Arthur Curtiss James Residence - New York City
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Arthur Curtiss James Residence

39 East 69th Street at Park Avenue
New York, N.Y. 10021










Arthur Curtiss James  
Arthur Curtiss James (1867-1941) was a railroad industrialist who was one of the wealthiest men in the country. Mr. James was born to great wealth and in 1907 inherited the bulk of his father's $26 million fortune. In the years following World War I, he built up a rail empire that covered a quarter of the country and included a seventh of the entire mileage of all railroads in the United States. He also had enormous holdings in copper, silver and gold mines, making him one of the richest men in the country, but he never sought public recognition and was for the most part unknown to the public. In 1926, he quietly acquired controlling interest in the Western Pacific Railroad and obtained control of the Denver, Rio Grande Railroad. Mr. James had a passion for yachting and in 1909 had built a 218-foot full-rigged yacht, the finest of her kind ever constructed at the time. He was for several years the Commodore of the New York Yacht Club.

Mr. James and his wife, the former Harriet Eddy Parsons, built a residence in 1914 at a total cost of about $1,000,000. Located on the site of the old Union Theological Seminary, the property had a frontage of 100 feet on Park Avenue and 125 feet on Sixty-ninth Street. As designed by Allen & Collens of Boston, the four and one-half story house occupied a plot 80 by 110 feet and had a facade of English and Tennessee marble. The James's love of horticulture was evident by the inclusion of a solarium on the third floor that was filled with orchids and other rare blooms, and a 20-foot outdoor garden plot adjoined a similar space provided by their neighbor, George Blumenthal. The Jameses also had home in Newport, R.I. Known as Beacon Hill, the magnificent residence was famous for its Blue Gardens that covered ten acres.

Arthur Curtiss James gave away millions of dollars to charity, although he insisted that there be no publicity or his gift would be cancelled. He was a member of the Metropolitan Opera Company, a director of the Philharmonic Orchestra and the Newport Casino, and a director and supporter of zoos and botanical gardens in New York City. He also contributed generously to Union Theological Seminary and Amherst College. An active and life-long Presbyterian, Mr. James was for many years a pillar in the Madison Square Presbyterian Church and was one of several laymen who negotiated the merger of that congregation into the First Presbyterian Church. Arthur Curtiss James had no children, but helped found and support the Madison Square Boys Club in 1885 while still a student at Amherst.

Mrs. James died on May 15, 1941, after an illness of ten years. Mr. James died of pneumonia at Harkness Pavilion a few weeks later, on June 4, 1941, at the age of 74.
             
Ernest M. Skinner Organ Company
Boston, Mass. – Opus 242 (1915)
Electro-pneumatic key and stop action
2 manuals


This unusual organ was built in 1915 by the Ernest M. Skinner Company and was the first example of Skinner's "Orchestrator Player." Few Orchestrator organs were produced, and none were alike, but it is known that the Orchestrators had partial solo ranks that were under individual expression, all controlled by an elaborate automatic player mechanism. The stoplist of Mr. James' organ has not been located, but the following stops are taken from extant layout drawings, courtesy Mr. Allen Kinzey.

Skinner's Opus 242 was relocated at an unknown time to the Methodist Church of Summit, N.J., where it was replaced in 1944 and dispersed.

Skinner Organ, Op. 242 (1915) in the Arthur Curtiss James Residence - New York City (Library of Congress)   Skinner Organ, Op. 242 (1915) in the Arthur Curtiss James Residence - New York City (Skinner Organ Co. publication "Stop, Open and Reed")   Skinner Organ, Op. 242 (1915) in the Arthur Curtiss James Residence - New York City (Skinner Organ Co. publication "Stop, Open and Reed")
               
Division
8
  Diapason  
8
  Voix Celeste  
8
  Spitzflöte  
4
  Flute  
8
  Flute Celeste  
8
  Bassoon  
8
  Gedeckt  
8
  Vox Humana  
8
  Salicional       Celesta  
               
Division
8
  Tuba  
8
  Bassoon  
8
  Cello          

     

     
Echo Organ
8
  Erzahler  
8
  Vox Humana  
8
  Klein Erzahler       Chimes  
4
  Flute d'Amour          
               
Pedal?
16
  Bourdon          
8
  Gamba          
             
Sources:
     Aeolian-Skinner Archives web site: http://aeolianskinner.organsociety.org/
     "Arthur C. James, 74, Rail Titan, is Dead," The New York Times (June 5, 1941).
     Fowler, Dorothy Ganfield. A City Church: The First Presbyterian Church in the City of New York, 1716-1976. The First Presbyterian Church in the City of New York, 1981.
     Holden, Dorothy. The Life and Work of Ernest M. Skinner. Richmond: The Organ Historical Society, 1987.
     "Home to Cost $1,000,000," The New York Times (Feb. 8, 1914).
     Kathrens, Michael C. Great Houses of New York 1880-1930. New York: Acanthus Press, 2005.
     Kinzey, Allen. Stops taken from factory layout drawings of Ernest M. Skinner organ, Op. 242 (1915). Courtesy Jeff Scofield.
     Kinzey, Allen, and Sand Lawn. E.M. Skinner/Aeolian-Skinner Opus List (New Revised Edition). Richmond: The Organ Historical Society, 1997.
     "Mrs. James Left Fund for Charity," The New York Times (May 22, 1941).
     "Notables at Rites for Arthur James," The New York Times (June 8, 1941).
     "Stop, Open and Reed," a publication of the Skinner Organ Co. Richmond: The Organ Historical Society, 1997.

Illustrations:
     Avery Library, Columbia University. Exterior.
     Fowler, Dorothy Ganfield. A City Church: The First Presbyterian Church in the City of New York, 1716-1976. Portrait of Arthur Curtiss James.
     Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Online. Interior of Great Hall.
     "Stop, Open and Reed." Interior of Great Hall.