Henry Whittemore.

Long Island historic homes, ancient and modern : including a history of their founders and builders online

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Count\- ot ripperarv, Ireland, and had issue:

I. Alice, born at Shetlield House, Queens Countv, Ireland,
1828; died 1875.

II. Ellen M. born at Sheffield House, 1829.

III. William Russell Grace, born at Riverstown, Co\e of
Cork, Mav 10, 1832. (See record.)

IV. John \\\, born at Sheffield House, 1836.
V. Morgan S., born at Sheffield House, 1839.

VI. Sarah M., born at Sheffield House, 1840.
VII. Michael P., born at Sheffield House, 1843.


Belt. iUiliiaitl R. Grace, third child of James and Ellen Mary
(Russell) Grace, was born at Rivertown, Co\e of Cork, County
Qiieens, Ireland, May 10, 1832. The self-reliant spirit, boldness,
energy and determination, characteristic traits of his ancestors, were
early developed in him. With a fair education to begin life, he came
to this country at the age of fourteen and entered a shipping ofSce
as clerk, and in less than four years he had acquired a sufficient
knowledge of the business to enable him to start for himself. His
habits were fixed and his character as mature at that early age as
many men ten years his senior. He returned home with a fixed
purpose to start in business for himself. He submitted his plans to
his father, who had confidence in his son's ability and good judg-
ment, and, acting on the advice of the former, he went to Liverpool
and established the firm of William R. Grace & Co. After two
years' experience he became satisfied that the opportunities for suc-
cess in the New World were much greater than in the Old. He sold
out his business and returned to the home of his adoption. The trade
with the South American states at this time was comparatively in its
infancy. He visited Peru, Lima and Callao, where he established, in the
early fifties, the firm of Bryce, Grace & Co. Business prospered, and in
the course of a few years his firm had achieved a world-wide repu-
tation and controlled most of the foreign shipping trade of the South
American coast, with agencies at Valparaiso, Liverpool, Boston, Bal-
timore and other cities. The firms of William R. Grace & Co., of
New York, Thomas Williams & Co., of Liverpool, J. W. Grace &
Co., of San Francisco, and Grace Brothers & Co., of Callao, with
William R. Grace as the guiding and controlling spirit, became known
throughout the civilized world, and Mr. Grace himself was recog-
nized as one of the ablest and most successful of New York mer-



chants. The carrying trade of these several firms embraces almost
every article to be found in the list of exports and imports of the
South American states. The facilities ofTered by this firm helped to
develop an immense amount of territorv and largely increased the
commerce of the whole world. For several vears after he established
the first house he spent most of his time in travel, looking after his
various interests and the new firms founded bv him. In 1865, just
after the close of the war, he decided to settle permanently in New
York, and fi-om that time forth has been identified with the citv's
interests and has contributed largely t(^ its prosperitv. Other busi-
ness interests occupied his attention. He became President of the
Export Lumber Co., a director of the xMarine National Bank, the
Lincoln National Bank and the Emigrant Savings Bank, and was
made Receiver of the Continental Life Insurance Co. During the
great famine in Ireland, in 1880, he entered heartily into the relief
plan adopted by the New York Herald, and when a U. S. steamship
was selected to carry the generous contributions to that suffering coun-
try, Mr. Grace contributed one-fourth of the entire cargo, besides the
services of his clerks in the prosecution of all clerical duties con-
nected with the work. The entire cost to Mr. Grace in this noble
enterprise was some ^50,000. Publicity in this matter was unavoid-
able, but his generous gifts to other deserving charities are known
only to himself and the recipients of his kindness.

Mr. Grace, while interested in all public matters pertaining to
the interests of his adopted city, had ne\er taken a very active inter-
est in politics until 1880. The affairs of the city at that time were
in a very unfortunate condition. Politicians were in control and the
people were made to suffer. Mr. Grace's candidacy was sought for
the mayoralty as one on whom all parties could unite, and he was


finally induced to accept the nomination. Some of his enemies
sought to inject religious issues into the campaign, but, in spite of
this, he was elected bv a handsome majority, and those who had pre-
dicted the e\'il results were sadlv disappointed, for Mr. Grace gave
the city one of the best and most impartial administrations it had
ever enjoyed. There was no favoritism, and Mr. Grace conducted
the alTairs of his office the same as his own private affairs and gave
the city a clean, honest government.

It was during his administration as Mayor that the movement
was first started to erect a monument in New York City to the mem-
ory of Gen. Grant, whose death occurred at this time. The Grant
Monument Association was organized with Mayor Grace as Presi-
dent. About half a million of dollars was raised in the course of a
few months and efforts were kept up for further increasing the fund.
In the meantime the Grand Armv of the Republic started a move-
ment for the erection of a monument in Washington, and it became
necessary to counteract this influence by placing Grand Army men
on the Executive Committee. Mr. Grace and others resigned, the
movement received a new impetus with Gen. Horace Porter at the
head, and resulted in the completion and erection of the monument
at Riverside Park. To Mayor Grace and his associates, however, be-
longs the credit of starting the movement and raising a fund which
assured its ultimate success.

During Mayor Grace's administration so much of his time was
devoted to the affairs of the citv that his business affairs required
another head. He sent for his brother, Michael P. Grace, then in
Lima, Peru, and he remained in control of the New York house till
Mayor Grace took up the conversion of the Peruvian debt, on the
success of which his brother established a branch in London.


Mayor Grace received a second nomination in 1884 and was again
elected Mayor of the city by a large majority, his second administra-
tion being quite as successful as the first, every department being
conducted on the same business principles as those that govern the
various branches of his own afTairs.

Since his retirement from the mayoralty Mr. Grace has withdrawn
from public aflairs and devoted himself to the management of his
firm's business, which is now the largest of anv in his line in the
world. Mr. Grace has been a large contributor to private and pub-
lic institutions, but the greatest work of his life was begun in 1897
when he established the Grace Institute for the practical education
of young women, the object as stated being "to furnish instruction
in the domestic arts and sciences, in the trades and occupations in
which women mav be emploved, and to afford protection, instruc-
tion and assistance to voung women." The institution is located at
149 West Sixtieth Street. The building, which was formerlv known
as the Moore Mansion, was enlarged and completel)' equipped with
all the fixtures and apparatus requisite for a work of this character.
The general object of the Institute is sufficientlv comprehcnsi\'e to
include courses in all practical branches that will make young women
self-reliant. In the several departments women are trained to dis-
charge intelligently all the duties of a home, in the broadest sense of
the word.

The Cooking School teaches the elements of all cooking. Two or
more dishes form the subject of each lesson. In the first course the
pupil learns to make bread, to prepare soups, roasts and many simple,
wholesome dishes, the object being always nutritious food, well pre-
pared, well served, and the cultivation of the virtue of thrift. In the
Laundry Department, which is equipped with all the latest improve-




ments, rlic pupils are taught washing and ironing, also the proper
use ot starches, the preser\ ation of texture and colors, etc. In the
Sewing and Dressmaking branch the instruction is so thorough that
the pupil is not onl\' qualified to make her own clothes, but, should
occasion require, she can make use ot the knowledge thus obtained
for earning her own li\'ing. The Stenographic Department begins
v\ith a preliminary course in Knglish, and teaches one of the stand-
ard systems of phonography in a yery thorough manner, The course
embraces business, le-
gal and general re-
porting, and aims par-
ticularly to make the
student efficient in
business practices. In
the Typewriting room
special drills are gi\ en
with the object ot
co\'ering as man\' of
the principal lines ot
business as possible —
building specifications

and legal forms, the vyriting of testimony, making manifold copies
and general correspondence. The Institute helps its pupils when
they become competent.

In addition to the morning and afternoon sessions, classes are
held in the e\ening for girls who are employed during the dav. The
classes have been organized and the work is efficiently carried on by
the Sisters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul, under the direction of
Sister Marie Dolores. In the autumn of 1902 there were in attend-



ance 497 pupils in Dressmaking, 272 in Stenography and Type-
writing, 233 in Cooking, making a total of 1002. Pupils are ad-
mitted without distinction as to religious belief, and among this vast
army of busy workers are found Catholics, Protestants, Hebrews and
persons of all, and without any, religious belief. When it is consid-
ered that all this is absolutely frec^ and that the entire expenses of the
Institute are borne bv Mr. Grace, some idea may be formed of the
magnitude of the undertaking and the large-hearted liberality of its
benefactor. The good accomplished by this system of education
can never be estimated. Not only are lumdreds of pupils turned
out annually fully equipped to earn their own lixing, but persons
emploving them are sure of getting the best skilled labor, fully qual-
ified for the position in which they may be placed.

Mr. Grace has contributed thousands of dollars annually for \'a-
rious benex'olent and charitable objects, but nothing he has ever done
is so far reaching in effects as that accomplished by Grace Institute.
Thousands will rise up to call him blessed and his memory will be
kept green through many generations of those who have benefited
by his munificence.

Mr. Grace was among the first of the new comers at Great Neck
and he has contributed liberalh- toward the many improvements that
have made this one of the most desirable places of summer resort on
Long Island. Some of the happiest and most peaceful hours of his
long and busy life have been spent in this delightful retreat, where
he and his family could enjoy social intercourse with their neighbors
with that simplicity and freedom seldom found at places of fashion-
able resort.

Mr. Grace married, Sept. 11, 1859, Miss I^illius Gilchrist, daugh-
ter of George W. Gilchrist, a prominent ship builder of Thomaston,


Me. He was the grandson oi Samuel Gilchrist, of St. George, Me.,
who served with honor in the war of the Revolution. He was sta-
tioned in New York Citv, and probably took part in the battle of
Long Island (Aug. 27, 1776), as he was wounded on the skirmish
line during the retreat ot the American army trom New York to
Harlem. He carried the bullet in his bodv up to the dav ot his
death, a constant reminder of the part he bore in the great struggle
for American independence.

The children of Mr. and Mrs. Grace are:

I. Alice Gertrude Grace, born in South America, [une 11,
i860; married 1st to W. E. Holloway, of Baltimore, Oct. 16, 1884.
One child, William Grace Holloway, born May 21, 1886, is the
issue of this marriage. She married, 2nd, Albert F. D'Oench, [an.
10, I go I. They ha\'e one child, Russell Gilchrist Grace, born Nov.,

II. Florence Fllen Grace, born in South America, Sept. 20,
1861 ; died Sept. 27, 1861.

III. Lilius Clemintina Grace, born in South America, Oct. 24,
1864; died in Ireland, June 26, 1866.

IV. Agnes Isadora Grace, born in Brooklyn, N. Y., April 4,
1867; died in New York City, March 8, 1884.

V. Mary Augusta Grace, born in Brooklyn, Sept. 2, 1868;
died there Feb. 16, 1870.

VI. Lilius Annie Grace, born in Brooklyn, Sept. 1, 1870;
died there Aug. 30, 1871.

VII. Joseph P. Grace, born at Great Neck, June 29, 1872.
VIII. Lilias Juniata Grace, born in New York City, March 30,
1874; married July 12, 1898, George Edward Kent. Their child-
ren are Katharine and Edward Kent, jr.


IX. Louisa Nathalie Grace, born in New York City, Dec. 23,

X. William Russell Grace, )r., born April 11, 1878.

XI. Caroline S. Grace, born April 22, 1879; died April 21,


Leveled by Fire

Landmark on Bowery Bay,
Acquired by Stuyvesant
Grant, Reduced to Ashes

Bought for Airport Site

Historic Building "Was to
Have Been a Clubhouse

On» of the oldest structures In
greater New York was nothing but
ashes yesterday after a fire of unknown
origin destroyed tl^e old Riker mansion
In Queens. The first part ot this de-
serted house was built In 1654, when
Abraham Rycken Joined the hegira
from Holland, scorned the easily ac-
cessible acres of lower Manhattan and
sailed up the East River to Bowery Bay.

In staking his claim in the unex-
plored lands he included the island a
few hundred yards from the home he
built, an Island that then was a bit
of green near the swirl of Hell Gate,
but which, as Rikers Island, has be-
come a refuse heap and the site of the
prisons known as the Municipal Farms.
Just how the Island and the mansion
lost the original name of Rycken and'
became Riker Is buried in the vincer-
tatn records of the city's growth.

Nothing Saved from Ruins

The fire was beyond control by the
time the Fire Department had run Its
necessary 2,000 feet of hose from the
nearest fireplug to the mansion. The
feeble stream that finally played on the
roaring wooden structure was Ineffect-
ual and nothing was saved.

In the frequent efforts to save his-
toric sites, no attention has been paid
to this mansion, one of the earliest
that was preserved at the beginning
of this century. Rycken came here at
the time of Peter Stuyvesant and it was ;
from that Dutch patroon that he re-
ceived the grant of 100 acres on Bowery
Bay and the island across the wators
of the river. There Is still preserved
the crinkled bit of parchment that
records this grant.

That document and the rest of the
old relics that had lasted througn the
centuries were not destroyed, having
all been taken from the house which
has not been occupied for years.

House Sold in 1809
It was sold to the Rapalyea family
In 1809 by Daniel Riker. who had al-
ready dropped the Dutch name, and
was sold recently to the New Yor): Air
Terminals, Inc., as part of the site for
a proposed landing field on Bowery
Bay. William F. Carey, head of the
company, had planned to turn the old
mansion into a clubhouse.

There was nothing in the mansion
as It appeared yesterday morning to
remind a visitor of the first dwelling
Rycken built In the Colonial days.
Various generations of inhabitants
added to it until it became a twenty-
one-room affair that In the hayday of
the last century was ft gathering place
for the socially elect of New York.
Transportation being what it was In
those days, the host had to give sleep-
ing quarter- to all his guests and the
wings of the house were given over al-
most entirely to bedrooms.

When the fire started Patrolman
fVancis Phelan, of the Astoria precinct,
saw f-e smoke. He turned in an alarm
1 ,ri r^-dnt-inallw all t.hp pniiinment", of


own) and its P'nvironmrnt.

3ode at Bowerv Bay showed
an eye for the beautiful, tor,
lich have defaced its natural
htful and charming spots on
may be its future condition,
sociated with it. The old
red years, was the center of
writer of a quarter of a cen-

io6 LONG

IX. Louisa Nathalie


X. William Russell
XI. Caroline S. Gra(



At Bowery Bay (in the town of Newtown) and its P'nvironmen'

^ I 'HE first Riker who took up his abode at Bowerv Bay showed
■^ great wisdom, good judgment and an eve for the beautiful, for,
with all the "modern improvements" which have defaced its natural
beauties, it is still one of the most delightful and charming spots on
the western end of the island. Whatever mav be its future condition,
the name of Riker will alwavs be associated with it. The old
Riker home, for more than two hundred vears, was the center of
patriotism and generous hospitalitv. A writer of a quarter of a cen-
turv ago, who visited this place, said:


"The northeast corner of Long Island Citv descends under the
waves ot Bovverv Bav — the home of the Riker's, where every step is
a historv still \erihed b\" local preservation. The loitv patriotism ot
the familv is racv ot the soil; the splendid hospitality ot the old
mansion to the Tones, to the Emmets, to the Sampsons, to the
Macne\'ens and other Irish patriots of 1798, invest its chambers with
a deep and gratetul interest to men ot the Irish race.

" 1 he thrill ot emotion is most intense to an Irishman when he
makes the discovery that Long Island C'.itv contains within its limits •
the mortal remains ot Dr. Wm. Macneven, ot William Sampson, and the j
tamilv of Major General Theobold Wolt Tone, the tounder and or- |
ganizer of the United Irishmen ot '98,' ot which Lord Edward Fitz- ;
gerald, Thomas Addis Emmet, Arthur O'Conor and a tew other j
great men were the Executive Committee. No cold expression can j
stitle the tear that tails on the tomb ot these great men, but it re- j
quires a recurrent etfort tor an Irishman to realize the existence of j
the sacred Trust reposed in the bosom ot Long Island City." !

These Irish patriots were drawn thither through their knowledge j
ot the intense patriotism that had characterized the Riker tamilv \
from the time the colonists first determined to throw off the yoke of ]
Great Britain. The Riker mansion stands some 300 feet from the j
main road and is partly concealed by the forest of trees which inter-
vene. The driveway has long since been closed and the entrance to |
the house is along a narrow pathway. The house in its present con-
dition fairly represents the dilTerent generations who have occupied ;
it, each making changes to suit the improved conditions of the age. ,
Much still remains ot the original structure. It is built in the old i
Dutch style, long and narrow, with a frontage ot about forty feet !
and an extension ot some twenty-live feet. It was, no doubt, origin- 1


ally one storv with a pitch or gambrel roof. A story, however, has
been added, co\'ered with a flat root. A piazza extends along the
entire front ot the main building, supported bv six Corinthian pillars.
A piazza also extends along the rear of the main building, and on
both the front and rear doors is the old fashioned iron knocker. The
house is co\'ered with heavy, wide shingles with a lap of about ten
inches. The old wooden shutters of long ago cover all the windows
of the house.

The well kept lawn in front is shaded with a \ariety of trees,
some of which have the appearance of great age. A row of weep-
ing willows extends along ^the eastern side, which is enclosed bv
a rough stone wall. The homestead property contains about one
hundred and twenty acres, a part of which is woodland, also a line
apple orchard containing a few Newtown Pippins, for which this
town was once famous.

A more beautiful site for a country home could hardl\- be found
on the shores of Long Island. The old landmarks in the distance,
so pleasing and attractive to the first Riker settler, still remain with
but little change in their general appearance: Riker's Island, about
a mile from the main land, and beyond that the upper part of Man-
hattan Island, and a little to the south are Ward's and Blackwell's
Islands. Riker's Island alone remains uninhabited, just as it was
two hundred and fifty years ago, when it came into the possession
of the family.

The history of this locality is one of exceeding interest from the
fact that it is associated with the earliest settlement of Long Island
and was among the first parts to be placed under cidti\ation. Whether
Guisbert Riker e\'er occupied it is not known, as Abraham did not
settle here until some thirty years after it was acquired by the Riker


family. The tact that Abraham Riker, the son of Guisbert, mar-
ried the daughter of Hendrick Harmensen, who was killed by the
Indians, would indicate that he had been a resident here and fled to
Manhattan during the Indian troubles.

Riker, in his Annals of Newtown (page 21), says: "Attention
has heretofore been made to Hendrick Harmensen as engaged in the
cultivation of a bouwerv on the northern outskirts of the town, and
who may be regarded as the first white man that turned a furrow in
that section of the township. He had erected a cabin and obtained,
in 1638, several head of cattle from a lot imported that vear bv the
Director General for the use of the colonists. But, within the space
of a few vears, Harmensen died and there is some reason to believe
that he was slain in the Indian massacre of 1643. After his decease
his widow, Trvon Herxer, intermarried in 1645 with |eiiriaen Fra-
dell, a nati\'e of Moraxia and subsequently a deacon of the Dutch
Church at New Amsterdam, who, on Sept. 5th, of the above year,
obtained a ground brief in his ovxn name for the estate of Har-
mensen. -^ •«• * A great deal of interest attaches to the history
of this bouwery, which was subsequently owned by the corporation
of the Dutch Church of New Amsterdam."

In a foot note on page 22, Riker says: "A tradition exists in
the Riker family that their ancestor located, at a \ery early period,
at what is now called Poor Bouwery, and obtained from the natives
a large tract of land at that place; that having previously been an
armourer in the Dutch service, he was accustomed to forge toma-
hawks for the Indians round about him, but that, on a certain occa-
sion, the sa\ ages, under a sudden excitement, assaulted him, and one
of them gave him a fatal blow and terminated his life with one of
the very instruments of death that he had made for him; that after


this his widow remarried and the property was disposed of to the
Duteh Chiireh. This tradition, which doubtless has a foundation in
truth, can rehite to none other than Hendrick Harmensen, the orig-
inal proprietor of the farm above mentioned. He was a progenitor
of the Riker family, as his daughter Margaret married Abraham
Riker, their ancestor."

Thompson's History of Long Island (Vol. H., ^],]) states that
"Guisbert Riker is supposed to have arrived from Holland between
the years 1625 and '30, in one of the earliest vessels of the Dutch
West India Companw He received several grants of land in difTer-
ent places, but the most extensive was at Newtown, L. 1., said to be
a mile square, together with the island since known as Hewlett's or
Riker's Island. He is belie\'ed to have died a very few years after
his arri\al, leaxing a son Abraham and one daughter,"

Riker's Annals states that "Guysbert Riker owned lands at the
Wallabout, and is last named in 1 640."

Ihompson (Vol. II., Si"^) ^'^^^ ^'""'^^ Abraham Riker and his
brother-in-law, Petrus Rapelje, gave land in the present village of
Newtown as a site for a church and public cemetery and upon which
the first Dutch church in that town was erected. In the patent
granted by Gov. Dongan, of Newtown, Nov. 25, 1683, (conveyed
by Stuy\esant 1652) there are 107 patentees named, of whom
"Abraham Ricke" was the 22nd on the list.

The Riker homestead farm at North Beach or Bowery Bay is a
part of the original tract acquired by him in 1654.

Thompson, in his description of Riker's Island, says: "It lies
about one mile from the main land of Long Island, nearly opposite

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Online LibraryHenry WhittemoreLong Island historic homes, ancient and modern : including a history of their founders and builders → online text (page 7 of 15)