THE ASTOR TRAMP
Only three years after his arrival in New York City he took up residence at 54 West 87th and also found himself standing in a courtroom defending a vagrant named John Garvey against the well to-do Mrs. Caroline Astor. Apparently Garvey, dubbed the ”Astor Tramp” by the New York Tribune, had broken into the Astor residence, found himself a comfy bed and proceeded to nap while wrapped snuggly in the luxurious blankets. But Garvey soon found himself locked up in the Tombs Prison. Defending Garvey, Stayton claimed that the tramp had already had been punished for his crime by being fined $5.00 for disorderly conduct, but the true nature of the crime was never agreed on. Some claimed that the intent was burglary; others argued for a lesser infraction.
The case became such a debacle that it ended up at the state Supreme Court. A new trial was ordered after it was discovered that the jury had reached a verdict which had nothing to do with the charge put before them. Whatever the struggle between Mrs. Astor, the court and the jury, John Garvey the “Astor Tramp” said it was “the best snooze he had ever had.” Finally in May of 1895, despite William H. Stayton’s stubborn fight to have Garvey released, the “Astor Tramp” was ordered to be sent to the State Asylum in Mattewan, New York.
The resident of 54 West 87th Street didn’t stop making news with his defense of the Astor Tramp. Several years after the incident, William H. Stayton, was into an even greater cause, prohibition. As the 18th Amendment began to take flight through Congress and state legislatures, Stayton took up his own banner by founding the Association Against the Prohibition Amendment. Alarmed by the intrusion of the government into the lives of citizens, Stayton found companions to his cause in friends Irenee and Lammot Du Pont. With the Du Ponts leading the way, Stayton’s drive to abolish prohibition extended nationally. By 1928, Stayton was speaking at political meetings to forward what was called the “wet” movement in reference to the repeal of the prohibition laws. Thanks to the efforts of William H. Stayton and his supporters, the amendment was repealed on 5 December 1933 leaving the decisions to the states where even today there are some “dry” towns.
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Every property has a list of owners and residents, but it is when one small gem of a person stands out among the rest that the building takes on a spark of life. One of those residents of 54 West 87th Street was William H. Stayton. Stayton, born in 1861 in Delaware, was considered an uncomplicated man. He rose to prominence of his own accord despite his father’s indifference to education. Described as “square-jawed,” Stayton was a lawyer and businessman in New York during the late 1800s.
A native New Yorker who is descended from both business owners & those who helped to construct buildings past & present in New York City.