Came across this photo and accompanying story, last week:

Lots of people dream of running away with the circus, but big-top legend James A. Bailey had the opposite idea in 1888 when he built his Romanesque Revival refuge at 10 St. Nicholas Place and 150th Street …

Architect Samuel Burrage Reed’s whimsical design included a corner turret, limestone walls and a Dutch gable, with exotic woods and stained-glass windows adorning the interior.

James Anthony Bailey was a circus manager, whose circus later merged with the circus of better known Phineas Taylor Barnum, in the 1880s. Their company merged with Ringling Brothers, in 1919.

“I never knew a sharper, shrewder, bolder man than Bailey,” Barnum told The New York Times in 1887. When Barnum died in 1891, The Times called Bailey “a Caesar among showmen,” describing him as “a little man, slender and wiry, a perfect bundle of nerves.”

There’s a Boston link to this story (were you wondering?).

There’s a building located at the corner of Greenwich Park and Columbus Avenue, in the South End, known as the Bailey Mansion. I’ve always been under the impression (as have been others) that it is called this because it was once owned by James A. Bailey (or, perhaps, a family member?).

In fact, if you walk by, or look closely at this photo, you’ll see there are a stone lion statue in front of the building.

Bailey sold the Manhattan house in 1904, two years before his death in Mount Vernon. The Times reported that when news of his death reached the circus at Madison Square Garden, “one of the old clowns broke down completely and only stopped sobbing when the bell rang and he had to run into the ring to make the people laugh.”

NY Barnum Mansion source: It happened here – By Daniel Derouchie, Time Out New York

Also, Streetscapes/150th Street and St. Nicholas Place; 1888 Mansion Built by the Bailey of Barnum & Bailey – By Christopher Gray, The New York Times

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Updated: January 2018



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