With the festive season around the corner, you may be wondering if your house is right for the spirited entertaining of your dreams. If not, here’s a house that already has some holiday party bona fides, its period charm-filled spaces once the scene of 1930s yule-tide revelry.
The history of the house on the market at 119 North Broadway in Irvington starts well before that time, in the 1850s.
In the early 19th century, Irvington, a town set on the eastern banks of the Hudson River, would have been known as Dearman. In 1854, the town changed its name to honor author Washington Irving — who was still living nearby at his estate, Sunnyside. It’s possible that not long after that name change the house at 119 North Broadway was built near the intersection of Sunnyside Lane. The listing doesn’t go into much detail on the history of the house, other than to give it a construction date of 1856.
According to “History of Westchester County, New York From Its Earliest Settlement to the Year 1900,” Irvington had a population of 599 by 1860, with a railroad station and two churches. An 1868 map of Irvington shows a scattering of houses and large estates near the intersection of North Broadway and Sunnyside Lane.
A resident of Irvington dished about the good old days of the town in a speech published in The Irvington Gazette in 1923, going into minute detail of who lived where in the 1870s. Jennie Prince Black (identified in print as Mrs. Henry V.D. Black) walked readers up and down Broadway with a seemingly crystal clear memory of the houses and people. Even taken with a grain of salt, her memory does seem to line up with maps of the time. She mentions the Irvington parsonage across from the Fogg House and next to the Hotchkiss house, all names that match up with an 1872 map of the area. The parsonage was occupied by “Dr. and Mrs. Sawyer and their charming family.”
Based on her memories, historic maps from 1868 to 1931 and ownership information turned up in newspapers of the time, it is possible that the house was originally built as the parsonage of the Irvington Presbyterian Church. According to a history of the church written in 1903, a parsonage was built in the 1850s near the intersection of North Broadway and Sunnyside Lane and was used by the church until 1900. In 1917, the Irvington Gazette reported that the old parsonage was sold to Walter N. Walker who planned “an immediate renovation” of the house. The address of the house was recorded in the newspaper variously as 113 and 119 North Broadway.
According to the reports in the Irvington Gazette, Walker rented the house out over the years until finally selling the house of “English stucco” for $35,000 to George T. Dexter in 1925. The new owner planned his own improvements and the paper noted just a few months later that the work made the house “the equal of the other many fine residences nearby.” Sadly, Dexter died rather suddenly and, after sitting on the market for a few years, the paper reported in 1929 that the former Dexter home was bought by Frederic Carter.
Which brings us to the fabulous holiday parties. Frederic and Betty Carter purchased 119 North Broadway in 1929 and the property would stay in their family until the 1990s.
At the time of the purchase, the couple, married in 1921, had three young sons. Frederic, after an education at Yale and service in World War I, became a stockbroker but was also an accomplished organist. This was a combo considered unusual enough that a 1930 Yonkers Statesman article about his upcoming concert was headlined “Business Man Concert Artist.” Frederic had been active in the music scene while at Yale, including as a member of the legendary Whiffenpoofs, and once he and Betty moved to Irvington he got involved with the Irvington Presbyterian Church, playing the organ and conducting the choir.
While Frederic made the local newspapers for his music, both he and Betty were frequently mentioned in the 1930s for the holiday parties they hosted in their new home, sometimes called Sunnyslope in the papers. By 1939, the Daily News of Tarrytown was referring to their festive party as “one of the traditional functions of this locality.”
While the house has had some modernization since the Carter family lived there, its got plenty of period charm and the current owners have embraced the centuries of history with some stylistic nods to the various eras of alterations. They have also embraced some fairly fabulous reproduction 19th century wallpaper.
A new owner could also choose to embrace the history of the house by using the first floor for neighborhood entertaining like the Carter family. They held their first holiday party in 1929, the year they moved in, and a party was perhaps needed to boost the spirits after the market crashed that October. That party made a big enough splash that it got a write-up in the Buffalo Courier Express. The paper noted that the house was “banked with holly and mistletoe and Christmas greens” for the shindig and the merriment, which would have spread through this living room, included a “wassail bowl parade” with a board head’s held aloft, a flaming plum pudding and a guest dressed as King Wenceslas.
They seem to have upped the entertainment for their 1930 party, according to the Irvington Gazette — the “yuletide entertainment” included a violinist, a pianist, soloists and group singing. The long list of notable guests included Jennie Prince Black herself, along with her husband Henry.
There are plenty of fireplaces for the lighting of logs (yule or not), with six shown in the listing photos. There looks to be a mix of Colonial Revival wood mantels and some 19th century marble mantels, like the one in the dining room.
There’s another in a small front parlor, next to the dining room.
Off the dining room is a butler’s pantry with plenty of cabinetry and a reproduction of designer Candace Wheeler‘s honeybee wallpaper from 1881.
The eat-in kitchen has been updated, but with a sympathetic nod to vintage style.
There are six bedrooms spread out on the upper two floors.
Not all of the bedrooms are wallpapered, but those that are have reproduced or period-inspired papers.
There are five full and three half baths, according to the listing. Two full baths are pictured and both have modern showers, vintage-style sinks and claw foot tubs.
Downstairs there is plenty of room to stock up on wine for your festive events.
If you run out of room inside for all those party guests that want to stay over, the property includes a carriage house with a studio apartment above.
If you want more history, it’s an easy walk from the property to Washington Irving’s Sunnyside; the historic house is open for tours from May to November. To get a bit further away it’s less than a mile drive from the property to downtown Irvington and the train station with MetroNorth access to the city.
The house is listed for $2.2 million by Rebekah Fiorito of Coldwell Banker Residential Broker.
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