Monday, January 2, 2017

MANHATTAN - Old Families of Depau Row Part I: Francis Depau

Some Items About Francis Depau

Francis Depau
CLICK HERE for source
Francis (François) Depau was born in France. "Depau was for many years a French merchant in New York and one of the founders of the old Le Havre packets*. New York gossips used to say that in early life he had been a coachman of the Count de Grasse," a French admiral who commanded the French fleet at the Battle of the Chesapeake during the American War of Independence. *ships regularly scheduled for cargo, passenger and mail trade 
The Waterloo Press (Waterloo, Indiana), January 7, 1886, page 6

March 1798
Francis Depau married Amelie Sylvie Marie "Sylvie" de Grasse, youngest daughter of the Count de Grasse. New York Gazette, March 12, 1798

"...The advertisements [of the July 11, 1807 Charleston City Gazette] comprise many of newly arrived Africans for the market, brought in by New England and New York traders who did not suspect, in that day, that they were selling their own or the souls of anybody else to the devil. They are described as 'Prime windward coast slaves'--'Congo slaves'--very prime,' &c. The names of the vessels are 'Heroine,' 'Marion,' 'Africa,' 'Ann and Harriott,' 'Friendship,' &c. The advertisers are John S. Adams, Francis Depau...." Most if not all of Depau's children were born in South Carolina.
The Daily Phoenix (Columbia, South Carolina), July 27, 1865, page 2

February 10, 1820 
Daughter Miss Amelie Depau married Theodosius Oliver Fowler.
The Sun (New York), November 9, 1884, page 1

February 22, 1823 
Daughter Miss Caroline Depau married Henry Walter Livingston. Their address in 1834 was 64 White Street. Livingston was a clerk in Francis Depau's business.
The New York Evening Post, December 15, 1834 
The Waterloo Press (Waterloo, Indiana), January 7, 1886, page 6 
The Old Merchants of New York City, by Walter Barret, page 211

Daughter Miss Eliza Depau married Samuel Mickle Fox, a Philadelphian. Fox was a clerk in Francis Depau's business. They resided at 66 White Street for a time (c. 1834).
The New York Evening Post, December 15, 1834 
The Waterloo Press (Waterloo, Indiana), January 7, 1886, page 6 
The Old Merchants of New York City, by Walter Barret, page 211 

May 11, 1829 
Daughter Miss Sylvie Depau married Mortimer Livingston.
Find a

Francis Depau built the houses at Depau Row. Architect was Samuel Dunbar and the houses were done in the Federal style. The row featured the very first ornamental iron verandah in the city.
Around Washington Square: An Illustrated History of Greenwich Village, by Luther S. Harris

Proposal of Depau Row
CLICK HERE for source


CLICK HERE for source
January 23, 1832 
Daughter Miss Stephanie Depau, "one of the loveliest girls that ever trod Broadway" was married to Washington Coster, "a celebrated buck" of whom it was said that it was "impossible for any one but an Old New Yorker to conceive of the intense interest that was thrown around [him]." Mr. Coster was a Wall Street banker. They resided for a time at 15 Laight Street (c. 1834).
The New York Evening Post, January 26, 1832 
The New York Evening Post, December 15, 1834 
The Waterloo Press (Waterloo, Indiana), January 7, 1886, page 6 
The Old Merchants of New York City, by Walter Barret, page 195

Francis Depau's address is given as 358 Broadway.
The New York Evening Post, December 15, 1834

"The whole of superb furniture of Francis Depau, Esq. who has gone to Europe, the principal part of which was selected in Paris for his own use, consisting of Brussels and Wilton carpets, splendid damask bergeres with Eider down cushions, curtains to match the latest fashion, rich candleabras, vases, centre tables, mosaik [sic] tops, two elegant mantel glasses--the largest ever imported, extension dining tables, mahogany chairs with cushions, astral lamps, rich china, cut glass, a splendid silver tea sett [sic] (French), statuary by Tento Nova, consisting of Venus de Medici, Canova Dancing Girl, Venus of the Bath, Busts of Apollo, with pedestals; French bedsteads, sofas, bureaus, dressing tables, looking glasses, beds and bedding of every description. Also a large assortment of kitchen furniture. Also two first rate Pianos and a superb French clock" were put up for auction. Maybe Mr. Depau knew he wouldn't be returning alive. The home address is given as 358 Broadway. I wonder if any one of those things exists somewhere in someone's collection!
The New York Evening Post, September 26, 1835, page 3

Francis Depau died in his homeland land, France, where he had went "in hopes that his native air might restore his health." He was 63 years old. His body was returned upon the packet ship Charlemagne and his remains buried in his adopted land. His final resting place appears to be the New York City Marble Cemetery, where there is a marker that reads "Francis Depau Vault."
The Evening Post (New York), March 7, 1836, page 2 
Find a

According to one source, written fifty years after the death of Francis Depau, he somehow built the houses at Depau Row. The source states that the family (the widow Depau, the Costers, Livingstons, etc.) subsequently took up residence there. This date is only possible if it were Francis Amédée Depau (1798-1854), merchant and son of Francis Depau, who was in charge of their construction, however, it appears that Francis Amédée was living in Philadelphia with his wife Martha née Adams in 1839. This date is incorrect. I can also find no proof from the period that the extended Depau family ever lived on Depau Row.
The Waterloo Press (Waterloo, Indiana), January 7, 1886, page 6 
Find A 

The "splendid mansions are filthy lodging-houses now, their Italian marble staircases defiled with grease and tobacco, their inner courts, which formerly resounded with the impatient hoofs of the horses of Coster and Livingston, the receptacles of old junk and old cloth, their lofty casements, from which in other days the most delicious perfumes were exhaled, are now redolent only of cabbage and stale codfish. Such is life in New York. A palace to-day, a hovel to-morrow."
The Waterloo Press (Waterloo, Indiana), January 7, 1886, page 6

Sunday, January 1, 2017

MANHATTAN - Bleecker Street: DePau Row

December 12, 1885
Page 9


The Former Home of A. T. Stewart
Invaded by Poor Tenants

Mirrored Rooms Where Washerwomen Earn Their Daily Bread
Under Frescoed Ceilings Worth a Year's Wages -- Laboring Men Lodge
in Rooms the Very Hinges of Whose Doors Cost More Than Their 
Rent --Depau Row in Bleecker Street.

From the New York World

EARLY every one in the city finds occasion at some tie to hail a Bleecker-street car on his way to the Twenty-third street or Fulton street ferry.  If he gets on at either end of the line he makes up his mind to go through some of the hard localities of the west side.  He shuts his eyes from the screaming, dirty crowd of children and tries to forget the odors that lie in wait for him.  After the car turns off Broadway into Bleecker street he does not look out until a rough twitch of the car announces a sharp curve.  Then he lifts his eyes for a moment to get his bearings and catches a sight of a massive brown-stone block on the south side of the street, which stands in strange contrast to the surrounding dilapidated buildings.  But the car has turned the curve and the stately block is gone.

In this way even old residents pass the historic spot daily and wonder what the building was and who once lived there.  But no one seems to know.  The car-drivers says he never heard and the policeman on post twirls his club stupidly as he answers "Depau row."  Yet "Depau row" has had its history and dates back to the days when Bleecker street was the home of the most aristocratic families of the city.  It has seen the time when it was one of the most magnificent residences of New York.

It was at this time that Mr. Depau erected the brown-stone block between Thompson and Sullivan streets.  He was a Frenchman, and his ideas were borrowed from the elegant mansions of his own country.  His plans were carefully drawn, and the edifice was to be the most imposing structure in the city.  The walls were built of solid masonry two feet thick and rose to the height of four stories.  In front of the second line of long, low windows was placed a wide iron balcony, running across the front of the block and making a covered promenade from Sullivan to Thompson street.  At either end of the long building is a wide entrance, and between these are two slightly smaller doors.  These entrances are the only means of approach to the four houses which compose Depau row.

Passing into the door at the lower end of the block the visitor finds himself in an inclosed [sic] court. The pavement is nicely laid with huge slabs of carefully fitted slate, with a raised walk on either side. Four solid walls of brick surround the driveway which leads to the stables in the rear, and stained glass windows light the little court.  On the left hand, in the center of the court, four steps lead up to the wide door with the cut glass side-lights and a handsome brass reflector hanging over the entrance. The floor of the hall is paved with alternate white and black tiles, and the double staircase winds up like an arch on either side, filling the entire space at the back of the hall.  The original stairs have long since been worn away by the heavy boots of the present occupants, but the carved mahogany balustrade still remains.

On each side of the paved hall a heavy mahogany door opens into a large, square room.  The front apartment, facing on Bleecker street, was formerly a dining-room, and its first inhabitant was no less than A. T. Stewart*.  Here the famous millionaire sat down to the most elaborate dinners that the market could afford, and here his friends, the wealthiest men of New York, gathered about him to enjoy the wines which were the pride of their host's heart.  A special agent, a connoisseur, was constantly employed by Stewart to stock his cellars.

* CLICK HERE for an interesting story about the ghouls who stole A. T. Stewart's body.
CLICK HERE for information on the empty vault where A. T. Stewart was buried.

The long black walnut table has been replaced by a rough carpenter's workbench...

But the handsome dining-hall is no longer.  The long black walnut table has been replaced by a rough carpenter's workbench, and bags of meal and grain are piled about the room.  The polished mahogany door has been defaced by a sign advertising the agency of a patent medicine, and the waxed hardwood floor is scratched and dirty.  The walls are covered with posters and play-bills, save here and there where intervening space gives a glimpse of the old paneling.  The only part of the former decoration which is still intact is the ceiling.  Here the rich frescoes and curious designs are still plain. On the east side of the old dining-room is a large plate-glass mirror incased [sic] in a wide gilt frame and finished off at the two lower corners with gorgeous heads.  This mirror has been moved from its old place against the wall, and now rests upon a rickety little desk near a pine partition which separates the improvised office of the feed store.  In front of this is an open grate with iron settings, on which is a bas-reliefe of African lions and historical characters, while above it a wide slab of polished marble forms the mantlepiece.

The wonderful kitchen is now used for a bedroom and is occupied by Mr. James Weston, the proprietor of the feed store, who rents the house and sub-lets the upper rooms to lodgers.

After leaving this room the visitor naturally looks for some rear entrance or door at the back of the house, but there is none.  Servant and master used the one main entrance and knew no other.  There are, however, two entrances to the cellar, one from the rear of the main staircase and one from the little court in front of the stables.  Through this last it was that the barrels and cases of imported wines were let down.  Here the choicest articles of household furnishings were carefully stowed away.  A separate vault, walled in by solid masonry, dark, damp and mouldy, contained the wines.  Though the wines have long since disappeared, the decayed remains of the old cases are still there, with the anchor branded into the sides of the green gin boxes from Holland, and the trade-marks of the once famous firms of France and Italy and Germany still faintly visible.

Ascending the damp, creaking stairs to the black and white tiles of the hallway, and then the arched staircase to the second floor, the visitor comes upon a pair of folding doors.  This was
the reception room, and it occupied the entire space on that on that floor with the exception of the two small hall rooms, one on each side of the stairs.  This enormous room could be divided into two apartments by sliding doors in the center.  At present the contrast between the former occupants of the magnificent room and those who now occupy it is striking.  On the once nicely varnished floor, instead of the luxurious upholstery, stand half a dozen wooden chairs, and a rough pine partition in the center of the room screens from view a couple of mattresses which lie upon the floor.  In fron of the handsome English fireplace and marble slab sits a rusty cooking stove, with its little bent stove funnel entering the chimney just below the long plate-glass mirror which fills the entire space above the mantelpiece.  Three full-length French windows at the southern end of the room form a sort of rounded bay window and light up the apartment.  The window sashes, unlike those of most wooden houses, turn upon hinges like folding doors.  The glass in each of these is one long pane, and the hinges are heavily plated with silver.  Between each of the windows are long mirrors extending from the ceiling to the floor, and set at such angles that a single object is reflected many times.

In front of these valuable mirrors you now see a washtub and scrubbing bench, but the accumulated dust and dirt upon the glass shows that soap and water are not known to them.  The ceiling of this room, like that of the dining-hall, is expensively decorated.  Besides the regular frescoing are the oil paintings on canvas rimmed with a narrow gilt border of wood and fastened up, one on each side of the chandelier.  These paintings are from the brushes of French artists, and can at any time be taken down and framed.  But the most conspicuous object in the room is the great gilded chandelier which hangs from the center of the ceiling between the two paintings.  This ancient furnishing is of a foreign pattern and has places for seventy-five candles, having been imported long before the day of gas.  Its gilt is tarnished and the drops of tallow still fill the little cups that once held a taper.  But its former greatness is forgotten, and from its burnished arms hang dish-cloths and the weekly wash, so the gilded trappings are fallen to the level of a clothes-horse.

But [the chandelier's] former greatness is forgotten, and from its burnished arms hang dish-cloths and the weekly wash, so the gilded trappings are fallen to the level of a clothes-horse.

The little front hall room on the northern side of the staircase is also a curious apartment.  This was Stewart's sleeping room, and although small was handsomely ornamented.  The walls have been white-washed, and instead of his bed and wardrobe and Italian family have stocked it with their belongings.  But here again the hand of the destroyer has failed to reach the upper part of the room. The ceiling, unlike that of the other rooms, is arched and vaulted,  The rounded edges of the moldings are gilded and paneled in turn of the central space is artistically frescoed and paneled in oils, which still retain their bright, fresh colors.

Even the stables are models in every particular.  Their walls are of the same solid masonry that marks the main house, and no woodwork is seen about the structure.  The roof of both house and stable is slated, and the great, square chimneyswere built large enough to allow chimney-sweeps to move about.  The floor of the stable is a continuation of the slate tiles that pave the yard, and the windows still cast colored lights upon the floor through the stained glass panes.  Even the little round bull's-eye windows in the hayloft were of stained glass once, but the unerring aim of the small boy has long since despoiled them of their beauty.

Even the little round bull's-eye windows in the hayloft were of stained glass once, but the unerring aim of the small boy has long since despoiled them of their beauty.

Heavy oaken doors with locks that would have done credit to a feudal castle afford the only entrance to the stables through the paved court.

The inhabitants of this ancient house are of mixed nationalities.  They occupy single rooms, except in the case of the reception-room, where the large folding doors have been nailed up, and each apartment thus made serves as a home for three families.  The wide halls answer for store-rooms, and there is piled what cannot be squeezed into the little rooms.  Stewart's little bedroom is the house of a family of five, who live happily together and congratulate themselves on the beautiful ceilings, which even to their eyes seem oddly out of place.  At the time Depau Row was first occupied Dr. Alexander Mott, Samuel Fox, Mme. Depau and A.T. Stewart were dwellers in the famous mansion.  But the gradually encroaching business portion of the city drove them to other part, and in their place came the tenement dwellers of today.

But the gradually encroaching business portion of the city drove them to other part, and in their place came the tenement dwellers of today.


CLICK HERE for another entry involving Depau Row.

This is the way of things in New York and most places.  Nice areas like Depau Row become undesirable and then desirable again.  

Take for example Harlem.  Its lovely c. 1880-1900 architecture wasn't designed for the mostly poor who have lived here since the 1920s.  Juxtaposed against a backdrop of intricate brickwork, ornamental cornices and window heads are dog droppings, decrepit delicatessens, no name shops with loud and poorly maintained signage (visually think Third World), substandard wares at the 99 cent shops, people milling about all day, chicken bones and trash all over the sidewalks.* For decades, the residents have not respected their home.  It's possible that some people are able to appreciate nice things.  After all, it only stands to reason that if you are hand to mouth that you are not going to have the same priorities as someone more well off.  This doesn't excuse the lack of cleanliness, though.  I can't imagine what it was like here in the bad old days.  If this is progress, keep it up, Harlem.    

*Of course you can find any of these down in the East Village not known for for example, however you find all of them (and more!) in Harlem all the time, with little else to recommend the place that I have seen in three years of looking.  Here's to slumming it!