John Clendening, Esquire, and his Bloomingdale Estate

This is the second post of a series on Bloomingdale neighborhood places that no longer exist.  It was written by Pam Tice, member of the Bloomingdale Neighborhood History Group Planning Committee.

When John Randel made his 1818-1820 Farm Maps, he mapped a house on a Bloomingdale hill right in the middle at what would become 104th Street and Columbus/Ninth Avenue.

RANDEL FARM MAP showing the Clendening land

RANDEL FARM MAP showing the Clendening land

This was the home of John Clendening, a wealthy New York merchant. After assembling the land in several transactions, he called his Bloomingdale farm “Sharon Farm.” Stokes’ Iconography of Manhattan Island includes notes on Clendening’s farm and how it came to be.

John Clendening typified the wealthy merchants who purchased land in the Bloomingdale area on the west side of Manhattan, land that the Dutch had farmed as they settled Manhattan’s northern reaches. The original patent for the area in 1667 was granted to Isaac Bedloe, a New York Alderman. After he died in 1673, Bedloe’s land became divided through property transfers over the years, creating the Charles Ward Apthorp Farm, the Striker’s Bay Farm, the Herman LeRoy Farm, the John Clendening Farm, and a part of the Lawrence Kortwright Farm that became part of Central Park.

According to Stokes, the block numbers assigned to the Clendening Farm are 1857, 1838, 1834, 1854, and 1857. Thus, if you are looking at Manhattan property on a map with block numbers, you can identify the area of Mr. Clendening’s estate.

Clendening assembled his property by first buying ten acres in two pieces from land Herman LeRoy had sold to John Goodeve and James Brown in 1796. Goodeve became the sole owner at a later date, and in 1808, sold the acres to Clendening. In 1832, Clendening bought another piece of the LeRoy farm. But the most significant portion of his holdings came from an 1814 sale from a “Lawrence Benson, Gentleman, to John Clendening, Merchant.” Mr. Benson was the great-grandson of Lawrence Kortwright, mentioned above.

The deeds to this property are measured in acres, roods, and perches. The terms “rood and perches” go back to the Romans and generally not used today, except in a couple of places that have deep English roots, including Jamaica (the Island).

Stokes describes the area In 1819, and the “fine house fifty feet square standing 250 feet back from Clendening Lane,” the connection to the Bloomingdale Road, west of the Clendening Farm. Stokes describes the property as having “a driveway gate at the SW corner of 105th and Ninth Avenue, with the mansion just south of 104th Street.”

Clendening Lane continued as a named place in the neighborhood for many years. Even as late as 1909, there was a property dispute involving the Lane, as reported in The New York Times. The Times story provides a detailed description of the Lane’s traverse: Clendening Lane branched off from Bloomingdale Road in the center of the 103-104 Block. (Bloomingdale Road ran between Amsterdam Avenue and Broadway.) At 100 feet east of Amsterdam, Clendening Lane headed northeast to 105th Street, to midway between Amsterdam and Columbus, then east to what is now Central Park.

You can hover over a 1852 map of the Bloomingdale neighborhood and see the other property owners and the structures in place. On this map, the Clendening home has passed on to the next owner, Mr. Marshall, as discussed below.

In the 1863 D. T. Valentine’s Manual, The New York of Yesterday, there is a picture of the Clendening home in 1863 indicating the wrong location, at West 90th Street and Eighth Avenue. Of course, this could be a home that was given the wrong name, but the mansion’s existence is also noted on the 1867 Dripps map as on the corner of Ninth Avenue and 104th Street – one author suggests that it might have been moved to fit onto the grid laid out by John Randel

CLENDENING HOME from Valentine's Manual

CLENDENING HOME from Valentine’s Manual

DRIPP'S map c1867-68 with Clendening land marked, along with house now Mr. Marshall's

DRIPP’S map c1867-68 with Clendening land marked, along with house now Mr. Marshall’s

 

It’s been difficult to find information about the Clendening family since no definitive family history seems to exist. Nevertheless, numerous facts are available in newspaper articles and old books. Before he moved to Bloomingdale — which one author called his “retirement” — Clendening lived downtown on Pearl Street, between Maiden Lane and Beekman Street. In those times, most merchants lived above their shops. Based on his age — reported with his death announcement — Clendening was born about 1752. While his age made him eligible for military service in the Revolution, I did not find any record of service. One report of his death indicated that he was born in Scotland. A note in The Old Merchants of New York indicates that he imported Irish linens. In 1809, he is listed as an Inspector for the election of the City’s “Charter Officers.” He is also listed as one of several men who made loans to the United States Government in 1813, when the government sought lenders to fund the War of 1812; Mr. Clendening loaned $20,000. In 1816, he was named a Director of the Second United States Bank, serving under John Jacob Astor, President. In 1825, he is listed as a Director of the New York Contributorship, one of many New York City fire insurance companies.

John Clendening’s death was reported in The New York Gazette of January 29, 1836; his death had actually taken place two days earlier on January 27th. He was 84 years old. His funeral was at his residence, and the newspaper reported that “sleighs would be ready to take mourners to the funeral, leaving from St. Paul’s Church at half past eleven o’clock.” I have not been able to find his burial place; I’d thought he might have been interred in the St. Michael’s Church cemetery (later moved to Astoria), but did not find a record. However, not all St. Michael’s burials are listed.

Thanks to just one genealogy on the Rootsweb site, I found a list of his children, but no definite note of his wife’s name. He had seven children — two sons and five daughters — all born in New York City. They are:

James, born in 1791, who went into business as Clendening and Bulkley, importing Irish goods; Mary Ann, born in 1793, who died in 1807; John, born in 1795, reportedly remaining a bachelor; Margaret, born in 1797, who married Horace W. Bulkley, her brother’s business partner; Sally, born in 1799, who married William Hogan; and Jane, born in 1802, who married Mr. Kearny. The youngest daughter,

Letitia, born in 1807, married Stuart Mollan, Jr. of Petersburg, Virginia. There is a newspaper mention of her marriage in 1836 at the Clendening estate, performed by the rector of St. Michael’s Church, the Reverend Doctor Richmond. Leticia and Stuart had a son, John Clendening Mollan, born in 1837. On February 3, 1838, a news announcement was made of the child’s death at ten months, 14 days old. That announcement uses “Sharon, in Bloomingdale” as the place of death, naming the farm. Leticia died in December, 1838 with no burial place mentioned. Stuart Mollan died on March 20, 1861, and is buried in Greenwood Cemetery.

The John Clendening family is listed in the Federal censuses of 1790, 1800, 1810, 1820, 1830, and even 1840, after John Clendening’s death. In the earliest censuses, they are in downtown New York, in the “East Ward” and “Ward Three.” In 1810 and 1820, they are in “Ward Nine,” which is the lower west side, between Houston and 14th Streets. Starting in 1830, they are in Ward 12, which is the area north of 86th Street, the Bloomingdale “Village.” However, in 1850, the family “disappears” from the records. Perhaps that was due to the misfortune that occurred, described below.

According to news reports, the reason for the sale of the Clendening estate was the family’s financial losses, sustained when the Second United States Bank failed. In the Stokes book, John Clendening’s will was dated July 1829, and was “proved” on February 21, 1836. He left the Sharon Farm to his wife, along with an annuity. The remainder was left to his children. The writer of The Old Merchants of New York — a somewhat chatty book that some say plays a bit loose with facts — reports that the children fought over the estate and then decided to invest in the Second United States Bank. Other reports say that John Clendening was one of the largest investors in the Bank, and this would have been an important part of the estate left to his family.

Another diversion from the Clendenings: the Second U.S. Bank was chartered in 1816 based on the limited success of the First U. S. Bank that Alexander Hamilton had worked to establish, with it based on the Bank of England model. With all the renewed interest in Hamilton this summer of 2015 with a Broadway show, the subject of banking history doesn’t seem as dry and unimportant as it might have earlier.

Andrew Jackson became President of the United States in 1828; he was extremely anti-U.S. Bank. In 1832, Congress passed a bill to renew the Charter of the Second Bank which was due to expire in 1836. The President vetoed the bill, based on his view of the Bank being unconstitutional (despite previous rulings by the Supreme Court that it wasn’t), and “subversive of the rights of States, and dangerous to the liberties of the people.” In February, 1836, the U.S. Bank became a private corporation under Pennsylvania Commonwealth law. A shortage of hard currency followed, causing the “Panic of 1837,” which lasted some seven years. The Bank suspended payments in 1839 and was liquidated in 1841.

John Clendening’s death came just as the Bank’s charter was ending – although well before his death he knew it would cease. There’s no way of knowing of his efforts to save his fortune.

In December 1844, an advertisement appeared in the Commercial Advertiser in New York that, by order of the Court of Chancery, the estate of the late John Clendening, seized, would be divided into separate parcels and sold. The ad describes the estate, in the 12th Ward, as being “on 8th and 9th Avenues, and on 99th, 100th, 101st, 102nd, 103rd, 104th and 105th Streets.” The auction was scheduled for the 15th of January, 1845, at Halliday and Jenkins, on Broad Street.

The next mention of the Clendening estate is in a 1912 article in The New York Times about the “olde settlers” of the West Side. The article speaks with some wonderment of the value of the land as the Clendenning lots were sold off for between $9.50 and $55.00 each. The article states that the entire estate, including the house, only brought in $3,000. At the time of the article, in 1912, similar lots were bringing in $25,000.

Robert Marshall bought the Clendening home and some of the land. In the Daytonian In New York blog, in a piece written about the founding of the West End Presbyterian Church (at Amsterdam and 105 Street), the congregation is described as meeting in the “Marshall Mansion.” A search through the federal censuses in 1850, 1860 and 1880 located a Marshall family. The parents, Robert and Ann, were both born in Scotland, an obvious tie to the Presbyterian Church. The children were Hannah, James, Ann, Robert and Margaret. In all the census documents, there are servants listed with the Marshall family, usually Irish-born young women. In 1860, there is a listed gardener, John Montgomery, which suggests that there were grounds to tend around the house.

In the 1850 census, Robert Marshall is listed as a confectioner; in 1860 he is a “gentleman,” and in 1880, a “retired merchant.” A newspaper article in 1895 referred to him as a “real estate dealer,” and another article mentions the sale of a townhouse on West 88th Street that he owned. An 1891 newspaper article mentions a fire in a nearby stable (317 East 99 Street) “owned by Robert Marshall of 221 East 100 Street.” All the six “truck horses” died; four were owned by Marshall.

The Marshalls appear to have been involved with the Fourth Presbyterian Church at West End Avenue and 91st Street in addition to the West End Church. After they died, their daughter Margaret honored them with a Tiffany window in the Fourth Presbyterian Church’s north transept. The window is still there, but the church is now owned by the Greek Orthodox Church of the Annunciation.

The New York Tribune published an article in June 1897 about the Marshall Mansion, just after Ann Marshall died at 87 years, calling her home “one of the most remarkable private houses in the city of New York.”

The paper named Ann Marshall one of the “belles of Old New-York”, originally from Aberdeen, Scotland. In New York, she lived with her father in an old Dutch mansion on Washington Street, marrying Robert Marshall in 1830. The Marshalls bought the Clendening mansion in 1845, along with six acres of land. They moved the house in compliance with the grid, locating it at Columbus and 104th. This article says that the name “Sharon Homestead” had been given by the Clendenings because the garden was filled with roses of Sharon. “The house was of the Colonial style, painted white and showing huge green blinds. It has a hall twenty feet wide and its furniture…would delight the soul of an antiquary.”

In the 1880 Federal census, Margaret is still living in her parents’ home, still a single woman. There is a record of her death in 1928, at age 84, when she was living at “86th and Broadway.” Her brother James died much earlier in New York; both are buried in Greenwood Cemetery. The news article about Ann Marshall says she was buried at Greenwood, so we might assume that Robert Marshall is buried there also.

In November 1897, the New York Tribune reported that the Marshall homestead “comprising the block front on the west side of Columbus Avenue between 103 and 104 Streets” was sold to Solomon Rothfeld for $230,000. It’s difficult to pinpoint when the Clendening/Marshall home disappeared. However, in a 1913 article in the Real Estate Record & Guide, there was an announcement that, at the SW corner of 104th Street, the Michael E. Paterno Realty Company was building a “house.”

The Clendening name lives on

In 1842 the Croton Aqueduct was completed, bringing fresh water to New York City. In the Bloomingdale neighborhood, a part of the system was above ground south of 110th Street. There, a thirty-foot wall was constructed between Ninth and Tenth Avenues – 100 feet west of Ninth (Columbus), according to Peter Salwen’s history.  Because it was in the area of the former Clendening farm, it became known as the Clendening Bridge or the Clendening Wall.

The Croton Water system's Clendening Wall

The Croton Water system’s Clendening Wall

A final use of the Clendening name — for another structure no longer in existence — was for the Clendening Hotel, located at Amsterdam Avenue and 103rd Street, on the southwest corner. That corner had an earlier hotel named the Kenesaw; one reference called it “a family hotel,” and a two-story frame structure. I haven’t found a record of the tear-down of the Kenesaw and the building of the Clendening Hotel, which was an “apartment hotel” popular at the time. The Real Estate Record and Guide notes that Judson Lawson purchased the Kenesaw in 1900. In 1906 Lawson leased his property — described as a seven-story and basement apartment hotel — to Ewen Hathaway of the Clendening Company. The description of the leased structure appears to be the same building as pictured in these postcard images of the Clendening. In 1908, a parlor, bedroom, bathroom suite for two persons rented for $4 or $5 a day, according to a newspaper advertisement. Eventually, the Clendening became a not-so-nice accommodation, and it was taken down. Today, the site is occupied by a 1965 structure that is one of the collection of buildings comprising the NHCHA project, Frederick Douglass Houses.

The Clendening Hotel at Amsterdam Avenue and West 103rd Street

The Clendening Hotel at Amsterdam Avenue and West 103rd Street

Postcard view of the Clendening Hotel

Postcard view of the Clendening Hotel

Sources

The New York Times archive

Old newspapers on www.genealogybank.com

Census information on www.ancestry.com

Blog posts on www.daytoninmanhattan.blogspot.com

Museum of the City of New York: Randel Maps online

Salwen, Peter Upper West Side Story: A History and Guide New York, Abbeville Press, 1989.

On Google Books: “New York and Vicinity during the War of 1812-15 being a military, civic and financial local history of that period” Volume 1

On Google Books: “The New Yorker: A Weekly Journal of Literature, Politics, Statistics and General Intelligence” Volume 1 – 1836

On Google Books: Scoville, Joseph A., The Old Merchants of New York City published by Lovell in 1889, Volumes 3 and 4

On www.rootsweb.com: “Clendening” genealogy by Loraine Montferret

Real Estate Record and Guide online at Columbia University

Stokes, I.N. The Iconography of Manhattan Island 1498-1909 (v 6) New York: Robert H. Dodd 1915-1928. Online version.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Lion Brewery, the Lion Park, and the Lion Palace

This is the first in a series of posts about structures and other features of the Bloomingdale neighborhood that are no longer here. This post was written by Pam Tice, a member of the Bloomingdale Neighborhood History Group’s Planning Committee.

For nearly 100 years, the sprawling Lion Brewery — and its nearby Park — took up the blocks 107 to 109 Streets between Ninth and Tenth Avenues, named Columbus Avenue and Amsterdam Avenue in 1890.

Built just after the Civil War, by 1879 the space included the Lion Park — a Beer Garden — on part of the 107-108 block east of Ninth Avenue. The brewery operations sprawled between Ninth and Tenth Avenues, including the brewery, the malt house where the barley was converted to malt, ice houses, stables, workshops and private residences.

Early image of the Lion Brewery

Early image of the Lion Brewery

Even considering its size and longevity, it’s been difficult to find images of the Lion Brewery. Searches online take you to a brewery of the same name in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. The West Side Rag published a post by Marjorie Cohen recently noting this same problem: http://www.westsiderag.com/2012/05/25/the-lion-brewery-where-beer-was-made-on-the-upper-west-side. Her essay includes a photograph of the brewery in the background of a photo taken from the (then) rising structure of the Cathedral of St. John the Divine.

The New-York Historical Society has an aqua-green glass bottle from the brewery in its collection.

Perhaps the reason for the lack of documentation of the Lion Brewery is because breweries in the late 19th century in New York were simply ordinary. There were 121 of them in the nineteenth century, and, even just before Prohibition began in 1920, there were 70. Much of the material I’ve used here, including that fact, is from The New York Times archive.

The original brewery in our neighborhood was built in 1858 as “the Lion Lager Bier Brewery” by Albert and James Speyers and a Captain Howard. The proliferation of breweries in the middle of the nineteenth century, some say, is because of the arrival of clean water in New York City, made possible by the building of the Croton Aqueduct. Of course there was also a growing population along with the continuing popularity of drinking beer.

In its early days, the Lion was producing 300 barrels a day. The operation included the main building, a malt house, a barrel storage shed, a stable, and a small dwelling house. This photograph of a dwelling on West 108 Street may be that structure. The first story about the Lion in the Times in October 1858, is about the fire that destroyed it. This was the first of a number of reports about fires in the brewery.

Houses near the Lion on West 108th. Photo from the Museum of the City of New York

Houses near the Lion on West 108th. Photo from the Museum of the City of New York

By 1863 Emmanuel (Max) Bernheimer and August Schmid, German immigrants, owned the Lion, along with other breweries in Manhattan and Staten Island. The Lion operation also included 50 New York saloons, often opening them and selling them to the lessee. When the anti-saloon movement agitated for cleaning up saloons in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, the Lion Brewery worked to handle its saloons.

Many of the workers at the Lion were Bavarian Catholics. After spending some years celebrating Mass in the brewery, they helped build the Ascension Church, west of the Brewery on 107 Street. The church held its first Mass on October 17, 1895. This website includes a detailed history of the church and the school that grew with it: http://ascensionschoolnyc.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/11/Ascension-History-Draft.pdf.

By the 1870s, there were news reports of events, some involving military marches that would end with concerts and family picnicking at the Lion Park. At some point also, a “hall” was established at the southwest corner of Broadway and 110th Street, which soon became known as the Lion Palace. The West Side Association — which became the main advocate for building the West Side, including its transportation lines — had a meeting there in 1877. Mr. Bernheimer was elected as one of the group’s Vice Presidents.

In 1895 and 1898 there were fires at the Lion, both in the stables. The 1895 fire reported that there were 143 horses kept there; 40 of them perished in the flames. In the 1898 fire, it was reported that there were 200 horses, but all of them saved. These numbers indicate the size of the Brewery’s operation, and the great numbers of horses and wagons needed to deliver the beer around town.

But by 1895, there began to be reports that the Brewery was “casting a blight” on the neighborhood. The issue of immediate concern was that of “opening” West 108 Street. Lion Park had blocked the street with a fence, and an argument broke out between the Park’s lessee and real estate developers who complained that only “cheap tenements” could be developed on that block between Columbus and Central Park West, rather than the “handsome apartment buildings” they desired. The lessee of the Lion Park begged for two more years to operate until his lease ran out; at some point, the developers prevailed. Real estate reports for 1895 indicate that a portion of the Park land was sold; in 1898 another real estate article reports that the entire block on the east side of Columbus was sold and soon would be “eight 5-story flat houses and stores.”

1898 Map showing tenements on the east side of Columbus Avenue across from the Brewery

1898 Map showing tenements on the east side of Columbus Avenue across from the Brewery

August Schmid died in 1889, and his partner Emmanuel Bernheimer in 1890. Both were wealthy men, leaving significant estates. Bernheimer had three sons who had already begun to play important roles in running the Lion Brewery. Schmid had two daughters, but one died as a young woman. For the Schmid family, his wife Josephine took over the management role. Soon, she and the Bernheimer sons were arguing over operations, and, in 1901, they went to court. After lengthy arguments about the additional real estate that the company owned. Mrs. Schmid became the sole owner of the Brewery in 1903.

The Bernheimers established another brewery in Harlem at Amsterdam and 128 Street. The blog “Daytonian in Manhattan” covered it here: http://daytoninmanhattan.blogspot.com/2012/03/1903-bernheimer-schwartz-brewery.html.

Already rich from her own family inheritance, Mrs. Schmid became an even wealthier woman. This next part of the story is not about the Brewery, but it’s an interesting New York tale. Mrs. Schmid was an unusual woman in that she managed her own resources. The daughter of a brewer, she had developed the necessary management skills to run a brewery. While some reports call her “difficult” and “cunning,” others characterized her as “the daintiest brewer” and commented on her modish bonnets and fine dresses, her mansion, the extensive library she owned, and that she spoke French and German in addition to her native English.

She also began to deal in real estate, buying valuable parcels on upper Fifth Avenue. In September 1897 she bought a plot of land at Fifth Avenue and 62 Street, and then built herself a chateaux at 807 Fifth Avenue. This was the epitome of Gilded Age social-climbing. Her architect was Richard H. Hunt, son of Richard M. who designed the Association Residence that has become the Upper West Side’s youth hostel.

Mrs. Schmid's "castle" on Fifth Avenue at 62nd Street

Mrs. Schmid’s “castle” on Fifth Avenue at 62nd Street

Josephine Schmid’s financial actions provided lots of grist for the newspapers. In 1908, her only living child, Pauline, sued her mother over her take-over of the family fortunes, and a bitter trial ensued that resulted in a settlement. At this time, Josephine was the President and Treasurer of her corporation, and paid herself an annual half-million dollar salary.

Soon after that, in 1909, Josephine, who was now 50 years old, married a penniless Italian prince, Don Giovanni Del Drago of Rome. It was originally reported that he was 27, but then corrected to 47 years old. The Times ran a second front-page story that Del Drago wasn’t really a prince, although Josephine insisted upon being called Princess Del Drago until she died in 1937. The New York Times announcement of the couple’s arrival in Rome — uncertain of their acceptance into the royal family — referred to her as “the Brewer’s widow” and “the latest Dollar Princess.”

The Del Dragos began spending more time in Europe. They also had a summer estate in Tarrytown. By 1914, their turreted mansion on Fifth Avenue was purchased by the Knickerbocker Club and subsequently razed.

There were changes also at the Lion Palace. In 1906, Mrs. Schmid leased it to two theatrical men who planned to convert it from a music hall into a theater. This venture must have lasted only a short time, because the company they formed was in foreclosure by 1909. This also may have been a result of the new entertainment— the movies — that began to replace the theaters on upper Broadway. The Palace plot was sold in 1911 to William Fox Amusement Company which planned a “moving picture and vaudeville house.” Eventually the site became just a movie theater — the Nemo – as it appears on the 1916 real estate map.

Columbia University students made the Lion Palace — with its German cooking and Pilsner beer —a popular student hangout, and they must have been disappointed to see it changed.

In 1915, Mrs. Del Drago offered $2 million to the Queen of Italy to distribute to the families of soldiers who were fighting in World War I — perhaps her way of showing pleasure in becoming accepted by Italian royalty.

During the Progressive Era after the turn of the century, the anti-saloon movement slowed down the growth of New York breweries, and then, beginning in 1920, Prohibition shut down many of them. From 1920 to 1933, the Lion Brewery made near-beer (alcohol level one-half of one percent) as did a few others. The breweries in New York sought other ways to stay in business, seeking to make something else, such as the Rupert Brewery over on Third Avenue started making a malt syrup that formed the basis for candies. (One in Massachusetts even converted to making chocolate!) In 1920, the Lion brought suit against the Volstead Act, alleging its unconstitutionality, but did not prevail.

Lion Brewery truck

Lion Brewery truck

The Lion also developed a dye and chemicals company called the Noil Chemical and Color Works Inc. on West 107 Street (note Lion spelled backward).

By 1919, an H. A. Murray is noted as President of the Lion Brewery. He was Pauline Schmid’s husband — so perhaps we can conclude that Mrs. Schmid had settled with her daughter and passed along management duties to the next generation while she spent more time in Europe. When a large fire ravaged the brewery again on the Fourth of July in 1927, Mr. Murray, the President, had to return to the city from a polo match. A Times article quoted him speaking of the Schmid family’s early farm and mansion on the site of the brewery – erroneous family history.

It is also worth noting that the fire of 1927 was alleged to have been set by kids with firecrackers, a “tradition” having deep roots in this neighborhood that continues today. The fire was spectacular, shutting down the Columbus Avenue El for two hours, and drawing holiday crowds. Fortunately, it was reported, the wind direction kept the heavy smoke from the Woman’s Hospital over on 109th Street.

Pauline Schmid Murray and her husband were killed in an automobile accident in 1931, and their daughter inherited their interest in the Lion. It’s not clear how the corporate ownership evolved, but, in 1933 when breweries were re-licensed in New York State, the Lion began to produce beer again. Mrs. Del Drago died in 1937, leaving a million-dollar estate – down from the $10 million she was said to be worth before Prohibition.

By the time the Lion closed in 1942, it had become The Greater New York Brewery. A Times article in 1942 noted Robert Moses helping the United States government collect scrap metal for the war effort. Moses made the point that while household scrap was nice, a more significant amount could be collected in New York from such structures that the city was removing: the Old (1939) World’s Fair, old streetcar tracks, and scrap metal from old buildings, including the Lion and Dolger’s breweries. And that is what happened when the Lion was taken down.

Lion Beer Can

Lion Beer Can

Today, the Lion site is occupied by the Booker T. Washington School, or Junior High School 54, serving 800 sixth to eighth graders. The garages on West 108 are the left-overs of the old Brewery site.

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History Detectives: Researching Your Building

This article was recently posted on the West Side Rag site, written by Marjorie Cohen who is a member of the Planning Committee of the Bloomingdale Neighborhood History Group. Marjorie also arranged a wonderful program for the BNHG on March 16, 2015, when we learned how to research the history of a building.

 

By Marjorie Cohen

Are you curious about the history of your building, your church, your synagogue, your kids’ school? Or maybe that interesting-­looking building down the block? When was it built, who lived there, who was the architect? And what did your block look like in the 20’s, the 30’s, even earlier? The Upper West Side is full of buildings with interesting stories to tell and now, with the emergence of so many high tech tools for historians, researching a building’s history is easier than ever before.

At a recent program put together by the Bloomingdale Neighborhood History Group the audience got a terrific short course in how to conduct building research. The program was arranged especially for the BNHG by the staff of the Neighborhood Preservation Center. a partnership of three organizations: the Historic Districts Council, a city­wide advocate for New York’s historic neighborhoods; the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, a leader in the preservation and protection of the architectural heritage and cultural history of the Village; and the St. Mark’s Historic Landmark Fund, a group dedicated to the preservation of the St. Mark’s Church campus where the Center is located.

The evening’s featured speakers were Anthony W. Robins, well­ known NYC architectural historian who has written, taught, lectured and led walking tours on that subject for decades; and Susan De Vries, a New York city history consultant. Robins, the researcher for the current exhibit on NY Transportation Landmarks at the NY Transit Museum Annex at Grand Central Station, gave a thorough power point talk that highlighted links to dozens of specific research tools both on and off the internet and DeVries presented an interesting survey of the typology of west side buildings. Following the two talks, audience members were given the rare opportunity to consult one-­on-­one with volunteers­­­ Sana Afsar, Elizabeth Meshel, Katharine Fields and Hannah Gall­­ who helped them get started on their own research.

Audience members received a take­away compiled by the NPC, with links to online research sources for maps, building documentation, landmark designation reports; a bibliography; a description of the BNHG collection housed at the Bloomingdale Branch of the NYPL; and more. To download a copy of this informative document click to the West Side Rag site, then on the link to the document, positioned at this point in the essay. This link may not be posted for long.

And, now that you have all of this invaluable information at your fingertips, there are no more excuses for putting off the start of your building history search project. Happy hunting!

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Battle of Harlem Heights

BATTLE OF HARLEM HEIGHTS

by Jim Mackin, local historian and member of the Bloomingdale Neighborhood History Group Planning Committee

The Battle of Harlem Heights begins with the Knowlton Rangers. They were men, mostly from Connecticut and some from Massachusetts, were who were hand-picked for an elite detachment to be called “Rangers.” There were Rangers in the earlier French and Indian War, but these Knowlton Rangers were the first under Washington. They were the Green Berets, the special forces of their day and they were our first organized espionage unit.

Before dawn on September 16th, 1776, the leader of the Knowlton Rangers, Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Knowlton, and from 120 to 150 men, left the front lines along the ridge above “the Heights of Harlem” to see what the British were up to and might do next. They stayed close to the Hudson (then called the North River), passed by the Hoaglandt house at the northern end of the Bloomingdale Road (today Riverside Drive and 114th St) and through the Harlem Heights (known later as Morningside Heights) as futher south to about 106th St and WEA.

When the 120 to 150 Knowlton Rangers advanced south to find the British they included Thomas Knowlton’s older brother, Daniel and his 16 year-old son Frederick. At about 106th St and WEA there was a solidly built stone house of farmer Nicholas Jones. The Rangers were moving stealthily through the farm fields when they were spotted by British pickets guarding the Bloomingdale Road. The pickets fired their guns to alert the 2nd and 3rd regiments of Leslie’s light infantry that was camped near 104th St along the Bloomingdale Road. Some of the British fired from 104th St towards the Rangers, and the Rangers fired back from behind one of Jones’s stone walls. Soon, however, 400 British troops materialized and started moving in column up the Bloomingdale Road. Knowlton directed his men to hold their fire until the marching British reached 107th St. Then the Rangers stood up and fired. The British and the colonial Rangers fired back and forth for about a half an hour.

The fighting stopped when the sound of bagpipes and drums of the Royal Highland Regiment of Foot, commonly known as the Black Watch, were heard in the distant east. Each side sustained about 10 casualties.

The Rangers fell back, firing selectively to cover their withdrawal. The Black Watch stopped, but Leslie’s Light Infantry pursued the Rangers to the end of the Bloomingdale Road by the Hoaglandt farmhouse at 114th St and then positioned themselves on the rise known as Claremont just north of where Grant’s Tomb is today. The Rangers continued retreating into the Hollow Way valley at about 125th St and Broadway.

On the Claremont rise, a British bugler, in full view of colonial General Nathanial Greene’s troops on the ridge north of the Hollow Way, raised his bugle to his lips and blew the fox-hunter’s signal for the end of the chase. This was an insult indicating that “the chase was over” and the colonials were as good as fallen.

Washington’s trusted aide, Colonel Joseph Reed advocated for a response, but Washington was more calculated. He was not as strong a tactician as General Howe, but he was steady, persistent, and flexible. His decision was to try to lure Leslie’s men down from the Claremont rise, but at the same time, send forces to the east that would come up through the difficult ridge of Harlem Heights – think of the ridge in Morningside Park from 110th St to 122nd St. If successful, Leslie’s light infantry would be surprised from the rear and cut off from their other troops.

Colonial General John Nixon was entrusted with fooling Leslie’s units that an attack was underway to lure them into the Hollow Way. Nixon chose Lieutenant Archibald Crary from Rhode Island to command about 150 volunteers to make as much noise as possible moving down into the Hollow Way and create the illusion that they would storm Leslie and his men on the Claremont rise (site of Grant’s Tomb).

Meanwhile, Colonel Knowlton would command about 230 men, including his Rangers and three companies from Colonel George Weedon’s 3rd Virginia Regiment under Major Andrew Leitch, to surprise Leslie’s men by outflanking them from the south, by way of the difficult ridges of Morningside Park.

Crary’s volunteers ran down the slopes in hopes of getting a reaction from the British. A number of Leslie’s men rushed down their slope to fire at the colonials. The Hollow Way, however, was largely a swamp that came in from the Hudson River to about Broadway and from 125th to 130th Sts. So all the shooting that went on, and it went on for awhile, was across the swamp. There was no close combat. But the American General Nixon decided to bolster the effort on his side with all the rest of the 800 men that he had.

Meanwhile Knowlton and his 230 men came down from Point of Rocks by St Nicholas Avenue and 127th St. They found their way to an open rise where today’s General Grant Houses are located between 123rd and 124th St and between Amsterdam Avenue and Broadway. From here they hoped to get behind Leslie’s men. But, perhaps in their enthusiasm, they fired too early. This caused some of Leslie’s men to fire back. Major Andrew Leitch was hit three times, once in the hip and twice in the stomach. The shots were fatal for him; he died the next day. Knowlton stepped up on the same ledge to rally his troops. He was shot in the small of the back and caught by Captain Stephen Brown of Woodstock, Connecticut. Brown would recollect later that Knowlton was very calm and said “I do not value my life if we do but get the day.” Knowlton died within an hour.

Captain Brown and the Captains of the three Virginia companies, Charles West, John Thornton, and John Ashby, Jr took charge. They lost the element of surprise necessary to outflank, but they pressed hard on Leslie’s men from the east. Nixon’s troops now stopped their feinting tactics and attacked outright. Since Leslie’s troops were outnumbered, they retreated south to get back with the larger group of British troops.

But they stopped to mount a defense at the northern edge of a buckwheat field that covered the area from 116th St to 120th St and from Riverside Drive east to Broadway and a little more. The Americans accumulated their forces here. And the British increased their forces with the addition of the Black Watch, reserves from General Cornwallis and the Hessians. At about noon, the Americans that numbered from 1,800 to 2,000 were stretched from Riverside Church to Teachers College: Nixon’s brigade on the western end, Sargent’s, Beall’s and Douglas’ men in the middle, and Knowlton’s and Leitch’s Rangers on the eastern end. The British, consisting of Leslie’s light infantry, the 2nd and 3rd battalions, and the Black Watch, lined up just south and parallel along 119th St. Thus the battle of Harlem Heights was enacted.

MAP of the Battle of Harlem Heights

MAP of the Battle of Harlem Heights

 

The Americans fought well, and Generals Putnan, Greene, and Clinton rode back and forth behind the lines to encourage their troops. General George Clinton was an American cousin of the British commander Sir Henry Clinton and the uncle of DeWitt Clinton. Some detail that made it into our history of the battle: Colonel Joseph Reed tried to stop a private, Ebenezer Leffingwell, from running away from the front line. Leffingwell tried to shoot Reed, but his gun misfired. Reed grabbed a musket from someone and tried to shoot Leffingwell, but his gun also misfired. But Reed trounced the private with his sword and had him arrested. A week later and after a court martial, Reed commuted Leffingwell’s sentence of death by firing squad.

The British were outnumbered, but would have had about 5,000 troops if Cornwallis’ reserves and the Hessian grenadiers and riflemen caught up with them. Leslie’s advantage was the pair of brass three-pounders, cannons on wheels, that each fired all of their 60 rounds. Thus there was a standoff for two hours – until the Americans started pushing through the line. But Washington ordered his men to break off the engagement and retreat. He didn’t want to get beyond the buckwheat field. His sense was that British reserves were not far off. He was right. And yet the British on the front line decided to retreat. And some Americans, who had not yet heard their order to retreat, chased the British south. There were brief skirmishes at about 111th St and 106th by Jones’ stone house, where the action began earlier in the day. By now the British and Hessian grenadiers accumulated to a force of about 5000.

In addition, three British frigates in Stryker’s Bay near West 96th Street opened fire. Cannonballs from the ships were too far away to do any damage and Washington’s order to retreat reached all the men, and so it was reported they gave a resounding “Hurrah” and fell back to the Heights of Harlem. The Battle of Harlem Heights was over on the same day it began, September 16th, 1776.

FIELD where principal action took place -- Grant's Tomb on left

FIELD where principal action took place — Grant’s Tomb on left

The Americans might have had 100 wounded and 30 deaths. The numbers are not reliable. British had somewhere between 157 to 200 wounded and between 14 and 70 killed. The Americans lost 4 officers, including Leitch and Knowlton.

Those Americans who fought in the Battle of Harlem Hghts and were captured were probably placed in the British Prison Ships.

The Americans were rightfully proud that they could win in the field against the more professional British troops. The British acknowledged the Americans in this regard by not yet pursuing them, but rather by maintaining a line from Stryker’s Bay to McGowen’s Pass to Horn’s Hook (present day Carl Schurz Park by Gracie Mansion) for the next 26 days.

Plaque Commemorating Battle at BWAY 118th Street BHH2

 

 

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Bloomingdale History Map

Vita Wallace, musician and History Group Planning Committee member, has produced a Bloomingdale neighborhood map for download — use it while you take a stroll!

 

BloomingdaleSelfGuidedTourMap

 

 

Bloomingdale Self-Guided Map

Bloomingdale Self-Guided Map

BloomingdaleSelfGuidedTourMap2

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A City of Tenants

The Bloomingdale Neighborhood History Group presented a program on March 20, 2014, that included Roberta Gold speaking about her recently-published book When Tenants Claimed the City: the Struggle for Citizenship in New  York City Housing.

Ms. Gold reminded us of New York City’s pioneering of public housing in the 1930s and rent controls initiated in the 1940s that have remained in place. Her book uncovers the principle of tenant citizenship, a claim by renters that they count as full citizens who hold the right to live in interracial, affordable, locally-controlled communities. Tenants struggled to exercise these rights in many neighborhoods, including the Upper West Side’s Urban Renewal Area, 87th to 97th Streets, Central Park West to Amsterdam.

see the Bloomingdale Neighborhood History Group’s website at: www.upperwestsidehistory.weebly.org

Cover of Roberta Gold's book

Cover of Roberta Gold’s book

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Bloomingdale/Manhattan Valley Chronology

Compiled by Gil Tauber 2001 for the Columbus Amsterdam Business Improvement District

see the Bloomingdale Neighborhood History Group’s website at: www.upperwestsidehistory.weebly.org

1600s     Manhattan Island inhabited by Lenape Indians. There is no evidence of permanent settlement in the high rocky Manhattan Valley area, but it was almost certainly used as a hunting ground by Indians living on the Harlem flats to the east.

1625       Dutch West India Company establishes New Amsterdam at the southern tip of Manhattan.

1664       British seize New Amsterdam, renaming it New York. Within a few years the Upper West Side is parceled out in land grants, but there is no significant settlement.

1708       Bloomingdale Road is built, roughly along the lines of present Broadway. The newly accessible Upper West Side becomes an area of farms and country estates.

1811       The Commissioner’s Plan is adopted, laying out Manhattan’s system of streets and avenues. However, it will be decades before most of these streets are anything more than lines on a map.

1821       The Bloomingdale Insane Asylum is opened on what is now the site of Columbia University. In 1834 an unused part of the Asylum property is transferred to the Leake and Watts Orphan Asylum, now the site of the Cathedral of St. John the Divine.

1838       The Croton Aqueduct is built along Amsterdam and Columbus Avenues. It includes the Clendenning Valley aqueduct bridge, up to fifty feet above ground level, extending from 102nd to 95th streets. The massive stone structure has only three openings for future cross-town streets.

1856       New York City acquires the land for Central Park.

1868       Broadway is opened, replacing the Old Bloomingdale Road.

1871       Manhattan Avenue is opened.

1872-78Sewers and water mains are laid in most of the streets east of Broadway. Underground pipes replace the above ground aqueduct.

1870s-80s            Improved city services and low land costs attract major charitable institutions including the Hebrew Home for the Aged, the Catholic Old Age Home, and the Home for Aged Indigent Respectable Females.

1879       The Ninth Avenue Elevated Railway, powered by steam locomotives, is built along Columbus Avenue with stations at 99th and 104th Streets. It is followed by the first distinctly urban tenements along Columbus Avenue and row houses along the nearby side streets.

1880s-90s            Several new churches and schools are built to serve the growing residential population mainly on or near Amsterdam Avenue.

1903       Following electrification of the Ninth Avenue El, a station is opened at 100th Street and Manhattan Avenue. Elevators lift passengers to platforms five stories above the street. Nearby vacant lots are rapidly filled with apartment buildings.

1904       The IRT subway is opened on Broadway, spurring construction of more – and larger – apartment buildings.

1932       Eighth Avenue subway line opens along Central Park West.

1940       The Ninth Avenue El is closed and torn down.

1950s     Fourteen city blocks are demolished and replaced by Frederick Douglass Houses and Park West Village. Scandals in connection with the latter project lead to the downfall of Robert Moses.

1970s     City fiscal crisis. Drugs, crime, deterioration and the abandonment of buildings beset the neighborhood.

1979       Community leaders organize Valley Restoration Local Development Corporation. It sponsors housing rehabilitation projects as well as programs to improve security and assist local businesses.

1990s     The area attracts new businesses and private investment in housing rehabilitation.

 

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