Posts Tagged ‘Beekman Place NYC’

Why Manhattan has two streets named Beekman

October 12, 2020

For such a small strip of land, Manhattan has a lot of duplicated street names. Think Jones Street and Great Jones Street, Washington Street and Washington Place, and Greenwich Street and Greenwich Avenue.

But there’s one shared street name that’s always been a curiosity: Beekman. Beekman Street lies south of City Hall near the South Street Seaport, while Beekman Place is a residential enclave between 49th and 51st Streets by the East River.

Beekman Street, south of City Hall Park

Both Beekmans are slender roads on the East Side, with Beekman Street running three blocks and Beekman Place two. Beekman Street has a rougher mix of 19th century walkups and 1970s-style buildings, while Beekman Place is a posh lane of charmingly restored townhouses and elegant apartment buildings.

Who were the Beekmans, and how did their family name end up in two places on the Manhattan street map?

Beekman Street is the older of the two, named after Wilhelmus Beeckman (right), “who came to New Netherlands with Peter Stuyvesant and became prominent,” states A Landmark History of New York. At some point after arriving in 1647, Beeckman anglicized his name to William Beekman and bought a vast farm, and then another, where Beekman Street sits today.

Beekman Street itself may have started out as a cow path on Beekman’s farm leading to today’s City Hall Park—a community pasture known as the Commons in the 17th century.

William Beekman was just 21 when he relocated to New Amsterdam. He became socially and politically popular, serving as sheriff, burgomaster, and then deputy mayor and acting mayor, both under British rule.

Beekman Place, Turtle Bay

He had many descendants who made their own name in the growing city. One, great-grandson James Beekman, is the namesake of Beekman Place.

Born in 1732, James Beekman (below right) was a wealthy merchant who built a mansion he called Mount Pleasant on an estate centered at today’s First Avenue and 51st Street.

James Beekman’s mansion served as a country respite for his wealthy family from the increasingly crowded city center.

But during the Revolutionary War, Mount Pleasant had some new residents: British generals, who made it their military headquarters. (Nathan Hale was also supposedly hanged here, but that’s a piece of history still in dispute.)

When the war ended, the Beekman family returned to Mount Pleasant; they stayed until 1834, driven away by a cholera epidemic, according to a 1977 New York Times article.

After the mansion was demolished two decades later, the Beekmans created a new street running through the former estate and sold lots to developers.

Brownstones replaces the mansion, but by the late 19th century, “the Beekman Place brownstones were abandoned to the poor, many of whom worked in the packing houses, slaughterhouses and coalyards along the East River,” states the Times.

Beekman Place’s restored townhouses

“The wealthy, drawn largely by the river setting, began to reclaim the neighborhood in the 1920’s.” This is the Beekman Place that remains with us today: quiet, hidden, and with some of the most expensive real estate in the city.

[Third image: Wikipedia; sixth image: MCNY 95.76.3; seventh image: Wikipedia]

A piece of cord busts a 1936 Manhattan murderer

January 7, 2013

BeekmanplacemurderOn April 10th, 1936, Nancy Titterton, a 34-year-old writer and book reviewer, was found dead in the empty bathtub in her apartment at 22 Beekman Place.

She’d been raped and strangled, her body left unclothed except for a pair of rolled-down stockings. The pajamas she’d worn the night before were wrapped around her neck.

The murder made headlines because it was so brutal. “There were signs of a struggle in the bedroom,” wrote Michael Kurland, author of Irrefutable Evidence: A History of Forensic Science.

Beekmanplace“Ligature marks on the victim’s wrists indicated that she had been tied up before she was raped, but the rope had apparently been cut off and taken away.”

Adding to the media fascination was the fact that Titterton was known in literary circles; her husband was an NBC bigwig.

Also, crimes so vicious just didn’t happen on posh Beekman Place, a two-block residential enclave in the East 50s (above photo).

Luckily police had evidence to work with. Underneath Titterton’s body in the bathtub was a 13-inch cord, similar to the cord of a Venetian blind.

They traced the cord to a Pennsylvania upholstery wholesaler. It just so happened that the two men who discovered Titterton’s body were from a local upholstery shop; they were delivering a couch to the apartment.

Fiorenza Leaves for Death HouseOne of the delivery men, the shop’s owner, was cleared. The other, a 24-year-old assistant named John Fiorenza, had spent time in prison for theft, where a psychiatrist labeled him a possible psychopath.

Police brought Fiorenza in for questioning. He admitted to raping and murdering Titterton, who he’d met the day before when he came to her apartment to pick up the couch.

“He claimed to have returned to the apartment convinced that Nancy Titterton had fallen for him during their brief encounter the day before,” wrote Kurland.

“When she rebuffed him, he became so furious he tied her up and raped her. . . . Afterward, he had strangled her and left her in the bathtub.”

Convicted of murder in a trial that started six weeks after the slaying, Fiorenza (at right, the morning of his execution) went to the electric chair at Sing Sing in January 1937.