s shop was in the space.
On April 10, 1926, 32-year-old Joseph Stern broke into the Lilian Sloane shop and stole “several hundred dollars’ worth of silk dresses,” according to The Sun. He fled west along West 72nd Street with his loot when he was spotted by Detectives Horan and Maloney. The newspaper said he “was captured after a chase along Seventy-second street as he was about to cross Broadway. The detectives pursued their man with drawn revolvers but no shots were fired.” As it turned out, the Sloane heist was small potatoes for Stern. At the station house, a letter was found in his pocket outlining a planned $500,000 fur robbery.
Around 1930 a third store was installed at 2133 Broadway, at the corner. It was home to the Municipal Food Market. In 1932 the Lillian Sloane space was taken over by Mayfair Corsettierres “for a corset and lingerie shop,” as reported in The New York Sun.
Bachelor apartments did not necessarily mean that they were only for unmarried men, but that they had no kitchens.
Another renovation, completed in 1941, crammed five stores into the ground floor, wrapping around the building onto West 75th Street. Each of the upper floors now held six apartments. Not all of the tenants were as upstanding as those at the turn of the century. Among them was Frank Morgano, who pleaded guilty in September 1948 to running a bookmaking operation from an apartment.
The early 1960’s saw the Citarella Fish market in 2135 Broadway. Next door at 2133 was the JAM discount store. The fish market drew patrons from as far away as Long Island, New Jersey, and Brooklyn. On August 13, 1963, Nan Ickeringill, writing in The New York Times said, “One reason for such long-distance fish buying is that the store offers some of the freshest seafood found outside the ocean.” It was merely a hint of things to come.
The ongoing success prompted an expansion, and on July 1, 1992, The New York Times food critic Florence Fabricant reported, “Citarella, the fish market at 2135 Broadway (75th Street), has just opened a meat market next door at 2133 Broadway.”
In 1997 Citarella expanded to the entire first and second floors, with “accessory offices” on the third. The remodeling removed what was left of the lower two floors of A. B. Ogden & Son’s façade. Ten years later, on August 12, 2007, New York Times journalist John Kifner described Citarella as “once a fish store, now an empire.”
Above the two-story, 21st-century modernization, and other than the loss of the two triangular pediments that originally perched above the cornice with the building’s original name of “Eldorado,” the Victorian building retains most of its 1890 appearance.
Tom Miller is a social historian and blogger at daytoninmanhattan.blogspot.com
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