Updated: Jul 28
When New York City became the first capitol of the United States in 1789 the newly elected president needed a house for his family while residing here. A stalwart of the Brick Presbyterian Church happened to be living in a very stately mansion at 1-3 Cherry Street, and he offered it to President Washington. The church member (later Clerk of Session, President of the Board of Trustees and Elder) Samuel Osgood (1747-1813), was originally from Massachusetts, had previously studied theology at Harvard, been a colonel in the American Revolution, and was active politically. President Washington appointed Osgood to be the first Postmaster General for the new Federal government. Osgood’s second wife, Maria Bowne Franklin, whom he married in 1786 and by whom he had five children, was a member of the important Quaker Bowne family, and she was the widow of Walter Franklin, the previous owner of 1-3 Cherry Street.
Her first cousin happened to be the established Quaker cabinet maker .omas Burling. He was chosen to make furnishings in the Federal neo-classical style for the mansion, thanks to a grant from the congress, which detailed every item owned by the public in an Articles Furnished list. .e furnishings later went to Philadelphia to the next presidential mansion. Burling’s shop was a few doors down from the Brick Church, then called the New Church, on Beekman Street. It was convenient for Washington, Jefferson and Knox to drop by, and one of their visits there was recorded in a newspaper at the time. Burling privately made furniture for these men as well as for the Clinton family and for Robert R. Livingston, who administered the oath of office to Washington. Additionally Burling’s partner made furniture in the prevailing style, replete with Federal motifs of eagle, stars, laurel leaves and classical columns for the recently refurbished Federal Hall on Wall Street.
Going back to 1776, also known to General Washington was the minister, Dr. John Rodgers, of the New Church, which had become a jail and then a hospital in the hands of the British during the American Revolution. With the exception of a few loyalists, its members rushed from the city and did not return until the British departed on Evacuation Day in the fall of 1783.
A pillar for the Brooklyn Bridge now replaces 1-3 Cherry Street. Fortunately the Bowne stationers building can be visited in the South Street Seaport restoration, so a bit of history of the neighborhood remains. Sadly, the Brick Church and Burling’s shop on Beekman Street have long vanished. So too has the resting place for Samuel Osgood, who published on religious subjects, and was buried on hallowed ground in a vault in the yard of his church on Beekman Street.