THE DISAPPEARANCE OF THE ADVENTURER
John Patrick Noonan, an adventurer and seaman, had moved into the residential section of 17 Hubert Street with his wife just prior to the Hoffmans’ December 1895 purchase. Boarding the filibuster*, Ernewood, in Port Richmond, Pennsylvania, Noonan put out to sea with a small cargo of coal. But coal wasn’t all he was transporting. Underneath the coal were hidden many cases of arms and ammunition. This cargo was deposited in Havana, Cuba at a deserted point on the coast of the island. The weapons were being delivered covertly to Americans during the Spanish-American War in Cuba.
After returning home, Noonan made a second trip to the island, this time with sixty insurgents, fifty cases of rifles and one million rounds of ammunition. This time he was spotted and chased by Spanish gunboats, but managed to slip away. It was on his third trip on March 9, 1896 that Noonan, as assistant engineer, put out to sea and was not heard from again. After he had been missing for over a year, his wife, Lillie, received news from the Spanish that he was dead. Upon hearing this news his wife took up with Noonan’s best friend, William Carruthers. Carruthers helped himself to Noonan’s clothes and off the happy couple went. To where? No one knew. Another disappearance.
But Noonan was not dead. On that third trip to Havana, being the daredevil that he was, he had stopped to satisfy his curiosity about Morro Castle, a fortress on the coast near where he had left his boat. He was daringly inspecting the castle when Spanish guards surrounded him and told him that he was now a prisoner. Noonan bolted and tried to make his way back to his boat but never quite made it. Fired upon and hit in the shoulder, he was captured and locked up. After two months of waiting to be tried, he was found guilty and housed in a small filthy cell for ten months. Finally, after a retrial he was granted freedom, told to return to America, and banned from ever returning to Cuba. Penniless and in tattered clothing, it took two months to make his way back home aboard an American schooner via Key West, Florida. On his arrival, he was told of his wife’s departure. No one knew where the couple had gone. Whether Noonan ever found his wife and best friend is unknown, but they would not be the last ones to disappear from 17 Hubert Street.
In 1904, a thriving coffee packing company, Keys, Corsa & Holley moved their manufacturing business to 17 Hubert Street from their former West Broadway location. Each of the owners, Charles H. Keys, Dayton Corsa, and Spafford Frank Holley were diligent and methodical in their work, so it was a surprise to everyone when Spafford went missing one day in March of 1913. That day Spafford told his staff that he was going home early, as he was not feeling well and was tired of the grind. Always in good health, Spafford had not taken a vacation in twelve years and was never away from his desk more than a few days at a time. When a week elapsed, all concerned thought he might have been murdered. After all, Frank was wealthy and often carried large sums of money with him. Private detectives and police were not able to locate him. Hospital searches in New York and in the area failed to reveal any sign of the missing Holley. Friends who were intimate with him could not account for the disappearance and feared that he had killed himself even though his accounting books were in excellent shape and they could not come up with any reason for suicide. Weeks passed and still no one was able to locate the missing, normally very responsible, Holley.
STRANGER THAN FICTION
Then one day, a month later, his relatives received a phone call; it was Spafford. He had been staying in a rooming house in uptown New York and was “coming home.” Any understanding of the details surrounding his disappearance and return was limited to those closest to him, but less than a year later, Spafford dissolved his partnership with Keys, Corsa & Holley. Perhaps it truly was all about being tired of the grind. Soon after, he took up residence in his birth town of Dorset, Vermont. There he opened his own store where he sold coal and building materials, remaining in Vermont the rest of his life.
As the men - and woman - of 17 Hubert Street disappeared, so is the company name and business wording on the building. Ghostly remains of “Dayton Corsa & Co.” are all that is left of the new business name taken up after the dissolution of Holley’s partnership. The building, which for so many years housed imported coffees and teas, is now on the market. Would it do to house non-disappearing residents above a coffee and tea shop? Before the property disappears to another buyer, contact Abigail Agranat of Douglas Elliman for purchasing details.
Contact us for more information on 17 Hubert Street including a comprehensive building prospectus or complete history.
*filibuster was a term used during the 1800s referring to pirate type ships.