New York City – Old Grocery Houses

The great grocers and heavy wholesale tea purchasers resided mainly in Front Street. Among them all I do not know of more than three houses, or any members of grocery houses, who are still in business.

The largest grocers thirty years ago (1833) in Front Street or in the city were Reed & Sturgis, and Lee, Dater & Miller. The first firm changed to Reed, Hemstead & Sturgis, and is today Sturgis, Bennet & Co.

Luman Reed was a game old grocer ; he built a palace (for his day) in Greenwich Street, No. 13, close to the Atlantic Garden. The large pavement stones in front of his door were the wonder of his age. His first house was filled with paintings, and he never dreamed that the lower part of Greenwich Street would be desecrated by Dutch emigrant houses and rum shops !

Of the great grocers, Lee, Dater & Miller, that kept in a (then) mammoth store in Front Street, between Maiden Lane and Burling Slip, on the corner of Fletcher Street, only one, Philip Dater, is alive or in business. Next door to Lee, Dater & Miller was the firm of Jackson & McJimsey. They failed. Jackson lived in Liberty Street, and had a large family of daughters. One of them married George W. Tyson. Another daughter married Henry H. Leeds, formerly of the house of Amory Leeds & Co., but now Henry H. Leeds & Co., the auctioneers of note on Nassau Street.

To return to grocers. Harper & Sons are still left, and doing as large a business now as in 1838.

The three partners are the only ones in business now that were doing business in Front Street thirty years ago when that street was lined with such firms as Pomeroy & Bull, Wisner & Gale, S. Whitney, Smith Mills & Co., Isaac Van Cleff, A. V. Winans and others.

The Leggett family is very old. Samuel was the son of the late Thomas Leggett of West Farms, Westchester County, who among our most ancient merchants left an honored name.

During the Revolution, or about 1780, Thomas Leggett commenced business in a dry grocery (he did not sell rum) at the corner of Peck Slip and Pearl Street. There he was successful in a small way. At that time there was a market in Peck Slip. The Bank of New York was six doors above Thomas Leggett’s store on the same side. That was the old location (the bank was afterwards built on the corner of William and Wall). It has been since rebuilt.

Mrs. Phillip Hone, formerly Miss Dunscombe, was born and married in the next house to No. 307 Pearl (Queen). Mr. Leggett moved into his house, No. 307 in 1782, where he conducted a successful drygoods business, and lived until he retired. The firm was at first Thomas Leggett. Then he took into the firm in 1793 his brother Joseph, who left in 1803. Then, in 1803, Joseph retired. He took in his son Samuel, and the firm was Thomas Leggett & Son. He had several sons—Samuel, William H., Joseph, and Thomas, Jr. In 1807, the elder Leggett retired from business, and the firm was changed to Leggett, Fox & Co., consisting of Samuel, a brother, and his own brother William. In 1832 or 1833 the concern gave up business and closed up, although doing a large and prosperous business, continued for over forty years. The partners retired well off.