Villager Expat

Former renter in Greenwich Village, waiting out the turnaround in Manhattan's midtown. Working on a blog-to-book project about my NYC/NJ ancestors. Everyday I'm amazed by what I find with Ancestry and in old newspapers.

August 6, 2023

The Burtises and Leroys drive to Allenhurst to see Sadie's house

Nineteen hundred and twelve was a year of disasters, around the world and at the Jersey Shore. In April Mr. and Mrs. French, two summer residents of Allenhurst, died aboard the Titanic on their voyage home from Italy, and in early July, only three weeks before the hit-and-run between Undertaker Burtis and Sadie Brady at Atlantic Highlands Bridge, the Dunes Hotel burned to the ground. 

Asbury Park Press, 10 Jul 1912

"I want to see where she lives." It was Lizzie's idea, Ginny Burtis's friend, who was in the Burtises' new touring car for a Sunday drive when they were rear-ended by Sadie Brady's party. 

That evening of the same day, a few short hours after the accident, the Burtis son drove his parents, the Leroys and the family dog along Ocean avenue in Allenhurst. It was their second weekend trip to view the devastation of the hotel fire in the crowd of gawkers from all over New Jersey, Philadelphia and New York City. Some were fascinated by the finds of scavengers or "miners" who picked through the debris for trinkets from hotel guests but there was too much traffic to linger. Two full weeks afterwards the scene still looked like a ravaged battlefield.

"Terrible loss," Burtis said as his thoughts jumped to his big beautiful house in Asbury Park, all wood. "Hotels can't be made of wood. Their big kitchens and people smoking. Too risky." 

"The Schultz family's building it back in brick," Lizzie said.

"Hm." John sighed. She said the same thing every time the subject came up. The group tried to imagine a new grand hotel at the scene of the devastation.

"Let's move on," John said. "I want to see where this lady lives." A friend on the police force whose cousin worked at an Allenhurst garage had phoned Burtis about a young man who had returned a damaged car. "He's staying with his aunt on Corlies."

"I know that house," Ginny said. "It's around the corner from the Guggenheim cottage."

As the group came upon Spier avenue they espied the Guggenheim cottage and commiserated over Mrs. Guggenheim's loss and the other summer residents who drowned in the Titanic. 

The Guggenheim cottage on Spier avenue

The group then set their sights on Sadie Brady's house down the block.

Sadie Brady's cottage on Corlies avenue


"Well. It's a miracle it's still here," Ginny said.

Looking down Corlies avenue they could see the charred hotel and what was left of cottages.

Sadie Brady's cottage (bottom left), Dunes Hotel (bottom right),
Guggenheim cottage on the south side of Spier avenue
Sanborn Fire Insurance Map, Image 12 (1905-09)

"Why do these people stay, I wonder," Lizzie said. "The smell, the devastation,  vagabonds milling about-- Who could think of spending the summer here?"

"Because it's paid for? Maybe she's cheap," John said.

A dog tearing past their car interrupted the conversation, and the Burtis's dog jumped out to chase it.

"Fritz, come back!" Ginny cried. 

"Step on it, Ralph," Burtis said, and young Ralph drove as fast as their new beat-up car would go after their beloved dog. 

"Oh Fritz," Ralph said.


Asbury Park Press, 31 Jul 1912
Home of John E. Wise, caretaker of cottages
and recidivist thief

NOTE: Cottage photos from Allenhurst Residential Historic District report, 2010

Contact: Debbie Carter, VillagerExpat@aol.com, (212) 925-3721

October 10, 2022

New York City, 1905: Brady v. Brady divorce trial reveals that husband met actress in hotel rooms

The Circle Hotel w/ Robert Burns Cigars ad, top left

Gertrude Mackenzie
in the "Wizard of Oz"
"Miss Mackenzie lived in a suite of rooms at a Columbus Circle hotel and Mr. Brady called frequently there under the name Mr. Burns," Mr. Ordway said.

In 1903 Gertrude Mackenzie appeared as Prince Charming in the "Wizard of Oz" at the Majestic Theatre, now the site of the Time Warner Center.

"Wizard of Oz" on marquee, 1903

In outlining his case to the jury, Sadie's lawyer Samuel H. Ordway said, "We shall show that during last spring and summer Mr. Brady became cold toward his wife and showed attention to an actress by the name of Gertrude Mackenzie, who has taken parts in small comic operas as a flirt, commonly known as a soubrette."

Called as first witness, a maid in the Brady household testified that Mr. Brady packed up his belongings last August and said, "I'm not going to live in this hell-hole any longer!" 

Brady visited Miss Mackenzie at Reisenweber's Hotel in Columbus Circle, giving his name as Mr. Burns. A boy who used to work at the hotel but employed by Sadie's brother Charles Singer at the time of trial . . .

August 12, 2022

1912, Asbury Park, part 3: Burtis finds out who crashed into his auto

Could this be Sadie V. Brady in New York, 1911,
a year before the accident?
(link to clip)

"Take the car back to the garage and get rid of it. 
The brakes don't work," Sadie said to her nephew who was driving their rented auto into Allenhurst along Ocean Avenue. "This is your uncle's fault. If he had let us have his car none of this would have happened."

Her nephew Robert and the chauffeur-chaperone sitting beside him knew Mr. Brady needed his car in New York for business, but they knew better than to argue with Sadie.

This party of three that had rear-ended undertaker Burtis's touring car at the Atlantic Highlands bridge moments ago enjoyed the ocean views and sea breeze along the newly paved boulevard but the accident had spoiled it.

After Robert dropped off his aunt at their cottage
and received instructions not to pay the bill, his chauffeur-chaperone guided him to the garage. Turning right onto Corlies they headed towards Deal Lake passing the Allenhurst Beach club at Norwood Avenue, a block from his aunt's house.

He continued on up to Main Street, where he turned left and proceeded into the unfamiliar territory of the hamlet's utilities district. Robert gripped the wheel as they traveled south past the trolley car barn at Elberon, past the light and waterworks at Hume, and still further south to the garage at Euclid and Main, where Robert told the attendant the brakes didn't work and dropped off the car without paying.

*   *   *

"I don't mind paying when I'm in the wrong," Burtis said to Croce, "but they ran into me. They ruined a new car."

A day after the accident,

April 24, 2022

1912, Asbury Park, part 2: Undertaker Burtis goes for a drive in his new Haynes touring car

Photo: Norah Magrini of Avon Historical Society

"Another unfortunate event," the young reporter said. "But the Haynes got it good this time."

Ralph tipped back his bowler hat and waited. 

"I'm Fredus White from the Press. I wrote about your last accident, on Sylvania Avenue in Avon, in front of Mayor Thomson's garage? I live a block away, at Woodland and Main."

Asbury Park Press, 3 May 1912

"I remember you," Ralph said, annoyed that a reporter who looked the same age acted like he had something. 

March 22, 2022

1912, Asbury Park: Undertaker Burtis goes for a drive in his new Haynes touring car

Atlantic Highlands bridge, early 1900s
Photo: Walt Trevors - Historical Society of Highlands

It was a year of disasters, around the world and in Asbury Park. In April two summer residents, Mr and Mrs Herbert French, died aboard the Titanic on their voyage back from a winter in Italy; in early July the Dunes hotel in Allenhurst burned to the ground, and a couple weeks later on a Sunday after church when the Burtises of Asbury Park took their dear friends, Mr and Mrs Howard Leroy, for a scenic drive in their new five-passenger Haynes touring car their delightful ride came to an end on their approach to Highlands bridge.

Asbury Park Press, Mon. July 29, 1912
Page One

Did the other driver leave the scene?

The Haynes was undertaker Burtis's first car, and a keeper. With an Eisemann magneto starter, 40 h.p., a speedometer, windshield and five lamps, advanced design elements at the time that were meant to impress . . .   

April 4, 2021

Grandpa Charley, which Foo are you?

 "Why would you want to live on Waverly Place? It's so old."

My realtor wouldn't be getting her commission. I'd found this apartment on my own. I had told her I liked downtown. I missed my quirky tenement apartment in Soho with the exposed brick and pipes, the view of backyard gardens and old houses, but construction drove me out and I ended up in Murray Hill for three years. It was the end of February when I moved there, to 38th Street. A monster wisteria vine in full bloom filled the picture window. It snaked up a tree in the townhouse garden across the way and was nearly as high as the house. But as time went on, life in my building turned into a co-ed dorm with thirty-somethings who didn't belong in Manhattan. Some say "You can do anything in New York." No, you can't. 

I escaped twice a day downtown to bookstores and my favorite restaurant, Caffe Pane e Cioccolato on Waverly Place. Across the street was a massive apartment building, no. 11. It would be convenient to live there but it too was filled students. I learned that the same landlord had a studio available in a West Village walkup a few blocks over and around the bend at Waverly and 10th Street, on a tree-lined lane catty-corner from a bookstore.

August 7, 2020

"A Chinese divorce": my 2nd great aunt's marriage to her wealthy Chinese husband and her influence

"Chinese Divorce Suit," The Mail (Stockton, CA) 24 Jun 1886, p.2

Years ago in a laundry shop in Paterson, when the city was a prosperous manufacturer of textiles and silk, young and pretty Minnie Kiersted stopped by weekly to drop off her employer's laundry. She caught the eye of Chinese owner Wang Sing Bow, better known as Charley Sing.

In reports of their divorce trial the papers called him "the most successful Chinaman in the City of Churches." On Sundays he dressed in a Prince Albert coat, high silk hat and patent-leather boots, and wore "a locomotive-headlight diamond."

In Minnie's testimony . . .

July 18, 2020

In 1923 in Asbury Park, my Brooklyn grandmother's acting career gets sidetracked by a man

Remember our midnight swim? Love, Ralph

"Did you have to send me that postcard?"

"I thought it was romantic."

"My mother saw it!"

"Don't worry. We're getting married. Everything's alright now." 

It was a moonlit night in April as they drove down Ocean Avenue in his Haynes touring car. Exhilarating! but the racket of spring peepers made it impossible to have a conversation. Her thoughts drifted to talks with her sister Evelyn.

He's a good catch, MariaUndertakers always make a living.

He's not an undertaker! He sells pianos and he's musically inclined.

He's in music for now but he'll take over his father's business someday and you'll live in a mansion. He's your ticket out of Brooklyn. You can't be an actress forever.

June 26, 2020

A stonecutter in the family: the Casper monuments business near Green-Wood Cemetery

G Casper Monumental Work, Lettering Jobbing Etc., 24th n. 4th av, Brooklyn, ca. 1880
Photo ©Cathy Tipton, all rights reserved. Used by permission.

He came from Germany in 1846 when he was 20 and made headstones for a living. His monuments mark the resting places of families in Green-Wood Cemetery with love and respect, and commemorate their lives forever.

How did he become a stonecutter? . . .

June 19, 2020

Walking in their footsteps: my relatives from Brooklyn, known and unknown

Bond trader Frank Carter on Wall Street in the 1940s
He didn't like to talk about his childhood in Brooklyn. As the first in the family to work on Wall Street in the corporate world, clients and peers in his day made assumptions about you by your ethnic background. He was proud of being from Brooklyn. Flatbush was nice then, but his father, a bookbinder, deserted his mother and him by the time he was 13 and my grandfather had to go to work, first part-time as a bellhop in a hotel, then full time after his first year of high school. A serious person and a reader like his mother, he wanted a better life. But at 16, at the start of WWI, a wave of patriotism was sweeping the city. He tried to sign up for the draft by lying about his age but was sent home when his mother showed up. He was the breadwinner in the family. He couldn't go. Back at work, he befriended the Wall Street businessmen who passed through the hotel, found a mentor, and eventually became a bond trader with his own firm at 111 Broadway. Unlike his father, who divorced and remarried twice more, he was a a rock. After familial setbacks, and seeing what could be lost in stock market crashes and wars, . . .

June 12, 2020

From my mother's manuscripts: a 1940's childhood worshipping a teenage aunt, longing for happier days at Lake Hopatcong

Doris at Lake Hopatcong
I was playing across town at Millie's house, where I had followed my aunt Doris. They were playing at the piano with two other teenage girls when all of a sudden they said, "Bobbie, you have to go home. You can't play here anymore."

I wanted to be with Doris constantly. She was sixteen and I was eight, and while she was my dad's younger sister, we had grown up like sisters next door to each other.

I followed Doris and her friends to school. I acted older, copied the way she dressed. It was more exciting to be with them than with third graders. To watch Doris dress for a date was a thrilling experience, like watching a movie star prepare for the cameras. I helped her put on her makeup but the climax was the anointing with perfume. Carefully holding the pink cut-glass bottle in one hand, she adroitly squished the satin-covered rubber ball with the other--squish, squish, squish. Apple Blossom. Soon her small corner bedroom became more heady than the apple orchards across from the fairgrounds. We couldn't breathe, and ran gasping from the room. Doris only laughed. "Well, that'll last through the movie." Especially at the Palace when the famers came to town on Saturday nights. "That's why it's called the horse-opera, Bobbie."

"Why do I have to go home?" I had asked the girls. . . .

April 7, 2020

Indulging in Ancestry while staying at home: the great-grandmother who left England and put me in the U.S.

"Why did she come here?" I asked.

"She had a fight with her boyfriend," my grandmother said. I had asked about her mother who immigrated to the United States from England. I was in love with England. It was 1964 and I'd just seen Mary Poppins. When my mother told me we were English, I was eager to know more about the woman whose picture was on my grandmother's mantel.

"She was a governess," Grandma said. I was filled with visions of a great-grandmother who was like Mary Poppins and had a boyfriend as handsome as Bert and I thought why oh why did she come here only to marry a fireman, have six kids, and live in a small house in New Jersey?

"The English can be mean" was the explanation she gave me, and her cautionary words come back to me whenever I feel myself falling for an English accent or a man in a suit from Savile Row. But they sound like words Beatrice could have said herself. She never went back to England, even to visit relatives.

At a time when many of us are living under stay-at-home orders, I've been on Ancestry everyday marveling at the powerful search engine that instantaneously finds ancestors and official documents about Beatrice.

She came here in 1905 on the Caronia, . . .

March 6, 2020

Mount Adams, painted by my mother in the 1950s when she lived in Cincinnati

Mount Adams, ca. 1956, by Barbara Boyd Carter
casein on board, 15 in. x 20 in.
Followers of the FB page "Greater Cincinnati History Group" have posted 123 likes so far to my mother's picture of Mount Adams. Painted in 1956, my dad had just completed his two years in the service at Fort Bragg, NC, and accepted a spot in GE's management training program. 

My parents lived in an apartment in Glen Meadows. It was two years since my mother had graduated Carnegie Tech's College of Art and  would be two years before she became a mother. 

No pictures on the wall? My parents
must have just moved in
Free from the distractions of caring for a family, she worked as an artist at Gibson Greeting Card then quit when they didn't give her anything to do, then worked at a glass company where she designed etchings for drinking glasses. She felt frustrated by the workplace after the serious training of Carnegie Tech's fine arts department and gave up on commercial art, but she didn't stop seeing as one, and was inspired by the Mount Adams landscape to render this picture. I hope to find a permanent public space for it in Cincinnati. The enthusiasm of the Facebook group has been heartwarming.

I'd also like to donate the glasses she designed but I don't know the name of the glass company. Someone suggested Sterling Cut Glass and I've sent them a message but I see other glassware companies on Google that could have been part of Cincinnati's Art Hill in the 50s.  Here's my photo of three glasses. They aren't overtly commercial as the etched glasses they're making today but instead illustrate hobbies and businesses in Cincinnati at that time. 

Barbara Boyd Carter original illustrations for a Cincinnati glassware company

Contact: Debbie Carter, VillagerExpat@aol.com, (212) 925-3721

February 27, 2020

Lost artwork: a search to recover my mother's missing paintings

50th Street snow scene, 1986
by Barbara Boyd Carter
Here is a watercolor of a 50th Street snow scene my mother painted from her apartment window on Beekman Place. It's part of her series "Midtown Merchants" which is featured in this week's East Midtown Partnership newsletter. Here is a link to the Midtown Merchant Series on Flickr; a movie appears below.

While this blog began with a search for an apartment in Greenwich Village after I made the mistake of moving away, the need to fix this has evolved into other subplots about what's missing in my life. An even deeper desire to find a permanent home for my mother's artwork has led to a search for missing paintings that were lost in moves. In the mid 80s my father sold their house in Lloyd Harbor, Long Island during real estate boom to buy a company in Palmer, Massachusetts, because he was tired of working for other people. Ten years later they moved again to retire in NYC. My parents thought the city's art museums and restaurants would make New York the perfect place to retire, but a noisy apartment drove them out and they moved back to the tranquility of Lloyd Harbor, Long Island, where my dad could indulge his hobby of caring for a lawn and my mother could paint and garden.

Pictures change in 15-second intervals
"Midtown Merchants" series, 1986-87

January 12, 2020

A Soho moment

Soho, NYC
Soho mesmerizes me. I slow down from my usual fast-paced self, thinking about other things, paying no attention to what's happening around me to stroll and look, really look, through the big gleaming store windows at the nicest clothes, shoes and handbags in the world. Shoppers decked out in leather and spikey heels glide across the lumpy Belgian block streets like there's nothing to it. I look up and admire the cast-iron buildings. It's not cool to look up at buildings in New York but no one's paying attention to me. It's like floating through a lovely dream. I think I would be happy living there again. 

But I'm stuck in a lease in Midtown. It's been almost a year and and it went by quickly and as much as I'd like to get out of here my hair stylist, the voice of reason in my life, said the next year will go by quickly too; stick it out, it would cost too much money to move.