Col. William L. Barbour - New York City
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Col. William L. Barbour Residence

13-15 West 53rd Street
New York, N.Y. 10019

William L. Barbour was born in New York City on September 9, 1857, the son of Thomas and Sarah Elizabeth (Warren) Barbour. He received his education in private schools and soon after going into business became known for his activity in behalf of protection. In 1910 he was elected President of the American Protective Tariff League and in 1911 was Treasurer of the Republican National Committee. Colonel William L. Barbour was founder and president of the Linen Thread Company, Inc., a thread manufacturing enterprise having much business on both sides of the Atlantic. He owned flax mills in Ireland, and in New Jersey, where he was powerful politically. Colonel Barbour maintained a large estate in Rumson, N.J., but spent the winter months in New York City.

Colonel Barbour, who obtained his title as a member of the staff of Governor Griggs of New Jersey, was President of Barbour Brothers Company, the Algonquin Company, the Dunbarton Flax Spinning Company, the Finlayson Flax Spinning Company, the American Net and Twine Company, the United States Twine and Net Company, the Hamltion Trust Company of Paterson, N.J., the Dundee Water Power and Land Company, the W. and J. Knox Net and Flax Spinning Company, the North Jersey Rapid Transit Company, and the Barbour Flax Spinning Company. Col. Barbour was a trustee or director of several other companies.

On March 1, 1917, Colonel Barbour died suddenly of heart disease as he was being driven from the Linen Thread Company at 96 Franklin Street to his townhouse on West 53rd Street. Despite efforts by the chauffeur to speed his employer to New York Hospital, the Colonel expired en route. A funeral service was held on March 4, 1917, in the Central Presbyterian Church, at Madison Avenue and Fifty-seventh Street. Burial took place in the family plot at Cedar Lawn Cemetery in Paterson, N.J. Colonel Barbour was survived by his wife, the former Miss Adelaide Sprague, and by four sons, Thomas, Robert, William W., and Fritz K. Barbour. Colonel Barbour's estate was valued at between $10M and $20M, but due to the amended transfer tax law of 1917, the courts decreed that Col. Barbour was a resident of New Jersey, resulting in the loss of $170,000 or more in revenue to New York State.

Col. William L. Barbour Residence - New York City (Underwood & Underwood, 1929)  

In 1901, architect C.P.H. Gilbert was hired to design the New York City townhouse for Col. Barbour, to be erected on the property at 11 and 13 West 53rd Street. The fireproof building was to be 44 feet in width and six stories high, occupying a plot that was 50 feet wide by 100 feet deep. Gilbert faced the Italianate building with light buff-colored limestone. Several objets d'art were incorporated into the house, including the mantel and fireplace in the drawing room which came from an Italian villa. Walls were covered in silk tapestry, and the bronze lighting fixtures were imported. On the second floor was a large foyer that contained the two-manual pipe organ.

At some point, the property and townhouse were purchased by John D. Rockefeller, Jr., whose city residence on West 54th Street was located directly behind the Barbour property. In 1929, the townhouse was leased by the Western Universities Club of New York for use as a clubhouse that was to open on September 1st of that year. In December 1931, it was announced that the building would be leased the following May as the new home of the Museum of Modern Art, of which Mrs. Rockefeller was one of the founders and its treasurer. Ultimately, the townhouse was razed to make way for the present museum buildings.

  Austin Organ, Op. 81 (1903) in Col. William L. Barbour Residence - New York City (Music Trade Review)
Austin Organ Company
Hartford, Conn. – Opus 81 (1903)
Tubular-pneumatic action
2 manuals, 22 registers, 12 stops, 12 ranks

Col. Barbour's townhouse included an "Austin-Symphony" organ, built in 1903, that had two manuals and tubular-pneumatic action. The organ was installed in the main hall on the second-floor of the townhouse, and could be "readily heard through the reception and dining rooms, beside providing a very artistic feature in the decoration scheme." Architect C.P.H. Gilbert designed the rich mahogany console case that contained the automatic player. The motor was electric with a Sturtevant rotary blower in the basement.

The following specifications (dated Jan. 1932) are from an "Organ Scrapbook" by Charles Scharpeger, who was an employee of Louis F. Mohr & Co., an organ service firm in the area. Scharpeger noted that the organ was 19' 4" wide, 6' 6" deep + 2' 6" for the pedal + 8" extra for the bench, and 12' 0" high.
Great Organ (Manual I) – 61 notes, enclosed

Dolce Diapason
Echo Salicional
Rohr Flute

Swell Organ (Manual II) – 61 notes, enclosed

Flute Harmonique
Viole d'Orchestre
Vox Celeste


Pedal Organ – 30 notes

Hohl Flute

Great to Pedal
Great 16', 4', Unison Off
Swell to Pedal
Swell 16', 4', Unison Off
Swell to Great 16', 8', 4'

    Pistons No. 1-2-3-4-0 affecting Great Organ stops and couplers
    Pistons No. 1-2-3-4-0 affecting Swell Organ stops and couplers
    Pistons No. 1-2-3-4-0 affecting Full Organ
Pedal Movements

    Balanced Swell Pedal   Great Off
    Crescendo Pedal   Swell Off
    Great to Pedal Reversible   Four Pedal Combinations
     "An Austin-Symphony Organ For Col. Barbour," The Music Trade Review (Aug. 8, 1903), XXXVII:6:28. Courtesy James Lewis.
     "Col. Barbour Dies In His Automobile," The New York Times, March 2, 1917.
     "Col. Barbour's New Home," The New York Times, March 28, 1901.
     "Court Upsets New Transfer Tax Law," The New York Times, December 15, 1918.
     "Modern Art Museum Seeks W. 53d St. Home," The New York Times, December 2, 1931.
     "An Austin-Symphony Organ For Col. Barbour," The Music Trade Review (Aug. 8, 1903), XXXVII:6:28. Courtesy James Lewis.
     Ochse, Orpha. Austin Organs. Richmond: The Organ Historical Society, 2001.
     Scharpeger, Charles. Specifications (Jan. 1932) of Austin Organ, Op. 81 (1903). Courtesy Larry Trupiano.
     "Service for Col. Barbour," The New York Times, March 5, 1917.
     "Western College Club Leases Barbour Home," The New York Times, August 24, 1929.

     King, Moses. Notable New Yorkers of 1896-1899: A Companion Volume to King's Handbook of New York City. New York: Bartlett & Company, 1899.
     The Music Trade Review (Aug. 8, 1903), XXXVII:6:28. Austin Organ, Op. 81 (1903). Courtesy James Lewis.
     Underwood & Underwood: exterior (1929).
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