Thursday, August 12, 2010

NYC Neighborhoods: Jone's Wood (5)

(Continued from Page: 4)

This year found John F. Schultheis the proprietor of the park. He had purchased lots from Dorothea, the widow of Erhard Schutz on Oct. 1st, known on the partition map of the Louvre Farm dated June 25th 1855 as Nos. 542-554 (L. 1267:675) and on December 18th 1873 Lots No. 532, 540 and 541 for $8,366 from the executors of Peter Schermerhorn; lots No. 529, 533, 534, and 535 for $13,625 from Edmund H. Schermerhorn; lots No.530, 538 and 539 for $6966 from William C. Schermerhorn and Anna E.H., his wife and Nos. 531, 536 and 537 for $8,541.67 from John Jones Schermerhorn, then residing in Paris, all said lots being in Block G, thereby acquiring half the block lying on the south side of 69th Street between Avenue A and the river. (L. 1291: 155, 158, 162, 165.)

Stone's History of New York: p. 491 states that in 1872 the Provoost mansion, which had served as Jones's Wood Hotel, was a dilapidated ruin. David Provoost died in 1781, aged ninety and was buried in the family vault cut in a rocky knoll in the woods near his house (Gazette and Weekly Mercury, Oct. 29.). The marble slab which he caused to be placed over it in memory of his wife, and which later commemorated him lay neglected, adds Stone, over the broken walls. The year 1873 marked the last of the old Wood for lots were being sold by the heirs and trees were being felloed to allow of improvement. The Caledonian Club had continued each September till then to hold its games there but was compelled in 1875 to confine its celebration to the Coliseum and there its final annual event was held in 1893.The earliest map on which the buildings at the Wood are shown is Perris and Browne's Fire Ins. Survey, 1862. The blocks between 68th and 70th Streets are marked "Jones's Wood Coliseum" and a building near the river "Platform." A "shooting range" was on 70th Street near the latter. The platform was used for outdoor dancing and a closed building for the same purpose stood on the lower block.

Dripp's Atlas of 1868 fails to show any buildings but Bromley's of 1879 and Robinson's of 1886 do. The diagrams thereon agree. The Coliseum occupied the full front of the block on Avenue A between 68th and 69th Streets and covered much of the lots towards the river. Schultheis erected this Coliseum about 1874 which he advertised as the "new building," and was 20 feet wide and 1000 feet long. The "playing ground" inside was 160 by 400 feet in size and there was "comfortable accommodation for 14000 visitors' seats." Kastner and Beach of 290 Broadway were the architects. On the Bromley and Robinson maps the block between 69th and 70th Streets is marked Washington Park and in its rear are a number of outbuildings. Stone's History states that in addition to these a number of tents were pitched in the woods for use during the season.

Jones's Wood, the general and inclusive term for the neighborhood, was razed by fire in 1894. At break of day on May 16th the East River bluffs from 67th to 71st Streets were practically swept of buildings, the conflagration reaching its height at 4:30 A.M.

It was the fiercest battle that the department had been called on to fight for many years, and only good management prevented it from crossing to the west side of Avenue A. The area of ravage covered about eleven acres. Its origin was near the kitchen in the north east corner of the Coliseum block close to Schultheis's stables and the Jones mansion in which lived at the time John F. Schultheis, Jr. Flames were first noticed in a turret of the Coliseum. The fire swept so furiously that engine No. 39, the "Silver King," had to be abandoned and was burned. On this block (68th to 69th Streets) there remained standing but the kitchen chimney and the grove in front of the dancing platform over the river. The trees around the summer houses were so charred that they resembled telegraph poles and the heat destroyed the shrubbery and flowers.

On the Washington Park block only the north shed west of the carousal and the entry buildings were left. The Schermerhorn house was saved by a couple of hundred feet. Sixty-seventh Street, in which it stood, had not yet been cut through. It entirely escaped damage although a tree fifty feet north of it was killed by the blighting heat. The fire was stopped before it reached the arbors and the merry-go-round. The buildings on both blocks were owned by Schultheis who placed his loss at $300,000, part of which included the bowling-alley and from fifteen to twenty thousand dollars worth of Rhine and other wines, and 30 valuable rifles owned by the New York Scheutzen Corps. Only a small amount of insurance was carried. The above story is taken from the account published in the Times of May 17th 1894 which added that "60 years previously the Jones place was famous for its orchard which produced a little red apple, the flavor of which lingers in the reflective palate of many staid citizens who in the "fifties thought a predatory excursion there worth all the risk that was run. The Provoost family vault lies under the ruins of yesterday's fire."

Schultheis then took the Casino on Ft. George Hill and there again the demon of fire followed him. No vestige of the Wood now remains and so passes into history a region hallowed in memory for its early charm and its later identification with the amusement of former generations of pleasure-seeking New Yorkers..

End of Article

Source of Information: From My collection of books: Valentine's Manual of the City of New York; edited by Henry Collins Brown; The Old Colony Press. 1917-1918.

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