"Free access"

122 Pearl Street abstract coverIt was a matter of some pride to my grandfather that his great-grandfather John Steward (1777–1854) bought the (downtown) Gracie Mansion[1] when he moved to New York more than two hundred years ago. Perhaps so, as John Steward lived at 1 Pearl Street until he moved far uptown to a new house at Fifth Avenue and Twenty-first Street, shortly before his death in 1854. The title abstracts in my grandfather’s box of family papers concerning John’s Pearl Street real estate are for some other properties – one was his store, at 80 Pearl Street,[2] while another (122 Pearl Street) was purchased from Mr. and Mrs. Charles McEvers.

Click on images to expand them.

The house at 122 Pearl Street was bought first, and probably represents John’s initial foray into Manhattan real estate. The abstract indicates that Elsie and Jacob Leisler sold a house on the site to Barent Rynders on 6 April 1700. Rynders’s executors sold the house to Elisabeth Richards in 1763; by her will, dated in 1773, the property passed to Theophilus Bache. A suggestive pair of transactions in 1807 preceded John Steward’s purchase: Bache entrusted the house to Leonard Lispenard and Charles McEvers on 8 June, then on 9 October Lispenard, McEvers, and Bache executed a “Quadripartite Deed between Bankrupt Trustees of Bankrupt and Creditors,” by which the property passed to Ebenezer Burrill[3] and others. Finally, on 3 March 1808, “Burrill & others” sold the house outright to Charles McEvers, who in turn sold it to John Steward Jr. on 1 May 1814.

It looks like there are two versions of the abstract for 80 Pearl Street. The first, a rough draft, bears the faint notation that someone (John Steward?) paid $5.32, presumably for the research necessary for Stephen Whitney to develop this history of the house and land. The second, more polished version, lists a number of parties to the initial sale, on 20 March 1775, of “the house and lot No Eighty pearl Street” to William Neilson. After recording the deed on 19 June 1794, “Nielson [sic] continued in possession until the fourth day of May 1820 when he assigned the property to Beverly Robinson and Joseph Milnor in trust to sell which deed is recorded in the office of Register in [and] for the city and County of New York in Lib. No. 143 of conveyances &c page 202 on the fourth day of May 1820.

“The above mentioned title deeds are in my possession and I do hereby promise John Steward Junr. that he may have free access to them and the use of them if he should want them. New York 29th January 1822.”

Stephen Whitney

Continued here.


[1] The Gracies’ country house at East End Avenue and Eighty-eighth Street has served as the official residence of the Mayor of New York since 1942.

[2] Longworth’s American Almanac… (1827), p. 461.

[3] Ebenezer Burrill’s daughter Elizabeth married James Kane Livingston in 1820; Livingston’s great-niece Margaret Atherton Beeckman married John Steward’s grandson Campbell in 1885.

Scott C. Steward

About Scott C. Steward

Scott C. Steward has been NEHGS’ Editor-in-Chief since 2013. He is the author, co-author, or editor of genealogies of the Ayer, Le Roy, Lowell, Saltonstall, Thorndike, and Winthrop families. His articles have appeared in The New England Historical and Genealogical Register, NEXUS, New England Ancestors, American Ancestors, and The Pennsylvania Genealogical Magazine, and he has written book reviews for the Register, The New York Genealogical and Biographical Record, and the National Genealogical Society Quarterly.View all posts by Scott C. Steward