This weekend, I stopped to snap a photo and a man stopped and told us that he's lived here for 51 years and knew the story of the house. Here is what he told us: It used to be a place that sold tuxedos and formal wear. The family had several children, but one of them, a daughter, was raped and murdered in the top floor, possibly in the 1940's (note: it was actually 1974). The killer was never found. The children (or one of them and a spouse?) still live there and refuse to renovate or change anything. The top floor is exactly the way it was when the daughter was murdered and you can still see the powder where the cops dusted for fingerprints. This man had been inside once and was witness to its originality. He said they have no intention of selling or changing or even of renting out the storefront.
The name of the family is Sopolsky, and the building was built in 1915.
Then, our historian, ran back into the store where he works, the Indian fabric store that faces the haunted house.
Historical notes: I found this on a flickr page with a photo of the building;
In the late 19th century, irene stenard's temporary home for women stood at this address.
here's a pic of the building in the late 19th century: digital.library.upenn.edu/women/bly/madhouse/11.gif
the address was made famous in a book written byNellie Bly
Nellie Bly was an investigative reporter, and took an assignment for the new york world newspaper Blackwell Island (roosevelt island).
Under the pseudonym "nellie brown" she checked herself into the boarding house at 84 second avenue, and began feigning insanity in order to get herself locked up at Bellevue, and hopefully transported to the insane asylum at Blackwell Island. Here's an account of her story, in a book "ten days in a mad-house" digital.library.upenn.edu/women/bly/madhouse/ madhouse.html
According to nyc dob records, there was a demolition permit for this building in 1909 so the current building was built sometime after that.
Google books has one mention that this address once was the headquarters of the united cloak and suit designers mutual aid association.
NYC dof records indicate the building has been owned by the sopolsky family since 1970.
New York Times archives indicate a bunch of real estate leases, some minor tidbits associated with that address including a murder of one of the Sopolskys there in 1974.
i pulled this one up
Jan 18, 1974, New York Times
From the Police Blotter:
The nude body of a 40-year-old woman propietor of a tailor shop that rents tuxedos on the Lower East Side was found bludgeoned to death. The victim was Helen Sopolsky of 84 Second Avenue, near fifth Street, whose shop is one flight up at that address. The motive of the attack was not determined immediately...."
How Nellie Bly became an amusement park, I have no idea but I used to pass it on the way to a soccer field that was just beyond it. I don't know if it is still operating.