Fourteenth To Madison Square
( Originally Published 1918 )
Stretches of the Avenue—Fourteenth to Madison Square—From Brevoort to Spingler—The Story of Sir Peter Warren —The First City Hospital—The Paternoster Row of New York—Former Homes and Birthplaces—Lower Fifth Avenue Residents in the Fifties—Blocks of Departed Glories—The Centre of the Universe—Madison Square in Colonial Days—Franconi's Hippodrome—The Opening of the Fifth Avenue Hotel—A Thanksgiving Day of the Nineties—Monuments of the Square—The Garden, the Presbyterian Church, and the Metropolitan Tower—The Face of the Clock.
IN 1762, a, Brevoort—Elias was his Christian name—sold a part of the family farm to John Smith, a wealthy slave-holder. On the choicest site of the purchase, now the centre of Fourteenth Street just west of Fifth Avenue, Smith built his country residence. After he died his widow continued to occupy the house until 1788, when the executors of Smith's estate, among whom was James Duane, Mayor of the city, sold the property for about four thousand seven hundred dollars to Henry Spingler. Spingler lived in the house until his death in 1813, and used the land, comprising about twenty-two acres, as a market garden farm. Spingler's granddaughter, Mrs. Mary S. Van Beuren, fell heiress to most of the property, and built the Van Beuren brown-stone front house on Fourteenth Street, where she lived for years, and maintained a little garden with flowers and vegetables, a cow and chickens. In the fifty-seven years between the Smith sale and 1845 the value of the estate had increased from four thousand seven hundred dollars to two hundred thousand dollars. Keeping still to the bucolic days of the Avenue, we pass, going from Fifteenth to Eighteenth Street, through what was the farm of Thomas and Edward Burling, relatives of John and James Burling, old-time merchants whose name was given to Burling Slip, down by the East River. Also in the course of these blocks the Avenue crosses land that was the farm of John Cowman until 1836. Between Eighteenth and Twenty-first Streets was part of the farm acquired in 1791 by Isaac Varian, who bought from the heirs of Sir Peter Warren.
This Sir Peter Warren was one of the great figures of the old town. Many have written of him. It was only a year or so ago that Miss Chapin devoted to his story a chapter of her book on Greenwich Village. So here the outline of his career will be of the briefest possible nature. It was in 1728 that he first saw New York Harbour. He was twenty-five years of age then, and in command of the frigate " Solebay." Irish to the core, a Warren of Warrenstown, County Meath, who got their estates in the time of " Strongbow," he had already seen a dozen years of active service in southern and African waters, and as captain of the " Grafton," had had a share in the seizure of the rock of Gibraltar by the British. But New York was his first official post, and here he had been sent at the orders of the home government, to keep an eye on events, and to sound the loyalty of the American colonies. The little island above the great bay and between the two broad rivers won his heart from the first, and after every new adventure he returned to it, until, in 1747, he was summoned to London, to enter Parliament and to be made Admiral of the Red Squadron. The affection for the town seems to have been reciprocal, for two years after his introduction to New York, the Common Council of the city voted to him the " freedom of the city." Then, when he was twenty-eight years old he married Susanna DeLancey, whose father, Etienne DeLancey, was a Huguenot refugee, who, settling here, soon changed the Etienne to Stephen, and married a daughter of one of the Dutch Van Cortlandts. At first the young Warrens lived downtown, but in later years, when wealth came as the result of treasure-seeking adventure on the high seas, Peter bought lands in Greenwich Village, and eventually there erected a great mansion.
Throughout the 1730's he was busy, but his opportunity did not come until the end of that decade. In 1739 trouble broke out between Great Britain and Spain. Five years later Captain Warren was fabulously rich. Early in 1744 he had been made commodore of a sixteen-ship squadron in the Caribbean. Before summer of that year he had captured twenty-four French and Spanish merchant ships, had brought them to New York, turned them over to his father-in-law's firm, Messieurs Stephen De Lancey and Company," and had pocketed the proceeds of the sale. His " French and Spanish swag," is the way Thomas A. Janvier expressed it. Of the house in Greenwich Village on land that is bounded by the present Charles, Perry, Bleecker, and Tenth Streets, Janvier wrote: " The house stood about three hundred yards back from the river, on ground which fell away in a gentle slope towards the waterside. The main entrance was from the east; and at the rear—on the level of the drawing room and a dozen feet or so above the sloping hillside—was a broad veranda commanding the view westward to the Jersey High-lands and southward down the bay to the Staten Island Hills." After Sir Peter Warren went away the Manse became the home of Abraham Van Nest, and stood there more than a century. Not until 1865 did it entirely disappear.
In 1745 Warren played a part in the Siege of Louisbourg that won him promotion to the rank of Rear Admiral of the Blue, and his knighthood. New York, for his share in the exploit, voted him some extra land. In August, 1747, he was in command of the " Devonshire " at the naval battle off Cape Finisterre, capturing the ship of the French Commodore, " La Joncquiere." Then came his recall to England, where, on account of his vast wealth and famous achievements, he was a conspicuous figure. One of his daughters, Charlotte, married Willoughby, Earl of Abingdon. Another, Ann, became the wife of Charles Fitzroy, Baron Southampton. The youngest, Susanna, after her mother, was wedded to Colonel Skinner. New York's affection and esteem for Sir Peter Warren extended to his daughters and through them to their husbands. The old name of Christopher Street was Skinner Road. There was a Fitzroy Road that ran northward from Fourteenth Street. Then, still existing, is Abingdon Square, and Abingdon Road, better known as " Love Lane," was somewhere in the neighbour-hood of the present Twenty-first Street. It is to the past rather than the present that the student of the Avenue turns in contemplating the stretch between Fourteenth and Twenty-second Streets. Here and there an historical point may be indicated. On Sixteenth Street, a few yards to the west, is the New York Hospital, the oldest in the city. It received its charter from George the Third some years before the first gun was fired in the War of the Revolution. It was not regularly opened until 1791, but the building, then at Broadway and Duane Street, served as a place for anatomical experiments. In 1788, the story is, a medical student threatened a group of prying boys with a dissected human arm. Soldiers were needed to quell the resulting riot. The reddish brick hospital of today dates from 1877. A chapter in the story of the New York Hospital as an institution concerns the Bloomingdale Luna-tic Asylum, for which the land was purchased in 1816, and the building completed in 1821.
Respectively at 150 and 156 Fifth Avenue are the building of the New York Society of the Methodist Church and the Presbyterian Building. The latter houses the Methodist Book Concern and a collection of relics belonging to the Historical Society. A few years ago the stretch was sometimes called the Paternoster Row of New York on account of the number of publishing houses that lined it. Also it was long the home of many of the churches that were erected in the middle of the last century, among them the South Dutch Reformed Church, built in 1850, at the southwest corner of Twenty-first Street, and the Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church at Nineteenth Street. In Nineteenth Street, just east of the Avenue, was the former home of Horace Greeley, and in Twentieth Street (No. 28) Theodore Roosevelt was born.
"Worth noting," says "Fifth Avenue," the publication issued by the Fifth Avenue Bank,
are the names of prominent New Yorkers who, during the fifties, lived on Fifth Avenue between Washington Square and Twenty-first Street. Among them were Lispenard Stewart, Thomas Eggleson, Silas Wood, Henry C. De Rham, Thomas F. Woodruff, Francis Cottinet, David S. Kennedy, James Donaldson, Dr. J. Kearney Rodgers, C. N. Talbot, N. H. Wolfe, James McBride, Charles M. Parker, L. M. Hoffman, August Belmont, Benjamin Aymer, Henry C. Winthrop, Eugene Schiff, Captain Lorillard Spencer, Moses Taylor, John C. Coster, Henry A. Coster, Sidney Mason, Marshall O. Roberts, Robert L. Cutting, Gordon W. Burnham, Robert C. Townsend, George Opdyke, Robert L. Stuart, whose magnificent art collection was given to the Lenox Library, and James Lenox, the founder of the Lenox Library. The fortunes of these gentlemen as recorded in ` Wealth and Biography of the Wealthy Citizens of New York,' averaged between one hundred and three hundred thousand dollars. One of the richest men in New York at that time was James Lenox, who had inherited the then huge fortune of three million dollars; another large fortune was that of James McBride, estimated at seven hundred thousand dollars."
Then there were the clubs, the Union at the northwest corner of Twenty-first Street, the Lotos Club, just across the Avenue, the Athenaeum, at the southwest corner of Sixteenth Street, the Travellers; in the building that had formerly been the residence of Gordon W. Burnham, at the southwest corner of Eighteenth Street, the Arcadian, at No. 146, between Nineteenth and Twentieth Streets, the Manhattan, occupying the Charles C. Parker house at the southwest corner of Fifteenth Street, the New York, which, occupying another corner at the same street, until 1874, then moved a few blocks northward to a house on the Avenue facing Madison Square. How the window loungers of that clubland stretch of the seventies and eighties would have stared and rubbed their eyes had it been given to them to see the procession that throngs the sidewalks today!
The stretch of glories departed is quickly passed. The nine blocks are really eight, for it is at Twenty-second Street that the Flatiron begins, and the drab hives behind are forgotten as the vision of the Square strikes the eye. The Parisian, sipping an aperitif at the corner table of the Cafe de la Paix, believes himself to be occupying the exact centre of the universe. The Manhattanite knows him to be wrong by a matter of three thousand and some odd miles. Be he plutocrat or panhandler he knows that it is some spot from which he can look up and see the lithe figure of Diana, and the illuminated clock in the tower of the Metropolitan Building.
Although not formally opened as Madison Square until 1847, the story of the land goes back almost two hundred and fifty years. It was in 1670 that Sir Edward Andros, Governor of the Province, granted to Solomon Peters, a free negro, thirty acres of land between what is now Twenty-first and Twenty-sixth Streets, extending east and west from the present Broadway (Bloomingdale Road) to Seventh Avenue. Forty-six years later the negro's descendants sold the tract to John Horn and Cornelius Webber, and a hundred years after it became vested in John Horn the second. In the middle of the present roadway west of the Flatiron Building the Horn farmhouse, occupied by John the Second's daughter and son-in-law, Christopher Mildenberger, stood when the Avenue was cut through to Twenty-third Street in 1837. It was allowed to remain there two years more, when it was re-moved to the famous site at the northwest corner of Twenty-third Street and became the Madison Cottage. The old chroniclers tell of the joyous spirit and flavour of that roadhouse, a favourite . rendezvous of horsemen in the forties, and of the genial management of its proprietor, Corporal Thompson. In the Collection of Amos F. Eno there is a photograph of the business card of the Cottage, with the announcement that the stages " leave every 4 minutes." A picture shows the stages before the building with its slanting roof and its three dormer windows facing the Avenue and Park. Several miles beyond the city proper, it was a post tavern in the coaching days, and the huge pair of antlers announced the " Sign of the Buck-horn."
It had its brief and glorious day and then passed. Early in 1853 it was torn down to make room for ' a circus, known as Franconi's Hippodrome, built by a syndicate of American show-men, among whom were Avery Smith, Richard Sands, and Seth B. Howe. The lithograph in the Collection of J. Clarence Davies shows a combination of tent roof and permanent wall. There was a turretted sexagonal entrance at the corner facing the Avenue and Twenty-third Street, and another at the northern end of the building. Seven hundred feet in circumference was the Hippodrome, of brick sides, two stories high, with an oval ring in the centre two hundred feet wide by three hundred feet long, seating six thousand people, and having standing room for about half as many more. It was a bold venture, perhaps too bold for its time. When the novelty had worn off the profits began to dwindle and then ceased entirely. Amos F. Eno, a New Englander who had prospered exceedingly in New York, bought the property and planned to erect a hotel that was to surpass anything that the city had already known. Sceptics ridiculed the idea, predicting that a situation so far uptown meant certain disaster. But the Hippodrome building was torn down, the new structure begun, and in September, 1859, the Fifth Avenue Hotel opened its doors under the direction of Colonel Paran Stevens. It was of white marble, six stories in height. Among the innovations and conveniences that made it the wonder of its day was the first passenger elevator ever installed. New York then knew the device as " the vertical railway."
But between the time when Solomon Peters received his grant and the day when the opening of the Fifth Avenue Hotel ushered in a new era, the land experienced many vicissitudes. In the last years of the eighteenth century it was a Parade Ground, at one time extending from Twenty-third to Thirty-fourth Streets, bounded on the east by the Eastern Post-road and on the west by the Bloomingdale Road. At the southern end a Potter's Field was opened in 1794, and there were buried the victims of the frequent yellow-fever epidemics. But in 1797 a new Potter's Field was opened in Washington Square. According to the plans of the Commissioners' Map of 1811, there was to be no Fifth Avenue between Twenty-third Street and Thirty-fourth Street. The Avenue was to end temporarily at the former point, and resume its journey eleven blocks farther north. As early as 1785 a powder magazine stood within the present domains of the Square. A United States Arsenal, erected in 1808, was near the spot of the Farragut statue. In 1823 the Arsenal building became the house of refuge of the Society for the Reformation of Juvenile Delinquents, the first organization instituted in America to care for youthful offenders. In 1839 it was destroyed by fire. That was two years after the Parade Ground had been reduced to its present limits of 6.84 acres and renamed in honour of President Madison. In 1844 the Eastern Post-road was closed. Its course may still be traced by the double row of trees that runs northeast towards Madison Square Garden.
In 1847 the Square was formally opened and soon after society began to migrate there. That was during the mayoralty of James Harper. From 1853 until the end of the Civil War it was the social centre of the city. " Among those who lived in this vicinity," says " Fifth Avenue," " were Leonard W. Jerome, and his elder brother, Addison G. Jerome, who, with William It. Travers, were social leaders and prominent Wall Street brokers; James Stokes, who, in 1851, built at No. 37 Madison Square, East, the first residence on Madison Square, and whose wife was a daughter of Anson G. Phelps; John David Wolfe, whose daughter, Catherine Lorillard Wolfe, gave her magnificent art collection to the Metropolitan Museum of Art; Frank Work, William and John O'Brien, Henry M. Schieffelin, James L. Schieffelin, Samuel B. Schieffelin, Benjamin H. Field, Peter Ronalds, and William Lane."
Elsewhere is told of the glories of the Fifth Avenue Hotel, of the part it played as one of the Hosts of the Avenue, of its share in the great days, of its Amen Corner, and of the distinguished men like General W. T. Sherman, former Senator Platt, and the actor, 'William J. Florence, who for years made it their home. A quarter of a century ago the entrance to the hotel was the starting point, every Thanksgiving Day noon, for many gaily decorated coaches bound for the old Manhattan Field. In earlier days the destination had been Berkeley Oval at Williamsbridge, or thc old Polo Grounds at One Hundred and Tenth Street and Fifth and Sixth Avenues. Draped down to the wheels with bunting of dark blue or of orange and black the tally-hos drew up before the portico and were soon topped with eager, ardent youth. As they were whirled away up the Avenue there broke out upon the autumn air the sharp " Brek-a Coex-Coex-Coex " of Yale, or the sky-rocket of Princeton. The return was marked by high elation or deep depression according as the Fates had decided on the chalk-lined turf. For the collection of sundry wagers the victors hurried into the near-by Hoffman House, where the presiding genius and stakeholder, Billy Edwards, divided attention with the paintings of fauns and nymphs that adorned the walls. That youth of yesteryear has come to grizzled hair. There are crow's feet about the eyes, and the world is one of vastly changed values, and the game at which the heart is throbbing is a more poignant one than that which involved touch-downs and goals from the field and desperate stands on the two-yard line. But it is the same old-time spirit, that then expressed itself in the call, " Hold them, Yale," or " Hold them for Old Nassau! " that, passed on to succeeding generations, is grimly awaiting the shock on the plains of Picardy.
Of all the monuments that have graced Madison Square that which first comes to mind is one that has gone. Twenty years ago a splendid white arch spanned the Avenue, with one pier close to the sidewalk in front of the Fifth Avenue Hotel, and the other touching the edge of the opposite Park. It was in direct line with Washington Arch seventeen blocks away. Under it, on September 30, 1898, passed the victor of Manila Bay, whose name it bore, bowing right and left to the city's riotous welcome. For months it remained there, and then disappeared. Why was the beautiful structure not made permanent? The Worth Monument, in the centre of the triangular piece of ground bounded by Fifth Avenue, Broad-way, Twenty-fourth and Twenty-fifth Streets, dates from 1857. By order of the Common Council the plot was set apart for the erection of the shaft in December, 1854. Major-General William J. Worth, of Mexican War fame, died at San Antonio, Texas, June 7, 1849. The monument was dedicated with a parade and a review November 25, 1857, and the General's remains interred under the south side. In bands around the obelisk are recorded the names of the battles in which Worth took part. On the east face, cut in the stone, may be read " Ducit Amor Patrice," and on the west face, " By the Corporation of the City of New York, 1857—Honor the Brave." At the moment of writing the building beyond the Worth Monument, at the corner of Fifth Avenue and Twenty-fifth Street, is in the process of. demolition. At one time the New York Club was housed there, and there, for years, the sign of the Berlitz School for Languages stretched across the southern face of the structure.
" Were all the statues in New York made by St. Gaudens? " was the recent naive and ingenuous question of a visitor from the West who had just completed the first two days of his stay. " Most of the good ones were," was the laughing rejoinder of an artist. " At least that is the way it seems. And nearly all the pedestals for them were made by Stanford White." In query and response there is a certain amount of justice. It is Augustus St. Gaudens's benevolent presentment of Peter Cooper that stands within the little park enclosed by Cooper Square. The name of St. Gaudens is associated with those of John La Farge, White, MacMonnies, MacNeil, and Calder in the making of the Washington Arch. To St. Gaudens belongs the equestrian statue of William Tecumseh Sherman in the Plaza. And here, in Madison Square, the Farragut statue is his. Unveiled in 1881, executed in Paris when the sculptor was thirty years of age, and exhibited in the Paris Salon of 1880, the Farragut is, in the opinion of Miss Henderson, the base upon which St. Gaudens's great reputation rests. " And while," she writes, " in New York its merits are often balanced with those of the Sherman equestrian group, at the entrance to Central Park ; the Peter Cooper, in Cooper Square; and the relief of Dr. Bellows, in the All-Souls' Church—all later works—it has never had to yield precedence to any, but holds its own by force of its splendid vigour and youthful plasticity. It has the essential characteristics of the portrait, but so combined with the attitude of the artist that the figure stands as much more than a portrait, having in it something more living, more typical, deeper than the mere outward mould of the man. St. Gaudens's Farragut has the bearing of a seaman, balanced on his two legs, in a posture easy, yet strong. He is rough and bluff with the courage and simplicity of a commander ; his eye is accustomed to deal with horizons, while the features are clean-cut and masterful. The inscription is happy : ` That the memory of a daring and sagacious commander and gentle great-souled man, whose life from childhood was given to his country, but who served her supremely in the war for the Union, 1861-1865, may be preserved and honored, and that they who come after him and who will love him so much may see him as he was seen by friend and foe, his countrymen have set up this monument A.D. MDCCCLXXXI.' "
There are other statues in the Square besides the noble one commemorating the deeds of the hero of " Full steam ahead, and damn the torpedoes ! " At the southwest corner there is a bronze one of William H. Seward, Lincoln's Secretary of State, the work of Randolph Rogers. The effigy of Roscoe Conkling, by J. Q. A. Ward, is at the southeast corner. Cold and proud is the stone as the man was cold, and proud, and biting. What chance had haranguing abuse against his icy: " I have no time to bandy epithets with the gentleman from Georgia "? Then there is the drinking fountain by Emma Stebbins, given to the city by the late Catherine Lorillard Wolfe, and the Bissell statue of Chester A. Arthur.
No other structure in the city is so many different things to so many different people as the Madison Square Garden. To the old-time New Yorker, who likes to babble reminiscently of the past, the site recalls the railway terminus of the sixties, when the outgoing trains were drawn by horses through the tunnel as far north as the present Grand Central. To one artistically inclined the creamy tower, modelled on that of the Giralda in Seville, suggests the collaboration of St. Gaudens and White, and the surmounting Diana the early work of the former inspired by Houdon's Diana of the Louvre. To the more frivolous, the sportingly inclined, the seekers after gross pleasures, the Garden has meant the Arion Ball, or the French Students Ball, the Horse Show, Dog Show, Cat Show, Poultry Show, Automobile Show, Sportsman's Show, the CakeWalk, the Six-Day Bicycle Race, or events of the prize-ring from the days of Sullivan and Mitchell to those of Willard and Moran; Buffalo Bill and his Wild West Show, or the circus, the Greatest Show on Earth, with its houris of the trapeze and the saddle, and its animals, almost as fearful and wonderful as the menagerie of adjectives that its press-agent, the renowned, or notorious, Tody Hamilton, gathers annually out of the jungles of the dictionary. Also the interior of the vast structure echoes in memory with political oratory, now thunderous and now per-suasive. Through the words directed immediately at the thousands that fought their way within the walls Presidents and candidates for president have sent ringing utterance throughout the land.
Opposite the Garden, at the southeast corner of Twenty-sixth Street, is the Manhattan Club, in a house that was formerly the home of the University Club, and adjoining it to the south, is the Appellate Court House, architecturally one of the city's most distinguished buildings. De-signed by James Brown Lord, it was completed in 1900, at a cost of three-quarters of a million dollars. Among the men whose work is represented in this home of the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court for the City and County of New York are Maitland Armstrong, Karl Bitter, Charles Henry Niehaus, Charles Albert Lopez, Thomas Shields Clarke, George Edwin Bissell, Philip Martiny, Robert Reid, Willard L. Metcalf, Henry Augustus Lukeman, John Donoghue, Henry Kirke Bush Brown, Edward Clark Potter, Henry Siddons Mowbray, Frederick W. Ruckstuhl, Herbert Adams, George Willoughby Maynard, Joseph Lauber, Maximilian M. Schwartzott, and Kenyon Cox.
The old home of the Madison Square Presbyterian Church was in the block between Twenty-third and Twenty-fourth Streets. Then, on the northeast eorner of the latter street stood one of the last surviving residences recalling the days when the Square was the possession of Flora McFlimsey and her kind, the old brown-stone dwelling of Catherine Lorillard Wolfe. The Wolfe property, offered for sale, was purchased by an official of the Metropolitan Company, and an exchange was effected by which the church relinquished its old site and moved to the northern corner. The present church was designed by Stanford White, who met his death in 1906, the year before the formal dedication. With its grey brick exterior, showing repeatedly the Maltese Cross, its interior following the spirit of the Mosque of Santa Sophia in Constantinople, and its mural paintings and windows, many of them the work of Louis C. Tiffany, it is one of the most beautiful of all the city's edifices for religious worship. But to the casual eye it is quite lost on account of its proximity to its gigantic neighbour.
The traveller approaching Paris can see from miles away, the apex of the Eiffel Tower outlined against the sky. The eye of one nearing New York, whether his point of observation be the deck of an incoming steamer, or a car-chair in a train arriving from the West, is met first by the cluster of skyscrapers at the southern end of the island, and then by a shaft vastly more conspicuous by reason of its isolation, the tower of the Metropolitan Building. Whatever artists may think of it—and there is division of opinion—that tower is, structurally, one of the wonders of the world. Rising seven hundred feet above the side-walk, topping the Singer Building by ninety feet and being outclimbed only by the Woolworth Building (seven hundred and ninety-two feet), the tower is seventy-five feet by eighty-five at its base, and carries the building to its fifty-second story. Exactly half-way between sidewalk and point of spire is the great clock with the immense dials of reinforced concrete faced with mosaic tile, each twenty-six and a half feet in diameter, with the hour hand thirteen and a half feet long, weighing seven hundred and fifty pounds, and the minute hand seventeen feet long and weighing one thou-sand pounds. At night the indicating flashes, the hours in white, the quarters in one, two, three, or four, red, may be seen at a distance of twenty miles.
But nearer at hand, as the hours creep one by one towards the dawn, are the derelicts of the Square, dozing fitfully on the park benches. In waking moments their dull eyes watch the illuminated face, and the hands pushing forward to another day. The spectacle moved one of them, Prince Michael, heir to the throne of the Electorate of Valleluna, in O. Henry's " The Caliph, Cupid, and the Clock," to pessimistic utterance. " Clocks," he said, are shackles on the feet of mankind. I have observed you looking persistently at that clock. Its face is that of a tyrant, its numbers are false as those on a lottery ticket; its hands are those of a bunco-steerer, who makes an appointment with you to your ruin. Let me entreat you to throw off its humiliating bonds and to cease to order your affairs by that insensate monitor of brass and steel."