You Might Drop a Thing or Two If You Were 132!
By Caitlin Hawke
On October 4th right around the morning exodus, neighbors were roused by some facade drama when a keystone from the quirky but adored Townsend house at 302 W. 102nd Street hit the sidewalk. Hard. Splintering in heart-wrenching chunks across the tree-well area. Having chipped a front tooth, I know the feeling, old girl.
Terence Hanrahan had a front row seat across the way in his home where he saw firefighters stabilizing the remaining masonry, and he took some of these shots. Now, of course, a sidewalk bridge has gone up. But I sure hope our Brick Dame will be restored quickly.
Online reports - either the West Side Rag or DNA Info -- mentioned vibrations that perhaps had jarred the keystone loose. But this house is a tough cookie; she withstood a lot worse over her 132 year life. If you scroll down, you'll see a shot of the Queen Anne style house when it was brand new and sat in the lot 25 feet south of W. 102nd Street (before 855 West End Avenue was built). It sat right on the "avenue." Then it was but a two-story house consisting solely of the current second and third floors which you will see in the side-by-side photos -- they superimpose perfectly! That old circa 1888 shot came to me by way of Hedy Campbell who acquired it from a longtime Bloomingdaler Marilyn Buckland.
Built in 1884, the Ralph S. Townsend house sat on West End (depicted in the black and white photos below) until 1893 when it was moved to its current site at 302 W. 102nd Street by Clara Delafield. And there it has sat for a century and a quarter.
Alas, the beautiful brick lady is missing a tooth now. But she's got good bones, that we know. To my way of thinking, she's the Maggie Smith of Bloomingdale, and she darn well better outlive us one and all.
Come wander by some day and behold her beauty!