Thursday, July 4, 2013

Another Original Carriage House Slated for Demolition

477 First Neck Lane, Present; the carriage house formerly associated with "The Rushes," which still survives immediately in front of this property.
The structure at 477 First Neck Lane was originally constructed as the carriage house and grooms quarters associated with the summer cottage named “The Rushes,” built about 1886 for James Francis Ruggles (1827-1895). The carriage house is now located on a flag lot behind “The Rushes,” the original 5.5 acre property being subdivided about 1982. 

483 First Neck Lane, "The Rushes." Built in 1887 for James Francis Ruggles
James F. Ruggles was a New York City attorney and the son of Samuel Bulkley Ruggles (1800-1881) a New York City lawyer and politician and also a member of the NYC Chamber of Commerce and the New York State Assembly in 1838. In 1874 he married Grace Baldwin, daughter of Harvey Baldwin, who was the first Mayor of the city of Syracuse, New York in 1848. Ruggles purchased the property for $1,600 in October of 1885 after the former owner defaulted on his mortgage. Ruggles died in 1895. In November 1902 his widow, Grace Baldwin Ruggles, married her second husband, Henry Meyer Johnson, and continued to own the estate until her death. Henry Meyer Johnson (1856-1907) was an attorney and the son and grandson of wealthy sugar plantation owners of Louisiana. Henry’s job was to manage the family’s estate.

483 First Neck Lane, 1977, Courtesy of NY SHPO
From 1932 to 1934 (and perhaps longer, cottage lists from 1929-1931 are unavailable) the estate was leased for the summer by Finley Peter Dunne Sr. (1867-1936) a writer of several books under the pen name of Martin Dooley, an editor at the Chicago Times, and an editor and owner of The American Magazine. His wife, Margaret Ives Abbot (1882-1955) was the first American woman Olympic golf champion.

Margaret Ives Abbott, 1900
In 1937 the estate of Mrs. Ruggles Johnson sold the property to Eugene Pitou Jr. (1883-1956). During his ownership the property was called “Adare.” Eugene Pitou Jr. was the son of a Standard Oil executive and an owner of an innovative scaffolding company based in New York City.
In 1950 the estate was acquired by Joseph Ansbro Meehan (1917-1972) and his wife “Kay” Sullivan Meehan (1919-2011). Joseph ran the family owned Good Humor Ice Cream Corporation. About1982 the property was subdivided into the front and rear parcels but still owned by the family. In 1995 the property’s title was in Joseph and Kay’s daughter’s name: Marcia M. Schaeffer. In 1997 Marcia sold the front parcel. As of this year, her daughter Georgina now maintains ownership of the carriage house parcel.
As was commonly the case, the large carriage house on the subject property was designed as a miniature version of the main house. It is a two-story structure with gambrel roof and center chimney clad in cedar shingles. Additions to each end and some modifications of the original fenestration have been made over the years but the original volume remains intact with a high level of integrity. Other surviving examples of similar estates still exist, such as the one associated with Samuel L. Parrish at 409 First Neck Lane just to the north, and the property immediately south of the subject estate. Since no one is driving around in carriages anymore, the adaptive reuse of their carriage houses has enabled their long-term survival.

The whole of “The Rushes” estate survives today in excellent condition. Yes, the property has been subdivided into two parcels and the carriage house has been converted into a residence, but together they are intact as a surviving original summer cottage property. 477 First Neck Lane is also in a historic district. If it weren’t, by itself it satisfies 3 of the 5 criteria for consideration as an individual landmark and retains a high level of integrity.

In July 2013 all existing structures at 477 First Neck Lane were approved to be demolished.

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