Rosa Gretsch and her Real Estate Transactions, Brooklyn, 1888-1910

Rosa’s husband, Fritz Gretsch wrote his will on Wednesday, April  10, 1895. He left everything to his wife.  The next day he sailed for Europe.  On April 28, just 18 days after writing this will and shortly after his ship landed in Hamburg, Fritz died of Cholera. He was one month short of his 39th birthday. Rosa was only two months younger. They had seven children, the oldest was 15, the youngest 4.  All the children were minors in eyes of the law.

Since Rosa inherited all of her husband’s property, she was now even more than before, very much a part of all of his previous real estate transactions.

In February of 1887, Fritz purchased section 8 of block 2218. This block was boarded by Bedford. Penn, Lee and Rutledge.  Just one year later, Rosa’s husband,  began purchasing property on block 2241 on Middleton Street in Brooklyn.  This was just blocks away from his purchase the previous year. Perhaps, he started acquiring property in Brooklyn before then. As of May, 2010, they are the earliest records found.

Fritz made four more purchases over the next four years of property on this 2241 block at Middleton ave. The block was surrounded by Middleton Street, Harrison Avenue, Lorimer Street ( then Gwinnet) and March Avenue.Clearly, he was setting up his business here and planning on watching it grow.

However, between 1892 when Fritz made another purchase on this block and 1893 when he made his first purchase on South Fourth Street, his plans had clearly changed. Brooklyn directories show that the business moved in 1894 to South Fourth Street. Plans had already begun in 1893 for moving the business to South Fourth Street. After 1894 Middleton Street is no longer given as the address for the Gretsch business.

It was around this time that plans were being formalized for the building of the Williamsburg Bridge.  This bridge like the Brooklyn Bridge before it, would connect  Brooklyn and Manhattan. Fritz saw the chance of moving his business or expanding it to the area near the entrance of the bridge in Brooklyn.  His purchase of this property in 1893 clearly shows his interest in being near the entrance to the soon to be built bridge.

Marion Gretsch Wells, granddaughter of Rosa Gretsch told me (GES-great granddaughter of Rosa) in 2012 that there was a slump in the market in 1892 and the Gretsch family was buying a lot of land.

The last real estate transaction that Fritz made before his death was in February, 1894. This purchase involved again the property again at Middleton Street. This time Rosa’s name appears on the mortgage that was taken out from Frederick Schwimm. It is interesting that this last transaction would so clearly involve Rosa. Interesting also in light of the fact that Fritz in his last will would leave everything to his wife. He clearly trusted her and she was clearly interested in the business.

In June of 1895, just months after her husband’s  unexpected death, Rosa acted quickly to buy from the Williamsburgh Saving Bank the mortgage on the first property that Fritz had purchased on Block 2218. She then purchased the two mortgages that assured her ownership of section 8 block 2241 on Middleton Ave. This was the property where the factory was located. Lastly, in that first summer after her husband’s death, she purchased a mortgage from Adriana Bush for the property where the family home was located, Block 1770, section 6. Louie Gretsch who was the executor of Fritz’s estate and Rosa were taking steps quickly to remove the debt from Fritz’s estate.

Her next real estate transaction on November 16 of the same year was the purchase of the Gretsch burial plot at the prestigious Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn.  Up until this point,  all the members of the Gretsch family who died in America were buried at the Evergreen Cemetery. Rosa broke with tradition with this real estate purchase and showed clearly her independence and forsight, These same traits she would use to guide the family business until her sons were old enough to take control.

By 1900, it was clear that the business would no long operate from the Middleton Ave location.  On July 25, 1900, Rosa paid the estate of her husband $6,000 for the property on Block 2241, sec 8. On the same day, just fifteen minutes later it was recorded that Rosa for the sum of $1.00 and other valuable considerations  granted  to Martin J. Suydam the property of section 8, Block 2241 subject to a lease made by the estate of Freidrich Gretsch and to a mortgage for $4,500. 00 made by Rosa Gretsch to Louis Gretsch as executor of the last will. In other words, Rosa was paid $4,500.00 by the estate. She probably used this money to pay the estate the $6,000.00 on the same property.  Rosa now owns this property and leases it out to Suydam.

There are 6 other properties transactions by Rosa between 1900 and 1905. These properties scattered around Brooklyn were most likely instrumental in securing funds for the expansion of the business. In February of 1902, Gretsch purchased R.H. Benary. The Gretsch business at that time was located at 104-08 South Fourth Street. In 1903, the factory building at that address was renovated. In 1905 plans were underway for the construction of a new building at the same address.

In May of 1907, soon after Louie’s death Rosa sold her property on South Fourth Street to her children.  Her husband, Fritz had purchased this property on May 17, 1893. Rosa was perhaps now stepping out of the family business. This I believe was also the year she was married. Her oldest son Fred was now 27 years old and would soon be taking over the care of his father’s trust. There was now less than three thousand dollars in the trust which had once been valued at $28,000.

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