August 19, 2015
Porcelanosa’s Historic Location — Part 1: Up to the Gilded Age
Porcelanosa, with its corporate headquarters in Spain, is a global leader in the innovation, design and manufacturing of luxury tile, kitchen and bath products. In early September, Porcelanosa plans to open its North American Flagship on 25th Street and Fifth Avenue, at one of the most famous intersections in New York. With this highly anticipated opening, the intersection will start another significant chapter in its illustrious history.
Before the Civil War, the triangle just in front of the Porcelanosa flagship, was chosen as the burial place for one of America’s most famous war heroes. After a brief interment in Greenwood Cemetery, General William Jenkins Worth (1794-1849) was reburied at this intersection on November 25th, 1857, following an elaborate processional, which included 6,500 soldiers.
Worth, for whom Ft. Worth, Texas is named, served in the War of 1812. In 1841, he fought in the last stages of the Second Seminole War. After a short stint fighting on the Texas frontier, Worth was transferred to the Mexican War (1846-1848). Worth was a Commandant of Cadets at West Point and was known for his personal bravery and as a superior battlefield strategist. He died of cholera in San Antonio in 1849, and his body was returned to the state of his birth (he was a native of Hudson, New York) for burial.
James Goodwin Batterson (1823-1901) designed the beautiful 51-foot granite Worth Monument that stands over Worth’s grave to this day. (Batterson was the founder of Travelers Insurance Company and one of the designers of the United States Capitol and Library of Congress in Washington, D.C., as well as the New York State Capitol in Albany.) The Worth Monument is the second oldest monument in New York — the oldest being the 1856 George Washington equestrian monument at the southern end of Union Square. It also remains one of only two New York monuments that also serves as a mausoleum; the other is Grant’s Tomb.
About eight years later in 1865 with the Civil War ending, Worth House, a small hotel, was erected on the Porcelanosa location at 1 West 25th Street or 202 Fifth Avenue just behind the Worth Monument. By 1880, the building was occupied by the New York Club, then by the Madison Square Bank and Cosmopolitan magazine. Photos from the turn of the century show the building with signs reading “Berlitz School of Languages.”
As Miriam Berman points out in her book on Madison Square, 202 Fifth Avenue had wonderfully upscale neighbors back then, including Knox Hatters, Meriden-Britannia — one of the largest silver and silverplate manufacturers in the country, Black Starr jewelers, Redfern—a London- based women’s tailor, Mark Cross, and Delmonico’s (all on the same block).
In the Gilded Age, the NoMad District was the center of U.S. political life. The Republican National Headquarters was located in the Fifth Avenue Hotel (between 23rd and 24th on Fifth), Democratic National Headquarters could be found in Hoffman House (between 24th and 25th on Broadway) and the Democratic State Headquarters was in the St. James (1133 Broadway). It’s not surprising then that the National League of Republican Clubs (a.k.a., The Republican National League) was housed at 202 Fifth Avenue. This breakaway faction of the Republican Party attempted to call the party of Lincoln back to its principles of a government of, by, and for the people — principles that would later be core to the Progressive Movement. The National League was so prominent in its day that on December 20th, 1888, The New York Times reported that delegates from 27 states and 2 territories met at the league’s headquarters at 202 Fifth Avenue.
In the 1888 election, the National League suffered disappointing results, and by July 11th, 1893, The New York Times was reporting that the State League had taken over the rooms formerly occupied by the National League at 202 Fifth Avenue. On March 19th, 1894, The New York Times reported that the Republican State League had subleased part of its space to the “Milholland” wing of the party virtually making “the rooms of the league at 202 Fifth Avenue . . . the headquarters of the Platt-Milholland movement — a movement to become recognized as the only Republican organization in New York City. The league even sought to enlist former President Theodore Roosevelt, but he declined to join the group, being reluctant to leave the established GOP. Eventually Roosevelt did break with the party and campaigned as a progressive, fighting big business for the advancement of the “little guy,” an issue politicians are still debating today.
The New York Times, “Run by the Bosses Now,” April 26, 1891.
The New York Times, “The Republican Leagues,” December 20, 1888.
The New York Times, “Platt After the “Thirty”,” March 20, 1894.
The New York Times, “Ambitious Republican Leaguers,” July 11, 1893.
Wikipedia, “Theodore Roosevelt.”
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