A $25,000 Kiss at the Del Monte
by Tom Miller, for They Were Here, Landmark West’s Cultural Immigrant Initiative
As the 1890’s dawned, apartment living was rapidly becoming popular trend on the Upper West Side. In September 1891 developer Simon Banner hired architect Gilbert A. Schellenger to design a “flat” and store building on the southwest corner of Columbus Avenue and 75th Street. Completed the following year and christened the Del Monte, the seven-story structure cost Banner the equivalent of $5.8 million in today’s money to construct.
There were stores along the avenue side, and residents entered through a monumental Romanesque Revival archway supported by squat medieval columns at 102 West 75th Street. To maintain symmetry, Schellenger added a proportionate arch, in the form of a window, near the Columbus Avenue corner. Above the two-story brownstone base the upper floors were faced in orange-red brick, decorated with inset panels of swirling leafy designs.
The well-to-do residents chose from apartments of seven or eight rooms and enjoyed “hall service,” (meaning that uniformed boys were available to carry packages, bring mail to the apartments, and do other errands), elevators, and electric lights.
The corner store became the Hardenbergh & Angus pharmacy, while next door at 316 Columbus Avenue was the Douglas Robinson & Company realty office. The Manhattan Bay Restaurant was in 306 Columbus, run by John Dunton.
Among the initial residents were Joseph H. Lewis and his family. He had joined the clothier firm of Nathan J. Schloss & Co. in 1875 when he was 16-years old. By the time he moved his wife and three sons into the Del Monte, his “long service had won for him trust and esteem” at his workplace, according to The Weekly Press. The newspaper noted “He had a large salary and a commission besides.”
That large salary was apparently not enough. On December 4, 1893 one of his employers looked over the books and noticed that the figures showed more stock than appeared to be in the store. He casually brought the mistake to Lewis’s attention. Shortly afterward, Lewis left and did not return.
Now with suspicions raised, the books were looked at more closely and a large amount of money was found missing. A messenger was sent to the firm’s attorneys who launched a thorough investigation. Lewis still did not return by late afternoon; at which time it was known that “many thousands were missing.”
In the meantime, Lewis had checked into the Union Square Hotel as Joseph Hers around noon. Three hours later a maid smelled the odor of gas and, getting no answer at Lewis’s third floor room, found a janitor who forced his way in. Lewis was found unconscious on the bed with the gas jets open. A doctor was summoned who was able to revive him.
As that drama played out, the lawyers called Police Headquarters, saying that the embezzlement would be around $50,000 (a staggering $1.47 million today). The following day The Weekly Press reported “Nathan Schloss, the head of the firm, who came down in the morning to find himself bankrupt, is completely prostrated. It is supposed the stealing extended over a number of years.”
Also prostrated was Lewis’s wife. The Evening World reported, “At the apartments of Mr. Louis [sic], on the fifth floor of the swell ‘Del Monte’ flats, 102 West Seventy-fifth street, an ‘Evening World’ reporter was told that Mrs. Louis was prostrated and unconscious.” She had gone to the Union Square Hotel that morning and “on returning to her apartments swooned and had not regained consciousness at 12:30.”
Stuart filed an order for her arrest, claiming in an alienation of affection suit that “the rich and handsome Mrs. Clarey poisoned the mind of his wife, Anna Hollinger Stuart, against him.” His affidavit said his wife had “come under wrongful, malicious and wicked influence and advice” of Ethel Clarey.
As the turn of the century approached several of the stores changed hands. The Hardenberg & Angus pharmacy was taken over by the Tscheppe & Schur drugstore in 1899, the same year that Louis Katz opened his art gallery at 314 Columbus. Among Katz’s first exhibitions was in April when, according to The Sun, he showed “eight pictures by Thomas Moran and nineteen by William Verplanck Birney” for one week.
John Dunston found himself in court on March 6, 1900 after a member of the League of American Sportsmen, George O. Shields, had taken Beatrice Sturgis to the Manhattan Bay Restaurant for dinner a week earlier. As Beatrice happily ate her meal, George suddenly stopped. The bird on her plate looked suspiciously like quail—a game bird out of season. He interrupted her meal on the spot.
At the hearing Shields appeared before the bench and pulled out the half of the bird Beatrice had not eaten from his pocket as evidence. Dunston was prepared with evidence, himself. The New York Press reported, “’They were served with these,’ replied Dunston, as he produced a couple of slices of toast from his overcoat pocket, ‘and they are only rail birds.’”
George Shields had brought an expert witness, Professor William T. Hornaday, an ornithologist, who testified that “the quail could be told by the white color of the breast meat, which the complainant’s sample possessed.” He sliced into the bird with his pocketknife and declared, “They are quail.” John Dunston blurted, “They are no more quail than the Justice is.” He was nevertheless held for trial.
At his trial on April 12 Dunston shocked the courtroom by pleading guilty to selling quail out of season. He paid a fine of $50 (more in the neighborhood of $1,570 today) and was released.
In December 1904 Louis Katz moved his art gallery from 314 Columbus to 306 Columbus, the former Manhattan Bay Restaurant space. He opened with an exhibition of works by American artist George Inness. One painting in particular caught the attention of the critic from The Globe and Commercial Advertiser, who called the 1872 Perugia “a remarkable example of the middle period of the work of the late George Inness.” The landscape, painted in Italy, measured 6 by 4.5 feet.
The residents continued to be well-heeled, like Antonio Rasines and his wife, Amelia. Antonio was president of the Canal Street Bank, vice-president of the Twelfth Ward Bank and an officer in a dozen corporations.
Another tenant was the widowed Ethel Murtha Clarey, described by The Daily Standard Union in March 1909 as “a wealthy Manhattan woman,” who landed in court under most bizarre circumstances. William Stuart, an actor, had married actress Anna Hollinger in August 1903 and, according to him, they “lived happily until they met Mrs. Clarey in April 1907.
Stuart had an old friend, Anna Wendick Keyser, who lived in the Del Monte. After not having seen each other in about six years, he and Anna went to visit. It was then that they first met Ethel Clarey. In November that year Stuart and Anna were acting in a play in Newark, and the two widows came to a performance. Afterwards, they headed to a restaurant. Mrs. Keyser and Stuart walked ahead and after a period, they glanced back to see that Anna and Ethel were nowhere to be seen. After about 20 minutes of searching, Stuart finally found them. “They said they had been looking through the stores,” he later testified.
Later when the couple was performing in Detroit, Ethel showed up there. She stayed with them “all week, going to Chicago with us the following Saturday and spending Christmas week there,” he said. By early 1909 it was evident that Ethel’s attachment to Anna Stuart was more than friendship. Stuart filed an order for her arrest, claiming in an alienation of affection suit that “the rich and handsome Mrs. Clarey poisoned the mind of his wife, Anna Hollinger Stuart, against him.” His affidavit said his wife had “come under wrongful, malicious and wicked influence and advice” of Ethel Clarey.
Ethel nearly made it out of the country with Anna Stuart. On March 7, 1909 The Syracuse Herald reported that Ethel, “said to be wealthy and prominent in social circles,” was arrested to-day as she was about to sail for Europe on the Atlantic transport line steamship Minnehaha.” The arrest was not without incident. The Brooklyn Standard Union described “a struggle on the pier of the Atlantic Transport line, in which Deputy Sheriff Rader nearly came off second best.” The article said, “the woman, who was accompanied by another woman, said to be Stuart’s wife, tried to brush past the deputy sheriff, but he succeeded after some difficulty in accomplishing her arrest.”
Ethel produced the $2,000 bail money in bills at the sheriff’s office. But in the meantime, the Minnehaha had steamed away without the two women. Stuart was now suing Ethel for $50,000 damages and had for evidence “letters of a sensational character.”
Another widow in the building was Kitty Emmett. Her husband, Bob Emmett died in 1896. In the vaudeville theaters they had been known as Bob and Kitty Emmett. Following his death, she worked with her daughter in the team of Emmett and McNeill. She died on July 13, 1908.
By then the corner drugstore was owned by Ira M. Bailey. Called Bailey’s Drug Store in 1909, it would remain through most of the century and in 1965 was operating as the Ira Bailey Pharmacy, Inc. The Louis Katz gallery remained at least through 1910.
In 1913 a seven-room apartment rented for about $2,215 per month in today’s money, and an eight-room apartment was just a little more expensive.
Resident Gustave Rainberg was affluent enough to afford a “huge motor car,” as described by the Union-Endicott News, in 1915, and it nearly cost him his life. On a frigid morning day in January he drove his car onto the ferry boat The West Point headed to New Jersey. The newspaper reported, “As the West Point neared her Weehawken slip, Rainberg decided to start his motor. The self-starting device didn’t seem to work.” And so, he got out of the automobile to crank the engine. “There was a roar and a volley of rifle-like reports,” said the article. “The car plunged forward.”
Rainberg clung to the hood of the car as it drove forward and into the freezing river. The automobile took along with it a horse and wagon. The newspaper reported that the ferry was crowded “and a panic ensued. In the furor one woman fainted and a score became hysterical.”
The traces, or leather straps, of the wagon had become caught on a post, thankfully catching the horse before it hit the water. It “hung over the bows of the ferryboat with hind legs in the water and front feet beating a panic-stricken tattoo on the deck.” Meanwhile, “while the passengers yelled and the ferryboat whistle shrieked Rainberg appeared on the surface. A good sized cake of ice came sweeping toward him. He grabbed it.”
Rainberg was rescued from the ice floe and the horse, too, was pulled up. “The car is at the bottom of the river.” Rainberg was taken to the North Hudson Hospital where it was said “unless pneumonia develops. he will be none the worse.” (Except for losing an expensive automobile.)
Walter Ford, who lived in the Del Monte in 1916, also owned an automobile. He was particularly absent-minded and for that reason carried a memorandum book in which he jotted down reminders for himself. It came in handy on April 9 that year after he went to the garage on East 41st Street and asked for his car.
“You took it out last Tuesday and didn’t bring it back. We haven’t it here,” he was told. After arguing with the garageman, Ford stormed off to the Second Branch Detective Bureau to file a complaint. After interviewing him for a while and discovering that sometimes he did forget details, detectives prompted him to check his book. The New York Press reported, “in it he found an item telling him he took the car last Tuesday to the Grand Central station.” Detectives went there, found the car parked in the rear driveway, and brought it back to Ford.
Rainberg decided to start his motor. The self-starting device didn’t seem to work.” And so, he got out of the automobile to crank the engine. “There was a roar and a volley of rifle-like reports,” said the article. “The car plunged forward.”
Rainberg clung to the hood of the car as it drove forward and into the freezing river. The automobile took along with it a horse and wagon.
Among Ford’s neighbors was Dr. Howard E. Lindeman, a pathologist with Bellevue Hospital. Late on the night of February 26 he had performed what The New York Press described as “a difficult blood transfusion operation” on Robert Daly. At least one person was not happy that Daly’s life was being preserved.
After the operation Dr. Lindeman went into the laboratory to look at some blood cultures. The New York Press reported “He switched on the electric lights, and as he bent over to examine the cultures he heard three shots fired. The next instant a bullet crashed through the glass of the window, struck the light globe only a few inches above Dr. Lindeman’s head and flattened itself against the wall.” Police were unable to find out who the shooter was.
In 1917 the former Katz gallery space had become the Hoffman & Albert art shop, and then Albert’s Art Shop in 1923.
Artist Herbert M. Dreyfus had grown up in the Del Monte. His father, William N. Dreyfus, had died in their apartment in January 1906 and his funeral was held there two days later. Herbert was still living in the apartment when he was married in the fall of 1923. Things did not work out and on New Years’ Day 1924, three months into the marriage, Aurelia F. Dreyfus moved out. Herbert was granted a divorce that July on the grounds that she had deserted him.
Helen Santery was a young, single woman living here in 1925. She was casually acquainted with the middle-aged Maurice V. Genez and so when he asked her out for dinner and dancing on January 24 that year, she saw no harm in accepting. She later told a judge, “I knew Genez socially, but I didn’t know he was married.”
Genez had more in mind that an evening out. Santery testified, “After bringing me home he forced his way into my apartment, grabbed me by the throat, tore my clothes, and scratched me. He kissed me against my will.” She sued him for damages, prompting the Daily News to report on May 5 that “A kiss stolen against her will is worth just $25,000 to Helen Santery.”
Like Helen Santery, Anna Angel was a single woman. She lived in the Del Monte in 1939 when she took in her sister, 34-year old Legana Kearns, a former Ziegfeld Follies dancer and the former wife of wealthy sports promoter Jack Kearns. The couple had divorced in 1930 and Legana had received a $250,000 settlement (more than $3.8 million today). Somehow or another she had managed to spend the entire fortune and now had to depend on her sister for a place to stay.
Late on the night of September 5 police woke Anna up. They had found Legana “dressed in silk pajamas and red bathroom slipped…wandering in a dazed condition” on West 76th Street. Two hours later she had recovered sufficiently to identify herself and tell the police of her plight. “I’m broke now,” she lamented.
Anna was brought to the station house where she said that Legana had been ill and had taken some sleeping tablets. After a medical examination Anna was allowed to take her back home.
A renovation completed in 1958 reduced the size of the apartments, resulting in 10 units on each floor. Not all the residents brought positive press to the address. On March 17, 1964, for instance, Federal agents and police arrested four men involved in a $4 million-a-year gambling operation. It had been under surveillance by Internal Revenue Service agents for eight months. Among those arrested was 30-year old resident Eugene Pugliese.
In 1986, Papadella, an Italian restaurant, opened in 316 Columbus Avenue and it remains there. Miss Grimble’s café opened in 312 Columbus Avenue in 1994. Founded across the street by Sylvia Hirschfeld in the late 1960’s “and known for its cheesecakes,” according to The New York Times’s Florence Fabricant, it had been closed for five years. Now it took over the former space of Panini, an Italian café. And in 1997 Housing Works Thrift Shop opened in 306 Columbus Avenue, where Louis Katz once showed valuable artworks. It is still in the space.
Other stores along the row are the European Wax Center in 314; Pinky, a beauty salon in 312 and the clothing boutique Variazioni next door.
Tom Miller is a social historian and blogger at daytoninmanhattan.blogspot.com
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