Thursday, December 9, 2010

“Wahnfried,” 277 First Neck Lane

The lovely home on the west side of First Neck Lane may look quite new but it’s actually more like 115 years old. Historically known as “Wahnfried,” the home was built circa 1895 for Francis Lewis and Emma von Juch Wellman. Francis (b. 1854) was a prominent lawyer. Born in Boston, he also studied, taught, and practiced there before moving to New York in 1883. He is credited with having prosecuted and convicted many “bad guys,” includingDr. Carlyle W. Harris, Dr. Robert Buchanan, and Ben Alli (alias Frenchy). He was also a partner in a successful corporate law firm named Wellman, Gooch & Smyth.

Emma von Juch Wellman (1861-1939) was a famous opera singer ( She was born in Vienna to American parents. Prior to marriage Emma owned a country home in Stamford, CT on Glenbrook Ave. Mr. and Mrs. Wellman were married in Stamford in June of 1894. Emma was Francis’ second wife. His first wife was Miss Edith Watson who died in June 1892, less than a year after they married. Francis and Emma did not have children, and divorced in 1911. “The grounds on which the plaintiff obtained a decree “de plano” were that her husband had “addressed insults by letter and had signified to her in coarse terms his intention not to resume living with her.”[1] Francis went on to marry again about a year later, then divorce in 1919, then marry again. Emma never remarried (photo below).
William Manice bought the home from Francis Wellman circa 1900. His father was William De Forest Manice who had great holdings in Michigan that contained mines, minerals, and metals that amassed the family a fortune. He attended Columbia University and later became a senior member of the law firm Manice, Abbott & Perry. In 1894 he was New York District Attorney. He wrote a book called “The Art of Cross Examination” in 1903 which has since been referred to as a timeless legal classic. In 1888 he married Sarah Remsen. They had a son, William de Forest, and a daughter, Sarah. In 1902 he and his family had to suddenly leave their five-story brownstone at 20 East 41st street due to a fire which damaged the home to great extent. Luckily no one was injured. William died in 1914 at the age of 55. Mrs. Manice went on to marry again in 1916, to William Appleton Burnham of Boston who was also a widower.

In German Wahnfried means “where illusion finds peace.”

Property Owners (incomplete):
Matthew & Jennifer Sykes Harris (2007-present)
Marko C. & Cynthia T. Remec; Joseph Delgreco (1994-2007)
Leonard H. Sills & Leonard F. Howard (Sept. 1994-Oct. 1994)
Lydia Reeves
William Manice
Francis L. Wellman (1897)
Emma von Juch Wellman (1895-1897)
Josephine A. Curtis (1893)
Benjamin A. & Amy A. Sands, Henry Holbrook Curtis (1890)
May M. & C. Albert Stevens
Rufus Sayre
Catharine M. Brady (1886)
Emily M. Lough (1885); vacant
Margaret H. Schieffelin (1881); vacant
Salem H. Wales (1881); vacantDavid R. & Harriet F. Drake

[1] New York Times, September 22, 1911

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