The Stories Your House Could Tell: 725 Rugby Road
725 Rugby Road: On the Road to Recovery
|1940: 725 Rugby Road (Waldorf Court on Right)|
Now, as the holidays approach, the Cuffs and their home are mending, so we thought this might be a good time to take a look back...way back...
|Sep 16, 1904: Brooklyn Eagle|
In September 1904 John R. Corbin and his architect Benjamin Driesler filed with the Buildings Department plans for a house on an empty lot at the northern corner of Waldorf Court: “Two-story and attic frame dwelling. 24 x 33.4 ft, one family, shingle roof, steam heat, [estimated] cost $7,000.” In late April of 1905, the finished home, secured with a $4,000 mortgage, was sold to newlyweds Jane Ann Jack & Arthur Leslie Sims.
It was the second marriage for Jane & Arthur but, alas, how these widowed Brooklynites came to find each other, the historical record is blank. Arthur resided in a row house on Hancock Street in Bedford Stuyvesant with English immigrant parents and his two children, while Jane lived with her adopted son and Scottish mother in a brownstone on 9th Street off 7th Avenue. Jane’s father was James Jack, a prominent builder in Park Slope, who died in the same brownstone in 1902. But when Jane’s mother died in November 1909, the funeral was held at 725 Rugby Road.
|1900: Seattle Times Stereotypers |
As for Arthur Sims, he was a stereotyper for a dailynewspaper,creating reusable printing slabs.
|1913 Cadillac Roadster|
After the Sims departed, the house was rented to Harold Morton Halstead, a 35 year old building materials merchant, whose wife Florence gave birth to a baby girl in the home in April 1919. But within months the Halsteads had moved to another rental in Fiske Terrace. They were immediately replaced by Edward Bourne and his wife Rowena Eakin, along with their two young daughters. Edward was a fire insurance manager in New Orleans and may have gotten a lead on the rental at 725 Rugby from Frederick Speckels of 15 Waldorf Court, who also worked in fire insurance as a statistician. But by the mid-1920s the Bournes returned to New Orleans, displaced by the sale of the house to John Edward Madden, possibly the richest person ever to own property in West Midwood.
|Madden in 1910|
|Madden in 1925|
It was at this time that John Madden’s largesse
|1929: Mary Madden McTernan|
|1930 Census Showing McTernan At Bottom of Page|
At his passing John’s estate was valued at nearly $10 million. According to some old papers dating to the 1930s found in the Cuffs’ basement, Catherine appeared to be the recipient of a trust fund which paid her $5,000 annually – which would be about $85,000 today. In fact, John Madden’s will, filed for probate in Lexington, Kentucky in January 1931, provided a trust of $125,000 for Catherine and Cecilia.
|1931 Tax Return Calculation |
|1940 Census Showing McTernan Sisters at 725 Rugby (Lines 56-57) |
By the 1940 Census, as a result of the Great Depression, the value of the McTernans’ house had nosedived to $14,500 from its 1930-estimated value of $21,000. And Cecile continued to teach, earning $3,390 for the 40 weeks she worked in 1939. It should also be noted that the McTernan sisters were very generous souls. They contributed annually to Cecile’s alma mater and to Our Lady of Refuge Church on Ocean Avenue, hosting semi-annual fund raising events as well. They were also socially active in Breezy Point where they rented a cabana for many years.
|1935 Ship Manifest: McTernans Returning from Genoa to NYC |
On April 1, 1980, Cecile McTernan died, and come the new year, Catherine sold the house to Walter & Marilyn for $61,500. The Cuffs were then residing with their newborn son Justin (now a pathologist in San Francisco), in a brownstone investment property they owned on Lincoln Place in Park Slope. Their daughter Andrea (now a nurse practitioner in the Arizona Navajo Nation), would arrive shortly thereafter. At the time, Walter, who had been teaching in East New York for 15 years, was attending Brooklyn Law School at night. He would start his new legal career the next year, while Marilyn, a Midwood native and an administrator at a Montessori School, would soon embark on a life in nursing.
Then in 1985 the ghost of John Madden descended on the Cuffs. Apparently the title search five years earlier had failed to find the 1920s document naming Madden as a beneficial owner of the McTernans’ home. A lawsuit ensued demanding reparations for the gazillionaire’s estate. Oy vey! Thankfully, Walter’s law firm was steeped in realty law and sanity prevailed. If nothing else the episode explained why the McTernans’ upstairs bedroom was covered with wallpaper featuring lots of horses.
Looking back, the Cuffs’ best memories of life in West Midwood revolve around neighbors. Many have come and gone since 1981, but the latest crop suits the Cuffs just fine. Marilyn recalled the support they received during and after the August storm, noting as just one example how Anthony Finkel instantly responded, placing a tarp over their porch that prevented water damage. “There are so many people living here who care and are helping others,” said Marilyn. “We were so fortunate to raise our children here,” echoed Walter.
Indeed the rest of us have been equally as fortunate to count the Cuffs as our neighbors, friends, and comedic reliefs – while America has benefited from their children’s lives of service.
|1983: 725 Rugby Road|