Select Page

134-136 Bowery

About this listing

Historic houses associated with Abolitionist Movement

Place Details

Borough : Manhattan
Neighborhood : Lower East Side
Residential, Social Movements, Residential

Place Matters Profile


1 New York Historical Society Library: Delaplaine Family Papers (MS 161) Box 2, Folder 1

2 Minutes from the Common Council City of New York July 6,1795 p.161. The 1797 Taylor-Roberts Map depicting the cemetery, “Manhattan in Maps: 1527-1995” Paul E. Cohen and Robert Augustyn, p. 94.

3 “Longworth’s American Almanac, New York Register and City Directory 1825”

4 “Publishers, Printers, Lithographers, and Dealers” published by W.F. Bartlett NY 1860. Longworth’s American Almanac, New York Register and City Directory. James Shaw Books and Circulating Library 1830’s, George B. Powell Books and Circulating Library/Franklin Circulating Library 1840’s. L.H. Embree and Effingham Embree Books, Stationers, and Printers 1850’s/60’s. Effingham Embree was a member of the Manumission Society and his father Lawrence was one of the founders of it in the late 1700’s. Periodically L.H. (Lewis) Embree would live in the Boarding House of Lucy Gilpin at 136 Bowery and 134 Bowery. Eliza Embree, widow of Effingham would reside in the 136 Bowery Boardinghouse (1850 census, Household 710).

5 Ferris Family Papers-Swarthmore College. The Ferris family was related to the Delaplaine family through the Zane family. Esther Zane was the Grandmother of Samuel Delaplaine. The Ferris family was also related to the Gilpin family (Lucy Page Gilpin widow of George Gilpin). There are also possible links to the Pell family. In particular is Series 2, which contains correspondence and writing of Benjamin Ferris concerning the separation of the Society of Friends in 1827/28. “Ferris was at the center of the controversy and served as first clerk of the Hicksite branch of Philadelphia Yearly Meeting.” Charlotte Delaplaine, daughter of Samuel and Phila is listed as a Hicksite Quaker as well as a Presbyterian member along with Phila Amelia Delaplaine, granddaughter and her husband David Sage Williams, of the Brick Church in New York (Delaplaine Family papers, MS 161, Box 1 folder 11, New York Historical Society). The Brick Church was a firebombing target in the 1834 riots.

6 “Work Among Men” Carmel Chapel 1872. “The YMCA at 150-A History of the YMCA of greater New York 1852-2002”, Pamela Bayless. Page 218. Photo of 134 Bowery 1872 courtesy of Pamela Bayless and Minda Novek.

7 Brooklyn Museum, Artist’s Registry


Mitchell Grubler

This pair of rare, surviving, early Federal-era houses is part of the small collection of 18th-century buildings remaining in the City of New York. The 3 ½ story houses still exhibit steeply pitched roofs with Flemish-bond brickwork. A simple molded cornice appears at the top of the façade.

134 Bowery was built circa 1798 as a free-standing house with independent walls. The original pedimented dormers remain on the steeply-pitched roof, which also displays a large gable-end chimney. A shed dormer was added between the two original dormers at a later date.

At 136 Bowery, twin gabled dormers on the steeply pitched roof display round-arched window surrounds.

The Delaplaine family of 134-136 Bowery was involved in Anti-Slavery activities over a period of more than two centuries. First, the property owner Samuel Bustell Delaplaine and Phila Pell Delaplaine in the 1700’s, and then their daughter Charlotte, and granddaughter Phila Amelia in the 1800’s. The tradition follows throughout the Delaplaine ownership of the houses and beyond, including the Carmel Chapel, the New York Mission and the YMCA.

The historic houses at 134-136 Bowery are now documented to be significantly associated with the Anti-Slavery Movement beginning at the end of the 18th Century. They meet the established qualifications to be deemed of most important historic value through documented connections. Four aspects of Abolitionist activity are considered historically meaningful:

A building in which there were papers artifacts, libraries, printers, and/or publishers working for the cause of abolitionism.

A building in which an active, renowned abolitionist lived.

A place where abolitionists met to work together and exchange ideas.

The use of a building as either a safe house where runaways were integrated into the community, or a hiding place, which was temporary.

A. While living in his Bowery property, now known as136 Bowery, Samuel Delaplaine wrote an Anti-Slavery Manifesto in 1793. (1)

B. Still living at 136 Bowery in 1795, Samuel and his wife Phila Delaplaine were so committed to the plight of the Negro that they donated property they owned nearby for a Negro Cemetery. (2)

C. The Reverend Spencer H. Cone, a recognized and important abolitionist Minister of the Oliver Street Baptist Church, lived in 136 Bowery from 1823 through 1825. (3)

D. From the 1830s to the 1860s, the Delaplaine family rented spaces in 134 Bowery to circulating libraries, printers, publishers and booksellers who promoted abolitionist materials. (4)

E. The Ferris family, who married into to the Delaplaine family, maintained ongoing contact with fellow abolitionists William Lloyd Garrison and Isaac T. Hopper during the period that Garrison and Hopper were sheltering run-away slaves in area boardinghouses such as the one at 134-136 Bowery. (5)

F. Beginning in 1872, one of the first YMCAs in New York City was housed at 134 Bowery, together with the Carmel Chapel and the NYC Mission. This group of organizations served the indigent population that began to gravitate to the Bowery following the Civil War “…without respect to country, creed, color, sex, or age, and through its various instrumentalities reaches hundreds of thousands of all classes.” (6)

In addition, another important historical association is that 134 Bowery was the home and studio of renowned sculptor Eva Hesse (b.1936) from 1965 until her death in 1970. (7)

Although listed in the Bowery National Register Historic District, these rare survivors are not protected from demolition or inappropriate alteration because they are not designated as New York City landmarks. In the rapidly gentrifying Bowery area, they are extremely threatened as witnessed by the recent demolitions and new developments next door and across the street.

Share This Listing

Place Matters is a project of:
Place Matters c/o City Lore
56 E. First Street
New York, NY 10003
© Place Matters. All Rights Reserved.
Website by Echo