A rare 1873 John Bute Holmes cadastral of part of the Manhattan (New York City) neighborhoods Chelsea and Hell's Kitchen. The map covers northern Chelsea from 27th street to the southern part of Hell's Kitchen at 42nd Street. It also covers from the Hudson River to 8th Avenue, in the process including the current mega-development of Hudson Yards. This is one of a series of 21 scarce maps drawn by Holmes between 1867 and 1875. Like all maps in this series it was independently issued, is quite large, and impressively detailed. The maps were intended to illustrate real estate holdings at a point in New York history when vast estates in central and upper Manhattan were being broken up and segregated among numerous heirs. This led naturally to countless legal battles, much of the litigation behind which, depended upon detailed cadastral maps like this one.
The current map illustrates the breakup of the Glass House Farm, as well as the estates of George C. Schroepple, George Rapelje, and Cornelius Ray. Some of these claims date to the early Dutch period of New Amsterdam, but were honored by the British even after the takeover. The breakup of the estates is detailed via tables in the upper right quadrant, where individual heirs and landowners are identified. Each is referenced by New York City record book and page number.
The map's namesake, the Glass House Farm, was a large farm situated between the Hudson River and Fitzroy Road (as shown on map) in today's West 30s. The unusual name, Glass House, refers to a short lived glass factory that was established on the location in 1754. There was also a nearby tavern of the same name that, at the time of the American Revolutionary War, was a popular roadhouse and inn. The street names on this map reflect the original owners of the farm.
This map is rare. The OCLC identifies only 2 other examples, one at the New York State Library, and another at the University of Wisconsin.
John Bute Holmes (March 31, 1822 - May 21, 1887) was an Irish civil engineer, city surveyor, and mapmaker based in New York City in the middle to latter 19th century. Holmes was described as a 'short, stout man, with curly gray hair, a smooth face, and a short, thick neck.' Holmes' father-in-law supplied funds for him to immigrate to America in 1840 and shortly thereafter, in 1844, he established himself in New York City. He briefly returned to Europe before once again settling in New York City in 1848. Apparently, according to several New York Times articles dating to the 1870s, Holmes was a man of dubious personal and moral character. He was involved in several legal disputes most of which were associated with his outrageous - even by modern standards - womanizing. In 1857 he was convicted of forgery of a marriage document and sentenced to 15 years of hard labor at Sing Sing, of which he served 5 before wealthy associates interceded on his behalf for an early release. Holmes seems to have been married to several different women at the same time and to have had an unfortunate attraction to exceptionally young women - one of whom, 16 year old May Chamberlayne claimed to be his wife and sued him for 50,000 USD. On another occasion he was found guilty of killing Brooklyn policeman David Gourly with whose wife he 'had been intimate.' Another woman, Miss Abrams, who he hired as a housekeeper, was repeatedly attacked by Holmes and ultimately driven to madness and was consigned to Bellevue Hospital, where she died. Although he attempted to flee the country rather than face conviction for 4th degree manslaughter, he was ultimately arrested and served one year in prison. During the American Civil War he ran for Alderman of the First Ward, in New York. Despite his legal issues, Holmes was a man of considerable means, with a personal fortune estimated between 100,000 and 500,000 USD - a significant sum in the late 19th century. Much of his wealth is associated with a series of important cadastral maps produced between 1867 and 1875 while he was employed as a surveyor and civil engineer under the corrupt Tweed regime. When Holmes died of an 'apoplectic fit' there was considerable wrangling over his estate among his 7 heirs and 11 children. The cream of his estate where his maps, some of which were valued at more than 30,000 USD in 1887. Holmes lived on a large farm-estate in Fanwood New Jersey. Learn More...
Very good. Some toning lower 3 inches or so. Repaired tears. Professionally backed on archival linen.