Research

Motivation

Fascinated by tales from his grandmother about his great uncle Harold Deal, author Hal Holbrook set out to find out all he could about his namesake. As a young man Hal’s grandmother gave him a framed water color of ‘Causeway-Boston’ by Harold while he attended MIT. Accompanying the painting was Harold’s certificate of membership to the Architectural Society of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. After graduating from MIT, and a brief stint as an architect in Boston, Harold worked for the prestigious architectural firm of York & Sawyer in New York City.

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Visits to NYC

Author Hal’s curiosity and research for the story included two trips from his Oregon home to NYC.

“The research in New York took me to the actual addresses of the former York & Sawyer offices on 5th Avenue which occupied the 8th floor of a building along with other architectural firms. This building was renovated recently and now offers general office rental spaces. I also sought out and found Harold’s and Mae’s Brooklyn residence location which has been renovated as a larger area to accommodate a Duane Reade (chain) drug store. Looking around the area there were numerous residential brick buildings of the same age and architectural style where Harold and his wife (Mae) lived in Flatbush.”

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Historical Calamities

• World War I — 1917 – 1921
• Train Wreck — NYC — Malbone Street subway train accident — 1918
• Spanish Influenza Pandemic — 1918 -1919
• Terrorist Attack – called the first terrorist attack in U.S. (Wall Street bank bombing) 1920
• Sepsis – deadly bacterial infection before antibiotics and modern medical treatment

The many woes facing NYC and the world in general between 1917-1921 in this story includes WWI. Also the worldwide Spanish Influenza Pandemic in 1918-1919 took the lives of 20 to 40 million people, making it the most devastating epidemic in recorded history. Another malady in the story is the deadly bacterial infection known as Sepsis.

In 1920 there what is considered to be the first terrorist attack in the United States. The Wall Street bombing outside a bank building killed thirty people straightaway. More died later and over one hundred were injured. The crime has not been solved.

Also in November of 1918 a commuter train left the tracks in Brooklyn. The Malbone Street subway train wreck is the worst railway accident in the history of the New York City transit system. Over 90 people were killed and many more injured. The Malbone Street name was changed to Empire Boulevard.

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Other Research Points of Interest

The establishment of York & Sawyer Architectural firm in NYC in 1898 — Edward York and Philip formed the York & Sawyer partnership. Both trained in the office of McKim, Mead, and White and eventually shared occupancy within the same 5th Avenue office building.

York & Sawyer produced many distinct structures within the city at a time the NYC skyline was being formed. Their style was Beaux-Arts architecture which drew from French neoclassicism and incorporated Gothic and Renaissance elements.

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Some of York & Sawyer’s notable NYC projects and elsewhere:

Rockefeller Hall (Vassar College in Poughkeepsie NY, 85 miles from NYC)
The Chemists’ Club – NYC (now Dylan Hotel)
New York Historical Society
Brooklyn Trust Company
U.S. Assay Office Building (Financial District)
The Federal Reserve Bank of New York
Bowery Savings Bank (historical building of Italian Romanesque now used for weddings and other events)
Greenwich Savings Bank (Broadway—now the Haier Building)
Transportation Building (Broadway)
Brick Presbyterian Church
Herbert C. Hoover Building (Washington DC)

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