Cultural Immigrant Initiative of Landmark West
This Exhibit is made possible with generous support from the Cultural Immigrant Initiative. LANDMARK WEST! especially thanks New York City Council Member Ben Kallos and Council Member Helen Rosenthal for their generous support. Initially intended as an inside-landmarks/on-the-Avenue exhibition, They Were Here has been reconfigured for an online audience due to Covid-19, but we also plan to launch a live version with tours along Columbus Avenue as soon as we can!
541 Columbus Ave.
Groceries, Hats, and Poison
In the 1890's, the corner shop here was Charles Hartman’s furniture business. The center store was Arndt & Wiesner grocers, and at the north end was Emma Jarden's millinery. Two brothers from Italy, Joseph and Mauro, then opened Sabatelli Brothers' barber shop near Morris Malbroau's corner butcher shop in 1916.
529 Columbus Ave.
The Countess, the Piano King & The Party Box
A resident here, German immigrant Josef Kuder, was a master piano maker. After studying the craft in Vienna, he came to New York in 1854 and in 1872 co-founded Sohmer & Co. At that time, there were 170 other piano manufacturers in NYC.
519 Columbus Ave.
Butter & Eggs Below; Shooting Showgirl Above
Charles Nagel and his wife were living here in 1911 when they became the focus of intense public scrutiny. Newspapers nationwide covered the story of the attempted murder of millionaire W. E. D. Stokes, owner of the Ansonia Hotel, by two chorus girls, one of whom was the Nagel’s daughter. They were called “The Shooting Show Girls.” The Nagels moved.
508-516 Columbus Ave.
The Louise: Money Woes and a Slice to Go
The Louise, completed in 1894, is a five-story assembly of flats with storefront space along Columbus Avenue designed and built by the prolific John G. Prague, who moved his firm’s operations in the same year the building opened to residents. Prague’s year at The Louise was an unhappy one, marred by financial failures. The Evening World suggested that Prague owed somewhere in the neighborhood of $400,000 to $430,000 (over $1 million today when adjusted for inflation). Perhaps this public pocketbook shaming led Prague to settle his operations miles away at the island’s southern tip, distancing himself from the Upper West Side enclave he had helped to build.
505 Columbus Ave.
A Landmark for Women's Suffrage
Each year on Election Day the city leased 507 Columbus Avenue as a polling place. In 1918 this humble building drew special attention when women registered to vote for the first time. On May 26, 1918 The Sun reported, “Miss Mary Garrett Hay, chairman of the Woman Suffrage party…was the first votress to enroll in her district. The place was a furniture store at 507 Columbus avenue and the time four minutes at 8 A. M.” Joining Mary Hay was Carrie Chapman Catt whom The New York Herald said, “has waited thirty years for the privilege of casting her ballot.”
504 Columbus Ave.
Fire, Films and a Fraud
Residents of 504 Columbus Ave. included May Atzbach who made waves when she was reportedly cured of her deafness onstage by Darius Wilson, M.D., a physician who proclaimed himself to be the greatest aurist of his (or any) time. Dr. Wilson was praised at the time for offering health insurance to immigrants, despite his dubious claim that he had found the solution to hearing loss. His displays of aural wizardry were popular events and well-attended by eager crowds clamoring to see the medical showman theatrically undo permanent ailments.
493 Columbus Ave.
The Corner Drugstore
The corner storefront here was home in the 1890s to Baluff’s Pharmacy, the first of a long string of drugstores in the space. It was operated by German immigrant Charles Wittenack. The next proprietor, immigrant Max Weiss, unluckily had his shop raided by police in 1904. It seems his associate was counterfeiting aspirin.
464 Columbus Ave.
A Solid Home for Single Ladies
Several single working women called this 1887 building home. There was Luella Know, who ran a shoe store and Miss Sarah Schreier who had a hat shop here in 1904. In 1894, Cynthia Westover arrived, a self-sufficient young woman, private secretary to the Commissioner of Street Cleaning. Her experience hiring a maid, procured through the Children’s Aid Society, taught her much about the lives of poor immigrant families in New York.
441-449 Columbus Ave.
Hotel Colonial: High-End Luxury and Low-Life Criminals
Built 1903-1905, the 125-unit Hotel Colonial was advertised upon completion as being “ABSOLUTELY FIREPROOF” with furnished or unfurnished suites of one-, two-, or three-bedrooms. Unfortunately it wasn't burglar-proof. Either way, the $1 Table d'Hote Dinner was a steal!
440 Columbus Ave.
Check out the Hotel Endicott
In 1890 “family hotel” apartments such as the Endicott were very popular, offering suites of up to nine rooms. Residents enjoyed all the latest amenities of steam heat, electric lights, and even a resident doctor. There were seven storefronts on Columbus, including an elegant Victorian drugstore with marble floors and mahogany cabinetry. There was not a single vacancy the day the Endicott opened.
426 Columbus Ave.
The Protective League and the Poolroom
In 1893 Clarence True designed this building as Hennessy’s oyster market and restaurant. He used iron spot brick, brownstone and terra cotta to mimic a Flemish stable with a large, offset archway- like the double doors of a carriage house- framing the quaint commercial space. A side entrance led upstairs to meeting rooms. In 1891 the West Side Protective League met there to suppress “gambling houses, houses of prostitution, and all persons and places of immoral character”. They ironically did not notice Costello’s billiard rooms in the space directly beneath them.
424 Columbus Ave.
Sheet Metal or Sheets to the Wind?
In 1899 German immigrant and architect Julius Munckwitz was hired to build a “modern” structure here. Munckwitz, who came to NYC in 1849, had worked on Central Park and was the New York Park Commission’s official architect for decades. He designed a two-story brick and stone building for two commercial tenants that included a bay window and a second story clad, uniquely, in sheet metal.
410 Columbus Ave.
"Hello Girl" Challenges Hospitality
Built in 1899, this was a 10-story “hotel”. Residence hotels were, essentially, just apartment buildings where residents ate in upscale communal dining rooms rather than in their suites. One resident was immigrant Elizabeth Ambrosy, whose parents brought her from Brandenburg, Germany, around 1870. Since her childhood she had known Eugene Landon, who grew up to be a wealthy lumber merchant. On April 3, 1906 the two were married here in the Orleans Hotel. The New-York Tribune remarked that the “wedding was quiet, only a few friends of the pair being present.” That was most likely because the groom had just divorced his wife.
392 Columbus Ave.
Five Houses Flip to Flats
Michael Kelly and his wife were living here in 1915 when Mrs. Kelly surprised a burglar in her room. He fled with Mrs. Kelly close behind yelling “Stop, thief!” The Tribune reported, “From Columbus to Amsterdam Avenue she chased the invader.” At Broadway the man stopped and turned his revolver on Mrs. Kelly. She did not slow down and he pulled the trigger, but the gun jammed. He dove down into the subway and onto the tracks. He did not see the express train.
380 Columbus Ave.
The Elegant Evelyn
Belgian immigrant and architect Emil Gruwe unveiled in 1894 a Renaissance Revival structure with corner pavilions capped with stone balustrades: The Evelyn. But it was really all about the details-- the magnificent terra cotta angels, satyrs, putti and florals. Inside were luxuries like a Russian Bath and a restaurant with Delmonico's chef.
370 Columbus Ave.
A New Home for New UWS Irish
This 1887 “double flat” (two buildings designed to look like one) was home to many immigrant families, predominantly Irish. In 1895 the Martin Connellan family lived on the top floor; directly below them lived the Kearns. Early shops were Mme. Hodes’ hairdressing salon and Respoli Brothers grocery in 1901.
351 Columbus Ave.
Zeigfeld Girls & Whist
On March 17, 1916 a patrolman was alerted by women's screams coming from this building. Investigating, he found a man holding onto a resident, Zeigfeld Follies chorus girl Margaret Randolph, while two friends battled to free her. As it turned out, Margaret was no victim; she had helped herself to $45 in cash from the gentleman's pocket.
331 Columbus Ave.
Shops here in 1894 included Hayward & Reynolds plumbing, Kruse & Hodes hairdressers, and Charles Otten's corner grocery. Early on April 30, 1897 fire broke out in Otten's. Smoke poured out the windows. The night watchman was, alas, asleep on the job, but an alert patrolman smelled the smoke and rushed into the building, roused the sleeping residents and saved them all.
328 Columbus Ave.
Seances and Peruvian Proxies
In 1889, Dr. Henry Rogers staged fake seances in his apartment here, charging grieving customers to hear messages from their loved ones. His neighbor, Peruvian immigrant Pedro Rubio, Jr. was much more respectable, although he did run up against the City Clerk when he tried to arrange a proxy marriage for his sister to a man back in Peru.
321 Columbus Ave.
Elevators, Electric Light & Extortion
A 1897 ad for La Rochelle boasted of "three elevators with all-night service; electric light and steam heat free; not a dark room or closet in the house." The apartments were spacious, just four to a floor and most had three bedrooms. The pièce de résistance: a "first-class French Restaurant on premises."
320 Columbus Ave.
Christmas is for the Dogs
Mrs. Katherine Fay and her daughter, Irene, lived here with their beloved Skye Terrier Teddy and, later, Chump. The dog was the guest of honor at the Fay's Christmas reception every year through 1914. The Fays invited a dozen canines, the tree was decorated with doggie edibles, and each dog received a present. The parties were reported in detail by various newspapers each year.
305-307 Columbus Ave.
Bicycles Ride, Bogus Checks do Not
Bicycles were a nationwide obsession in the 1890’s and the tenants here were not immune. An August 6, 1893 article on the Excelsior Cycle Club mentioned that among the “good riders” was “Mrs. I. B. Fleming, No. 305 Columbus avenue.” Her neighbor was equally passionate about biking. Mrs. J. S. Miznu signed a petition in 1895 asking the city for a dedicated bicycle path from the Upper West Side to downtown.
302 Columbus Ave.
The Ice Cream Depot
In 1889 successful ice cream entrepreneur James Horton hired Cleverdon & Putzel to design this five-story building faced in red brick above a cast iron storefront. Above it all, an ambitious cornice held a triangular pediment announcing the J. M. Horton name. This was a J. M. Horton Ice Cream “depot” where Victorians could stop in for a treat, but the shop also received deliveries from its Brooklyn plant, which cranked out 40 quarts of ice cream every 20 minutes.
301 Columbus Ave.
Communists and Carrier Pigeons
By 1910, Jewish tile layer Aaron H. David lived here. As a hobby he kept carrier pigeons in coops on the roof. That spring, however, his attentions were more focused on a young lady, Hattie Moses, the daughter of manufacturer Max Moses...
289 Columbus Ave.
Barnett Bros.’ Burglaring Brothers
From 1895 to 1925 this was the home of Barnett Brothers, a true department store that offered not only dry goods and apparel, but housewares, china and glass, and other items. In 1908 a burglary was foiled there. Ironically, the thieves were three brothers and it was not the brazen deeds of the trio that amazed detectives and the public, but their ages: “Red” McGlynn was 10 years old, his brother George was 8, and William “Fatty” McGlynn was 9.
280 Columbus Ave.
Early Multi-Family Housing
Designed by architect Henry Janeway Hardenbergh--the man who designed the extraordinary Dakota Apartments--the flats here were first leased to well-to-do families, but soon moved towards more middle class tenants before, during the Depression, eroding into a flophouse. Things improved by mid-century though, and luckily today one finds the upper floors of Hardenbergh’s stylish flat building little changed. It survives as a remarkable example of early multi-family housing in the then just-developing neighborhood.
261 Columbus Ave.
Singers and Sinners
In 1901 resident Cornelius Allen was love struck over the famous and beautiful stage actress Lillian Russell. For weeks he sent her roses and love letters. He waited by his telephone, dressed for the theater, ready for the actress’s call saying she accepted his proposal. It never came.
248 Columbus Ave.
A Grocery or a Work of Art?
This building was designed by one of the most famous firms in Gilded Age New York: McKim, Mead & White. For a grocery store. But, Park & Tilford was quite a step above anything the UWS had ever seen. The opening on September 23, 1893 was reported by The Times as "attended by hundreds”, adding, “There is no business building more handsome on the west side”. The New-York Tribune noted that the “best class of trade” on the Upper West Side had “suffered much inconvenience by being obliged to order their groceries and household provisions from down-town houses.” They could now rest easy. “The new store of Park & Tilford…has been decorated and stocked in such a manner that it is no exaggeration to say that it is a work of art.”
240 Columbus Ave.
Lost Time and Broadway Hits
Daniel Morey of 240 Columbus Avenue swam out with the surf and floated back with the tide. He was out of time and so were two others caught in the nick of time as they pocketed watches thinking they weren't being seen!
235 Columbus Ave.
Lifelines and Livelihoods
In the early 1900’s hotelier Richard Kelly lived here. His widowed mother, Florence (Fanny) Kelly, planned to come visit from London in April 1912, choosing the newly christened RMS Titanic. Mrs. Kelly was one of the lucky ones. Not only did she make it here, she brought with her Marion Smith, a ladies maid that she had met in her lifeboat.
201 Columbus Ave.
Modest Means or Millionaires?
These apartments were filled in the 1900's with tenants of modest means; many were newcomers to America. In 1896 John DeGioanni’s “eating house” was at #203; next door was Frank Bird & Son, painters. The Birds also lived upstairs. Cecilio Ocon fled here after the Mexican Revolution in 1913, but had trouble explaining a diamond necklace he brought along to Customs officials.
190 Columbus Ave.
A Literal Shotgun Wedding
On June 27, 1893, 20-year old Mable Clark became the wife of Frederick Clark here. While the pair had lived together for some time, that night Mable’s mother and aunt appeared with a minister. “Mrs. Clark threatened to shoot him and then commit suicide,” said The New York Times, and “Clark preferred not to be shot.” The couple split up July 1st.
189 Columbus Ave.
Looted Linens and The Literary Review
This building was the scene of a crime spree in Summer 1899 when “valuable linens” repeatedly disappeared from the rooftop clothes lines. Things turned serious when Chief of the New York Police Detective Bureau George McClusky’s pajamas were stolen on July 18--the string of burglaries came to an abrupt stop after that!
188 Columbus Ave.
Immigration: To and Fro...
When Ninth Avenue was renamed Columbus Avenue in the early 1890’s this building's residents were respectable, middle-class working people like John Rohl, a piano maker; Henry Berthaume, a waiter, and his wife, Bertha, a dressmaker. Susan Windecker was a partner in the dressmaking shop downstairs; her sister Augusta had a hat shop nearby.
157 Columbus Ave.
A "Taxpayer" Full of Talent
In 1903, this was a two-story brick “taxpayer” building. J. T. Finn & Co. plumbing was here; they worked on Charles Schwab’s massive Riverside Drive mansion in 1904. There was also Ward & Feld ladies' tailoring and the Friedrichs Co. art supplies store. By 1906, Italian immigrant brothers Gustatus and Samuel Calama had a popular restaurant on the corner.
249 Columbus Ave.
A father's loss names The Adrian, and two brothers carry on the family tradition in honor of their brother. Built in reverence, not all the residents would take the time to think of others. Joseph Busteed attempted to dine, smoke and dash and haberdashery was the only matter of concern to Mary Valentine Yale. Frocks have costs, the price this time? Her marriage...
100 West 67th Street
Stolen Cars, Arts and Hearts
The forgotten immigrant architect Max Hensel unknowingly built a stage for a cast of characters--whether Miss or Mrs., Mamie (May) Jane Atwood or John McKeever, their stories live on to eventual Applause...
451-457 Columbus Ave.
Bones About It: The Nebraska
Fires and fired guns fill the history of the Nebraska, a building named for the state which brought America canned Spam. This building is just as filling with modern day lore of small businesses selling...bones?
306-316 Columbus Ave.
A $25,000 Kiss at the Del Monte
The Del Monte has cooked books with phony numbers and cooked rail bird as phony quail. Call Holden Caufield! There was many a scandal to turn heads and break hearts, as this address required a full medical staff on speed dial!
461-475 Columbus Ave.
The 3-Month Old Boarder
This block had many characters--those kindly and unassuming who accepted a mystery baby and those cunning and brash who orchestrated coordinated thefts of valuables. Some won, some lost but only one was involved in a "ride slaying"...
428 Columbus Ave.
The Jungmann Pharmacy
This cast iron building witnessed a burgeoning pharmacy chain fall and saw the dispersal of the original Waldorf-Astoria Hotel...the stories it could tell!
360 Columbus Ave.
A Human Birdfeeder at the Kenmar
An UN-employment agency run by resident Edward Arden Noblett seemed hard to beat but this "confidence man" kept evolving, as did the residents at the Kenmar. From a "ghost writer" to a human birdfeeder, you'll want to read on to see what the buzz was about.
540-546 Columbus Ave.
Secrets of the Ormonde
Didn't your mother ever tell you soda was bad for you? Well, in this case it was doubly-deadly! But it was the cries of a violin--or six for that matter, that put this building on the map. Peppered with scandalous affairs and famous artisans, catch some of the fizz yourself...
549-555 Columbus Ave.
The Self-Congratulatory Prague
Architects seldom seem to get the credit--even one like John G. Prague who built dozens of buildings on the Upper West Side, but The Prague changed that. The home to a Police Lieutenant on the rise and a New Jersey man on the lam, this Romanesque Revival Twin building was seeing double--or at least both sides of the law.
528-534 Columbus Ave.
The Amy: Taking shots at Delmonico's
The Amy was witness to many characters but two of the most curious might be the two talkative ladies who wedged into a butcher's payphone and were trapped after hours--that sure gave them something to talk about!
520-526 Columbus Ave.
The 1890 Brockholst Apartments
Named for Supreme Court Justice Henry Brockholst Livingston, The Brockholst was held to a high standard and met it--lobby interiors by Louis Comfort Tiffany and guarded by a beast atop a deeply recessed medieval arched entranceway, this residential hotel cared for its residents...and they left their mark...
191-199 Columbus Ave.
The luck of the Irish [architect] did not extend to all the residents of 191-199 Columbus Avenue--there were mishaps for sure but with a pharmacist on hand and celery compound never far away, they've managed to maintain...
210-216 Columbus Ave.
Global Affairs at the Hotel Walton
Architects Israels and Harder likely didn't expect their Beaux Arts Hotel Walton to play such a role in the history of Cuban politics or even the conditions in the prison camps of Palestine or the concentration camps of Eritrea, Africa...yet here you have it!
225 Columbus Ave.
Storage Wars -- 1893 style
The widow Mrs. Plummer lost big-time when her storage facility auctioned off her family heirlooms, but for everything lost, something is found. The divorcee Eleanor Fostick Peak was in luck when she found herself a seat in life boat #5 exiting the R.M.S. Titanic.
260-268 Columbus Ave.
Bank at the Base, Smoke Police Upstairs
In real estate circles, Charles Buek was a sort of one-man show. His firm, Charles Buek & Co., not only developed properties, but he often acted as the architect as well. In 1887, he began construction of an upscale apartment building on the northwest corner of 72nd Street and Columbus Avenue. Completed the following year, he designed the brick and stone structure primarily in the recently popular Queen Anne style. The cost of construction was about $2.6 million in today's money. Buek named the building the St. Charles Apartments.
313 Columbus Ave.
The Hartford's Stowaways of Bedloe's Island
You can't spell 'Hartford' without 'art' and art played a major role in the history here. From the art of the con to legitimate artists -- like families of painters Virgilio Tojetti and Edward Hopper and (il)legitimate theatre stars like Alice Weavers, the Hartford was equal opportunity!
309-311 Columbus Ave.
Spilt Milk at the Saybrook
Once dairy stores, the Saybrook featured several unassuming heroes--those who saved women from gray cars like Patrick Fitzgerald, and those like Hampar O. Ambrookian, a hard working rug dealer who organized efforts for the Armenian Relief Fund Committee.
509-517 Columbus Ave.
The Champs of the Beauchamp
Like US Olympian Loren Murchison, there were other winners at the Beauchamp. The well-known, Homberg-Germany born violinist, Franz Kaltenborn formed the Kaltenborn-Beyer-Hane String Quartet, which The New York Times said, "was so well received by come of the most critical audiences here." Turns out it was only hanging on by a string...
286 Columbus Ave.
The Split-Personality Greystone
There were many characters at the Greystone but hardly as many as in the books by resident Zane Grey--or the man himself who once billed his future wife $86 million--or her soul.
281 Columbus Ave.
The Accidental Hug
An Avenue building, 281 Columbus refuses to give up its alternate address of 67 West 73rd Street. Designed with the pedigree of Henry Janeway Hardenbergh, this building has seen its share of assaults at its crown and base but still retains dignity.
This program is supported, in part, by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council.
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