M. J. Dempsey Iron Foundry, 548 W. 55 St. N.Y.C., 2008
This coal chute is located on 65th St. towards the rear of 50 Central Park West, New York City. The building is called the Prasada and occupies the southwest corner of 65th St. and Central Park West. According to Andrew Alpern, writing in Luxury apartment houses of Manhattan (1992), the Prasada was built in 1907. It "was built by Franklin and Samuel Haines. It was designed by architects Charles W. Romeyn and Henry R. Wynne ... who selected the French Second Empire style as a base from which to work." The building is described in plans filed with the New York City Dept. of Buildings in 1904 as "Central Park West, Nos 46-50; 12-sty brk and stone tenement, 100 x 115" (Office for Metropolitan History, "Manhattan NB Database 1900-1986," (July 2009), http://www.MetroHistory.com).
Michael J. Dempsey's iron foundry was located 10 blocks further downtown, between 10th and 11th Avenues. At an earlier date M. J. Dempsey's Standard Rolling Mill was located at 517 11th Ave., corner of 40th St., New York City. The following entry appeared in the Directory of Iron and Steel Works in the United States and Canada, published by the American Iron and Steel Association (15th edition, 1901): "Standard Rolling Mill, M. J. Dempsey, Fortieth st. and Eleventh ave., New York City. Built in 1891; 3 coal heating furnaces and 2 trains of rolls (10 and 18-inch); product, merchant bar, angle, and horseshoe iron; annual capacity, 6,000 gross tons. Fuel, manufactured gas. Brand, 'Standard.' William S. Dempsey, Superintendent."
The date 1891 is a bit late for M. J. Dempsey. There are entries for him as early as 1886 in New York city directories (at 400 11th Ave. (near 34th St.)). The Railroad, Telegraph and Steamship Builders Directory, published by The Railway Directory Publishing Co., 18 Cortlandt Street, New York, 1888, has him listed under "Iron - Scrap" as "Dempsey, Michael J., 402 Eleventh av., N. Y."
The foundry seems to have moved around 1889 to 517 11th Ave., and a second location opened at 548 W. 55th St. around 1904. City directories list the Metropolitan Iron Foundry at 546-548 W. 55th St. from 1904 to 1920. Polk's New York City Directory, 1920-1921, has "Metropolitan Iron Foundry (TN) (Wm S Dempsey)" listed at 548 W. 55th St. No entries for the business appear in the next issue (1922-1923), either under Dempsey or Metropolitan. In 1922 the New York Times reported, "Ralph C. Rognon, one of the organizers of the Automotive Service Association of New York, has just remodeled the old Dempsey foundry at 546 and 548 West Fifty-fifth Street, adding it to his motor repair plant at 542 and 544 West Fifty-fifth Street."
The 1880 U. S. Census recorded Michael Dempsey and his brother, William Dempsey, living with their mother, Ellen Dempsey, 52, born Ireland, at 502 W. 33rd St. Michael Dempsey's occupation was given as "Clerk." William, age 14, was "at school." The two brothers again appear together in the 1900 U. S. Census. Here they were two among thirteen roomers living at the home of Mary Dempsey, born June 1864, New Jersey. The address was 328 W. 32nd St. "Mick" Dempsey was set down as 36 years old, born Oct. 1863, New York, "Machinery Manf." William Dempsey was 38 years old, born Sept. 1861, New York, "Machinist." This information does not accord fully with the 1880 census, but 328 W. 32nd St. was given as the home address of Michael J. Dempsey, iron founder, in several directory listings around this time.
Other Dempsey coal hole covers are found on East 11th St. near 5th Ave., East 70th St. and at 174 West 107th St. at Amsterdam Ave. The one on W. 107th St. has a rim reading "Metropolitan Iron Foundry / 55th St. and 11th Ave. NYC." Metropolitan Iron Foundry was an alternate name of Dempsey's business. A similar cover is found at 1773 Lexington Ave. near 110th St. Here the cover is virtually unreadable, but the Metropolitan Iron Foundry rim is still clear.
Copyright (c) 2009 Walter Grutchfield