Of this land the stretch from Forty-fifth Street to Forty-eighth on the east side of the Avenue was a part of the fifty-five-acre estate bought by Thomas Buchanan between 1803 and 1807 from the city, which was then disposing of its common land, for the sum of seven thousand five hundred and thirty-seven dollars. One hundred and eight years later "Fifth Avenue" appraised its value at twenty million dollars. For his country-seat Buchanan purchased a tract of ground along the East River front between Fifty-fourth and Fifty-seventh Streets. Buchanan died in 1815. A daughter, Almy, married Peter Goelet, and another daughter, Margaret, married Robert Ratzer Goelet, which accounts for the large Goelet holdings in this section.
In this stretch of the Avenue and in the adjacent streets is the heart of the new Clubland. The Century in Forty-third and the St. Nicholas in Forty-fourth have been mentioned. At No. 10 West Forty-third Street is the home of the Columbia University Club. In Forty-fourth Street are the City Club (55 W.), the New York Yacht (37 W.), and the Harvard (27 W.). Until a few years ago the Yale Club was diagonally across the street from the Harvard Club, but now the alumni of "Old Eli" have a superb club-house of their own on Vanderbilt Avenue between Forty-fourth and Forty-fifth Streets, which they are occupying jointly with the alumni of Princeton for the duration of the war. Farther up the Avenue, on the northeast corner of Fifty-first Street, is the Union Club, which moved there after relinquishing the house it held so long at the corner of Twenty-first Street. Then, at the north-west corner of Fifty-fourth Street, is the University Club, to the mind of Mr. Arnold Bennett, the finest of all the fine buildings that line the Avenue. "The residential blocks to the north of Fifty-ninth Street," he wrote in the book that on this side of the North Atlantic was known as "Your United States," "fall short of their pretensions in beauty and interest. But except for the miserly splitting, here and there, in the older edifices, of an inadequate ground floor into a mezzanine and a narrow box, there is nothing mean in the whole street from the Plaza to Washington Square. Much mediocre architecture, of course, but the general effect homogeneous and fine, and, above all, grandly generous.... The single shops, as well as the general stores and hotels on Fifth Avenue, are impressive in the lavish spaciousness of their disposition. Neither stores nor shops could have been conceived, or could be kept, by merchants without genuine imagination and faith."
Bennett, though not in an unkindly spirit, was looking for aspects, not to praise, but to abuse. It was a far different neighbourhood forty-five years ago. Henry James, writing in 1873, in "The Impressions of a Cousin" (Tales of Three Cities), said: "How can I sketch Fifty-third Street? How can I even endure Fifty-third Street? When I turn into it from the Fifth Avenue the vista seems too hideous, the narrow, impersonal houses with the hard, dry tone of their brown-stone, a surface as uninteresting as that of sandpaper, their steep, stiff stoops, their lumpish balustrades, porticos, and cornices. I have yet to perceive the dignity of Fifty-third Street."
Besides being a stretch of clubs it is a stretch of churches. Shrinking back from the sidewalk on the east side of the Avenue between Forty-fifth and Forty-sixth Streets is the Church of the Heavenly Rest. So inconspicuous in appearance is it that once a passer-by commented: "I can perceive the Heavenly, but where is the Rest?" Two blocks to the north, at the corner of Forty-eighth, is the Collegiate Church of St. Nicholas, occupying the block between Fiftieth and Fifty-first is the Cathedral, and at Fifty-third is Saint Thomas's. Once the tract from Forty-seventh to Fifty-first Street was occupied by the Elgin Botanical Gardens. The story of the Gardens, says "Fifth Avenue," "begins in 1793 in the garden of Professor Hamilton near Edinburgh, where Dr. David Hosack, a young American, who was studying with the professor, was much mortified by his ignorance of botany, with which subject the other guests were familiar. Hosack took up the study of botany so diligently that in 1795 he was made professor of botany at Columbia College, and in 1797 held the chair of Materia Medica. He resigned to take a similar professorship in the College of Physicians and Surgeons, where he remained until 1826. For over twenty years he was one of the leading physicians of New York, bore a conspicuous part in all movements connected with art, drama, literature, city or State affairs, and was frequently mentioned as being, with Clinton and Hobart, 'one of the tripods upon which the city stood.' He was one of the physicians who attended Alexander Hamilton after his fatal duel with Burr. While professor of botany at Columbia he endeavoured to interest the State in establishing a botanical exhibit for students of medicine, but failing to accomplish this he acquired from the city, in 1801, the plot mentioned above, for the purpose of establishing a botanical garden. In 1804 the Elgin Botanical Gardens were opened. By 1806 two thousand species of plants with one spacious greenhouse and two hot houses, having a frontage of one hundred and eighty feet, occupied what today is one of the most valuable real estate sites in New York, the tract being now valued without buildings at over thirty million dollars. The financial burden of maintaining the garden was more than the doctor could carry, and he appealed to the Legislature for support. Finally on March 12, 1810, a bill was passed authorizing the State, for the purpose of promoting medical science, to buy the garden. The doctor sold it for seventy-four thousand two hundred and sixty-eight dollars and seventy-five cents, which was twenty-eight thousand dollars less than he had spent on it. The State finally conveyed the grounds in 1814 to Columbia College, and this property, part of which the College still holds, has largely contributed to the wealth of the great University."
But to revert to the churches. The Heavenly Rest is noted for its fine wood carvings and its stained glass windows. In the tower of the Collegiate Church of St. Nicholas hangs a bell, cast in Amsterdam in 1731, which for years hung in the Middle Dutch Church in Nassau Street. While the British held New York the bell was taken down and secreted. When the Middle Dutch Church became the Post Office in 1845 the bell was removed, first to the Ninth Street Church, then to the Lafayette Place Church, and later to its present location. The crocketed spire of the Church of St. Nicholas is two hundred and seventy feet high. Within the edifice is a tablet to the soldiers and sailors of the Revolution, placed by the Daughters of the Revolution, and oil portraits of all the ministers of the church from Dominie Du Bois, who, in 1699, preached in the old Church in the Fort.
Then St. Patrick's Cathedral. It was conceived, in 1850, by Bishop Hughes of the Diocese of New York, the cornerstone was laid in 1858, and the Cathedral dedicated in 1879 by Cardinal McClosky. It was designed by James Renwick, the architect of Grace Church and St. Bartholomew's. The Cathedral is three hundred and thirty-two feet in length and one hundred and seventy-four feet in breadth, the spires rise three hundred and thirty feet above the ground, and the seating capacity of the edifice is two thousand five hundred. But its full capacity is eighteen thousand, and it is eleventh in point of size among the cathedrals of the world. Considering St. Patrick's in its artistic aspect Miss Henderson, in "A Loiterer in New York," has said: "Renwick considered it his chief work; and the cathedral holds high rank as an example of the decorated, or geometric, style of Gothic architecture that prevailed in Europe in the thirteenth century, and of which the cathedrals of Rheims, Cologne, and Amiens are typical.... The modern French and Roman windows, which, to the eye of the later criticism, impair the beauty of the simple interior, were considered something most desirable in their day, and their completion was hurried in order that they might be shown at the Centennial Exhibition, of 1876, where they were a feature much admired. One of them—the window erected to St. Patrick—has at least an antiquarian interest. It was given by the architect, and includes, in the lower section, a picture of Renwick presenting the plans of the Cathedral to Cardinal McClosky. The rose window is said to be a fac-simile of the rose window at Rheims, recently destroyed by German bombs; a provenance that may be the more securely claimed since the original has been immolated. As a matter of fact, it too bears the stigma of the Centennial period, of which it is a characteristic example. The only windows of aesthetic interest in the church are the recent lights in the ambulatory, made by different firms in competition for the windows of the Lady Chapel, which is to be treated in the same rich manner."
Massive and splendidly Gothic is St. Thomas's. The church dates from 1823. In 1867 the present site was secured, and the brown-stone edifice of the early seventies, designed by Richard Upjohn, was for nearly two generations the ultra-fashionable Episcopal church of the city. In 1905 it was destroyed by fire, and with it, in the flames, perished its artistic contents, among them the decorations made by John La Farge and Augustus Saint Gaudens. For six months the congregation was without a home. Then a wooden structure was erected and the new church was built without interfering with the services during the following years. Designed by Ralph Adams Cram, the present St. Thomas's is of white limestone from Kentucky. The left entrance, which is surmounted with a garland of Gothic foliage composed of orange blossoms, is the Bride's Door. Carved on each side of the niche above the keystone is a "true-lover's-knot." A cynical observer (Rider's "New York City") comments: "Few visitors note the sly touch of irony which, by a few strokes of the chisel, has converted the lover's knot on the northerly side into an unmistakable dollar sign."
On the west side of the Avenue, running from Fifty-first to Fifty-second, are the Vanderbilt twin residences, the wonder of the town of a quarter of a century ago. They were built, in 1882, by the late William H. Vanderbilt, the southerly for his own use, and the northerly one for his daughter, Mrs. William D. Sloane. In 1868 the land on which the brown-stone mansions stand was occupied by one Isaiah Keyser, whose small three-story frame house was in the middle of a vegetable garden. That garden supplied the residents along lower Fifth Avenue, and its owner also dealt in ice and cattle. In the house which Mr. Vanderbilt erected for himself Henry C. Frick lived for a time. The Vanderbilt family spent millions of dollars in purchasing property to protect themselves against business encroachments.
In former days the neighbourhood was given over largely to philanthropic and religious institutions. The New York Institution for the Instruction of the Deaf and Dumb stood between Forty-eighth and Fiftieth Streets and Fourth and Fifth Avenues. That was from 1829 to 1853. The building was one hundred and ten feet long, sixty feet wide, four stories high, with a beautiful colonnade fifty feet long in front. The grounds are described as "beautifully laid out in lawns and gardens, planted with trees and shrubbery." When the Asylum sold the property in 1853 it moved to Washington Heights. For many years the National Democratic Club and the Buckingham Hotel have stood on the land. The site of St. Patrick's, originally part of the Common Lands of the City, was sold in 1799 for four hundred and five pounds and an annual quit rent of "four bushels of good merchantable wheat, or the value thereof in gold or silver coin." Then it became the property of the Jesuit Fathers, and in 1814 the Trappist Monks conducted an orphan asylum there. Eventually it passed into the hands of the trustees of St. Peter's Church on Barclay Street, and St. Patrick's Cathedral on Mulberry Street, who, in 1842, conveyed about one hundred feet square on the north-east corner of Fifth Avenue and Fiftieth Street to the Church of St. John the Evangelist. The ground now occupied by the Union Club was once part of the site of the Roman Catholic Orphan Asylum.
Approaching the Plaza
Stretches of the Avenue—Approaching the Plaza—The Great Hotels—Old St. Luke's Hospital—"Marble Row"—Some Reminiscences of Mr. John D. Crimmins—Men and Manners of Sixty Years Ago—Early Transportation—The Saint Gaudens Sherman Group—The Cryptic Henry James—The Fountain of Abundance.
One August day I sat beside A cafe window open wide, To let the shower-freshened air Blow in across the Plaza, where, In golden pomp against the dark Green, leafy background of the Park, St. Gaudens's hero, gaunt and grim, Rides on with Victory leading him.
—Bliss Carman, On the Plaza.
Approaching the Plaza, besides the churches, clubs, and the various houses associated with the name of Vanderbilt, there is conspicuous the cluster of great hotels. To sum up the nature of these hostelries briefly, imagine an Englishman. "We now crossed their Thames over what would have been Westminster Bridge, I fancy, and were presently bowling through a sort of Battersea part of the city," was the way in which the British butler in Mr. Harry Leon Wilson's "Ruggles of Red Gap" described part of a hazy, riotous ride about Paris. Later, the same worthy, come to our own New York, indicated the hotel of sojourn by the information that it overlooked "what I dare say in their simplicity they call their Hyde Park." Beneath the caricature there was a sound understanding of the workings of the British mind. So if an Englishman contemplating a visit seeks advice in the matter of hotels there is the obvious short cut. Certain of the less pretentious places in the side streets and overlooking the minor parks may be described as "the sort of thing you find about Russell Square." The Waldorf-Astoria, the Knickerbocker, the McAlpin, or the Astor as "like the Cecil, Savoy, or the Northumberland Avenue Hotels." The vast, expensive edifices of public welcome in the neighbourhood of the Plaza as "something rather on the order of Claridge's and the Carlton."
These hotels are the St. Regis and the Gotham on opposite corners of the Avenue at Fifty-fifth Street, the Savoy and the Netherland on the east side of the Avenue at Fifty-ninth Street, and the huge new Plaza Hotel facing them from across the square. When the St. Regis was first opened popular fancy ascribed to it a scale of prices crippling to the average purse. The idea was the subject of derisive vaudeville ditties. When a "Seeing New York" car approached the Fifty-fifth Street corner the guide invariably took up his megaphone and called out, "Ladies and gentlemen! We are passing on the right the far-famed St. Regis Hotel! If you order beefsteak it will cost you five dollars. If you call for chicken they will look you up in Bradstreet before serving the order!"
St. Luke's Hospital, now crowning Morningside Heights, opposite the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, was formerly on the land now occupied by the Gotham and the adjoining University Club. A photograph in the Collection of the Fifth Avenue Bank shows the old Hospital as it was in 1867. The point from which the picture was taken was in the middle of Fifty-fourth Street, east of the Avenue. At the north-east corner an iron rail fence separates the hospital grounds from the sidewalk, but the other three corners are vacant lots. To the west, on the south side of Fifty-fourth Street, a solitary house looms up. It is No. 4, now the residence of John D. Rockefeller, Sr. Near the Hospital, until 1861, was the Public Pound. The Hospital was opened May 13, 1858, with three "Sister Nurses" and nine patients. Its cost was two hundred and twenty-five thousand dollars. It was a red brick building, facing south, and consisted of a central edifice with towers. The cornerstone of the present St. Luke's was laid May 6, 1893.
"Marble Row" was the name given for years to the block on the east side of the Avenue between Fifty-seventh and Fifty-eighth Streets. John Mason, at one time president of the Chemical National Bank, bought the land from the city in 1825 for fifteen hundred dollars. Mason was another of the early New Yorkers who foresaw the future possibilities of the real estate of the island. Buying mostly from the Common Lands of the City, he purchased sixteen blocks from Park to Fifth Avenue, and from Fifty-fourth to Sixty-third Street. When he died, in 1839, he left a will cutting off with small annuities both his son James Mason, who had married Emma Wheatley, a member of the famous Stock Company of the old Park Theatre, the favourite "Desdemona," "Julia," "Mrs. Heller" of her day; and his daughter Helen, who had also married against his wishes. The will was contested, and eventually the block between Fifty-seventh and Fifty-eighth Streets passed into the hands of Mrs. Mary Mason Jones. In 1871 she erected on the land houses of white marble in a style that was a radical departure from the accepted brown-stone type. At once they became known as the "Marble Row." Mrs. Mary Mason Jones, in her day a social leader, lived in the house at the Fifty-seventh Street corner. Later the dwelling was occupied by Mrs. Paran Stevens.
To "Fifth Avenue" is owed the following description of the neighbourhood of the present Plaza in the middle of the last century. It is from the reminiscences of John D. Crimmins, who has been already quoted in the course of this book. Mr. Crimmins's father was a contractor and at one time in the employ of Thomas Addis Emmet, whose country-seat was on the Boston Post Road near Fifty-ninth Street.
Says Mr. Crimmins: "In the immediate vicinity were the country-seats of other prominent New Yorkers, such as the Buchanans, who were the forebears of the Goelets, the Adriance, Jones, and Beekman families, the Schermerhorns, Hulls, Setons, Towles, Willets, Lenoxes, Delafields, Primes, Rhinelanders, Lefferts, Hobbs, Rikers, Lawrences, and others. A little farther to the north were the country-seats of the Goelets, Gracies, and the elder John Jacob Astor. With all these people, who were practically the commercial founders of our city, my father had an acquaintance. The wealthy merchants of New York at that period frequently invested their surplus in outlying property and left its care largely in the hands of my father, who opened up estates, as he did the Anson Phelps place in the vicinity of Thirtieth Street, which ran north and extended from the East River to Third Avenue. He also opened up the Cutting and other large estates. When I was a lad, as I was the oldest son, my father would take me to the residences of these gentlemen, several of whom had their permanent homes on Fifth Avenue or in the vicinity. At that period, these wealthy citizens conducted much of their business at their homes. James Lenox had his office in the basement of his house at Fifth Avenue and Twelfth Street. R.L. Stuart attended to much of his business at his residence, Twentieth Street and Fifth Avenue, and the same may be said of the Costers, Moses Taylor, and others. These men had no hesitation in receiving in their homes after business hours the people whom they employed. I remember distinctly before gas was generally introduced how very economical in its use those who had it were. In the absence of the butler the gentleman of the house would often walk to the door with his visitor and then lower the gas. The estates of many of these wealthy merchants were rented to market gardeners. And it was not an unusual sight to see a merchant drive in his carriage to the vegetable garden, select his vegetables, and carry them to his table, showing the economy and simple manners of the people of that older day as compared with our present extravagance.
"After the Board of Aldermen had acceded to the petition of the residents of Fifth Avenue for permission to enclose a part of the roadway in a closed yard or area, it was not an uncommon sight to see many of the older men standing at their gates, in high stocks, white cravats, cutaway coats with brass buttons, greeting their neighbours as they passed along the Avenue—a custom which survived to about 1870, when the white cravat, too, passed into history. The improvements on Fifth Avenue, north of Thirty-fourth Street, began with the erection of the Townsend house, which was a feature of the city and shown to visitors. The location was the foot of a high hill.
"On the corner of Fifth Avenue and Fiftieth Street, where the Cathedral now stands, stood the frame church, thirty by seventy feet, in which I was baptized in May, 1844. A path and a road led to the Post Road which ran east of the church and bordered the Potter's Field. To the north was the Orphan Asylum, and farther on was another cattle yard, Waltemeir's, a family well known to cattle men. From Fiftieth Street to St. Luke's Hospital at Fifty-fourth Street there were a few frame houses, and the ground extending to Sixth Avenue was used for market gardens. Old maps of New York show the lanes crossing this section at the time, much like the country roads we see today thirty or forty miles distant from the city. Walls ran along these roads with an occasional house with its gable of the old Dutch type. Mr. Keyser, who dealt in ice gathered from ponds, occupied the site of the present Vanderbilt houses, Fifty-first to Fifty-second Street. The Decker house of Dutch architecture occupied the block between Fourth and Fifth Avenues, Fifty-sixth to Fifty-seventh Street.
"Peter and Robert Goelet I recall very well. Those who called on Peter Goelet would find him in a jumper, bluish in colour, such as we see mechanics wear, with pockets in front. He loved to be occupied and always had a rule and other articles in his pockets. His brother, Robert, was the grandfather of the present Goelets. Peter was the elder and a bachelor. They accompanied each other on walks, Peter, the more active of the two, in front, and Robert a pace behind. They dealt directly with their tenants and those whom they employed in taking care of their properties. I can recall them coming on foot to my father to have him repair a sidewalk or fence. I doubt if these men in their day, except for ordinary living expenses, spent five thousand dollars a year. They were simple in their manners and tastes.
"The older generation was noted for industry, thrift, and economy. An old merchant, an executor of the Burr estate which owned property opposite the new Public Library, once stated that no man who had a million dollars invested, could spend his income in a year. Money at that time brought seven per cent. The contents of an office did not exceed in cost fifty dollars, a pine desk and table, and a few chairs. There were no stenographers and typewriters were unknown.
"Transportation was principally by stage. There were car lines on Second, Third, Sixth, and Eighth Avenues. The men who kept carriages were few and they generally lived in Harlem or Manhattanville. Occasionally smart four-in-hands were seen, and I recall Madame Jumel driving to town and how we boys used to run to the side of the road to see her pass. Many business men would go to the city driving a rockaway with a single horse. Few of the streets were paved, and there were but two classes of pavements, macadam and cobblestones. Where streets were not paved the sidewalks were in bad condition. In some places the high banks of earth on either side of the street were washed down by heavy rains and deposited on the sidewalks.
"Oil lamps were in general use as street lights, and the light was easily blown out by the wind. The lamplighter was usually a tall man, a character, and his position was considered an important one. Fifth Avenue north of Fifty-ninth Street remained undeveloped for years, and it was not until sometime in the seventies that my father and I finished grading upper Fifth Avenue. Sixty years ago on both sides were stone walls where there were deep depressions. There was no traffic except drovers coming down to market with cattle. There were but two main thoroughfares, Boston Post Road on the east side, and Bloomingdale Road on the west side. From the Boston Post Road long lanes led to the residences of gentlemen who had country-seats on the East River, and similar lanes led from the old Bloomingdale Road to the country-seats on the Hudson River. The sites of the Plaza, the Savoy, and the Netherland Hotels were rocky knolls. A brook which came down Fifty-ninth Street formed several shallow pools which remained for a number of years after the Civil War."
Whether or not Saint Gaudens was right in his contention that the proper place for his equestrian statue of General Sherman was on the Riverside Drive by Grant's Tomb, without that gilded bronze figure of heroic size and the Winged Victory leading before, the Plaza would not be quite the Plaza. Obscured as it is in these days by the vast scaffolding, there is no true son of Manhattan who passes the corner on his way up the Avenue, or enters Central Park, who does not turn to look at the chief ornament of the broad square. The statue was made several years after Sherman's death, and the sculptor laboured on it for six years, from the time when he began the work in Paris, to its final unveiling, on Memorial Day, 1903. Of the statue and its surroundings as he saw them on the occasion of one of his later visits to the city of his birth and boyhood, Henry James wrote:
"The best thing in the picture, obviously, is Saint Gaudens's great group, splendid in its golden elegance and doing more for the scene (by thus giving the beholder a point of such dignity for his orientation) than all its other elements together. Strange and seductive for any lover of the reasons of things this inordinate value, on the spot, of dauntless refinement of the Sherman image; the comparative vulgarity of the environment drinking it up, on one side, like an insatiable sponge, and yet failing at the same time to impair its virtue. The refinement prevails and, as it were, succeeds; holds its own in the medley of accidents, where nothing else is refined unless it be the amplitude of the 'quiet' note in the front of the Metropolitan Club; amuses itself, in short, with being as extravagantly 'intellectual' as it likes. Why, therefore, given the surrounding medium, does it so triumphantly impose itself, and impose itself not insidiously and gradually, but immediately and with force? Why does it not pay the penalty of expressing an idea and being founded on one?—such scant impunity seeming usually to be enjoyed among us, at this hour, by any artistic intention of the finer strain? But I put these questions only to give them up—for what I feel beyond anything else is that Mr. Saint Gaudens somehow takes care of himself."
Facing the Sherman group, in the centre of the square, with the Cornelius Vanderbilt house in the background, is the Fountain of Abundance, or the Pulitzer Memorial Fountain, designed by Karl Bitter (his last work), executed by Isidore Konti, and erected in 1915 to the memory of the late Joseph Pulitzer, for many years proprietor of the New York "World." The structure is surmounted by the bronze figure of a nymph, bearing a basket laden with the fruits of the earth. The Vanderbilt residence which is the background when the Fountain is viewed from the north is of red brick with grey facings in the style of a French chateau of the sixteenth or seventeenth century.
Stretches of the Avenue
Stretches of the Avenue—The Days of Squatter Kings—Seneca Village—"Millionaire's Row"—The Avenue Gates—The Soul of Central Park—Some Palaces of the Stretch—The Obelisk and the Metropolitan Museum—Northward Through Harlem.
Here and there in the Island, far to the north, may be found an unblasted rock on the top of which is perched an unpainted shanty with a crude chimney spout from which smoke issues voluminously. A quarter of a century ago there were thousands of such shanties along the upper West Side. From the lofty iron height of the El. Road one could survey them stretching all the way from the Sixties to One Hundred and Sixteenth. On the summits the Lords of the Manors smoked their clay pipes in bland disregard of the world and its rent-collectors, and the family goats gambolled; in the valleys the truck gardens waxed green and smiled luxuriously as if conscious of the enormous square-foot value of the land that they were pre-empting. But King Dynamite came, and the steam drill came, and the air clanged with the driving of many rivets, and the Mountain Men, and their goats, and their wives, and their unwashed offspring, and their Lares and Penates went forth into the wilderness—no one knows just where. The days of Squatter Sovereignty had passed.
But the Mountain men and women within the memory were the hardy, obstinate, unyielding survivors, the last to cling to the strongholds in a region that once seemed impregnable. Before Central Park was laid out Fifty-ninth Street was the dividing line. Below, rich brown-stone; above, along the country road which was then Fifth Avenue, a waste, squalid yet in its way picturesque, that extended almost to Mount Morris Park. "Here lived," "Fifth Avenue" tells us, "over five thousand as poverty-stricken and disreputable people as could be seen anywhere. The squatters' settlements in the Park were surrounded by swamps, and overgrown with briers, vines, and thickets. The soil that covered the rocky surface was unfit for cultivation. Here and there were stone quarries and stagnant pools. In this wilderness lived the squatters, in little shanties and huts made of boards picked up along the river fronts and often pieced out with sheets of tin, obtained by flattening cans. Some occupants paid ten dollars and twenty-five dollars rent, but the majority paid nothing. Three stone buildings, two brick buildings, eighty-five or ninety frame houses, one rope-walk and about two hundred shanties, barns, stables, piggeries, and bone-factories, appear in a census made just before Central Park was begun. Some of the shanties were dug-outs, and most had dirt floors. In this manner lived, in a state of loose morality, Americans, Germans, Irish, Negroes, and Indians. Some were honest and some were not; many were roughs and crooks. Much of their food was refuse, which they procured in the lower portion of the city, and carried along Fifth Avenue to their homes in small carts drawn by dogs. The mongrel dogs were a remarkable feature of squatter life, and it is said that the Park area contained no less than one hundred thousand 'curs of low degree,' which, with cows, pigs, cats, goats, geese, and chickens, roamed at will, and lived upon the refuse, which was everywhere. In the neighbourhood of these squatter settlements, of which the largest was Seneca Village, near Seventy-ninth Street, the swamps had become cesspools and the air was odoriferous and sickening."
Those hovels of yesterday have made way for the beautiful Park and the superb mansions that have earned for the eastern stretch of Fifth Avenue overlooking the Park the title of "Millionaire's Row." There is one impression of the "Row" which one is bound to take away whether the point of observation be the top of a passing omnibus or the sidewalk adjoining the stone wall guarding the boundaries of the Park. That is of a mysterious unreality, due, perhaps to the shades being always lowered and the curtains tightly drawn. In considerable excitement an immaculately garbed little old gentleman was one day seen to descend hurriedly from the Imperiale of the snorting monster by which he had designed to travel down to Washington Square. On the sidewalk, flourishing his cane, he pointed in the direction of a stately palace of white marble. "It is incredible," he kept repeating, "but I certainly saw some one come out of that house. I am the original New Yorker, and I know the thing has never happened before."
As the great lane beyond Fifty-ninth Street is known as "Millionaire's Row," it could have no more appropriate guarding outpost than the Metropolitan Club, more generally called the "Millionaire's Club." The organization was founded in 1891 by members of the Union Club, and the present white marble club-house, at the north-east corner of Sixtieth Street, on land formerly owned by the Duchess of Marlborough, was erected in 1903. The gate to the Park diagonally across from the club, at Fifty-ninth Street and Fifth Avenue, is the Scholars' Gate. The other gates along the stretch of the Avenue are the Students' Gate, at Sixty-fourth Street, the Children's Gate, at Seventy-second Street, the Miners' Gate, at Seventy-ninth Street, the Engineers' Gate, at Ninetieth Street, the Woodman's Gate, at Ninety-sixth Street, and the Girls' Gate, at One Hundred and Second Street.
"Park life with us," writes Miss Henderson, "has perhaps become obsolete; our national breathlessness cannot brook this paradox of pastoral musings within sight and sound and smell of the busy lure of money making. Within its gates we pass into a new element; and this element is antipathetic to the one-sided development imposed by city life. Instead of resting us, it presents a problem, and the last thing for which we now have time is abstract thought. And so we prefer the dazzling, twinkling, clashing, clamoring, death-dealing, sinking, eruptive, insistent Broadway, where every blink of the eye catches a new impression, where the brain becomes a passive, palpitating receptacle for ideas which are shot into it through all the senses; and where, between 'stepping lively' and 'watching your step,' a feat of contradictoriness only equalled in its exaction by the absorbing exercise of slapping with one hand and rubbing with the other, independent thought becomes an extinct function."
Perhaps. These may be the doubts of the grown-ups and the sophisticated. Meditate thus cantering along the bridle-path or lolling back in the tonneau of the motor-car that has come to replace the stately, absurd horse-drawn equipage of yesterday. Survey with ennui. Brood over unpatriotic comparisons. Paraphrase Laurence Sterne to the extent of mumbling how "they order this matter much better in Hyde Park or in the Bois de Boulogne." Quote Mr. Henry James about "the blistered sentiers of asphalt, the rock-bound caverns, the huge iron bridges spanning little muddy lakes, the whole, crowded, cockneyfied place." In that way jaundiced happiness lies. But the soul of Central Park is not for you. Once upon a time there was a Central Park. The approaches to it were along sedate avenues or by restful side streets. When the Park was reached there were donkeys to ride, and donkey-boys, highly amusing in their cynicism and worldly knowledge, in attendance. The "rock-work" caverns were in fancy of an amazing vastness, and the abode of goblins, elves, gnomes, enchanted knights, persecuted princesses—all the creatures of delightful Fairyland. A certain dark, winding, apparently endless tunnel was the Valley of the Shadow of Death of John Bunyan's allegory. On the sward before the entrance Christian grappled with Apollyon: "And Apollyon, espying his opportunity, began to gather up close to Christian, and wrestling with him, gave him a dreadful fall; and with that Christian's sword flew out of his hand. Then said Apollyon, I am sure of thee now. And with that he had almost pressed him to death; so that Christian began to despair of life. But, as God would have it, while Apollyon was fetching of his last blow, thereby to make an end of this good man, Christian nimbly reached out his hand for his sword, and caught it, saying, Rejoice not against me, O mine enemy; when I fall, I shall arise; and with that gave him a deadly thrust, which made him give back, as one that had received his mortal wound. Christian perceiving that, made at him again, saying, Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him that loved us. And with that Apollyon spread forth his dragon wings, and sped him away, that Christian saw him no more."
"And Christian saw him no more!" With the thrill that those words bring the years fall away and again a boy's eyes are wide in wonder at the mystery of the world. Then the lake. It was not muddy to the gaze of youth. Instead, it was of a crystal clearness that sparkled in the summer sunshine, and the ride in the swan-boats was a joyous adventure, just as it was a little later to the little girls who owed it to the knightly bounty of Mr. Cortlandt Van Bibber. And what was better than the hours in the Menagerie, when the antics of the monkeys provoked side-splitting laughter, and to stand steady close before the cage when the lions stretched and roared was to feel the thrill of a young Tartarin? "Now, this is something like a hunt!" Times change, and conditions change, and aspects change, but it is we who change most of all, and Romance is still there, given the eyes of youth with which to see it.
But back to our sheep and to the Avenue. At the south-east corner of Sixty-second Street is the Knickerbocker Club, which moved there a few years ago from the home it held so long at the Avenue and Thirty-second Street, but before it is reached are passed the residences of Mrs. J.A. Bostwick (800), Mrs. Fitch Gilbert (801), William Emlen Roosevelt (804), and William Lanman Bull (805). On Sixty-second Street, near the Knickerbocker, is the house of the late Joseph H. Choate. Continuing along the Avenue to Sixty-eighth Street the residences are: Mrs. Hamilton Fish (810), Francis L. Loring (811), George G. McMurty (813), Robert L. Gerry (816), Clifford V. Brokaw (825), Henry Mortimer Brooks (826), William Guggenheim (833), Frank Jay Gould (834), Frederick Lewisohn (835), Mrs. Isadore Wormser (836), Mrs. William Watts Sherman (838), Vincent Astor (840), Mrs. Henry O. Havemeyer, south-east corner of Sixty-sixth (No. 3 East Sixty-sixth is the former home of General Grant), Miss Elizabeth Kean (844), George Barney Schley (845), the late Colonel Oliver H. Payne (852), George Grant Mason (854), Perry Belmont (855), Judge Elbert H. Gary (856), George J. Gould (857), and Thomas F. Ryan (858).
At this point begins what prior to 1840 was the farm of Robert Lenox, extending on to what is now Seventy-third Street. The uncle of Robert Lenox was a British commissary during the Revolution. The farm, which is worth at the present day perhaps ten million dollars, was bought in the twenties of the last century for forty thousand dollars. Under the various sections of his will which bear the dates of 1829, 1832, and 1839, Lenox, or "Lennox" as it was then spelled, devised his farm, then comprising about thirty acres, to his only son, James, with his stock of horses, cattle, and farming utensils, during the term of his life and after his death, to James's heirs forever. The will reads: "My motive for so leaving this property is a firm persuasion that it may, at no distant date, be the site of a village, and as it cost me more than its present worth, from circumstances known to my family, I will to cherish that belief that it may be realized to them. At all events, I want the experiment made by keeping the property from being sold." Under a clause in the will dated 1832, however, he withdrew the restriction covering the sale of the farm, but, nevertheless, urged his son not to sell it, as he was still of the firm conviction that some day there would be a village near by, and the property would appreciate. It was the son James Lenox who erected the Lenox Library, which was a conspicuous mark on the upper Avenue until it was merged with the Astor in the formation of the present Public Library. The Lenox Library antedated by some years the Metropolitan Museum of Art. It was designed by Richard Morris Hunt, who died in 1893, and whose Memorial, the work of Daniel Chester French, is on the edge of the opposite Park.
The site of the old Library is now occupied by the house of Mr. Henry C. Frick, one of the great show residences of the Avenue and the city. Beautiful as it unquestionably is, the veriest layman is conscious of the fact that, for the full effect, a longer approach is needed. A broad garden separates the house, which is eighteenth-century English, from the sidewalk. The gallery, the low wing at the upper corner, with lunettes in sculpture by Sherry Fry, Phillip Martiny, Charles Keck, and Attilio Piccirilli, contains pictures by Titian, Paul Veronese, Velasquez, Murillo, Van Dyck, Franz Hals, Rembrant, Daubigny, Corot, Diaz, Manet, Millet, Rousseau, Troyon, Constable, Gainsborough, Lawrence, Raeburn, Reynolds, Romney, Turner, and Whistler. The chief artistic feature of the interior decorations of the house, which, with the land upon which it is placed, cost, in round figures, five millions of dollars, is the famous series of Fragonard Panels, in the drawing-room. Painted originally for the chere amie of Louis the Fifteenth, they are known as the Du Barry Panels, despite the fact that the fair lady did not find them quite satisfactory and the artist placed them in his own home on the shores of the Mediterranean.
But before the Frick residence is reached there are the houses of Harry Payne Whitney (871) at the north-east corner of Sixty-eighth Street, Mrs. Joseph Stickney (874), Henry J. Topping (875), Frances Burton Harrison (876), Mrs. Ogden Mills (878), Mrs. E.H. Harriman (880), and Mrs. William E.S. Griswold (883). Just beyond are Mrs. Abercrombie Burden (898), James A. Burden (900), John W. Sterling (912), Samuel Thorne (914), Nicholas F. Palmer (922), George Henry Warren (924), Mrs. Herbert Leslie Terrell (925), John Woodruff Simpson (926), Simeon B. Chapin (930), Mortimer L. Schiff (932), Lamon V. Harkness (933), Alfred M. Hoyt (934), and Edwin Gould (936). Then, at Seventy-sixth Street, is the Temple Beth-El, which was completed in 1891, and which represents the first German-Jewish congregation in this country, dating back to 1826. The dwelling houses that come next belong to Mrs. Samuel W. Bridgham (954), and J. Horace Harding (955). Then, at the northeast corner of Seventy-seventh Street, is the famous house of Senator W.A. Clark, reputed to have been built at a cost of fifteen million dollars. Beyond, Charles F. Dietrich (963), Mrs. George H. Butler (964), Jacob H. Schiff (965), William V. Lawrence (969), the James B. Duke house with its simple lines at the Seventy-eighth Street corner, Payne Whitney (972), Isaac D. Fletcher (977), Howard C. Brokaw (984), Irving Brokaw (985), William J. Curtis (986), Walter Lewisohn (987), Hugh A. Murray (988), Nicholas F. Brady (989), Frank W. Woolworth (990), D. Crawford Clark (991), E.D. Faulkner (992), Mrs. Hugo Reisinger (993)—there is an apartment house at 998 where the rents are so high that it is popularly known as the "Millionaires Apartments"—Mrs. Henry G. Timmerman (1007), Angier B. Duke (1009), J. Francis A. Clark (1013), Senator George B. Peabody Wetmore (1015), Mrs. W.M. Kingland (1026), and George Crawford Clark (1027).
This part of the Avenue faces the Obelisk, Cleopatra's Needle, a present to the United States from the Khedive of Egypt, brought to this country in 1877, and erected here in 1880; and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the latter on the site of what was once the Deer Park. The Museum had its origin in a meeting of the art committee of the Union League Club in November, 1869. Among the founders were William Cullen Bryant, president of the Century Association, Daniel Huntington, president of the National Academy of Design, Dr. Barnard, president of Columbia, Richard M. Hunt, president of the New York chapter of the American Institute of Architects, and Dr. Henry W. Bellows. Andrew H. Green, the "Father of Greater New York," who was one of those representing the city, was the first to suggest placing the Museum in the Park. For a time the collection was kept in a house rented for the purpose in West Fourteenth Street. The first wing of the present building was opened in 1880.
To continue the list of the private residences of the Avenue. Jonathan Thorne (1028), Louis Gordon Hammersley (1030), Countess Annie Leary (1032), George C. Smith (1033), Herbert D. Robbins (1034), James B. Clews (1039), Lloyd Warren (1041), Mrs. James Hedges (1044), R.F. Hopkins (1045), Michael Dricer (1046), George Leary (1053), William H. Erhart (1055), James Speyer (1058), Henry Phipps (1063), Abraham Stein (1068), Dr. James H. Lancashire (1069), Mrs. Herbert T. Parsons (1071), W.W. Fuller (1072), J.H. Hanan (1073), Benjamin Duke (1076), Malcolm D. Whitman (1080), McLane Van Ingen (1081), A.M. Huntington (1083).
In the block between Ninetieth and Ninety-first Streets, on land where once the squatter gloried, is the home of the Iron Master, perhaps of all the residences in the long line of the Avenue the one most observed by the stranger within our gates. "So well have the architect and the landscape gardener co-operated," is the comment of "Fifth Avenue," "that this mansion and its surroundings have already the dignity and picturesqueness which age alone can give, although the building is of comparatively recent date. It is the only house on all Fifth Avenue which looks as if it might have been transplanted from old England." The Carnegie house is almost the outpost to the north of "Millionaire's Row." Two blocks beyond, after the I. Townsend Burden house, and the Warburg house, and the Willard D. Straight house have been passed, we are once more in the region of unprepossessing chaos. Between Ninety-third Street and the end of the Park there is a riot of hideous signboards, and vacant lots, and lots that though occupied, are unadorned. The only relief in the unpleasant picture is the Mount Sinai Hospital at One Hundredth Street. In name at least the Avenue marches on, its progress being suspended for a space where Mount Morris Park rises to the summit of the Snag Berg, or Snake Hill, where, in the days of the Revolution, a Continental battery for a moment commanded the valley of the Harlem, only to be whisked away, when the enemy came, and a Hessian battery was installed in its place. But where the stretch of magnificence breaks, although it continues to be Fifth Avenue in name, it ceases to be Fifth Avenue in spirit.
Mine Host on the Avenue
Mine Host on the Avenue—A Gentleman of Brussels—Poulard's—Some Old New York Hotels—High Prices of 1836—The American—The Metropolitan—Holt's—The Brevoort and the Steamship Captains—Delmonico's—Famous Menus—The Glory of the Fifth Avenue—The Logerot—A Bohemian Chop-house—The Great Mince Pie Contest—About Madison Square—Lost Youth.
Is there anything that civilized man recalls more poignantly than the menus of yesterday? Of the Brussels of the winter of 1917, the last winter that the Americans of the Commission for Relief were allowed to remain, I have many vivid memories. One of them is of a crowd gathered before a shop-window in the Rue de Namur, a street that winds down from the circle of boulevards to the Place Royale. Within, the object of hungry curiosity, a fowl, adorned by a placard informing that the price is forty-four francs. Conspicuous in the crowd, his face pressed against the glass of the etalage, a little old gentleman. The bowl of municipal soup and the loaf of bread are all that he has to look forward to as the day's sustenance. But as he gazes his mouth waters quiveringly, and for the moment the grey-green uniforms of the invaders that are all about him, and the hated flag that is flying over the Palais de Justice are forgotten. Soon he will go home and sit down and write a letter to La Belgique, in which he will recall the happier days, and tell of how one once was able to dine at the Taverne Royale for the sum of two francs, fifty, or three francs, fifty, enumerating carefully and lovingly the various courses. His letter, and others of similar nature and inspiration, were the only genuine letters that the occupying military authorities allowed to appear in the Belgian press.
But a world tragedy was not needed to invest with romance the menus of yesterday. A memory of youth is the rock of Mont St. Michel on the French coast. The name suggests a towering, isolated height in the ocean, close to the mouth of the river dividing Normandy from Brittany, surrounded at high tide by lashing waves, and at low tide by a muddy morass, save where a causeway joins it to the mainland. The monks of St. Michel sent ships to help convey the armies of William to Hastings, and when the yoke of the Normans on England was young two sons of the Conqueror waged battle here, and Henry besieged Robert or Robert besieged Henry. When Philip Augustus burned it and it was the only Norman fortress that withstood Henry the Fifth, and many years later, in Maupassant's "Notre Coeur," a certain Madame de Burne entered a room of one of its hotels and there blew out a candle. But above all I recall, and ninety-five out of every hundred others who have visited the rock recall, the breakfast that was once renowned throughout Europe—a breakfast at two francs, fifty, brought to perfection for the reason that it was always the same, the shrimps, the cutlets, the chicken, and the amazing omelette, which the portly Madame Poulard prepared in full view, tossing it like a flapjack, to a chorus of delighted "Ahs!"
There is no need to go far afield. There is the older New York, with its memories of Mine Host of oyster-bar and chop-house, of culinary joys and the ghosts of viands. Yesterday the personality of the landlord was more in evidence and that of his staff happily less so. Mine Host was an individual and not yet a corporation. He oozed welcome. He walked from table to table, bland, smiling, eager for commendation, keen-eared for criticism. Although paid for, it was none the less his hospitality that was being dispensed, and he was acutely sensitive to appreciation. His retainers were fewer in number and were retainers only. Then, from the Spanish Main the last of the pirates disappeared, bequeathing to their descendants the tables and hat-stands of the hostelries of Fifth Avenue and the Great White Way. There they are today, insolent-eyed and "walk-the-plank" mannered to all but the few whom they feel they can hold to high ransom. To those of us who do not belong to that few of the race of Dives there is satisfaction in turning over the old bills-of-fare, and musing on the repasts that were once within the reach of the purses of the humble.
When Horace Greeley arrived in New York in 1831, he had ten dollars in his pocket and knew no one in the city. He entered a tavern. The bartender looked him over superciliously. "We are too high for you. We charge six a week." Horace agreed with him, and found shelter in a boarding-house where he paid two dollars and a half a week. Occasionally, when the table there palled, he and the other boarders sought a change by repairing to a Sixpenny Dining Saloon in Beekman Street where a splendid feast was to be had for a shilling (twelve and a half cents).
Two years after Horace Greeley arrived in New York Holt's Hotel opened its doors. It was the wonder of the town, the largest and most magnificent inn erected up to that time. Even by rich people its prices were thought exorbitant. They were one dollar and a half a day. That, of course, meant the American plan. Even the panic years, from 1835 to 1837, when prices soared in a manner that brought consternation to the breasts of careful housekeepers, do not very much startle us who are living in the present Anno Domini 1918. Philip Hone, in his "Diary," wrote of living in New York in 1835 as exorbitantly dear, and went on to say: "it falls pretty hard on persons like me who live upon their incomes, and harder still upon that large and respectable class whose support is derived from fixed salaries." The sweat of the brow of New York all ran into the pockets of the farmers. Hone laid in a winter stock of butter at twenty-nine cents a pound. "In the course of thirty-four years housekeeping I have never buttered my bread at so extravagant a rate." In March, 1836, he recorded: "The market was higher this morning than I have ever known it. Beef, twenty-five cents; mutton and veal, fifteen to eighteen; small turkeys, one dollar and a half. Poor New York!"
A few years later and the prices were back to what was then held to be normal. According to a Guide Book of the city issued in 1846, there were one hundred and twenty-three eating-houses in the town, besides the oyster-houses. At the cheaper places the prices were six cents a plate of meats and three cents a plate of vegetables. In the more pretentious restaurants the rates were of course considerably higher. Chamberlain's Saloon in Pearl Street was a famous restaurant in 1851. Here is its advertised bill-of-fare. Soups: beef, mutton, chicken, six cents; roast pig, turkey, goose, chicken, duck, twelve and a half cents; beef, lamb, pork, mutton, six cents; beefsteak pie, lamb pie, mutton pie, clam pie, six cents; boiled beef, any kind, six cents. Made dishes: pork and beans, veal pie, six cents; oyster pie, chicken pot-pie, twelve and a half cents.
Philip Hone lived in a house on Broadway, facing City Hall Park. When he wished to dine out he did not have to go far, for almost next door was the American Hotel, one of the most famous hostelries of the period. Its cooking was as sturdily patriotic as its name, although the menu is flavoured with badly written French. Here is a sample bill-of-fare, bearing the date of June 10, 1848.
Soup. Rice Soup. Fish. Blackfish. Boiled. Leg of Mutton. Fowl, oyster sauce. Corn beef. Ham, Tongue, Lobsters. Entrees. Fricassee of chicken, a la New York. Tete de Veau en Tortue. Cotellettes de mouton, saute aux pommes. Filet de veau, pique a la Macedoine. Tendon d'Agneau, puree au navets. Fois de volaille, sautee, a la Bordelaise. Croquettes de pommes de terre. Stewed oysters. Boeuf bouilli, sauce piquante. Macaroni a l'Itallienne. Roast. Beef, Veal, Lamb, mint sauce, Chicken, Duck. Vegetables. Mashed potatoes. Asparagus. Spinach. Rice. Turnips. Pears. Pastry. Rice custard. Roman punch. Pies. Tarts, etc. Dessert. Strawberries and cream. Almonds. Raisins. Walnuts, etc.
The day came when the hotels farther downtown yielded the palm to the Metropolitan, opened in the middle fifties at Broadway and Prince Street. The late Alfred Henry Lewis thus rhetorically pictured the Metropolitan, in the winter of 1857-58, when to dine there was the thing to do. "Over near a window are Bayard Taylor, the poet Stoddard, and Boker, who wrote 'Francesca da Rimini,' which Miss Julia Dean is playing at Wallack's. Beyond them is Edmund Clarence Stedman, with lawyers David Dudley Field and Charles O'Connor. The second table from the door is claimed by Sparrow Grass Cozzens and Fitz-James O'Brien, who have adjourned from Pfaff's beer-cellar near Leonard Street, where, under the Broadway sidewalk, they were quaffing lager and getting up quite an appetite on onions, pretzels, and cheese. They have with them Walt Whitman, who, silent and wholly wanting in that barbaric yawp, is distinguished by what William Dean Howells, ever slopping over in his phrase-making, will one day speak of as his 'branching beard and Jovian hair.' The theatres have a place in the Leland cafe, and that dark, thin-faced scimetar-nosed Jewish woman, who coughs a great deal, is the French actress, Rachel. She has been playing at the New York Theatre, and caught a cold on that overventilated stage, as open to the winds as a sawmill, which will kill her within a year. With her are the singer, Brignoli, and that man of orchestras, Theodore Thomas. The sepulchral Herman Melville enters, and saunters funereally across to Taylor, Stoddard, and Boker. Rachel and Brignoli are talking of the operatic failure at the Academy of Music under Manager Payne. They speak, too, of Mrs. Wood's success at Wallack's, and of Burton's reopening of the old Laura Keene Theatre, in Broadway across from Bond. Thomas mentions the accident at Niblo's the other evening, when Pauline Genet, of the Revel troupe, was so savagely burned. Speculation enlists O'Connor, Stedman, and Field, and Field is prophesying impending money troubles, which prophecies the panic six months away will largely bear out."
Then, quietly at first, but none the less surely, Fifth Avenue began to play its part to the town and to the visiting stranger. Now that the Astor House and the old Fifth Avenue Hotel are gone it is to the Brevoort, or the Lafayette-Brevoort, just as you choose to call it, that one turns to find the ghosts of yesterday. They are nothing to shy at, being comfortable, well-fed spirits, compositely cosmopolitan. For legend has it that the management in the old days was particularly gracious to the captains of the transatlantic steamers when they were in this port, and the seamen were correspondingly appreciative. So as the vessel was passing the Nantucket Lightship the titled Englishman bound for the Canadian Rockies to hunt big game, or the French banker, seeking first-hand information about values in mines or railroads, or the Neapolitan tenor about to fill an engagement at the Academy of Music, turned to the captain for advice as to where to stay during the sojourn in New York, the Briton, or the Gaul, or the Italian was likely to hear such a flattering account of the comfort of the Brevoort and the excellence of its cuisine, that any previous suggestions were promptly forgotten. In the old-time novels of New York visiting Englishmen in particular always "stopped" at the Brevoort. It would have been heresy on the part of the novelist to have sent them elsewhere. Nor can any blame be attached to romancer or steamship captain. It was always a good hotel, but in the old days it had not yet been invaded by those who like to play at Bohemia.
Delmonico's has had many incarnations since the day when the brothers, Peter and John, established themselves in the humble basement at No. 27 William Street, back in 1827. First there was the move to 76 Broad Street, and then to Broadway and Chambers Street. But to that generation of New Yorkers of which only a few remain, there has been only one great Delmonico's, the one which in 1861 opened its doors at the northeast corner of Fourteenth Street and Fifth Avenue. It was the centre of the town in the sixties and early seventies. Two blocks away was the Academy of Music, the Metropolitan Opera House of the time, and Fourteenth Street was burgeoning out as the new Rialto. Society set its seal upon the establishment. The clubs of the immediate neighbourhood, of which there were several, did not think it necessary to install cuisines when Delmonico's was so close at hand. The name of the house is still a byword in the land, but the names of Filippini and Lattard, two of the maitre d'hotel who helped to make Delmonico's famous, have been forgotten by all but a very few. What supper parties were given in the old establishment, and what dances of that exclusive circle to which Mr. Ward McAllister was later to give the sticking designation of the "Four Hundred," before the house again marched on northward to Madison Square, and a rug-man installed himself and his wares in the halls that had been the scene of such good cheer and so much well-bred revelry!
M. de Balzac, planning to entertain a Russian nobleman at the Restaurant de Paris, asked the management to "put its best foot forward" for the occasion. "Certainly, Monsieur," was the retort, "for the simple reason that it is what we are in the habit of doing every day." Old-time patrons of the Fourteenth Street corner will tell you that such a reply might have fittingly come from the maitre d'hotel of the "Del's" that was. But conceding the quality of the everyday service there were famous dinners that have stood out in the annals of the house. Here, for example, is the menu of what was known as the "Swan Dinner" held the evening of February 17, 1873.
Potages. Consomme Imperial. Bisque aux crevettes.
Hor d'oeuvres. Timbales a la Conde.
Poissons. Red Snapper a la Venetienne. Eperlan, sauce des gourmets.
Releve. Filet de boeuf a la l'Egyptienne.
Entrees. Ailes de canvas back, sauce bigurade. Cotellettes de volaille Sevigne. Asperges froide en branche. Sorbet a l'Ermitage.
Rotis. Chapon truffes. Selle de mouton.
Entremets. Choufleurs, sauce creme. Carbons a la moelle. Petits pois au beurre. Poires a la Richelieu. Gelee aux ananas. Gaufres Chantilly Sultanne. Gateaux a la Reine. Coupole a l'Anglaise. Pain de peche Marechale. Gelee au fruits.
Dessert. Delicieux aux noisettes. Biscuit Tortoni. Fruit glaces. Petit fours. Bonbons. Pieces montes.
The musty inn of mid-Europe will boast till the end of time of the two-hour visit within its walls of a certain Elector and his suite in the year sixteen hundred and something or seventeen hundred and something. There is not a hostelry in England dating back to Tudor times without a bed in which Queen Elizabeth is reputed to have slept. But for famous guests, authentically established, there is probably no other hotel in the world that is to be compared to the Fifth Avenue. When the boyish Prince of Wales played leap-frog in its corridors at the time of his visit to the United States in 1860, he began a distinguished procession. Every president of the nation from the day the hotel was opened until it closed at some time stayed there. That meant Lincoln, Johnson, Grant, Hayes, Garfield, Arthur, Cleveland, McKinley, and Roosevelt. At the time of Grant's funeral in August, 1885, the immediate family, the relatives, President Cleveland, Vice-President Hendricks, former Presidents Hayes and Arthur, the members of the Senate, the House of Representatives, and the Supreme Court, the Diplomatic Corps, and the Governors of the various States were all guests of the hotel. Not only did great men stay there, but they did things there. It was at the Peabody dinner at the Fifth Avenue that the movement to nominate Grant for President started. In 1880, after his nomination, Garfield, at the solicitation of Arthur, came all the way from Mentor to meet Roscoe Conkling. But the haughty and powerful Conkling would not see him. If the hotel had not been the recognized shelter of visiting Republican statesmen in New York it is reasonably certain that Tilden, instead of Hayes, would have occupied the White House from 1877 to 1881, for it was there that a rescue of the Republican candidate was set on foot in 1876 after he had been given up as lost. In one of the parlours of the hotel the ill-advised Dr. S.A. Burchard doomed Blaine to defeat when he said: "We are Republicans, and we do not intend to leave our party to identify ourselves with a party whose antecedents have been Rum, Romanism, and Rebellion."
Today it would be hard to find a hotel below Forty-second Street that still continues on what is known as the American plan. But when the Fifth Avenue was young that system of prices was supposed to embody the national spirit of democracy. Yet the idea had its wise critics, who found in it a certain injustice. For example there was an editorial on the subject, apropos of the Fifth Avenue, in the issue of October 1, 1859, soon after the hotel was opened, which ran, in part: "In the first place, what can be more preposterous than to establish a fixed rate of fare at hotels? Big, fat, bloated, blustering Guzzle goes to the Astor House for a week, and, in virtue of his standing and his paunch, gets a room near the dining saloon—a large, airy room looking on the Park, with lounge, arm-chairs, pier-glasses, Brussels carpet, and other furniture, all rich and luxurious; at dinner he eats pate de fois gras and woodcock, at supper he has elaborate little dishes which exercise an experienced cook for an hour or two, at breakfast he has salmon at fifty cents a pound, for all of which Guzzle pays two dollars and a half a day. The Rev. John Jones has a cup of weak tea for his breakfast, a slice of beef for his dinner, and a room under the tiles, and pays the same two dollars and a half." Perhaps there was a little exaggeration in the Harper editorial. But judge of Guzzle's opportunities from the following menu of the first dinner served by the Fifth Avenue, that of Tuesday, August 23, 1859.
Soups. Green Turtle. Barley. Fish. Boiled Salmon, shrimp sauce. Baked Bass, wine sauce. Boiled. Leg of Mutton, caper sauce. Chicken, with pork. Calf's Head, brain sauce. Beef tongue. Turkey, oyster sauce. Corn Beef and Cabbage. Cold Dishes. Ham, Roast Beef, Pressed Corn Beef, Tongue, Ham. Lobster Salad. Boned Turkey with truffles. Entrees. Fricasseed Chicken a la Chevaliere. Macaroni, Parmesan. Lamb cutlets, breaded. Oysters, fried in crumbs. Currie of Veal, in border of rice. Queen Fritters. Kidneys, champagne sauce. Pigeons, en compote. Sweetbreads, larded green peas. Roasts. Beef. Lamb, mint sauce. Loin of Veal, stuffed. Goose. Turkey. Chicken. Ham, champagne sauce. Vegetables. Mashed Potatoes, Boiled Potatoes. Boiled Rice. Baked Potatoes. Stewed Tomatoes. Squash. Turnips. Cabbage. Beans. Pastry. Sponge Cake Pudding. Apple Pies. Madeira Jelly. Peach Pies. Peach Meringues. Squash Pies. Gateaux Modernes. Cols de Cygne. Dessert. Raisins. Almonds. Peaches. English Walnuts. Pecan Nuts. Filberts. Bartlett Pears. Citron Melons. Water-melons. Vanilla, lemon ice-cream.
Considering that this was not an exceptional dinner, but was a sample of the fare that was served every day one is inclined to envy Guzzle and to deplore the neglected opportunities of the Rev. Jones.
Below the Fifth Avenue Mine Host flourished yesterday. At the corner of Eighteenth Street there was the Logerot, sometime called Fleuret's. There, as at the old Martin's, at University Place and Ninth Street, a little play of the imagination enabled the diner to hug the delusion that he was at Foyot's, and that the gentleman with the white goatee at the table opposite was a Senator of France from the near-by Palace of the Luxembourg. After he had eaten of the moules marinieres and the escargots it was no longer imagination, he felt sure of the fact. To stimulate through the palate such pleasant fancy was the idea of Richard de Croisac, Marquis de Logerot, who opened the place in 1892. When Logerot's passed the setting was made to serve a purpose ignominious, though highly laudable. It became an incubator shop, and tiny coloured babies squirmed mysteriously where once the casserole steamed.
The neighbourhood is rich in gastronomical memories. At the same corner for twenty years the chop-house of John Wallace flourished. In the eighties it was one of the few chop-houses uptown. There was a flavour of Bohemia about the clientele. Characters who were famous in their day but whose very names are now forgotten, congregated there for the steaks and kidneys and the ale drawn from the wood. There, so the story goes, was sown the seed of the Great Mince Pie Contest. An actor, dropping into Wallace's late one evening for the after-work rarebit, overheard fragments of ah argument about the relative merits of the mince pies of certain of the city's hotels and refectories. He was playing at the time in the dramatization of Mr. Tarkington's "Monsieur Beaucaire," and the next evening he brought up the subject for discussion with various ladies and gentlemen of the company. Had it been a matter of lobsters he might have had an apathetic response. But the homely mince pie roused to riotous enthusiasm. Each player protested that he or she knew of a place from which came a mince pie surpassing all others. So the contest was arranged and a jury of unimpeachable character selected, and two nights later the pies were brought proudly in and in turn sampled. Incidentally the winning pasty came from the old Ashland House at Fourth Avenue and Twenty-fourth Street, and its sponsor was Mr. A.G. (better known as "Bogey") Andrews.
There was a family hotel called the Glenham on the Avenue between Twenty-first and Twenty-second Streets, and at the north-east corner of Twenty-second, where part of the base of the "Flatiron Building" now is, was the old Cumberland. There was one man, at least, who appreciated the Cumberland. In fact he liked it so well that, when the structure was to be demolished to make way for the new skyscraper, he refused to move out, and having a lease, could not be evicted. So he stayed there to the last, while the bricks came tumbling down about his ears. Then, just around the corner, where Broadway joins Madison Square, was the Bartholdi, celebrated by the patronage of Mr. Fitzsimmons, alias Ruby Robert, the Freckled One, the Kangaroo, and beyond, still standing, a memento of yesterday, Dorlon's, uptown heir to the glories of the old Fulton Market place, which boasted a history that goes back three-quarters of a century. A relic of the old establishment, a mahogany table round which Cornelius Vanderbilt and Judge Roosevelt (the grandfather of T.R.), and John Jacob Astor, and John Swan used to sit at their oyster dinner consisting of oysters raw, stewed, roasted in the shell, and broiled, is still preserved.
Perhaps, at night, the shades of famous dishes of the past come forth from remodelled walls or forgotten cupboards and meet in the Park to recall the glories that once were. For all about are memories. Beyond where the Fifth Avenue was was the Hoffman House where one went to dine as well as to feast the eyes on the twenty-five-thousand-dollar Bougereau of "Nymphs and Satyr," and "Pan and Bacchante." Then the Albermarle and Saint James, the Brunswick, and the famous south-west corner of the Avenue and Twenty-sixth Street. The Brunswick had its adherents, who proclaimed its table the best in New York, and the land once rang with a Tammany dinner that was held there. But that south-west corner. It was famous as "Del's" and it was famous when it was Martin's. Who that knew it will ever forget what was known as the "Broadway Room," and the special soup for every day of the week, and the cuisine Russe with the plats du jour for luncheon and dinner, and the vodka that one might have if one wished? And also, the chestnut soup!
If your palate of yesterday craved the exotic in the way of food there was the Indian Palace that once flourished at No. 325 Fifth Avenue. In 1900, a Prince Ranji Something or Other, who claimed to be a son of the Sultan of Sulu or Beloochistan, opened it, establishing the first smoking room for women in the city. He brought the aspect of the East in the shape of Indians, and dancing girls, and jugglers, and Hindoo tango dancers, and flower girls, and cigarette girls, and music girls, all in their native costumes. There was prosperity for a time, and rich promise, until the Prince ran against the callous, unsympathetic Occident in the shape of the contract labour law.
On up the Avenue as far as the Plaza, where, as early as 1870, "Boss" Tweed attempted to erect a hotel on the site of the present Netherlands, the gastronomical trail of the past may be followed. Five years ago it was said that New York had more good restaurants than any city in the world except Paris. Today there is no longer the exception. In the spirit that has long moved the people of Marseilles to the saying: "If Paris had a Cannebiere it would be a little Marseilles," an American city has said: "Paris might cook as well as New Orleans if it only had New Orleans's markets." To an even greater arrogance in its culinary past and present New York has a right. Turning over some of the menus of yesterday is recalling when the world was young. Lost youth is in the memory of "the wharves, and the slips, and the sea-tides tossing free; and the Spanish sailors with bearded lips, and the beauty and mystery of the ships, and the magic of the sea." It is also in the memory of the flavour of certain delectable, never-to-be-forgotten repasts.