Many years ago while looking for books for my young son to read I came across books by Horatio Alger, Jr. If you are not familiar with the name, he was a prolific 19th century author of rags to riches stories which nearly always featured a young boy who grew from impoverished beginnings and became rich through honest hard work and determination. After reading no more than two of these books my son realized that it was basically the same story in different settings and certainly not true stories. But one individual in real life, Francis M. Applegate, who was instrumental in the development of 324 West 80th Street, could very well have been a character in one of Alger’s books.
Francis M. Applegate
Francis M. Applegate was born in Round Prairie, Missouri in 1866. His mother died while he was still quite young, and he was sent to live with his grandparents in Wilmington, Ohio. As he grew, he attended school and worked as a hired hand on his uncle’s farm. But Francis wasn’t meant to be kept down on the farm. His ambitions led him to take stenography which he mastered through determined diligence. He landed his first job in Jamestown, New York at a woolen mill at 18. In less than a year he moved to Vermont to work at the Brattleboro Sewing Machine Co. sawing wood and keeping the factory fires going. Two years later, after working as a grocer in New York City, he became a stenographer and editor at the New York Herald. By 22 years old he had become a domestic correspondent for a banking firm, Morton, Bliss & Co. Step by step Applegate moved toward something bigger. His dream was to become a lawyer and what better place to live that dream than New York City? When the New York Press advocated establishing an evening law school, he was one of the first applicants. Applegate painstakingly studied in between work hours during the day and attended classes four evenings a week. Graduating from the Metropolis Law School in 1894 his life continued its upward climb.
Applegate, Clarence F. True and 324 West 80th Street
Meanwhile, the architect, Clarence Fagan True, born 1860 in Queens, New York, had ventured out on his own in 1884 becoming one of the most prolific and skilled architects on the Upper West Side. By the time of number 324’s construction, Clarence had been on his own for 15 years and Francis Applegate had risen above his humble beginnings. Though it is unclear when they first met, their history together is documented with transfer after transfer of properties and mortgages beginning as early as 1897. Their relationship with one another at number 324 began just four years after Applegate became a bona fide attorney. Clarence F. True had purchased several lots on block 1244 including number 25 which would bear the address of 324 West 80th by 1899. The Riverside Building Company constructed the bow-front facade of True’s design, a design which on many Riverside Drive buildings brought him trouble in the form of lawsuits for blocking view, light and air from neighboring homes. Apparently, number 324 did not suffer one of these suits and Clarence F. True’s signature style including Roman brick and limestone trim remains intact.
Francis M. Applegate is just one of the individuals who was instrumental in the construction and history of 324 West 80th Street. Contact us for a complete account.
Contact Barbara Weinstein of Halstead Property if you are interested in purchasing this property.