A rather undistinguished pediment at 57-63 Greene St. reads "E. Oelbermann & Co." This was the location of the drygoods firm founded by Emil Oelbermann (1833-1897) ("1833 in Lennep geboren").
In its "Death List of the Day" the New York Times (3 May 1897, p. 7) reported, "Emil Oelbermann, a merchant of this city, died in Coeln [Köln], Germany, quite unexpectedly on May 1. Until a short time ago his illness had not been considered very serious, though he had suffered for some years with lung trouble, and only a few hours before his death a message reached this city that he was better. He was born in Germany sixty-three years ago. He came to this country when eighteen years of age, and entered the dry goods firm of which he had been the senior partner since 1869. The firm's name changed several times since its establishment in 1849, but contained the name of the deceased since 1857, and is now known as Oelbermann, Dommerich & Co. He was also President of the German-American Insurance Company. He lived abroad since 1880, but came to this city from time to time to look after his various interests."
Moses King, King's Handbook of New York City (1892), writes, "Oelbermann, Dommerich & Co., dry-goods commission merchants, have two large stores; one at 57 to 63 Greene Street, and one at 65 to 67 Worth Street, at the corner of Church Street. The house is an old one, having been in existence over fifty years. Previous to 1883, the firm name was E. Oelbermann & Co. The principals of the present co-partnership are Emil Oelbermann and Louis F. Dommerich. The former has been connected with the house for about forty years. He resides in Cologne the greater part of the time, and attends to the interests of the house in Europe. He makes trips to America occasionally, remaining for two months at a time. Mr. Dommerich has been associated with the firm for thirty-five years. He is at the head of the establishment in America. Originally, the house confined itself to importations, but of late, and especially since the protective tariff caused a great reduction in the volume of imports, the business of the firm has been about three-fourths in domestic goods and one-fourth in those of European manufacture...
"The Greene-Street store is a seven-story building, and occupies a plot of ground one hundred feet square. It stands on the site of the old Greene-Street Methodist Church. It was built in 1876."
Including both predecessor and successor companies E. Oelbermann was in business in New York for over 100 years. The original company was Noell & Oelbermann, in business at 54 Barclay St. then 105 Reade St. from 1858 to 1870. This company became E. Oelbermann at 64 Worth St. in 1871, then at 57 Greene St. from 1878 to 1890. In 1890 Oelbermann took a new partner, Louis F. Dommerich, and the company was renamed Oelbermann, Dommerich & Co. This ad for Oelbermann, Dommerich & Co. appeared in the New York Tribune in 1897. Emil Oelbermann died in 1897, and the company became L. F. Dommerich & Co. in 1904. They stayed at 57 Greene St. under this name until 1913. In 1913 L. F. Dommerich & Co. moved to 254 4th Ave, where they stayed until 1928. They spent the next 33 years at 271 Madison Ave. (until 1961), then from 1961 to 1968 at 486 5th Ave. In 1968 L. F. Dommerich & Co. became a division of Chemical Bank.
This ad for L. F. Dommerich appeared in the American Wool and Cotton Reporter, 1 Sept. 1910, when they were located here at 57 Greene St.
This ad for L. F. Dommerich appeared in the American Wool and Cotton Reporter, 8 March 1919, when they were located on 4th Ave.
Prominent among the names connected with these companies were the Dommerichs. The original Dommerich was Louis Ferdinand Dommerich (1841-1912). A short biography is found on the Rollins College website (Dommerich was a benefactor). Three sons of Louis F. Dommerich connected with L. F. Dommerich & Co. were Otto Louis Dommerich (1871-1938), Alexander Louis Dommerich (1881-1961) and Louis William Dommerich (1885-1952). Otto L. Dommerich's obituary in The New York Times, 9 March 1938, read in part, "Otto Louis Dommerich of 50 East Sixty-ninth Street, senior partner in L. F. Dommerich & Co., factors, of 271 Madison Avenue, died yesterday after a lingering illness. He was born on Staten Island sixty-eight years ago, a son of the late Louis F. Dommerich, who founded the firm that bears his name." Louis W. Dommerich's obituary in The New York Times, 15 Dec. 1952, read in part, "Louis W. Dommerich, chairman of the board of L. F. Dommerich & Co., commercial factors at 271 Madison Avenue, New York, died here [Greenwich, Conn.] today at his home on Round Hill Road at the age of 67. Born on Staten Island, New York, he graduated from Yale in 1907, and had been a partner in the firm founded by his father since 1912, becoming board chairman last year."
Portrait photographs of Emil Oelbermann and Louis Ferdinand Dommerich appeared in Moses King's Notable New Yorkers of 1896-1899 (1899).
Photos of the Oelbermann burial site in Köln appear on Familiengeschichte Oelbermann at www.girlspace.de. Buried here are both Emil Oelbermann and his wife, Laura Oelbermann (1846-1929). Over the sarcophagus an angel drapes a heavy cloth sheltering the two.
Copyright © 2009 Walter Grutchfield