by Tom Miller
On October 27, 1902, The New York Times reported, “Mrs. Elizabeth Cady Stanton died at 3 o’clock yesterday afternoon at her home in the Stuart Apartment House, 230 West Ninety-fourth Street.” The author, lecturer, and proponent of women’s rights—significantly suffrage—was nearly 87 years old. The apartment building in which she lived sat on the northeast corner of Broadway and 94th Street.
The post-World War I years saw Victorian residential buildings fall from favor, replaced by modern apartment buildings. In 1924 the architectural firm of Sugarman & Berger was commissioned to design a new structure on the site of the Stuart Apartment House—a hulking, 15-story building intended for affluent families. Completed the following year, 250 West 94th Street was designed in the neo-Renaissance style. Its E-shaped plan allowed for two courtyards that afforded ample light and ventilation to the interior rooms.
There were ten apartments per floor, ranging from three to seven rooms each. In its November 1925 issue, Architecture & Building noted, “The larger apartments provide servants’ room and bath. Serving pantries are also introduced between the kitchen and the dining room.” Residents, or their cooks, enjoyed modern kitchens, equipped with “gas range, sink, wash trays, clothes dryer, refrigerator and dressers [i.e. cupboards], with extensive shelf space enclosed with glass doors.”
Its E-shaped plan allowed for two courtyards that afforded ample light and ventilation to the interior rooms.
The residential entrance was placed discreetly back from bustling Broadway, at 250 West 94th Street. Shops occupied the sidewalk level of the Broadway side of the building. The first tenant in 2511 Broadway was the showrooms of the Way-Luxfer Prism Co. The firm produced the “prism skylights” that illuminated cellars underneath sidewalks.
Magistrate M. R. Goodman and his family were among the initial residents. Appointed to the bench by Mayor James Walker in 1929, he exuded respectability and civic responsibility. But following the murder of gangster Arnold Rothstein in 1930, two “little black books” were discovered that detailed the amounts paid to officials as bribes. Among the names was M. R. Goodman.
On January 6, 1931, the day before Goodman was scheduled to appear before an investigative committee, he offered his resignation to the mayor. He explained that his quitting was “for the sole reason of ill health.” In fact, according to a statement from the Mayor’s Office, “his resignation has obviated the necessity for such an inquiry.”
In the second half of the 20th century, many of the vintage Broadway apartment buildings declined, often converted to SRO’s or homeless housing. That was not the case for 240 West 94th Street. The building kept its upscale personality and among its tenants by the late 1950’s was novelist and playwright Norman Mailer and his wife, Adele Morales. The couple had married in 1954 following Mailer’s divorce from Beatrice Silverman, and had two daughters, Danielle and Elizabeth.
In 1960 Mailer ran for the office of New York City mayor. To launch his campaign, the couple gave a party on Saturday night, November 19, 1960. It did not end well. During a drunken argument, the 35-year-old Mailer stabbed Adele in the chest and back with a penknife. According to Joseph Mantega in his 2010 Norman Mailer: The American, Mailer told his stunned guests, “Don’t touch her. Let the bitch die.”
Adele was taken downstairs to the apartment of novelist Doc Humes, and then transported to University Hospital where she was listed in critical condition for several days. The day after the assault Mailer appeared on “The Mike Wallace Show” to publicize his mayoral run. Although Adele initially claimed she “had fallen on glass,” Mailer confessed on November 21 and was arrested at the hospital. On November 10, The New York Times reported “Mr. Mailer pleaded guilty to a charge of third-degree assault.” He received only probation and a suspended sentence. The couple divorced in 1962.
Living here at the time was pianist Leo Solow and his wife, Helene. Born in Kiev, Solow graduated from the State Conservatorium there and then studied music in Berlin. He came to the United States in 1939, playing piano at dance classes and rehearsals of the School of American Ballet, the Metropolitan Opera, the Ballet Theater and the Fokine Ballet School. In 1953 he joined the School of Performing Arts as dance accompanist.
Mailer told his stunned guests, “Don’t touch her. Let the bitch die.”
Equally impressive was Dr. Bertam Epstein, who lived in the building with his wife, Natalie, in the 1960’s. He joined the faculty of City College in 1931, retiring in 1969 as professor of social and psychological foundations. He was at one time the director of research at City College’s Graduate School of Education. The couple was still living here when Dr. Epstein died on February 11, 1971.
Upper West Side apartment buildings had a tradition of being named, one that went back to the 1884 Dakota Apartments. And yet, when this building was converted to a 147-unit co-operative in 1969, it was known only by its address. That changed in 2008 when a poll was taken among residents to name the building. Several names were considered, but The Stanton, in honor of Elizabeth Cady Stanton who lived and died in the previous building, won out.
With only minor changes, the building looks much as it did in 1925 when it accepted its first residents. Even the Broadway storefronts are amazingly preserved from the period.
Tom Miller is a social historian and blogger at daytoninmanhattan.blogspot.com
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