88 Grove Street, West Village, New York
Meher Baba stayed here in 1931 & 1932 and a reception was held here for him in 1934.
At the time, this was the home of Graham Phelp & Lettice Stokes.
For further information on these premises, select 'Personalities' from the index above , then Graham Stokes from the index on the left-hand side or click on his name in blue above.
Streetscapes/88 and 90 Grove Street; West Village Houses With a Past Colored by the Arts
By CHRISTOPHER GRAY
Published: August 2, 1998
BUILT simultaneously in 1827 but for separate owners, the little houses at 88 and 90 Grove Street were later occupied by a landscape architect and an artist in the Greenwich Village art revival and, in the 1920's, were taken over as a double house by neighboring brother-sister owners. Now two new families have divided these unusual houses and are restoring them.
In 1827, as Greenwich Village was emerging as a popular outlying section of New York, two masons, Henry Halsey and William Banks, built 88 and 90 Grove Street, just east of Seventh Avenue South, for their own occupancy.
In 1862, Thomas A. Wilmurt bought 88 Grove and perhaps it was he who added the mansard roof with dormer windows and lacy iron trim, which still survive. Wilmurt, a frame maker, lived at 88 with his wife, Ann, and eight children and he often worked for Tiffany & Company.
In 1893, the painter Robert Blum bought 90 Grove Street and hired Carrere & Hastings, later designers of the New York Public Library on Fifth Avenue, as his architect. The peaked roof was removed, making the second floor into a double-height studio space for the artist, who was well known as an illustrator. According to Bruce Weber, director of research and exhibitions at Berry-Hill Galleries and an expert on Blum, the artist had been living in the old Benedick studio building on Washington Square East, but learned a new building would cut off his light. This is something that could not happen with a house like 90 Grove, which faces what is now Grove Park. Mr. Weber says that Blum's patron, Alfred Corning Clark, who owned the Dakota, helped him with the purchase of 90 Grove.
A visit to Japan increased Blum's interest in the artistic techniques of that country, and he painted a mural of chrysanthemums in his dining room and decorated parts of the house in Japanese style. An account from The Cincinnati Enquirer in 1900 said that, with the ''pale yellow front'' and studio window, the house ''never fails to arrest the passer-by.
''The oiled floors are covered with Japanese mats and the old time mantle is enclosed in blue Chinese tiles,'' the article noted. Silks, prints and ceramics completed the effect.
The 1900 census taker recorded Blum, 43, as living in the house with Senta Kato, 22, his Japanese servant, who had been in this country 10 years.
Blum died at 90 Grove in 1903 just as he was finishing the Art Nouveau style mural above the proscenium arch in the New Amsterdam Theater, which he worked on with Albert Wenzel. Blum's estate sold 90 Grove Street to Jules Guerin, a painter who also decorated the old Penn Station; Guerin added shutters but changed little else.
IN 1908 Guerin sold 90 Grove to the painter Helen Olivia Phelps Stokes, a member of a prominent family who was active in trade-union causes. She would often appear in court to pay the fines of pickets who had been arrested. A year later the landscape architect Ferruccio Vitale bought 88 Grove, where he lived until 1915 when Helen Stokes's brother, James Graham Phelps Stokes, bought it and moved in.
James Stokes, a millionaire railroad investor, had served with the elite Squadron A cavalry in the Spanish-American War. He also ran for several city posts on the Socialist ticket, and in 1905 had married Rose Pastor, a cigar factory worker also active in Socialist causes. While the Stokeses lived at 88 Grove Rose Stokes risked arrest by passing out birth-control literature at Carnegie Hall in 1916 and was convicted in 1918 of Federal espionage charges for antiwar statements, although her 10-year sentence was set aside.
Rose and James Stokes were divorced in 1925, and James remained in the house and remarried the former Lettice Sands in 1926. Around this time Helen Stokes created additional studio space in the rear, and at some point multiple doors were cut between 88 and 90 Grove. Mr. Weber says that the Stokeses also covered over Blum's chrysanthemum mural.
Helen Stokes died in 1945, and her brother James died in 1960. Lettice Stokes kept both buildings, and remained in 88 Grove until her death in 1988.
In 1996, Howard Reed, a dealer in contemporary art, was living with his wife, Katia, and two daughters in a loft in the Flatiron district, hoping to move to the Village, where his daughters were at Grace Church School. But he says they were looking for something ''with scale,'' not the typical small Village house.
SO when he saw 90 Grove Street in 1996 -- almost completely intact, with its large studio and sophisticated detailing -- he was sold. But 90 was being offered for $2 million as a package with 88, so he and his wife approached another Grace Church School family, with one daughter.
The wife in that family, who would speak only on condition of anonymity, said that ''it took about 10 minutes'' for them to make up their mind to buy 88 Grove Street, which is also almost completely intact, with high-style Victorian moldings and mantles, probably from the same 1860's alteration that produced the mansard.
The families simplified things by using the same architect, Kathryn McGraw Berry. But the buildings now have quite different characters.
The Reeds' house is a sleek, spare showpiece with works of art and top-notch plastering and painting. They have uncovered one ragged swath of the Blum mural in the dining room, but the rest was too damaged to restore.
The house at 88 seems more lived in, with a vintage wooden back porch looking out over the large backyard toward an ancient wooden shed. Both families have more work to do -- the rear buildings of both 88 and 90 are so far untouched, as are the facades of the buildings.
But although they share a yard and some other common elements, both families say they haven't yet had any noticeable disagreements -- perhaps because, as one of their first projects, they sealed up the doors connecting the buildings.
Photos: Houses at 90, left, and 88 Grove Street, circa 1910, at left. Robert Blum painted a mural of chrysanthemums in his dining room at 90 Grove, below. Separate owners bought the houses, right, as a $2 million package in 1996.
(Rob Schoenbaum for The New York Times); (Museum of the City of New York); (Avery Library)
Kitty Davis writes from Quentin Tod's 1932 diary ; Extract courtesy of The Awakener ; Vol. X11, No. 3 - pages 1-2
The following was reprinted from Meher Baba Australia June - July & Sept - Nov 2000, which was reprinted from
Love Street Post Oct-Dec 1998
This article was written by Ed Flanagan
The following pages were printed in the Love Street Lamp Post - Oct.1998 p.37 - 42