Jul 15, 2008

Walking New York: St. Luke's Place, The Mayor's House

James John Walker (1881-1946) or Jimmy Walker, sometimes known as Beau James, became Mayor of New York City in 1926 with the backing up Governor Al Smith and Tammany Hall. An Irish-American, Walker grew up in Greenwich Village and served in the State Assembly, representing Greenwich Village's district, and then in the state Senate before becoming mayor. His early years as mayor in the 1920s were successful as the city grew prosperous during the Jazz Age, and his term coincides with the many speakeasies of the Prohibition era. His residence on St. Luke's, in fact, is in close proximity to Chumley's, a favorite bar (now undergoing extensive reconstruction after an interior wall collapsed last year) with a speakeasy past. Walker's girlfriends tended to be chorus girls and show girls, and when he left office, he also left his wife, a vaudeville performer, for Betty Compton, a showgirl.

Jimmy Walker wrote songs, penning the words for the 1908 hit, "Will You Love Me in December as You Do in May?" A supporter of public life, Walker backed the legalization of boxing and opposed Prohibition. He liked attending the theater and staying up late at nightclubs. One potential issue, however, was that he didn't care all that much for showing up for work at City Hall. When the Depression deepened in the early 1930s, the Mayor's response was casual, urging people to look on the bright side by going to cheerful movies. When members of the state legislature decided to investigate city hall finances, they found that Walker routinely pocketed donations from businessmen seeking city franchises. He resigned in 1932 before the Governor, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, could decide whether or not to remove him. The Governor would become the next President.

After leaving office, Walker left New York to live for a couple of years in Europe with his second wife. Returning to the city, the couple adopted two children, and they divorced eight years later. Back home in NYC, he still enjoyed popularity with the public, often cited as the viable alternative candidate to incumbent Fiorello LaGuardia.

Few people know that Mayor Jimmy Walker lived in Middle Earth, or so it would seem from the looks of his overly-viny residence at #6 St. Luke's Place in Greenwich Village.

2 comments:

Chris said...

I really like your original and intelligent blog. I'll be in New York with two friends next week and plan to follow some of your walks.

Teri Tynes said...

Why, thank you so much, Chris. Have a great time in NYC with your friends.