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Manuscript “Estimate Book" for an unidentified New York City contractor, dated 1867-1873

small quarto, 84 pages plus blanks, entries written on lined paper, in ink, bound in half black leather, marbled paper covered boards, worn at tips of spine, corners and edges of boards, boards scuffed, outside hinges of binding mostly open, but boards attached, text block good. Volume was printed by "R.C. Root, Anthony & Co., Stationers, Printers & Lithographers, No. 16 Nassau St., cor. Pine, New York." Front board contains paper label with "Estimate Book" written on it, Includes index in front of book with names of 24 different individuals or companies.

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The first 84 pages of text consists of the "Estimate Book" of the contractor, recording various contracts that he appears to have bid on, given estimates, and perhaps in some cases eventually secured the contract. Some pages have "entered" with a circle around it, as if to say that this bid was accepted. Other estimates show changes, or monies subtracted.

After the entries for the contractor's estimate book, there are two other sections with entries, as well as a number of blank pages. Just after the Estimate Book there is a 5 page section of diary entries which are dated 1 Jan. - 3 Feb, 1909, written in pencil and in a legible hand. At the rear of the volume there is another 5 page section, which has one page written in ink, the others in pencil and is dated 1911. It is unclear what the relationship of these two small sections to the larger contractor's Estimate Book. It's possible they are related, but they differ in dates by forty to fifty years. These two smaller sections appear to be related. The first 5 page section is a diary, presumably kept by a woman and she mentions doing seamstress work. The section small section of 5 pages is of accounts, where the product being shipped is shawls. These sections also appear to have some sort of Philadelphia (PA) connection.

            Description of "Estimate Book"

While the volume is not signed and the name of the contractor is not known, the volume does include an index at the beginning and records 24 different contracts that our contractor either carried out, or bid on. If he carried out a project, and since the name and street is given of the property to be worked on, it could be possible with further research in old newspaper databases, to find out who built these "new" structures, perhaps in the classified sections of the papers.  Some of these projects were:

 M & S Steinberger, on White St., where he repaired beams, worked on flights of stairs, ran ventilation to a water closet, etc. J.C. Hamilton - Barclay St., where he put in steam pipes, laid a floors, hung wainscoting, installed various hardware, etc. He did considerable work for Hamilton, covering over fifteen pages of this volume. Abbott & Fuller had some work done, fitting up offices in the "Hamilton Building."

One entry, 6 pages long, is for the "rebuilding of Apollo Hall, 28th St. & B'Way." The theatre sat at 31 W. 28th Street, near Broadway.  The theatre was originally built in 1868 and was named Gilsey's Apollo Hall. In 1870 it was renamed the St. James Theatre. Its capacity was approximately 1,530 seats. In its early years, it offered lectures in the upstairs hall and musical entertainment in the main auditorium. When Augustin Daly's former Fifth Avenue Theatre (on 24th Street) burned down in 1873, Daly moved his company to the St. James, remodeled it and renamed it the New Fifth Avenue Theatre, where he continued as proprietor until 1877. It was this remodeling of the theatre in June 1873 that is recorded in this volume. The entire estimate for remodeling by this contractor came to $19,939.94. This theatre was the first theatre to introduce air conditioning. It was destroyed by fire in 1891 and finally demolished in 1939.

In an entry from June 1868 our contractor bids on construction of five new houses at the corner of 52nd Street and 8th Avenue for a Mr. Walton. The estimate is laid out over five pages with a total cost to be $29,352.15. At about this same time, our contractor bid on another five house project, this time for a Mr. Edward N. Saylor, Jr. totaling $34,789.00. Messrs. L.W. & T.M. Andrews also had a contract taken out for four houses on 42nd Street between 5th & 6th Avenues, two large houses ($20,789.26) and two smaller houses ($12,761.56).

Another project he appears to have bid on was the Gilsey Hotel at the corner of Broadway and 29th Street, coming in at an estimate of $32,750.00. It is unclear if he was the eventual contractor on the job. The building still exists today, and is on the historical register.

All of these estimations give the amount of lumber and other material needed, as well as labor costs by the day. Sometimes the contract appears to show either the material cost separately, or combined with labor. Other times labor is specifically separated out. Some bids were updated, or stated to have been "entered."