Monday, April 23, 2012

Bully Old House: LM Green Mansion

During my research on the Lewis M. Green mansion, that once stood on the corner of West German Street (now Barber Avenue) and Broad, I unearthed an almost unbelievable story printed in the Bridgeton Evening News in 1900. It involves Lewis' siblings after his death and the disputed "ownership" of his grand Italianate mansion. I have transcribed it here word for word from the original source, as I found it not only educational regarding our cities architectural history, but quite comical. Be aware this was indeed written in 1900 and is almost completely, if not in fact then in literary style, "tounge in cheek."



Every Time Joe Green Wanted His House He Notified His Sister by Demolishing the Windows--Now He's Going to Get It.
     Years and years ago-so long ago that the nerves, lungs, stomach and kidneys of man cannot remember-L. M. Green, of Woodbury, concocted patent medicines that were sovereign for the most racking ills flesh is heir to. Having made these patent medicines he began making money. It was not only a humane occupation, but also a profitable one. He stuck to it. He made more patent medicines and more money. His fame went abroad in the land, and grateful humanity, in printed testimonials, told the world how good he was to its lungs, its nerves, its stomach, its kidneys, and all other members, regions and disordered bailiwicks the Green remedies so effectively reached. Aesculapius died; so did Green, twenty years ago.
     The sovereign remedies, together with suffering humanity, were the children's inheritance. The oldest of the three children was a stepson, Colonel G. G. Green, who liked work. The next was Joe, who didn't like work. And the third was a daughter, who, being married to John Lupton and a co-heiress to millions, couldn't be expected to work. Colonel Green took charge of the business, extended it, made even better remedies than his father, and succeeded to his father's position as magnate of Woodbury. He was trustee of the estate, and carefully discharged his obligation towards his brother and his sister.


     The arrangement suited Joe to a T. He was shrewd as a Timber Creek eel, and he loved the water just as much. With a good brother to take care of his inheritance, all Joe had to do was enjoy himself. He did it brilliantly.
     In 1879, shortly before the elder Green went the way of all doctors, as well as of all patients, he builded for his own enjoyment, and to the great honor of Woodbury, a gorgeous house at the northwest corner of West German street and Broadway. It was a gorgeous house with plenty of pillars on the front porch, and with glass windows all over it. "Plenty of light and lots of plate glass," were the instructions to the architect.
     When the father died, he willed the $40,000 house to his son Joe, in fee simple. But Joe hadn't any use for it. He had a boathouse down on the banks of Woodbury creek that contained more fun in its back kitchen that the Broad street mansion did in its saloon parlor. Joe allowed the mansion to take care of itself; he was content to abide on the verdant banks of Woodbury creek.

     Four years ago Mrs. Lupton, his sister, suggested that, as Joe was not using the Broad street house, he might as well let her live in it.
     "All right," Joe answered, "go ahead. When I want it, I'll let you know."


     He began to want it-two years later. Mr. Lupton, his brother-in-law, was a chronic invalid; and Mrs. Lupton, her lares and penates well installed, was very loath to leave the house her father had put up. So Joe was persuaded to stick to his boathouse for awhile. About a year ago he married a Philadelphia girl, and took her home to the boathouse. But he wanted that mansion more than ever. His family didn't like the bride. His sister was more than ever unwilling to surrender the house. Joe became desperate.
     One day late last winter he went to West German street and Broadway and rang the bell.
     "I want my house, and I want it quick," he told his sister.

     "Joe, you go right away from here. If you can't come around and behave like a gentleman, don't come at all."
     "It's my house," said Joe, as he slowly descended the steps.
     He walked thoughtfully into the middle of Broad street, picked up a stray brick, and heaved it through the parlor window.
     "It's my house and my plate glass," he murmured when the tinkling ended. "I'll do what I darn please with it."
     He walked along Broad street until he found another brick. He returned and smashed another window.
     "Bully old house," said Joe Green in affectionate remorse as the glass showered on the porch outside and a Brussels carpet inside. "Bully old house." Pop built you. Never mind; I'll fix you up new when Mamie and I move in."
     He went back to the boat-house and waited to become desperate again. It happened in a couple days. He smashed the German street windows this time.
     "Plate glass is pretty dear," he reflected. "But, thanks to dear old father and to Brother George, the patent medicine business is paying yet."


     Ever since, Joe Green has relieved his feelings by smashing the plate glass windows. The Lupton family lived in a state of siege. Woodbury regularly took two days off a week to witness the bombardment and admire Joe's accuracy of aim.
     "Joe Green's loose again."
     "What's he after now?"
     "He's going to plunk the third-story front this time; he's got a barrel load of bricks."

     The price of bricks in Woodbury rose at one time from $9 to $13 per thousand. At length the Luptons had the ground floor windows all boarded up. But they would not move. Joe's wife became more than ever insistent that a boat-house in a catfish ditch was no fit residence for a lady who was the bride of a millionaire.
     "My darling," said Joe early Monday morning, "you're right. I shall take possession of my house right away."
     Unarmed, carrying not even half a brick, Joe went to Broad and West German streets and stood close to the kitchen door. Maryanne, who does housework for Mrs. Lupton, went into the yard to hang out the wash. As Maryanne went out Joe went in.
     "Oh, but's Muster Joe!" exclaimed Maryanne, returning. "Go'way, fur the sake av me job an'yer own immorthal sowl, go'way."
     "Maryanne," said Joe Green, affably, "It's my house. I've smashed all the windows and haven't done anything but harm my own property. Now I'm going to stay here, to live here, do you understand, Maryanne?"
     Maryanne told her mistress. They tried in every way to get Joe out, but he could not be moved. He slept there overnight. His wife came for him the next morning. He consented then to depart, but gave the Luptons until June 1 to vacate the premises. They have decided to obey.
     "I'm going to have my client move out in a short time." said her agent, Philip Cattell. "Still I can tell you right now there's going to be the deuce to pay before the summer's over."

LM Green mansion (bottom) and Green opera house (top)
from a 1927 Dallin aerial photograph
As I stated in the beginning of the post, I'm not sure how accurate of a re-telling this really is. However, upon checking the 1900 census recorded on the 11th of June, it shows a one Jos. D. Green and a one Mamie Green living at 255 S. Broad Street (the original address of the LMG mansion). Curiously, Jos Green's profession is listed as Real Estate! I'd say!

Hurled bricks at his house: Trouble in a millionaire family. (1900, April 26). Bridgeton Evening News, p. 4.


Jacks said...

Hysterical! I love, "Woodbury regularly took two days off a week to witness the bombardment and admire Joe's accuracy of aim."