30 April 2010

Ghosts, Mistresses, Speakeasies

No. 12 Gay Street needs a little work. The beautiful old Federal-style house has wood over some of its broken windows and, according to red sign on the door, no interior floors!

Perhaps its distressed state is do to the wild life it's led. In the 1920s, adulterous Mayoral sex was had here. Mayor "Gentleman" Jimmy Walker placed his very public actress mistress Betty Compton in this house. He lived at nearby No. 6 St. Luke's Place. "Honey," said Jimmy to his wife, "I'm going to take the dog for a walk." One hour later...

I wonder if the prominent lantern on the outside of the building was Walker's cheeky way of showing this was an unofficial Mayoral residence. In those days, Mayors' home were adorned with two lanterns (as Walker's St. Luke's Place home still is). 

This metal arch in the street-level gate made me wonder if the address' basement level was ever a place a business. Possible. Some accounts say that, during Prohibition, 12 Gay Street house a speakeasy called Pirate's Den. Often speakeasies cropped up exactly where bars used to be.
More weirdness followed when Frank Paris, the puppeteer who created Howdy Doody, lived here. Paris saw a ghost. Actually three, including a man wearing a black cape, vest and top hat. Sounds like Jack the Ripper to me.  

The DOB issued a stop work order on the property on Sept. 15, 2009, when the facade was seen to crack during some permit-free construction work. The work was also causing surrounding buildings to shake. As we say in preservation circles: Not good.


mingusal said...

Isn't this right next door to the also ill-starred My Sister Eileen/Wonderful Town house?

Brooks of Sheffield said...

It is indeed, my friend. Gay Street is jam-packed with history. The legendary lawyer William Kunstler lived across the street. Mary McCarthy lived on the corner.