An Associated Press news story reports that a vacant building at 22 W. 24th Street in the Flatiron neighborhood of New York City partially collapsed around 8 p.m. last night, leaving its outer walls and front facade standing. Fire officials had recently expressed concern for the structure’s stability, and City building officials had issued safety citations. A parking lot next door had been partially emptied as a precaution.

The building was the trysting site of Gilded Age architect Stanford White, who designed the archway in Washington Square and the original Madison Square Garden — where he was murdered in 1906:

From beneath the overcoat, the young man produced a pistol and fired three close range shots directly into the face of the older man. The victim’s elbow, suddenly inert, slid off the table, which overturned with a thump and a clatter. The body slumped to the floor.

The “older man” was Stanford White. The “young man” was the rich and violent husband of chorus girl Evelyn Nesbit who had confessed to being a target of White’s affection and a frequent guest in White’s room at 22 W. 24th Street prior to their marriage. According to an account by Marjorie Dorfman:

[White and Nesbit] parted amicably and Nesbit married Henry “Harry” Kendall Thaw, the multi-millionaire heir to a railroad and ore fortune from Pittsburgh.

Thaw was a cruel and temperamental bully with a penchant for dog whips. Many an ex-lover knew the pain of his whip for Thaw had a reputation for beating up on women and men as well as defenseless animals. He was used to getting what he wanted when he wanted it at any price. He set his sights on Evelyn Nesbit and would not take no for an answer. He pursued her endlessly, dazzling her with expensive jewels and finery until she finally accepted his proposal of marriage.

Nesbit’s new husband beat her on their honeymoon until she revealed all the details of her former affair with Stanford White. Although she bore him no ill feelings, Thaw vowed to get even with the man who “spoiled” his wife.

The entire affair was an inspiration for E.L. Doctorow’s book Ragtime and the movie, also titled Ragtime, based on it.

[cehwiedel also writes at cehwiedel.com]

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