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.
Harmon, New YorkOn Monday, 9 November 1931, among the first of those he met Meher Baba were James Graham Phelps Stokes of New York City, 59, and his wife Lettice, 38.
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 and others in blue under-scored above.
Around 1905 Stokes developed an interest in Eastern thought and joined the American branch of the Vedanta Society. For 25 years he held regular monthly "gatherings" at his home, where like-minded spiritual aspirants listened to a lecture and meditated. In 1926, Rabia Martin, the American representative of Inayat Khan, sent him advanced lessons of Sufism.
In January 1931, Stokes had penned a foreword to a book of lectures (Pillars of Life by Vishwanath Keskar), in which he wrote: "The fundamental note sounded ... by all the great Eastern teachers is that life is One ... Realization of this oneness marks the fulfillment of its purpose, the attainment of its goal." So he was deeply impressed with meeting Baba and invited him to stay at his house in Greenwich Village whenever Baba visited New York City. Baba accepted his offer.
On Sunday, 15 November 1931, Baba was driven to Manhattan concerning travel documents for his return to Europe and India. He stopped first at the home of the president of City College New York, Dr. Frederick B. Robinson, at 280 Convent Avenue, where he met with several new people. He then went to stay for two days at the Stokeses' residence at 88 Grove Street. Among those he saw in New York were Milo Shattuck, Grace Mann, Julian Lamar and Anita and her mother Jacqueline de Caro, a strict Catholic who nonetheless felt something special when she saw Baba in person.
Anita's mother was quite ill and had been afraid of death, but she later told her daughter, "Since I met Baba, I realize what the spirit is," and Anita wrote to Baba, "The spiritual change in [my mother] is amazing. Your name is always on her lips and your photograph is always on her pillow."
November 25th, 1931
Stokes saw Baba again, and reported that he and his wife felt quite uplifted after Baba's stay at their home. Baba informed him that after he (Baba) left America, Stokes would have even more experiences. Baba had given Stokes a word to repeat mentally before sleeping and this time he told him he could also repeat it on "the rare occasions when you want to help others." But Baba warned him, "Never utter it audibly."
After staying five days in Harmon, Baba departed at eight in the morning on Friday, 4 December 1931. Eileen had stayed overnight to drive Baba into Manhattan, and Norina and Malcolm rode with them. Cath drove the others in another car.
They made one stop on their way to into the city at the home of Corinne Ingraham at 49 E. 83rd Street. Corinne was a friend of Norina's who had recently broken her leg in an accident. She later told Norina that she had remained in ecstasy for three days after Baba's visit and her swollen leg had returned to normal the day following her interview with Baba.
The group arrived at the Stokeses' residence in Greenwich Village around noon. Although Baba had previously indicated that he did not wish to see anyone, he changed his mind and met about 25 people, several for the first time in New York. Among them were Elliot and Elizabeth Holt. After their interview, Chanji found Elliot gazing out the window up at the sky, exclaiming, "My God, that I should have met such a man!"
Elizabeth Patterson and Nadine Tolstoy saw Baba that day at the Stokes, as did the widow of the banker Adolph Ladenburg, Baroness von Miltitz, Dr. James H. Cousins and his wife Margaret (Theosophists who had spent time in Japan and India), Dorothy Norris, Countess Castelli, the artist A. Garfield Learned and Charles and Virginia Crocker.
Before leaving New York the next day, Baba wished to be driven around Wall Street, New York's financial district. It was a Saturday and the streets were virtually deserted. In the car, Jean was thinking to herself: "How ephemeral and unreal this money madness is!"
The next moment, pointing to the skyscrapers, Baba smiled at her and gestured, "It is all a bubble, so easy to prick!"
On his last day in the city, Elizabeth and Nadine arrived together to say goodbye to Baba. Both women were overcome by Baba's love and remained his disciples thereafter.
Before returning to India, Baba left the handwritten manuscript of his book with someone in America, where it remained for the next five years. The exact details of what happened to this "missing book" remain a mystery.
Baba personally contacted more than 350 people during his stay in the New York area in 1931. He instructed Malcolm and Jean to remain at Harmon which he explained would be the first of a series of five spiritual retreats he intended to establish in America.
Graham Stokes, Malcolm Schloss and others in New York had been asked to raise $30,000 to fund Baba's different retreats in England and America, for his trip and for his stay in America for one year. Chanji explained to Stokes (in a letter dated 23 January 1932): "It is not the question of funds at all that matters, for Baba will do his great work in America, whether funds are forthcoming or otherwise. But it is for very important reasons, as he alone knows, for the great benefit of the workers themselves in this great mission of his, that he wishes them to work, as he instructs."
Norina, Jean and Malcolm, Graham Stokes, Anita, Nadine, Elizabeth and her husband and a few others were at the pier to receive Baba. Kenneth Patterson drove Baba to Greenwich Village to the home of Graham and Lettice Stokes, and the others followed in taxis. Staying with the Master at the Stokeses' were Adi Jr., Quentin, Meredith and Margaret. The other mandali (Kaka, Ghani, Chanji and Beheram) stayed at the Albert Hotel.
Malcolm and Jean had worked tirelessly to publicize the Master's second visit to America. They had sent letters announcing Baba's coming to about 800 people on their mailing list from their North Node bookshop. They had also contacted editors, publication houses and news agencies, in an effort to publicize Baba's visit. Two weeks prior to Baba's visit, Time magazine had published an article, along with Baba's photograph having the caption "... bringing the infinite state to Harmon." Part of the article read:
At Harmon, where New York Central trains change from electric to steam engines, not far from Briarcliff, stands ready a retreat called Meherashram (Home of Compassion), where the pious of any and all sects may soon meet a long-haired, silky-mustached Seer who is called Shri (Mr.) Sadguru (Perfect Master) Meher (Compassion) Baba (Father). To his Indian co-religionists the Parsis, Meher Baba, 38, is the "God-Man" or the "Messiah." To many another follower he is simply the "Perfect Master." His U.S. sponsors, Malcolm and Jean Schloss who await him at Harmon, think and write of him in uppercase — He, Him, His, Himself. Next week the God-Man is to sail from England, arriving at Meherashram May 16 ...
For almost seven years Meher Baba has uttered no word. When he arrives at his U.S. retreat here his lips will be unsealed with much ceremony. Meanwhile he carries a small board with letters and figures to which he points when he has something to say. He intends to found retreats in New Hampshire and California. Meher Baba is supposed to have performed many miracles but now he wishes only to "make Americans realize the infinite state which I myself enjoy." His method of accomplishing this is cryptic yet reassuring, "Let God flood the soul. What I am, you are."
On Sunday, 22 May 1932, the Stokes gave a dinner party in Baba's honor at their house in Greenwich Village, and over 400 people attended. Several black people came, and one woman asked Baba to help the people of her race, to which he replied, "I will."
At the reception, Baba gave the following message which was read out by Meredith:
I am so very pleased to see you again. Among you are many of the first Americans I met last time I was here, so I regard many of you as old friends. Some of you, no doubt, have seen various newspaper reports about me and my work. Many of these are misleading. But it is not to be wondered at if journalists do not understand my work or if they pander to the desire for sensationalism.
I do not intend to found any religion, cult, creed or society. There are already far too many of these organizations. I have come to help people realize their ideals in daily life. The widespread dissatisfaction in modern life is due to the gulf between theory and practice, between the ideal and its realization on earth. The spiritual and material aspects of life are widely separated instead of being closely united. There is no fundamental opposition between spirit and matter, or if you like, between life and form. The apparent opposition is due to wrong thinking, to ignorance. Hence, the remedy lies in the continuous practice of right thinking, in permanent illumination resulting from the balance between head and heart. This is the illumination which I intend to give.
The greatest mystics have realized through personal experience that God alone is real and that everything is God. This means that, though you may not be aware of it, the Highest is latent in each of you. But in order for it to be lived and consciously experienced, it must be manifested. Mere intellectual conviction of this truth is not enough. True knowledge consists of illumination, which finally culminates in union with the ultimate Reality. This last stage is the divine state of Christ Consciousness which is my permanent condition.
The obstacles to illumination are certain mental tendencies and desires connected with egoism, which in the East are called sanskaras. The sum total of these desires and tendencies creates the illusion of a separate life at war with, or isolated from, other selves.
Evolution, or the fall into matter, made the creation of such a separate self necessary. Otherwise, spiritual consciousness could never be attained in the flesh.
In the beginning before evolution began, we were united with the Source of all, but unconsciously, as the fish lives in the sea without being aware of the sea because it has never left it. Evolution involved a separation from the Source of all with a consequent conscious longing to return to it through a succession of lives and forms. The conscious return to the Source during physical incarnation only became possible when consciousness became equilibrated [reached an equilibrium or equipoise] in gross matter.
America represents the vanguard and synthesis of the white races and, hence, forms the best foundation for the spiritual upheaval I will bring about in the near future. America has tremendous energy, but most of this energy is misdirected. I intend to divert it into spiritual and creative channels.
I am going now to California for a few days. From there, I must go to the Far East for one day for spiritual reasons, but I will be back in California at the end of June, and I will speak on June 29. But if I should be delayed, I will return on July 12 and speak on July 13. When I speak, there will be many proofs of my spiritual power and of my ability to bestow illumination. People will then realize that Truth, which is the source of all love and existence, rules supreme in all departments of life.
My work and aims are intensely practical. It is not practical to overemphasize the material at the cost of the spiritual. It is not practical to have spiritual ideals without putting them into practice. To realize the ideal in daily life, to give beautiful and adequate form to the living spirit, to make brotherhood a fact, not merely a theory as at present — this is being practical in the true sense of the word.
My work will arouse great enthusiasm and a certain amount of opposition. This is inevitable. But spiritual work is strengthened by opposition, and so it will be with mine. It is like shooting an arrow from a bow — the more you pull the bowstring toward you, the swifter the arrow speeds to its goal.
1933 - July
During this stay in Portofino, the chairman of the World Fellowship of Faiths sent Baba an invitation through Stokes to attend their conference being held in Chicago from June to November of 1933. Baba sent a telegram that he would decide when he returned to India and let the man know.
The day Baba returned to Nasik, he received an invitation from Graham Stokes in New York urging him to attend the All Faiths Conference in Chicago. A second invitation from the executive director of the conference arrived sometime later. Baba agreed to attend on the condition that, if by that time he had not broken his silence, he would deliver a message to the conference through his alphabet board. The chairman of the conference was intimated accordingly, and he accepted this condition. Baba was generally averse to attending any public meetings of this kind. His acceptance was therefore surprising to the mandali. Baba decided to proceed to America and preparations were begun.
Late September - S.S. Conte Verde
That night, cables were received from Norina and Graham Stokes in New York, and Kitty in London, saying that the majority of delegates attending the All Faiths Conference in Chicago had left and it was about to end. This news made Baba feel relieved, as he was never keen to participate in the conference.
It was only to please Stokes, Rustom and his other lovers that Baba had played this role by agreeing to attend. The conference had already scheduled and announced a meeting on 29 October to hear Meher Baba's address, but Stokes was informed that they would not be able to arrange any accommodation for Baba and his group, or contribute to any of his expenses. One of the executives of the conference sent a telegram from Chicago suggesting that Baba cancel his visit, which Baba did. After receiving the cable, Baba decided instead to stay a month in Europe and then return to India.
Wednesday, 12 December 1934
Immigration authorities were told of Baba's two previous visits to America and he was permitted to enter the country and stay for 60 days. He and his group were allowed to pass through customs without unnecessary questioning. After leaving the customs area, Baba was greeted by Norina, Nadine, Elizabeth, Minta and Graham Phelps Stokes. Stokes had invited Baba to stay at his home again, but perhaps because Stokes put certain conditions on the stay (only two of the mandali to be accommodated and only up to a certain date), the group proceeded in two taxis to the towering Shelton Hotel at 525 Lexington Avenue where Norina had arranged for Baba to stay (in room 3104). Rano and Nonny stayed with their family.
Adi Sr. noted in his diary on 13 December: "Overnight attack of illness [to Baba] still continues in a listless and dull feeling, accompanied by a severe headache and pain in the back. So Baba is declining every interview Norina wants to arrange." Two general receptions had been planned by Norina, but Baba permitted only one to be held, even though he was feeling unwell. It was at the Stokeses' home on the 13th. Baba gave darshan to nearly 200 people. The upstairs library was used for the group to gather while Baba met each individual privately in a small room off to one side (where Stokes meditated). People were instructed, "No questions and no talking," and then ushered in to be with Baba who was seated in a green sofa chair. A dim, soft red light illuminated the room. Age recorded, "No one had a chance to speak to Baba, but he spoke inwardly with them, which is the true spirituality. Of what use are words and interviews when one can have the Beloved's physical touch, which all received!"
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
When William Banks and Henry Halsey built their prim, matching Federal-style homes at 88 and 90 Grove Street in 1827, Greenwich Village had just begun to attract
families from the congested New York City to the south, lured by the fresh air and open space.
The orange brick homes featured handsome doorways and paneled brownstone lintels. Wrought iron fencing protected the English basements.
Thomas A. Wilmurt and his wife, Anne K. Wilmurt, purchased No. 88 in 1862 as the Civil War was raging. Wilmurt would become well-respected as “one of the oldest picture-frame and looking-glass dealers in New York,” as characterized by The New York Times decades later. Sadly, two years after moving in, the family held the funeral for their 6-year old son Walter in the parlor.
By now the Federal style of the home was dated and the Wilmurts set about remodeling it in the contemporary and fashionable French Second Empire style. The style originated in Paris and quickly spread to the United States.
The roof was raised to accommodate a modish mansard roof with two slightly-projecting dormers. The parlor floor windows were extended to the floor, a smartly paneled cornice board was added beneath the eave and intricate iron cresting added to the roof.
Stately solid wooden double entrance doors replaced the Federal entrance on the exterior, while exquisite foyer doors with intricate acid-etched windows depicting flowers in vases were added inside. Stylish Victorian ceiling plasterwork and mantles completed the updating.
By 1880 the family had moved to 54 East 13th Street; although Wilmurt retained possession of the house, apparently renting it. Records show his taking out a 3-year, $3000 mortage on the building from the Greenwich Savings Bank on August 8, 1900.
A year later, on November 19, 1901, Herbert A. Sherman purchased the house at auction for $10,500. Sherman, a major player in New York real estate (he represented the U.S. Government in the $3.5 million sale of the Custom House site in 1899 and would later negotiate the deal for Andrew Carnegie’s 5th Avenue and 91st Street property), most likely purchased the house as a rental property.
Sherman, interestingly, went by his mother’s maiden name. The son of Edward Standish and Catherine Augusta Sherman, he was impressed that his great grandfather, Roger Sherman, had signed the Declaration of Independence.
Italian landscape architect Ferruccio Vitale bought No. 88 in 1909. He was a favorite of New York’s upper crust and designed extensive gardens for their Long Island estates, as well as numerous parks. In 1914 the Lenox Garden Club was invited to view the garden he designed for Brookside, the Great Barrington estate of Mr. and Mrs. William Hall Walker. The New York Times called it “the masterpiece of landscape planting” and said it “is considered to be one of the most sympathetic landscape treatments in formal gardens done in American and is said to have cost $250,000.”
Vitale and his wife lived here until 1915 when the “millionaire Socialist” James Graham Phelps Stokes purchased the home; next door to his sister Helen Olivia Phelps Stokes at a much-remodeled No. 90. Perhaps because of their somewhat radical political leanings, Stokes and his wife Rose eschewed the Fifth Avenue visibility of their wealthy peers in favor of Greenwich Village charm.
Although Stokes ran for several political positions as a Socialist, his wife created the most waves. The woman whom The Times once called the “storm centre
of many Socialist and Communist troubles” shocked society by distributing birth control pamphlets in front of Carnegie Hall, was convicted of “seditious utterances” and was arrested at No. 88
Grove in November 1918, charged with “illegal registration” to vote.
J. G. Stokes divorced Rose in 1925 when he discovered her “misconduct” with a hotel owner. The trial lasted 30 minutes. A year later he married Lettice Sands.
Apparently James Stokes and his sister next door got along extremely well, because doors were cut through the common walls allowing easy access between both houses. When Helen died in 1945, her brother and his wife retained her house, using both homes as a single residence. Stokes died in 1960 and Lettice in 1988.
Both homes were sold in 1996 for a total of around $2 million. Although at some point after Lettice Stokes’ death the wonderful etched glass foyer windows were removed, the rest of No. 88 was essentially intact – a Civil War period snapshot of comfortable Greenwich Village life.
The buyers commissioned architect Kathryn McGraw Berry to upgrade the buildings, including bricking up the Stokes’ communal doors between the two houses.
Facing the bucolic little triangular Grove Park, No. 88 Grove Street is a remarkable survivor of mid-century Victorian architecture.
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
my good friends lived in 88/90 Grove St. in the late 1990s when the houses were tied up in some dispute over the deed. the houses were still connected. i think there was a religious institution of some sort that the estate designated as caretaker of the properties. somehow, my friends ended up living there, rent-free, for years in exchange for looking after the house. It was magical inside...considerably dilapidated, but grand. Other than the individual rooms the two had chosen for their private apartments, the interior was unaltered. the garden was overgrown and enchanting--a favorite gathering place for a lot of young and interesting people. eventually, the deed dispute was settled and the dream was over.
According to Ed Flanagan who wrote a very comprehensive article of Meher Baba's visit to the Stokes' home he wrote in the Glow Internation magazine ( Winter 2008 p.20-21 ) that when Lettice Stokes died in late 1988 the house was to be bequeathed to the nuns at St. Vincents Hospital on 7th Street., New York.
In 1995, Ed walked past the house and met the then owners of the houses Peter & Anne Kennedy.
They hosted many celebrations at their home Baba group and had Bhau Kalchuri visiting their house on several occassions.