Then & Now: The Isidor and Ida Straus House

A look at the changing streetscape of 105th Street, from country houses to apartment houses.

This is the first of two articles about Isidor and Ida Straus, of Abraham & Straus fame.  

Isidor Straus was a German-Jewish immigrant who arrived in New York City after the Civil War. After working in the  crockery business with his family, he and his brother Nathan bought out  Joseph Wechsler from the Abraham and Wechsler dry goods store in Brooklyn and renamed it Abraham & Straus. The brothers were simultaneously rising through the ranks at Macys and around 1870, Isidor took charge of Macy’s china department, in 1888 he became a partner in the store, and in 1896, he and Nathan became the store’s sole owners.

As Isidor evolved from  peddler  to department store magnate, he made sure that his family was well provided for. In 1884, Straus purchased a home for his family on the Upper West Side, in the neighborhood then known as Bloomingdale, to ensure that his children would be raised in a healthy environment. From the turn of the nineteenth century through the 1860s, wealthy New Yorkers would escape to rural Upper West Side. Farm houses and country houses dotted the landscape including the Brennan Farmhouse where Edgar Allan Poe wrote “The Raven.” The Straus house occupied the entire blockfront on the north side of 105th Street between Broadway and West End.

Few photographs of the house exist since in 1912 the house was sold to developers and demolished soon after to make way for the Cleburne Apartment Building. Between the house’s sale and  demolition, the New York Times a pseudo-obituary for the house. “[The house’s]  ample lawns and large trees contributed to an  atmosphere  of old-time Bloomingdale days to a section now almost wholly given over to apartment houses.” Once it was demolished, the Upper West Side’s rural past became nothing but memory. Isidor and Ida Straus died in 1912 aboard the Titanic, last seen sitting in deck chairs holding hands before a wave washed them into the sea.

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 macys, manhattan, titanic, upper west side

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