Dear Mr. Gray, My partner and I recently renovated a floor-through apartment at 444 W50th Street, between 9th and 10th. Built in 1888.
We've lived in the building for close to a decade, and while grand, our apartment has always borne the scars of this neighborhood's many changes. As we launched our renovation/excavation it became clear that our apartment was originally intended for the kind of family that I wouldn't immediately associate with a building so close to the river, built at a time when this neighborhood was not attracting the middle class.
Mahogany pocket doors, elaborate ceiling moldings, well thought out floor plan and spacious rooms. Nothing truly custom, and all the elements are obviously 'catalogue', but all are of a very high quality.
Each floor has the exact same plan, with one family per floor. We wonder why such a relatively lavish apartment building (for this location) was built? Who could it have been intended for? Wouldn't it have been only 2 blocks from a bustling waterfront?
Any information you can provide on our apartment would be incredibly welcome as we've been asking ourselves so many questions during our renovation/excavation!
Thank you and kind regards from a big fan of your NYT column,
Yep, 442 and 444 built together in 1888-1889, on land owned by Henry Astor to a local developer, Adam Geib. This is a typical pattern for the Astors, holding the land while others built.An early photograph shows a high, projecting cornice with the year separated by two letters: "18 AE 88" or perhaps "18 AG 88"? One might be fore Astor Estate, one might be for Adam Geib - any trace of that?Appears to have been built as one or two apartments to a floor - the 1890 NYC directory seems to show five residential tenants (sorry about formatting):
Database: New York City Directory, 1890
Appel William (Bev.) h 444 W. 50th
Geib Adam, builder, h 444 W. 50th
Roth William, engineer, h 444 W. 50th
Schluter Henry, carpenter, h 444 W. 50th
Stanford Catharine, candy, 444 W. 50th
Suter John. dyer, h 444 W. 50thAs you see from the list above, Geib lived in the building. The 1900 census lists a skilled laborer, tailor, "type writer", bookkeeper, and butcher in the building, which gives some idea of its social class. Yes, I agree that one apartment per floor seems rather luxe, especially for the location, but cannot explain Geib's thinking.Very best, Christopher