A Historical Tour of Bond Street Part VII


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(continue from Part VI)

The Coroner's jury brought in a verdict to the effect that Mrs. Cunningham and the boarder Eckel knew more about the matter than they had disclosed. They were promptly indicted and tried for the crime, but although an adequate motive seems to have been abundantly proven there was no other evidence, direct or circumstantial, in any way justifying a conviction. In fact Mrs. Cunningham had an alibi, her daughters testifying that they both slept with her on the night of the murder! The verdict in each case was "not guilty."

Of the subsequent developments of the affair Haswell gives the following succinct and comprehensive account:

"If Mrs. Cunningham could prove marriage with the doctor she would be entitled to a wife's share of his estate, and if she bore a child to him she would obtain the entire control and enjoyment of its revenue. To attain this desirable end, it was indispensable that a child should be procured, and the woman forthwith commenced to exhibit the appearance consonant with her purpose, and at the assigned time a new-born infant was received from Bellevue Hospital, which she had obtained through the aid of an attendant physician. But he, while consenting to aid her in her scheme, disclosed the plan to the District Attorney, A. Oakey Hall, who, when her claim in behalf of the child was presented, exposed the fraud, and she and her daughters left the city.

" I was present at the examination of one of the daughters before the coroner, and I conceived a very decided opinion of the case, which, so far as the Coroner was concerned, was universally held to have been so very ill conducted that a presentation was made to the Governor, asking for the removal of such an incompetent official."

Mrs. Cunningham subsequently returned to New York under the name of Mrs. Emma Williams, and died here in 1887.

No.32 Bond Street

The first resident of No. 32 Bond street was Thomas Lord, merchant, of 44 Exchange place, who moved from his former residence, 521 Broadway, in 1832. In 1822 and for a number of years afterward he was head of the firm of Lord and Lees, his partners being Benjamin F. and Allen C. Lee. He was a director in the Farmers' Insurance and Loan Company and president of the Columbia Marine Insurance Company. In 1840 he went to 92 University place, and the Bond street house was taken by Samuel Ward III. He was the only son of Samuel Ward the Banker and was five years older than his sister Julia. As a boy his good looks, bright wit, high spirits and chivalric qualities won him the adoring worship of his little sisters, and their admiration never waned. In 1838 he married William B. Astor's daughter Emily, who died three years later. One of their grandsons is John Armstrong Chaloner of Virginia formerly John Armstrong Chanler of New York. In 1843 he married Medora Grymes, daughter of John R. Grymes, and 1848 he moved to California. In the early '60's he took u p his residence in Washington, where he remained for many years. Throughout his entire life he manifested the qualities that made him so popular as a boy and in consequence was a leader and a favorite in every social circle of which he was a member. Famous as "bon vivant and raconteur," he also had some claims to literary distinction, for he was the author of a volume of poems good enough to be admired by his intimate friend and candid critic, Fitz-Greene Halleck. His last years were spent in Europe, where he died in 1884 at the age of seventy.

After Sam Ward left Bond street No. 32 became the residence of Joseph G. Cogswell. To Dr. Cogswell New York owes much. It was his influence, no less than that of Irving and Halleck, that induced his friend John Jacob Astor to found the Astor Library. He was also the first superintendent of the institution, and to him was committed the labor and responsibility of selecting and purchasing the books which were to form the foundation of the Library's usefulness. No man then living was so well fitted to select the books for a new American Library, and, judging from his success, there were few that could have so ably transacted the mere business of making the purchases; for to the knowledge and breadth of view that enabled him to choose the books most valuable to the prospective users of the library, he added a business shrewdness and insight that enabled him to buy the books he wanted at prices that were in nearly every instance below the market. The result was that when the Astor Library opened its doors in 1853 it was, almost without question, the most useful public library in America, a distinction that the new York Public Library still holds. Moreover, within thirty years after the Astor Library was opened the books that Dr. Cogswell bought for it could have been sold for ten times what he paid for them, an amount which was in round numbers $100,000.

Dr. Cogswell was not only superintendent of the Library but also a member of its Board of Trustees from the beginning until his removal to Cambridge in 1865. His associates on the first Board were the Mayor of the City, and the Chancellor of the State, ex officio; Washington Irving, William B. Astor, Daniel Lord, Jr., James G. King, Fitz-Greene Halleck, Henry Brevoort, Jr., Samuel R. Ruggles, Samuel Ward III., and Charles Astor Bristed.

As the books for the new library began to arrive before the building in Lafayette place was ready to receive them they were stored in Dr. Cogswell's house, and by the time the building was completed No. 32 Bond street was packed with books from basement to garret.

No. 33 Bond Street

The first resident of No. 33 Bond street was one of New York's famous old merchants, Benjamin F. Lee, who came from 61 Murray street in 1831. As we have seen, he was at one time a partner of Thomas Lord of No. 32 Bond street, in the firm of Lord and Lees, but in 1831 his partner was Paul Babcock, the firm name being Lee & Babcock. Their place of business was at 50 Exchange place. The fire of 1835 destroyed this building, but Lee and Babcock had moved to 54 Williams street the year before. Benjamin F. Lee's wife was the celebrated beauty Jane Lawrence, daughter of John Lawrence. She was the subject of the painting known as "The White Plume," by Charles Cromwell Ingham, one of the founders of the National Academy of Design. Benjamin F. Lee was one of the pioneers in the manufacture of vulcanized rubber under the Goodyear patents and made a fortune in that business. He lived in Bond street only two years, moving in 1833 to 4 Lafayette place.

No. 33 was next taken by Mrs. Amelia Staples, widow of John Staples. In 1832 she was living in Eighth avenue near Sixteenth street. William J. Staples, apparently her son, and his partner William M. Clarke in the firm of Staples and Clarke, merchants, of 12 Exchange place, lived with her. Her name is not found in the directories after 1852.

No. 34 Bond Street

No. 34 Bond street seems to have been Richard T. Auchmuty, who came from 16 Leroy place about 1834. His son, also named Richard T., born in 1833, was the founder of the New York Trade Schools. From 1837 to 1843 No. 34 was the residence of James Boyd, a merchant, of 21 South street. In 1836 he lived at 70 Greenwich street. In 1844 No. 34 Bond street was taken by George W. Bruen, a prominent figure in the business and financial circles of New York, who began business with his brother Herman in 1822 under the firm name of G.W. & H. Bruen. He was also active in politics, and was a member of the Corporation from 1832 to 1837. In 1839 he was a member of the Assembly. George W. Bruen's wife was a daughter of Thomas H. Smith. Frank Waddell, the brother of Coventry Waddell, who lived, as we have seen, at 27 Bond street, eloped with another daughter. Matthias Bruen,. the father of the Bruen brothers, was the bookkeeper of Thomas H. Smith & Son.

 This firm did the largest tea importing business in the country, and when it went into bankruptcy in 1828 it owed the United States more than $3,000,000 in unpaid duties on teas; for strange as it may seem now, the government in those early days gave six, twelve, and eighteen months credit on import duties! "Old Matt" Bruen was assignee of the bankrupt's assets, and it was popularly supposed that in the compromise with the Treasury Department he made about $2,000,000 for himself. Walter Barrett says of the affair: "It never did old Thomas Smith any good. He died. The three children he left behind, his son Thomas, and his sons-in-law George W. Bruen and Frank Waddell, about once in three years, would make a joint, and sometimes an individual descent upon old Matt. Bruen, and scare him into making a forced payment of $100,000 to each. When this was done, a hollow peace would be patched up between the belligerents, until Waddell or his relatives needed more money. Evidently old Mr. Bruen felt that he was in their power, or he would not have disgorged so easily." It is safe to say that there is considerable exaggeration in the above account. In another place Barrett says, on the authority of Dr. Carnochan, Minthorne Tompkins, and others, that in this way Matthias Bruen was made to "shell out over four hundred thousand dollars at different periods" in twenty-five years.

George W. Bruen was a director in various financial institutions, among them the old Dry Dock Bank and the Neptune Insurance Company, and was also a trustee of New York University. He lived in Bond street but three years, moving to 152 Second avenue about 1846. No. 34 Bond street was then taken by another merchant, Robert McCoskry, who was one of the directors of the Chemical Bank, then at 21`6 Broadway, near Fulton street. In 1845 he resided at 86 Liberty street. His place of business was at 98 Maiden Lane. In 1849 he moved to 39 Bond street, where he remained till about 1860. When he went to the latter house Mrs. Mary A. Gustine, widow of John Gustine, took up her residence at No. 34. In the early '50's it was the town house of Charles P. Leverich, who was connected with the Bank of New York, and was its president from 1863 to 1876.


Website: The History Box.com
Article Name: A Historical Tour of Bond Street Part VII
Researcher/Preparer/Transcriber Miriam Medina


BIBLIOGRAPHY: From my collection of Books: Valentine's Manual of the City of New York 1917-1918 Edited by Henry Collins Brown; The Old Colony Press, Copyright: Henry Collins Brown 1917
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