Tuesday, May 22, 2018

The Previous Life of the House Now Gone

Since discovering on Sunday that 13 Worth Avenue had been demolished, I've learned more about the house's recent past and its more distant past. People living in the neighborhood say the house has been vacant since 2005. Tax records confirm that it was the victim of a bank foreclosure and had become what is known as a "zombie house." 

The demolition took place on Wednesday, May 16. Neighbors speculate that the unfounded rumor Worth Avenue was to become a historic district caused the owner to accelerate plans for razing the building. Craig Haigh, code enforcement officer, thinks if he did speed up his plans it was because the house was "racking up code violations." A new house is to be constructed in the footprint of the original house. Some sources say it will something modern with "lots of glass." Whatever is to be, I set out to discover what I could about the history of the house that came to such a regrettable end. Here's what I've learned so far.

The house does not appear on the 1873 Beers Atlas map (reproduced above), but the City of Hudson tap records indicate that 13 Worth Avenue was hooked up to the city water supply on October 23, 1875. At that time the house, which apparently had only recently been built, was owned by Mary A. McKinstry, or Mary Ann McKinstry. With invaluable help from Ruth Piwonka, I found that Mary Ann McKinstry, who was born in 1802, was the niece of Robert McKinstry. Robert and his wife, Sally, lived in the house at Union and Seventh streets that became the Home for the Aged.

Sally McKinstry was the founder of the Hudson Orphan Asylum, and Robert served in many civic capacities, among them mayor of Hudson from 1837 to 1838 and throughout his life as a trustee of the Universalist Society. Sally died in 1862, Robert in 1870. In his will, Robert left an annuity of $75 to "my niece Mary Ann McKinstry daughter of my brother John McKinstry decreased during her natural life."

An ad for an auction, which appeared in the Hudson Daily Star for April 24, 1874, is the earliest evidence I've found linking Mary Ann McKinstry with 13 Worth Avenue.

It's not known whose belongings she was selling. Perhaps, at the age of 72, she had moved into the new and relatively small house on Worth Avenue from a larger house and was doing what today we would call down-sizing.

Mary Ann McKinstry died on July 5, 1879. In her will, she left the house and all its contents to her sister Eliza Decker and Eliza's daughter Helen Miller. Both mother and daughter appear to have been widows at the time.

Interestingly, Augustus McKinstry, Robert McKinstry's nephew who was his executor and heir, was also the executor of his cousin Mary Ann's will.  

Eliza Decker and Helen Miller seem never to have lived in the house. The census for 1880 shows them living at 15 South Fifth Street. The census for that year indicates the residents of 13 Worth Avenue were Mathias Milham, his wife, Emily, and their son Harrold. Milham, whose occupation according to the 1880 census was "Clerk in Store," likely did not own the house. Two years later, in 1882, the Hudson city directory lists Milham, now a partner in a shoe store at 291 Warren Street called Leggett & Milham, living at 415 Warren Street. (These building numbers were before the numbering system changed. Today, 291 Warren Street is 535, and 415 Warren Street in 813.) 

In September 1888, another ad for an auction at 13 Worth Avenue appeared in the Hudson Evening Register. Who was living in the house at the time is not known.

In the beginning of the 20th century, the house was owned by Seymour Vincent. The Hudson city directory for 1901 lists Vincent's occupation as "fresco painter." Ads such as the one below, which appeared in the Hudson Evening Register in May 1911, as well as census records, reveal that Vincent was a house painter.

Seymour Vincent and his wife, Maria, lived at 13 Worth Avenue with their six children throughout the first two decades of the 20th century. In July 1914, the Evening Register reported that their youngest son Lee, then 15, was "spending his vacation at Apple Tree Villa in South Cairo." In November 1916, the Columbia Republican reported that the Dutch Reformed Church was planning a weekend of revival meetings to be preceded by "several neighborhood prayer meetings." One of those prayer meetings was to be held "at the home of Mrs. Vincent, 13 Worth avenue."

Seymour Vincent died in April 1921. Maria Vincent died on Christmas Day 1924. What happened next for the house is not known, but in December 1937, the Kinderhook Advertiser reported that 13 Worth Avenue had been purchased at auction by Melvin W. Simmons, the "former Cemetery Commissioner." Simmons, who lived at 40 Worth Avenue, apparently bought the house as an investment property. 

In February 1942, the Evening Register reported that a daughter had been born to Mr. and Mrs. Donald Smith of 13 Worth Avenue. On April 20, 1944, the Hudson Register reported that eleven men who had been classified 2-B by the local draft board had been reclassified 1-A. One of those men was Raymond John Steliz of 13 Worth Avenue.

The last reference to 13 Worth Avenue discovered in old newspapers is a report from the Chatham Courier for July 17, 1951, that Alice Brenzel, wife of deputy sheriff Arthur Brenzel, who resided at 13 Worth Avenue, was to be the matron at the Columbia County jail.


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