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.


  1. I've always wondered about this house and "The Tents". Sad that it has gone into disrepair. Is there a caretaker/active use of the house?

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