William H. Hurst House

by Cole Thompson

530 West 215th Street at Park Terrace East

Since moving into the neighborhood more than a decade ago, neighbors, some who’ve lived in the area for years, have asked, “What’s the deal with the beautiful bricked up building next door to the Northeastern Academy School?”

William H. Hurst house, Park Terrace East and West 215th Street, Inwood, New York City.

William H. Hurst house, Park Terrace East and West 215th Street, Inwood, New York City.

Curiosity about the history of this forgotten old building, in part, led to the creation of this very website.

When I  launched MyInwood.net, I could never have anticipated that I was sowing the seeds of a field of dreams.

Late 1920's sketch of Hurst House, Inwood, New York City.

Late 1920′s sketch of Hurst House, Inwood, New York City.

What began as a modest post that was sparse on both facts and images, blossomed into something truly beautiful as descendants of the original occupants, independently of one another, began sending in old photos, stories, documents and even century-old sketches of the building .

Not only was the history of 530 West 215th Street uncovered, but a family was reunited.

What follows is a remarkable tale straight out of Inwood…

Hurst House today (Photo by Pat Courtney)

1920′s photo from Hurst descendent JoAnn Jones (note Isham Gardens under construction in background)

If the  architecture looks institutional in style,  it should.  Built by architect James O’Connor in 1912 , the home served as the private residence of William Hurst, his wife, Minnie, and their ten children.

Minnie and William H. Hurst. (Photo courtesy of Kevin Wright who wrote into MyInwood.net: “Mr. Hurst’s daughter Theresa was my Grandmother”.

A noted architect, O’Connor graduated from Columbia University in 1898 where he earned the degree of Bachelor of Science in Architecture. The native New Yorker also studied in Paris at the Ecole de Beaux Arts before returning to the States to form his own architectural firm. During a later partnership with James F. Delaney, the two would design convents, schools and public housing projects including the Morrisania Housing project in the Bronx, the convent and  hospital building for St. Vincent’s Hospital in Greenwich Village as well as the Tuberculosis and Cancer Hospital on Roosevelt Island.  Over the course of an impressive career, which spanned the first half of the Twentieth century, O’Connor found himself the recipient of numerous architectural awards for both residential and commercial projects, including best design for his work on the Grace Steamship Lines building; once located downtown.

A specialist in the design of indoor tennis courts, O’Connor would also design private residences up and down the east coast including homes in Middleburg, Virginia,  Greenwich, Connecticut and of course the old brick  house on 215th Street designed for William H. Hurst.

William H. Hurst. (Photo courtesy of Hurst Great-Grandson Kevin Wright)

The 100 x 120 foot lot, which sat across the street from the old Seaman Mansion, was purchased  by Hurst in 1910.  A wealthy man, Hurst made his fortune as as president of the Stock Quotation Telegraph Company, which supplied stock ticker equipment to financial firms.

Stock Quotation Telegraph Company letterhead.

Stock Quotation Telegraph Company letterhead.

A year after purchasing the property, Hurst would serve as the grand jury foreman who handed down indictments in the famous Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire in which some 146 garment workers, mostly young girls, were killed.  The lethal inferno remains the deadliest industrial accident in New York City history.

Hurst real estate transfer, New York Daily Tribune, April 15, 1910.

Like the current south-north migration, Hurst moved his large family to Inwood to escape the cramped quarters of their former West 80′s townhouse.

Hurst passport application dated 1890.

Mr. and Mrs. Hurst would also require extra living quarters for their servants.

View of Hurst home in 1920′s as seen from traffic circle near current site of Bruce’s Garden.

According to the New York Times, “The 1925 census return shows him in the house with his family, four female Irish servants and Alex Setchof, a 22-year-old Russian chauffeur. All five of the staff had been in the United States for only a year.

Hurst's poodle makes the headlines.

Hurst’s poodle makes the headlines.

In 1921, a butler, James J. O’Brien, sued Hurst because he was bitten by the family poodle on the lawn while serving tea. Mr. O’Brien wanted $2,000, and said that Hurst had pressured him to settle for only $25; it is not clear how the case was resolved.

While little has been written about the lives of the Hurst family–a writer named Robert Emmet Ireton dedicated his 1909 book, A Central Bank,  to “William H. Hurst,  President of the Stock Quotation Company, Treasurer of the New York News Bureau Association, Loyal Friend and Citizen…as a Token of Esteem, Regard and Respect.”

Old newspaper clippings also tell us that  the family placed an advertisement in 1917 seeking the services of a private nurse.  Perhaps one of their ten children suffered some chronic malady?

Hurst family seeks nurse, New York Herald December 2, 1917.

Old newspaper clippings also tell us that the Hurst family lost a daughter in 1925 and that the funeral mass was held inside Good Shepherd Church, just down the street from the family home.

Hurst loses daughter, New York Timess June 20, 1925.

The family would be rocked by another tragedy when Minnie Hurst, who had mothered ten children, died in January of 1929.  Like her daughter before her, Minnie’s funeral was held at the Church of Good Shepherd.  There was likely not a dry eye in the house.

Minnie Hurst obituary- The Kingston Daily Freeman, Jan 26, 1929

Hurst himself would die less than two months after his wife’ s passing.

William Hurst Obituary, NY Times, March 25, 1929

Hurst estate settled, New York Times, September 26, 1930.

After Hurst’s death in 1929, according to the New York Times, the property was sold and the brick building, with terra cotta detailing, was converted into a convent. In 1946 the grounds were expanded to create the Garrard School of the Academy of the Sacred Heart of Mary.

Sacred Heart of Mary ad, Herald Statesman, Yonkers, March 16, 1968.

A local resident who attended the school in 1964 described life there in a neighborhood forum. “The entrance way was a grand style with black and white tiles, a crystal chandelier and symmetric winding staircases to the second floor. To the left of the staircase was a sunroom which was used as a sacristy for the chapel. On the first floor there were two sitting rooms on each side of the entrance. Opening into the lager area a chapel on the right and a classroom on the left (front hall like a T shape).

Upstairs another grand entrance way with the classrooms surrounding it. All rooms with fireplaces and sunshine. Some rooms were painted light blue and some light yellow. Mantels were white. On the third floor were the nun’s quarters. One died up there so there could be a ghost. We heard rumors of terrible things that went on up there. We had quite an imagination.

In the basement were the kitchen and a room to eat. Not a full cafeteria style. There was a nun that was one of the lesser orders of the RSHM and she was called “sister”, as opposed to “Madame” which (is what we called) the teachers.

We learned and spoke French. All prayers were in French and we had to curtsey in a sweeping style bringing one leg out in a ballet motion and bow with skirt held. Meeting a nun in the hallway to curtsey was difficult when you had a full load of books in your arms.

The school closed around 1969, and in 1974 the Northeastern Conference of Seventh-day Adventists bought the old Hurst house as well as the property next door, 532 West 215th Street, for a new school, Northeastern Academy.

1970 real estate listing for the Hurst home. (Described as a “Convent”)

Unfortunately, Mr. Hurst’s former home, which had fallen into disuse, has been bricked up since the 1980′s.  A building which harbored and nurtured generations of children now sits unused– a stately and curious reminder of another Inwood of ages past.



Author’s note: Since first posting this email several years ago I have received a slow, but steady stream of emails from descendants of William and Minnie Hurst. The emails all begin in similar fashion, “I am the great grandchild of William H. Hurst and I came across your post online.” Soon they are forwarding photos of the old house and asking for the contact information for other Hurst relatives so distant in the family tree that they have lost touch with them through the passing decades.

For me, connecting these long lost Hursts, while learning more of the history of my own neighborhood, has been a labor of love. I’m sure it has for them as well.

This latest installment of photos come from Lee Hirata, who scanned them from her grandmother’s photo album. Lee says many of the photos were dated 1915.

And the best goes on… Caleb Hurst, who contacted MyInwood,  wrote: “I am the great grandson of William H. Hurst. My grandfather was Austin Hurst, and my father was William H. Hurst.” He then followed up with this treasure trove of mostly interior shots of his great grandfather’s Inwood home.  Thank you Caleb.

Joe Gonzalez writes:  “Allow me to add yet another ancestor to your contacts!  William Hurst is my wife’s great great grandfather via his son William, Jr. and his wife Ruth Adele Johnson.  We also have some pictures to share.

Attached is a picture of Minnie Murphy Hurst, along with a picture of Minnie and William’s son, William H. Hurst, Jr. in his WWI uniform.”

Minnie Murphy Hurst from Joe Gonzalez.

William H. Hurst Jr. in WWI uniform. Note Seaman mansion in background. (Source: Joe Gonzalez)


And, Joe Gonzalez writes in again asking for help identifying family members in the below photo
: “So far, I know Austin is far left, Clare Hurst Forney is 4th from left, and her husband Adger Forney is third from left. Otherwise not 100% certain of others. Based on that familiar low stone wall, I’m guessing this was taken at the Inwood house.”

Hurst family photo from Joe Gonzalez. Can you identify anyone? Joe Writes: “So far, I know Austin is far left, Clare Hurst Forney is 4th from left, and her husband Adger Forney is third from left. Otherwise not 100% certain of others. Based on that familiar low stone wall, I’m guessing this was taken at the Inwood house.”

On June 22, 2013, after years of email correspondence, I met the descendants of William and Minnie Hurst for the very first time. Many had never seen the house before,nor had they met one another.

Hurst Family reunion, June,  22 2013.

Hurst Family reunion, June, 22 2013.

Several generations of surviving Hurst’s posed in front of the old house, “530″ they called it, and shared some family mementos they brought for the event. The day was full of emotion and I thank them for including me.

Hurst Family portrait, June 24, 1924.

Hurst Family portrait, June 24, 1924.

Children of William and Minnie Hurst. (See below sketch to find out who's who)

Children of William and Minnie Hurst. (See below sketch to find out who’s who)

Legend for previous photo: Children of William and Minnie Hurst.

Legend for previous photo: Children of William and Minnie Hurst.

{ 21 comments… read them below or add one }

Kevin Wright March 16, 2009 at 1:36 pm

Mr. Thompson,
Do you have any further information about this home and Mr. Hurst? He is my Great Grand Father and I am trying to gather information on him, thanks.

Cole Thompson March 16, 2009 at 7:13 pm

Kevin,
Thanks for writing. I`ll see what I can dig up. We should talk sometime and compare notes. Shoot me your email address again. I tried emailing you, but it bounced back. All the best..Cole.

Jane Guerra April 24, 2009 at 1:00 pm

Great photos!
Amazing – I never knew the background before the RSHM sisters had it. By the time my sisters attended in the 1960s, the nuns were called “Mothers” – by the time I got there, they were called “Sisters” – and I graduated in 1973, so I think the school remained open before the Adventists took it, through 1974. I believe ’74 was the last graduating class.

In “grammar school”, I’d attended Gerard School circa ’64 – ’66 (before returning back to GSS) – and by that time, its classes were not in the Convent anymore, but within the high school building.

My Uncle Gene & his (large) brood used to visit us during the summers, and the nuns let him park his station wagon in the parking lot – which was a huge help. I was only inside once, and just in the parlor area, so I really have no thorough description. Does anyone know who owns this house/property now?

Betty Lee December 29, 2011 at 12:31 pm

Curious that the address was 530 W. 215th St. The entrance was on PT East.

Evelyn Ruggiero January 13, 2012 at 5:27 am

I attended Gerard School from 1954-1962 before moving on to the high school until 1966. The buildings had separate addresses. The Gerard School building (former Hurst residence) was 37 Park Terrace East while the high school used the 530 address. The parlors described above that were located on each side of the entrance were definitely add ons, included in renovations to the building after the RSHM bought the property. The sun room mentioned above was part of the small upstairs kitchen adjacent to the formal dining room that was most likely used by the household staff to keep food warm before being served to the family. The formal dining room was one of my favorites with built in cabinets located in the corners and very interesting paneling. There was an area on the second floor where a wall of built in wood lockers were located. I’ve long wondered if that was the living area for the household staff since it appeared there could have once been a door that would have separated it from the rest of the floor. In 2007 I had the opportunity to take a tour of the high school building. According to the administrator Northeastern Academy the smaller building was not gutted by fire as has been reported many times over the years, but suffered only minor damage from a small fire that was confined to one room. She said they have a long range plan to renovate and reopen the building for use as their administrative offices and that work had already begun on cleaning it out. I was not permitted access to that building during my tour since there is no electricity and no one is allowed inside. It’s a pity that such a beautiful building has fallen into such disrepair.

Florence DeVaughn-Gertsen January 20, 2012 at 2:31 pm

I attended Gerard Schl for Girls for grades 1-8, 1952 until 1960. I recall the building, especially the parlors, because I would visit Mother Kevin there after school to chat or for piano lessons in the library. It is still an awesome place, and I sincerely hope they will continue to refurbish the school building. I am so glad the fire didn’t cause more damage.
If there is a fund to help with the restoration, it would be a good idea to contact those that went to school there for assistance with such funding.

Jamie McGuire March 9, 2012 at 8:03 pm

I am the great-granddaughter of William Hurst. The pictures are fantastic and am grateful to have seen them. Any other photos would be greatly appreciated. Kevin, feel free to reach out.

Mary Ellen Hurst Darnesto March 16, 2012 at 3:11 pm

Loved the pictures too, would like to reach out to Kevin. I am the grandaughter of Mr. Hurst, my father was Austin Hurst.

joann jones April 15, 2012 at 9:19 pm

My grandma was Kathryn Hurst. Some of these pictures look very familiar. I just decided to google William Hurst and Ticker tape and the link brought me here. I have their family photo somewhere. I think i have a picture of the house too, before it was a school.

Cole Thompson April 16, 2012 at 10:25 am

Joann,

Thank you so much for writing in. If you have other photos or family
stories please share.

Thus far, five great grandchildren have written in regarding the post.

That goes for any other Hurst’s out there. I’d love to see the old home in its original glory.

Cole Thompson
646 425 0093
colethompson1@gmail.com

Dhalgren May 1, 2012 at 1:55 pm

Fantastic post! I have joked about how I would love to see the Hurst house demolished and replaced by a condo tower with GWB views. But now knowing the history, I’d love to see it sold and restored to its former glory. $300K in 1929? It would be at least $5 Million today, considering the restoration would be another $5-$10 million. Someday.

Evelyn Ruggiero June 13, 2012 at 11:57 am

These latest photos are an incredible find. Seeing how both the interior and exterior of the house looked when the Hurst Family lived there has been an amazing experience for me. Demolishing it would be a tremendous disservice to the history of Inwood since it is the last of the mansions still standing. Of course I never appreciated the beautiful construction as a child in school there and seeing it in its present state is heartbreaking. These pictures make everything about the building so much more real and show in vivid detail how it was originally used. I hope to see more added to the collection in the future.

Kelly Varanay June 28, 2012 at 7:53 pm

I’m so happy you put this up! I’m the great-great-grand daughter of William H. Hurst; my great-grandmother was Clare Forney. It’s so nice to learn about my family’s past!

Bianca July 9, 2012 at 5:34 pm

Me and my daughter love walking up the 215th steps and enjoy a stroll from time to time in this area and every single time I don’t ever fail to wonder of the history behind this abandoned building. I will definitely share with friends.

Thank you!!

Dolores Rush Hippler July 21, 2012 at 1:09 pm

As a former student of Gerard School (1958 to 1966) and SHM (1966 to 1970), I have many exceedingly fond memories of these two buildings.

I, too, hope the Hurst Mansion is returned to its former glory and that I can one day visit this old friend. In the meantime, thank you for sharing all of this wonderful information with me – and others like me – for whom this is such a special place.

Evelyn Strobel Ruggiero July 21, 2012 at 3:28 pm

I am so grateful to the Hurst Family for sharing their precious photos of this beautiful home as it looked before I came to know it in 1954. It was stunning and wonderful to be able to see it when it was a home as opposed to a school. I can’t tell you how thrilled I am to see new pictures appear on this site. So much is exactly the same as it was when I attended school there, but seeing it as it was intended has been a thrilling experience. Restoring it would be a dream come true. It never, ever should have been allowed to fall into decay as it is now. Thank you so much for bringing my memories of this beautiful building back to life.

Shannon August 21, 2012 at 7:02 pm

Is there anyway to see the inside of this home. I leave near it and see it all the time. Who do you ask?

Shannon

Jacqueline M Woods nee Behlmer September 15, 2012 at 11:39 am

I attended Sacred Heart of Mary’s from 1943 to 1947 when I graduated.
It seems like yesterday.
I keep in touch with a close friend and fellow graduate -June McAvoy.
Gosh, it is only 65 years ago. Are there any of you gals still active?
If so, please write: eandjwoods50@yahoo.com
My best to all and in friendship,
Jackie Woods, nee Behlmer

Chris September 24, 2012 at 4:45 am

I remember the fire. I think is was around 1990 or so. I live on 215th and Indian Road and went up to see what all the commotion was about. I still remember the FDNY using a heavy duty saw to cut open the front entrance to access the house. I also believe it was arson. Some neighborhood kids got in and set the fire. I’m going to research this and see if I can find some archives.

Mary Ellen Hurst May 8, 2013 at 1:43 pm

Hi Cole,

I am one of the Hurst decendents and I wanted to thank you for your article on my grandfather’s house and putting me in touch with other Hurst decendents. Through them I was able to locate my 1/2 sister Mary Margaret and got to meet her. Unfortunately she has now passed away but it was a wonderful visit and a memory I will cherish. Thank you again for being the catalyst.

Mary Darnesto

Valerie Waite Keating June 21, 2013 at 11:00 am

I attended the Gerard School in the same class as Dolores Hippler (see above). It was a beautiful, if imposing, place. I believe we called the younger nuns Madame, the older nuns Mother but a few years later when their habits changed, we began to call them Sister. Never really understood why. Many fond and daunting memories of this lovely school that had so many traditions and, while we often spent as many hours in Glee Club as in formal classes – we were certainly the best versed and the best dressed kids around – which resulted in a lot of teasing from the Good Shepherd kids (who formed all of my neighborhood pals). So much more to reminisce about.
Thank you for bringing all this wonderful information to our attention.

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