637 Commercial Street

Hyphen-House (East half)

A view from the air makes immediately clear why Nos. 637 and 635 Commercial Street were once known collectively as the Hyphen-House, for there is indeed a slender connector between the two structures, which are now separate properties. At the time these two were in single ownership, the complex also included a garage, 638 Commercial Street, which has long been the Kearney family home. There is no evidence either of the hyphen connecting passage or of the garage on a 1929 street atlas, suggesting they were built in the 1930s. Not a lot of people had the money to build at that time, of course, but Gordon Fisher Sr. (b 1873) of Pittsburgh seems to have been one of them.

The story of Fisher and his family will be found at No. 635. The Fishers sold the property in 1945 to Leita W. Gray and James H. Gray, who opened it the next year as a lodging and restaurant called Hyphen-House. Its advertising in 1949 seems designed to placate neighbors in this quiet part of town: “No liquor, no entertainment — specializing only in fine food served at reasonable prices.”

Psychiatrists and psychoanalysts were once almost as common in the East End as artists. This was the summer home of Dr. Bernard C. Meyer (±1910-1988) of the Mount Sinai Medical School, the author of Joseph Conrad: A Psychoanalutic Biography (1967). Because the property is still joined by a shingled umbilical cord to No. 635, it has been known as the Schwartz-Meyer house.

[Updated 2012-07-28]


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