Sunday, December 19, 2010

Here comes the judge.... August Van Wyck

172 Hancock Street

Augustus Van Wyck (October 14, 1850 – June 8, 1922)

One of the neighborhood most famous residents in 1890s was Augustus Van Wyck of 172 Hancock Street of the Bedford Section of Bedford Stuyvesant Brooklyn. 172 Hancock is on the architectural pleasing block between Nostrand and Marcy Avenue. Augustus Van Wyck in 1881 was the third man to build a home on this block. The architect for this neo-grec house was the Brooklyn architect Marshall J. Morrill. Morrill designed many other fine homes on Hancock street between Bedford and Nostrand with architect Robert Dixion. Morrill practiced architecture from the 1860s until the early 1900s and was a popular brownstone architect. Morrill's work can be found in the Brooklyn neighborhoods of Clinton Hill, Park Slope, Prospect Heights, Ft. Greene and Cobble Hill just to name a few.

Augustus Van Wyck
Son of William Van Wyck, Augustus was born October 14, 1850. His brother was Mayor Robert A. Van Wyck and his brother-in-law was Confederate General Robert Hoke. Roots of the Van Wyck family date back to early Dutch immigration to North America. One of the first descendants of the family, Cornelius Barents Van Wyck came from the town of Wyck, Holland in 1650.

Augustus Van Wyck's education led him to Phillips Exeter Academy and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill to study the practice of law. Moving to Richmond, Virginia where he met and married Leila and practiced law there for a brief period. In 1871 Van Wyck moved to Brooklyn, New York living first on 387 Gates Ave, near Nostrand.

He was an active member of the Democratic party in Brooklyn. In 1882 Van Wyck was elected as President of the County General Committee. He also was active in state, county and national conventions of the Democratic party.

In 1884, Augustus Van Wyck was elected to the Superior Court in Brooklyn until transferred to the Supreme Court where he remained until 1896.

Much to Van Wyck's surprise, he was nominated by his fellow Democrats to oppose the Republican, Theodore Roosevelt, in the race for Governor of New York in 1898. Although Van Wyck was seen as a strong candidate, Roosevelt's popularity in the aftermath of the Spanish-American War led him to win the election by 17,786 votes. Van Wyck received 643,921 votes, while Roosevelt received 661,715 votes.[1]

After the election Van Wyck resumed his law practice on 149 Broadway, New York.

1900 Census

New York Times article from 1898:

Friday, August 6, 2010

G. A. Schellenger Architect

Hancock Street G. A. Schellenger homes 1883-1885

Jefferson Ave G. A. Schellenger homes built 1884-87

The future Bedford Historic District had many famous architects (or Starchitects) from the Victorian era who designed most of the buildings. One such architect was Gilbert A. Schellenger. Schellenger was born to Rueben Riggs Schellenger and Esther Perry on December 21, 1845, in the town of Stockholm, NY. Schellenger grew up in a very large family. His father was a mechanic/carpenter which was had a common tradition producing architect sons. Schellenger studied at the prestigious and world famous L’Ecole des Beaux Artes in Paris but dropped out to accept the commission for a new city hall and opera house in Ogdensburg County.Schellenger along with his first wife Jennie came to New
G. A. Schellenger house around 1900

York City in 1883 and right away he started working on various projects. His earlest New York townhouses are here in Bedford Stuyvesant but on the Bedford side. At that time Bedford as it was called then was a rather choice neighborhood with upper middle class families dominating its blocks. Schellenger Bedford buildings are on Hancock Street and Jefferson Avenue and where done for builder George Stone. Stone lived in a Schellenger designed house at 301 Jefferson in the proposed historic district was the owner and builder of these lots.
Jefferson Ave G. A. Schellenger homes built in the early 1890's

G. A. Schellenger use the Queen Anne and Roman Brick Renaissance Revival style for most of his homes on Jefferson Avenue and Hancock Street. His brownstone stoops and wood cathedral doors are surrounded by crowned pediments. Schellenger likes to play with his skyline making all of his roofs have a language of there own. Many of the house have three sided bay windows or rather large arched picture windows that are typical of the Queen Anne style. Many of the first owners of these house were Physicians, Stock Brokers, Insurance men, Lawyers and Merchants.
Jefferson Ave in 1954

These homes where built for the upper middle class that wanted to live in the choice Bedford Section following 1883 Brooklyn Bridge opening. By 1885 Schellenger had designed 10 homes on Hancock Street as well as Jefferson Avenue and would later design a few more for George Stone. Schellenger houses built in 1887 Jefferson Ave.

G. A. Schellenger would go on and turn his attention to Manhattan clients, I am sure they paid very well compared to the Brooklyn developers. G. A. Schellenger would design many of stately homes on the Upper West (and East) Side of Manhattan and Harlem. If you read the LPC reports for Manhattan his name is everywhere making him a very busy man during the 1890's. Schellenger designed many fine apartments and dorms (for Columbia University) that still stand today. At 128 Broadway he completed plans for the Salvation Army National Headquarters which was noted in the New York Times. G. A. Schellenger also did a few buildings in Crown Heights and Prospect Heights later in the 1880s and 1890s. Schellenger interior built 1884
In my research I do not find him designing any buildings in the Stuyvesant Heights section of the neighborhood.
Gilbert Alphonso Schellenger died on November 22, 1921 while visiting his sister Alta Schellenger Taylor in Massachusetts. I am truly thankful that this NYC super architect of the 1890's designed lovely homes here in Bedford section of Bedford Stuyvesant in the 1880's. His houses are just as beautiful as other architect rivals such as John Prague, George Chappell and Montrose Morris. Some residents are starting to restore these grand house to there original grandeur. If you walk down or Hancock Street between Nostrand and Marcy or Jefferson between Marcy and Tompkins you see all his great works looking as stately as the day erected. Most if not all of G. A. Schellenger buildings are landmarked in Manhattan, Crown Heights and Prospect Heights. His earliest homes in New York City are in Bedford Stuyvesant and not protected. I really hope this changes very soon.

1900 census for Jefferson and Hancock.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Lena Horne The Queen of Bedford Stuyvesant.

Helena Mary Calhoun Horne (born June 30, 1917), is a singer and actor of African-American, Caucasian, and Native-American descent. She has recorded and performed extensively, independently and with other jazz notables, including Artie Shaw, Teddy Wilson, Billy Strayhorn, Duke Ellington, and Charlie Barnett. She lived in New York City and no longer makes public appearances. Lena Horne was born in Bedford-Stuyvesant really in the non landmarked sections Stuyvesant Heights, Brooklyn, New York, and grew up in an upper middle class black community at 189 Chauncey and 519 Macon Street. She lived with Her father, Edwin "Teddy" Horne, who worked in the gambling trade, left the family when she was three. Her mother, Edna Scottron, was the daughter of inventor Samuel R. Scottron; she was an actress with an African American theater troupe and traveled extensively. Horne was mainly raised by her grandparents, Cora Calhoun and Edwin Horne. Her uncle, Frank S. Horne, was an adviser to Franklin Delano Roosevelt. She is a reported descendant of the John C. Calhoun family. Lena Horne was educated at The Girls High School in Bedford Stuyvesant, Brooklyn.
Lena Horne made her film debut starring as "the Bronze Venus" in The Duke is Tops, a 1938 musical. After a false start headlining a 1938 musical race movie called The Duke is Tops, Horne became the first African American performer to sign a long-term contract with a major Hollywood studio, namely Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. She made her debut with MGM in 1942's Panama Hattie and became famous in 1943 for her rendition of "Stormy Weather" in the movie of the same name (which she made while on loan to 20th Century Fox from MGM).She appeared in a number of MGM musicals, most notably Cabin in the Sky (also 1943), but was never featured in a leading role due to her race and the fact that films featuring her had to be reedited for showing in southern states where theaters could not show films with African American performers. As a result, most of Horne's film appearances were stand-alone sequences that had no bearing on the rest of the film, so editing caused no disruption to the storyline; a notable exception was the all-black musical Cabin in the Sky, though even then one of her numbers had to be cut because it was considered too suggestive by the censors. In Ziegfeld Follies (1946) she performs "Love" by Hugh Martin and Ralph Blane.She was originally considered for the role of Julie LaVerne in MGM's 1951 version of Show Boat (having already played the role when a segment of Show Boat was performed in Till the Clouds Roll By) but Ava Gardner was given the role instead (the production code office had banned interracial relationships in films). In the documentary That's Entertainment! III Horne stated that MGM executives required Gardner to practice her singing using recordings of Horne performing the songs, which offended both actresses (ultimately, Gardner ended up having her singing voice overdubbed by another actress for the theatrical release, though her own voice was heard on the soundtrack album).By the mid-1950s, Horne was disenchanted with Hollywood and increasingly focused on her nightclub career. She only made two major appearances in MGM films during the decade, 1950's Duchess of Idaho (which was also Eleanor Powell's film swan song), and the 1956 musical Meet Me in Las Vegas. She was blacklisted during the 1950s for her political views.[4] She returned to the screen three more times, playing chanteuse Claire Quintana in the 1969 film Death of a Gunfighter, Glinda in The Wiz (1978), and co-hosting the 1994 MGM retrospective That's Entertainment! III, in which she was candid about her treatment by the studio. In her later years, Horne also made occasional television appearances - generally as herself - on such programs as The Muppet Show (where she sang with Kermit the Frog) and Sanford and Son in the 1970s, as well as a 1985 performance on The Cosby Show and a 1993 appearance on A Different World.She appeared in Broadway musicals several times and in 1958 was nominated for the Tony Award for "Best Actress in a Musical" (for her part in the "Calypso" musical Jamaica) In 1981 she received a Special Tony Award for her one-woman show, Lena Horne: "The Lady and Her Music". Despite the show's considerable success (Horne still holds the record for the longest-running solo performance in Broadway history), she was not inclined to capitalize on the renewed interest in her career by undertaking many new musical projects. A proposed 1983 joint recording project between Horne and Frank Sinatra (to be produced by Quincy Jones) was ultimately abandoned, and her sole studio recording of the decade was 1988's The Men In My Life, featuring duets with Sammy Davis, Jr. and Joe Williams. In 1989, she received the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.The 1990s found Horne considerably more active in the recording studio - all the more remarkable considering she was approaching her 80th year. Following her 1993 performance at a tribute to the musical legacy of her good friend Billy Strayhorn (Duke Ellington's) longtime pianist and arranger), she decided to record an album largely comprised of Strayhorn's and Ellington's songs the following year, We'll Be Together Again. To coincide with the release of the album, Horne made what would be her final concert performances at New York's Supper Club and Carnegie Hall. That same year, Horne also lent her vocals to a recording of "Embraceable You" on Sinatra's "Duets II" album. Though the album was largely derided by critics, the Sinatra-Horne pairing was generally regarded as its highlight. In 1995, a "live" album capturing her Supper Club performance was released (subsequently winning a Grammy Award for Best Jazz Vocal Album). In 1998, at the age of 81, Horne released another studio album, entitled Being Myself. Thereafter, Horne essentially retired from performing and largely retreated from public view, though she did return to the recording studio in 2000 to contribute vocal tracks on Simon Rattle's Classic Ellington album.

.Horne also is noteworthy for her contributions to the Civil Rights movement. In the 1940s, she sang at Cafe Society and worked with Paul Robeson, a singer who also combated American racial discrimination. During World War II, when entertaining the troops at her own expense, she refused performing "for segregated audiences or to groups in which German POWs were seated in front of African American servicemen" , according to her Kennedy Center biography. She became better known during the Civil Rights movement, participating in the March on Washington and speaking and performing in behalf of the NAACP and the National Council for Negro Women. She also worked with Eleanor Roosevelt to pass anti-lynching laws. In 2003, ABC announced that Janet Jackson would star as Horne in a television biopic (after it was rumored for years that Whitney Houston would take the job). In the weeks following Jackson's "wardrobe malfunction" debacle during the 2004 Super Bowl, however, Variety reported that Horne demanded Jackson be dropped from the project. "ABC executives resisted Horne’s demand," according to the Associated Press report, "but Jackson representatives told the trade newspaper that she left willingly after Horne and her daughter, Gail Lumet Buckley, asked that she not take part." Oprah Winfrey stated to Alicia Keys during a 2005 interview on The Oprah Winfrey Show that she might possibly consider producing the biopic herself, casting Keyes as Horne.In January 2005, Blue Note Records, her label for more than a decade, announced that "the finishing touches have been put on a collection of rare and unreleased recordings by the legendary Horne made during her time on Blue Note. Remixed by her longtime producer Rodney Jones, the recordings featured Horne in remarkably secure voice for a woman of her years, and include versions of such signature songs as 'Something To Live For', 'Chelsea Bridge' and 'Stormy Weather'." The album, originally titled Soul but renamed Seasons of a Life, was released on January 24, 2006.Horne married Louis Jordan Jones in January 1937 and lived in Pittsburgh. In December 1937 they had a daughter, Gail, and a son, Edwin (February 1940 - 1970), who died of kidney disease. Horne and Jones separated in 1940 and divorced in 1944.
Horne's second marriage was to Lennie Hayton, a Jewish American and one of the premier musical conductors and arrangers at MGM, in December 1947. They separated in the early 1960s, but never divorced; he died in 1971. In her as-told-to autobiography Lena by Richard Schickel, Horne recounts the enormous pressures she and her husband faced as an interracial married couple. She later admitted in a 1980 Ebony interview she had married Hayton to advance her career and cross the "color-line" in show business.
Screenwriter Jenny Lumet, known for her award-winning screenplay Rachel Getting Married, is Horne's granddaughter, the daughter of filmmaker Sidney Lumet and Horne's daughter Gail.
Horne died on May 9, 2010, at the age of 92, at New York-Presbyterian Hospital in New York City.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

I am back! Lets look at MacDonough St

MacDonough Street between Tompkins and Stuyvesant has been landmarked since 1971. One of the most famous and largest house on MacDonough is number 87.

87 MacDonough is a free standing brick mansion was built in 1863 for William A Parker a hops and malt merchant. The building has been occupied since 1945 by The United Order of Tents, one of the oldest lodges for African-American women in the country. The lodge was founded in Norfolk, Virginia by two slave women, Annetta M. Lane and Harriet R. Taylor; and two abolitionists, Joliffe Union and Joshua R. Giddings as a part of the underground railway, assisting slaves to escape to the north. After the Civil War it was formally organized and publicly recognized as a lodge for African American women and dedicated to charity. The most famous resident of 87 MacDonough was James McMahon. Who was James McMahon? James McMahon founder and first president of the Emigrant Industrial Savings Bank was born in Franklin County, NY in 1831 and in his infancy was taken by his parents to Rochester. At seventeen years of age he came to New York, and remained for a year in the book trade, with Cooley, Keys and Hill. He then went to New Haven where he associated himself with an elder brother, who owned a carriage manufacturer. His Brother leaving the carriage business in 1849 made McMahon return to Rochester where he reentered the book business as a clerk, and shortly afterwards began in the same trade on his own account. At the age of twenty five he cross the country and again joined his brother, who was engaged in mercantile pursuits in San Francisco. McMahon returned to Rochester and in 1865, he accepted a position of deputy grain measure in New York, at the same time making home in Brooklyn. His new business associations resulted in his establishing, in conjunction with James T. Easton, of Brooklyn an organization to protect the interests of grain carriers, under the title of the "Protective Grain Association," from which sprang the great transportation business of Easton, McMahon & Co. When the federal government, in the days of the Civil War made a requisition on the tonnage of the Camden and Amboy Railroad Co., which had acquired a monopoly of the growing traffic between New York, Philadelphia and Baltimore, urged him to resume his interest in its affairs. He ultimately yielded to their solicitations, and, in 1881, recognized the business, making it a stock company, known as the Eston & McMahon Transportation Company, of which he became president. Within five years , Mr. McMahon again retired from the business and gave himself to the less arduous duties of a financier, also unselfishly devoting time and money to charities that had always claimed from him much attention. The Emigrant Industrial Saving Bank. of which he was the president, had assets placed at $45,000,000 in 1890. He was also a director in the People's Trust Company, of Brooklyn. His experience as the public official followed his appointment by Mayor Low to a seat in the board of education. He participated with all his energy in the plans for reform, which attacked few other departments of municipal administration more severely than the did the educational system; sweeping changes were made and permanent improvements were established. MacMahon was a trustee of the House of the Good Shepherd; belonged to the Orphan Asylum Society, and various charitable and philanthropic societies. He was president of the committee which perfected arrangements for the jubilee celebration of the late Bishop Loughlin. James McMahon was marred three times and died in 1913.The residence of Mr. McMahon at 8 MacDonough Street is situated on the north side of the thoroughfare. The house is surrounded by about an acre of ground, running through from MacDonough to Macon Street, and shaded by numerous tress. The front entrance is about thirty feet back from the street. Ascending a flight of five steps, the visitor enters upon a spacious piazza, which use to extend across the entire front. At the time McMahon the main entrance hall was wide and high-studded, and to the left of it was the library, a large square apartment elegant in its decorations and appointments. The Parlor was situated to the right of the main entrance, and, like every other apartment in the mansions was furnished with eye to comfort rather the to gorgeous display. The dining room was in the rear of the parlor on the main floor. The second story was charming boudoirs and suites of chambers and spacious baths. Upon the top floor was the billiard-room and its is there that Mr. McMahon would seek and obtain his recreation from the care of his great responsibilities.