The big white house on the corner of Stuyvesant Avenue and Bainbridge Street in Stuyvesant Heights is one of the most beautiful on this street of fine townhouses and large mansions. In Part 1 we learned who built it. In Part 2 it was home to the Sutton family, torn apart by the miserable marriage of Francis and Louise Sutton. The house was a casualty of the dissolution of their union, and by 1919 had passed into new hands. Our story continues:
This story is also about two remarkable sisters, pioneers who chose to spend their lives helping women and girls in need of support and care.
The house at 139 Bainbridge Street was built in 1903 by developer William Clayton for an upscale buyer. The architect was Axel Hedman. He designed a house with all of the most modern amenities of the day. Please check out Part 1 of our story for the details. The house was purchased by exporter Francis M. Sutton, who lived there with his wife Louise and their three children. But this was not a happy home. Next, read Part 3 of this story.
In 1912 Louise Sutton filed for a divorce from her husband of 19 years. The story made the front page of the Brooklyn Eagle on February 20, 1912.
In Part 1 we met Edward B. Coombs and George H. Nason, the last elected coroners of the independent City of Brooklyn. Coroners did not have to be pathologists back then. They were elected officials who presided over inquests into suspicious deaths and billed by the case. These public officials found themselves on the wrong end of a corruption scandal in 1897, and by 1898, Coombs was on trial for fraud. Our story continues:
As Edward Coombs’ fraud trial continued, the jury heard damning testimony about faked invoices and inquests. Coombs, with the help of trusted subordinates, had fabricated records for over a hundred inquests that had never occurred.
Read Part 2 of this story.
If you are a fan of procedural cop shows, you are no doubt familiar with the character of the coroner or medical examiner. Since the days of “Quincy, M.E.,” we have grown to love the crusty and quirky personalities tasked with investigating the deaths of thousands of people in a given city.
Inventor and business giant Thomas E. Murray died in 1929, just as the world was about to suffer through the Great Depression. He left his large family over $11 million, and a personal and company portfolio of over 1,100 patents. The story of his life, his family and his businesses can be found in Part 1 and Part 2 of this story.
Following Murray’s death, his eldest son, Thomas Jr., became company president, and the work at the factory at 1250 Atlantic Avenue in Crown Heights went on.
Brooklynite Thomas E. Murray was one of America’s greatest inventors. A colleague of Thomas Edison and the holder of 462 patents, Murray was responsible for developing much of the electrical technology we enjoy today. Electric signs? T.E. Murray. The dimmer switch? T.E. Murray. The designs for the power plants that bring us the power we take for granted? Yes, those were Murray, too. His base of operations was in Crown Heights, where he had his factory and his home. Part 1 of our story tells of his early days, his family, and his business ventures. Next, read Part 3 of this story.
In the spring of 1920, Murray was given an honorary Doctor of Science degree by Villanova University in Pennsylvania. He must have been thrilled, since he’d been a working man supporting his family since the age of 10, and had never had the opportunity to attend high school, let along college. His success was a testament to hard work, self-improvement, and genius.
Pretty 16 year old housemaid Barbara Gronenthal was dead, and her boyfriend, James Walsh killed her. Now he was in jail, awaiting his murder trial. Would he end up like his older brother, sentenced to Sing Sing Prison, or, as we learned in the last chapter, would his fate also match his brother’s – death?
James Walsh sat in Brooklyn’s Raymond Street Jail alone and friendless. His mother, Catherine Duffy, came to visit him once, and left shortly thereafter, weeping bitterly. The guards told reporters that James would be calm and quiet in his cell, and then suddenly rage and throw himself at the bars. He also liked the prison food, which in their estimation proved he was insane.
This is the story of two poor families in Brooklyn and a terrible crime. In the Part 1, we met one of the ne’er-do-well Walsh boys and his sweetheart, 16-year-old Barbara Gronenthal, who worked as a maid for a well-off family in Bedford in 1881. Next, read Part 3.
Barbara was eager to please her employer, the Carlisle family. They lived in a four story Neo-Grec brownstone on a quiet block filled with similar houses, part of the great building frenzy that had overtaken Brooklyn.