Peering into the Past

2020 Broadway, the Seminole, between 69th and 70th Streets. The AIA Guide says it was built between 1895 and 1896 and the architectures were Ware & Styne-Harde. (More on them in a future post.) Though lacking the star-power of its neighbors the Dorilton and the Ansonia, the Seminole was an upscale building from the start and home to some interesting characters:

Philip P. Nash had spent more than twenty years managing vaudeville acts when he died at home here in 1914. He was the stepfather of actor Mary Nash who, among other roles, played Miss Minchin in The Little Princess and Katherine Hepburn’s character’s mother in The Philadelphia Story.

James M. Bulter lived here when he died in 1934. He was an immigrant from Kilkenny, Ireland who became a multimillionaire grocery store magnate and turned down an invitation from party bosses to run for mayor. One of his contributions to the City was to buy a failed trotting horse racetrack in Yonkers, Empire City Race Track, and reopen it as a thoroughbred track in 1907. Seabiscuit won a race there in 1936, two years after Butler’s death. The new owners converted the track back to harness racing in 1942. Today, it is still active under the name Yonkers Raceway.

Pat Rooney Jr., his wife, Marion Bent, and their son, Pat Rooney III lived here in 1936. They and Pat’s father were accomplished vaudevillians. Some information about them comes from Vaudeville.org. Pat Jr.’s father, Pat Sr., was born in Ireland and clog danced and sang comic songs until his death in 1892. Pat Jr. was born in New York in 1880. He and Marion Bent were stage partners. His specialty was soft shoeing to Rosie O’Grady. Pat III danced in vaudeville, on Broadway, and in movies. These Rooneys are no relation to Mickey Rooney or to the Rooney family who now own Yonkers Raceway.

According to the AIA Guide, the architects of 2020 Broadway were Ware & Styne-Harde. Ware and … WHO? What sort of name is THAT? A mystery as irresistible to me as a ghost is to the Scooby Gang. And Ware got swept to into the investigation.

Minutes of a Department of Parks meeting in 1898 associate James E. Ware and H. S. Styne-Harde. That year’s Trow’s Business Directory lists Herbert Spencer Styne-Harde and James E. Ware under “architects” with an office at 489 Fifth Avenue. A third member of the firm was Franklin B. Ware.

Turned out that Christopher Grey already shined had his flashlight on some of Styne-Harde’s other activities. Herbert Spencer Styne-Harde (born Steinhardt around 1873) later changed his name again; to Harde. He teamed up with Richard Thomas Short (born circa 1870). Yes, the firm was called Harde & Short. They built the fabulous Alwyn Court (a block up Seventh from Carnegie Hall) …

… 45 East 66th …

… and 44 West 77th (across from the American Museum of Natural History).

Check out Grey’s poignant article in The New York Times:

The Wares are well enough known to each have his own Wikipedia article. James was born in 1846 in New York. His biggest impact was devising the “dumbbell plan”—a design approach where tenement buildings have narrow centers to let in more light. His work includes part of Mohonk Mountain House and Madison Avenue Presbyterian Church’s interior. He died in 1918.

Franklin was a son of James. Franklin was born in 1873. In 1900, his father, his brother Arthur, and he formed the firm of James E. Ware and Sons. Franklin died in 1945.

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