248 W. 108th St. was constructed in 1905 as a 5-story brick and stone stable building. The owner was Herman Masemann, and his architect was the firm of Holt & Weidinger. (Many thanks to www.metrohistory.com for making this information available on the internet.) The stable of George C. Masemann (1872-1956) appeared in the Manhattan telephone directory at this address in 1905. George Masemann was the son of Herman Masemann (1839-1916), a butcher, who immigrated from Hannover in 1856. He appears in the 1880 U. S. Census when he lived at 466 4th Ave., Manhattan, and when George was 8 years old.
The sign says, "Estab. 1890," but the lineage of Despatch Moving & Storage Co. has been difficult to trace. Their presence in 248 W. 108th St. is simple enough. They moved here in 1928 as the Harlem Despatch Express Company. The New York Times, 1 July 1928, p. 46, described the sale of the building as follows, "The six-story warehouse building, 25 by 100 feet, at 248 West 108th Street has been sold by George C. and Rhoebe [Phoebe] Maseman to Vera Beerman (Harlem Despatch Express Company)." Prior to 1928, Harlem Despatch can be traced back to 1909, when they were located at 250 W. 116th St. In fact, even after acquiring 248 W. 108th St., Harlem Despatch Express (also known as Harlem Despatch Storage Warehouse Co.) continued in their facilities at 250 W. 116th St. through 1937.
But who were the owners of Harlem Despatch in 1909? The Vera Beerman cited in the Times notice in 1928, was the wife of Edward Beermann, Jr. (1893-1996!). As early as 1903 Edward Beermann (this was Edward Beermann, Senior (1868-?)) appeared in directory listings as the owner of a livery stable. But the location was 315 E. 122nd St., not 250 W. 116th St. The Beermann stables stayed at 315 E. 122nd St. until 1910. They appeared (briefly) at 310 E. 149th St., then in 1911 moved to 231 E. 51st St. Not until 1915 was there a listing that associated Edward Beermann, Jr., with the Harlem Despatch Express Co. at 250 W. 116th St.
The Beermanns were recorded in the 1900 U. S. Census as Edwin Beermann, age 31, born Nov. 1868, Germany, living at 401 E. 14th St., Manhattan. His son, Edward, born March 1893, was 7 years old at the time.
Trow's Copartnership Directory for 1890 tantalizingly holds this entry: "N. Y. City Transfer & Harlem Despatch Express (Bernard Biglin, propr.), 598 Washn, 78 E 125th, 3 Hudson & 704 E. 134th." There are no additional listings, however, that associate what was otherwise usually called Biglin's Express with Harlem Despatch. Nor was Biglin located at 250 W. 116th. This 1908 advertisement for Biglin's Express located them on East 90th St. Bernard Biglin (1840-1924) himself was a colorful figure. He was a champion oarsman, a New York city alderman, a member of the New York State legislature, and for many years held monopolistic control over the handling of immigrants' baggage at Castle Garden (entry point for immigrants prior to Ellis Island). A long succession of articles in the New York Times (from the late 1880s through the mid-1890s) detail numerous investigations into Biglin's handling of this business. Apparently, not only were the fees charged high, but staff would routinely steal anything of value. A Wikipedia article recounts some of Biglin's exploits (with his brother John Biglin) as an oarsman. The article illustrates two Thomas Eakins' paintings of the Biglins, John Biglin in a Single Scull (1874), Yale University Art Gallery, and The Biglin Brothers Turning the Stake (1873), Cleveland Museum of Art. Other Eakins paintings of the Biglins include The Pair-Oared Shell (1872), Philadelphia Museum of Art, and The Biglin Brothers Racing (1873), National Gallery of Art. The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City owns a watercolor of John Biglin in a Single Scull (ca.1873).
The telephone numbers on the sign, ACademy 2-1115 and ACademy 2-6156, were first used for Harlem Despatch Storage Warehouse Co. at 248 W. 108th St. in 1930 and 1931. The Harlem Despatch Express Co. and Harlem Despatch Storage Warehouse Co. continued to use these names at 250 W. 116th St. and 248 W. 108th St. until 1936 when the alternate name (dropping the "Harlem"), Despatch Storage Warehouse Co., appeared in directory listings. The form Despatch Moving & Storage Co. first appeared in 1940. Edward Beermann, Jr., was still owner when he registered for the World War II draft in 1942. The Manhattan telephone directory listed E. Beermann at 248 W. 108th St. through 1966. The telephone numbers, AC 2-1115 and AC 2-6156, were used by Despatch Moving & Storage Co. through 1966.
Then in 1967, according to the website www.despatchmoving.com, "In 1967 the Zuhusky family bought the company and its warehouse. ... The company relocated to 130th and Broadway in the early 70s, buying a 10-story building specifically built for moving and storage companies. ... The company was owned and operated by the Zuhusky family until 2008 when it was sold... [I]t became a wholly owned subsidiary of ... Morgan Manhattan."
The building at 3247 Broadway (130th St.) had a Despatch Moving sign when I took this photograph in 2008.
Copyright © 2011 Walter Grutchfield