Historic, but not famous

Jeffrey Richman, Green-Wood Cemetery historian

Jeffrey Richman graduated from NYU Law School in the 1970s and started working with criminal defendants for the next 33 years, both at the trial and the appellate level. He loved the challenge and helping those who were underrepresented and poor.

While working in law, he started to collect stereoscopic cards from the 1800s. Though many were available, he concentrated on images of New York. There were so many stereoscopic views of New York City in the second half of the 19th century–hundreds were taken of just the omnibuses, carts, and pedestrians along Broadway in Manhattan, but he kept coming across some marked Green-Wood cemetery. They became a focus of his collection.

In 1987, he saw an ad for a photo tour of Green-Wood, which limited photography on the grounds without permission at that time. That tour changed Mr. Richman’s life. The tour brought together his many interests like 19th century photography, taking photographs, cemeteries, sculpture, and landscape design. He returned to the cemetery and was able to get a courtesy pass with photography allowed and he knew something had changed for him.

In 1990, he decided to become a tour guide as well as keeping his day job. He set up his own schedules and did his own publicity as Green-Wood did not have tours. He began to write a book on the cemetery and it was published by Green-Wood in 1997. In 2007 he became the cemetery historian, the second in Green-Wood cemetery’s 150+ year history. He left the law practice.

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Historic, but not famous

Samuel Cocks, grocer, builder of Grove Court
Grove Court

One of my favorite places to show visitors to NYC is tiny beautiful Grove Court. First laid out in 1848, Grove Court is set off of Grove Street between Bedford and Hudson Streets in the West Village.  It is entered through an iron gate and its garden is decorated for every season.

In 1848, the merchant Samuel Stryker, who had been leasing the land from Trinity Church, sold to Samuel Cocks the backyards of numbers 6 and 8 Grove Street along with all of number 10.

Cocks was a partner in the law firm of Cocks & Brown, located nearby at 18 Grove Street.  At the time of the transaction, Cocks already owned a small strip of land to the East of 10 Grove Street, providing for the perfect passageway to his newly acquired lot.  According to the designation report for the Greenwich Village Historic District, “The present six connected houses on the rear of this lot were built for Cocks and finished in 1854;  It was not until 1921, when the lot was subdivided by Alentaur Realty and the six houses sold and altered individually, that Grove Court took on its present delightful appearance and name.”

Mr. Cocks left law practice and became a grocer in the area. The three-story Federal houses  were for the working class.  Mr. Cocks felt that by populating this enclave with working class people he would be guaranteed patronage of his store.  The alley was first known as “Pig’s Alley” or “Mixed Ale Alley,” a reference to the drinking habits of those living there.

It wasn’t until the 1920s that the homes were converted to 2 family homes and “spruced up” that the area began to change. The hope was that it would become an artists homestead. Instead, it became an enclave of single women who were teachers, office workers and widows.

Mr. Cocks could never have imagined the homes he built for tradesmen and laborers becoming some of the most sought after property in the West Village with one selling for $4.2million.

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Historic, but not famous

Christine Beshar, Trailblazing Lawyer

Christine Beshar (born Christine Luise Luitgarde Annette von Wedemeyer), one of the first women to be named partner in a Wall Street law firm, established a pioneering child-care service for its employees. Ms. Beshar specialized in trust and estate law. She was made the first female partner in 1971 at  Cravath, Swaine & Moore. She worked there until her death, in 2018, at the age of 88.

In 1989, she proposed that the firm offer onsite child care for their employees. The firm had moved and a back up child care facility was no longer available to the employees.  They were the first firm in the city to begin the service in 1991. Many firms and businesses followed throughout the decades.

Ms. Beshar, an immigrant from Germany,  passed the New York bar exam in 1959 on her first try without having attended law school. She had clerked for her husband’s firm for four years. Now classroom attendance in law school is required before someone can take the bar exam. She was the daughter of farmers in Prussia and born in November of 1929. Her father was killed fighting for Germany in World War II. With her 3 siblings, she fled the advancing Soviet army in January 1945, a few months before the war in Europe ended. After attending the University of Hamburg and the University of Tuebingen, she won a Fulbright Scholarship to attend Smith College in Northampton, Mass. She graduated with a bachelor’s degree in 1953. She met her husband, who attended Yale Law School, on a blind date. She would not accept his proposal until he met and gained the approval of her mother, still in Germany. They were married in December 1953 and returned to the United States, where Ms. Beshar became a citizen in 1957.

She formally retired in 1999, but remained active in law and counseled many non-profits throughout her retirement as well as continuing her work with Cravath, Swaine, & Moore.

When Ms. Beshar was elected as a partner at the law firm, her boss, Roswell Gilpatric, told her that there was one issue that had yet to be resolved: The firm had only one restroom reserved for partners.

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Historic, but not famous

Samuel Jones (July 26, 1734 – November 21, 1819) was an American lawyer and politician. Great Jones Street in NoHo in Manhattan is named for him. He is considered “The Father of The New York Bar” due to his work on revising New York State’s statutes in 1789 along with Richard Varick, who had a street in SoHo named after him.

Jones was a member from Queens County of the New York State Assembly from 1786 to 1790. He was elected a delegate to the Continental Congress in 1788, but did not attend the session. He was Recorder of New York City from 1789 to 1797. He was a member of the New York State Senate from 1791 to 1799. On February 17, 1797, the office of New York State Comptroller was created by the New York State Legislature to succeed to the State Auditor.

On March 15, Jones was appointed by the Council of Appointment the first holder of the office, serving until 1800.

 

What is a comptroller? A comptroller is a management level position responsible for supervising the quality of accounting and financial reporting of an organization or government. A financial comptroller is a senior-level executive who acts as the head of accounting, and oversees the preparation of financial reports, such as balance sheets and income statements.

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