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The May King Van Rensselaer House -- No. 134 E 95th Street

In the first decades following the Civil War, Manhattan’s wealthiest residents commissioned custom built mansions along or near Fifth Avenue. Recognizing their prospective customers, even speculative developers were more likely to erect single lavish homes here than rows of identical structures.

But on the east side of Fourth Avenue (later renamed Park) things were different. As was the case on the opposite side of Central Park, developers snatched up stretches of real estate and erected rows of homes—and while they were not always carbon copies; they were nonetheless harmonious. Such was the case with John and William Walsh.

On January 29, 1887 the Real Estate Record & Builders’ Guide reported that “William J. and John P. C. Walsh intend to erect twelve homes on the south side of Ninety-fifth street, 100 feet east of Fourth avenue, from plans by C. Abbot French.” The newspaper added that they would be “Queen Anne private residences.”

And indeed they were. Stretching from No. 116 to 138 East 95th Street, French’s fanciful homes included all the expected bells and whistles of the Queen Anne style—offset entrances, stained glass, carved decoration, creative brickwork and projecting bays. Like so many of the architects working on the opposite side of the island, French created a unified set of structures related by visual similarities; yet no two identical.

Among the row was No. 134. While it lacked some of the more exuberant decoration of its neighbors, it was nonetheless eye-catching, mostly because of the oval hallway window above the doorway. Outlined in skinny brick, it featured the many panes of the Queen Anne style and rested comfortably in a carved brownstone stand.

French’s use of brownstone and red brick resulted in a subtle two-tone scheme. His playful treatment of the stoop resulted in the entrance stairs spilling down to a porch two steps above the sidewalk, then sweeping to the side in a gentle curve.

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