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A.T. Demarest
A.T. Demarest  & Co - 1860-1918 - A.T. Demarest Co. Inc. 1918-1930s - New York, New York - 1873-1915 - New Haven, Connecticut
Associated Builders
Lawrence, Bradley & Pardee; C.T. Silver

Aaron T. Demarest (1841-1908) was born in Nyack, New York in 1841 and came to New York in 1855. In 1860 he went into business for himself on Park Place. After a short interval Mr. Demarest, with his partner, Gabriel C. Chevalier, moved to 628 Broadway, between Houston and Bleeker Streets, where they remained for almost thirty years. In 1890, they moved uptown into more elaborate quarters at 335 Fifth Ave. (at one time they also had property on 13th Street)

In 1873, Demarest & Chevalier purchased what was left of the New Haven, Connecticut firm of Lawrence, Bradley and Pardee Company from the sole remaining owner, William H. Bradley. Lawrence, Bradley &. Pardee were successors of the famed James Brewster. Under Demarest, the 61-67 Chapel St. factory grew to employ over 100 workers before closing down in 1916 when Demarest halted all carriage production and concentrated on building automobile bodies in their New York City factory.

In 1890, Demarest moved their New York City warerooms uptown to more fashionable quarters at an Astor-owned building at 335 Fifth Ave and 33rd St. Three years later, The New York Times reported:

“Many Fine Carriages Burned – Hotel Waldorf’s Guests Watch a Fire in the Demarest Carriage Warehouse.

“The guests of the Hotel Waldorf were aroused from their sleep at 3:30 o’clock yesterday morning by the clattering of fire engines in Fifth Avenue and Thirty-third Street, and when they looked out upon Fifth Avenue they saw the carriage warehouse of A.T. Demarest was in flames. For tow hours or more they watched the flames with interest.

“The Demarest building is a five-story brick structure, across the avenue from the Waldorf, at the northeast corner of Thirty-third Street and Fifth Avenue.  It is used chiefly as a storage house for carriages. The top floor, where the fire started, was used as a repair shops, and the paints, oils, varnishes, and seasoned wood stored there furnished fuel for a fire that illuminated Fifth Avenue for many blocks….

“There were over 200 vehicles of all kinds, valued at $150,000, in the building. In the repair shop were twenty fine carriages. Most of these were entirely destroyed and the fire extended to the fourth floor.

In 1902 Demarest suffered a major stroke and withdrew from the day-to-day activities of the firm which at the time was run by Gabriel C. Chevalier, the firm’s secretary, and two members of Demarest’s immediate family; his brother, William R. Demarest and son, Warren G. Demarest.

Following Demarest’s stroke, New York’s Fleischmann family (of Fleishmann’s yeast, vinegar and gin fame), provided the financing for Demarest’s factory manager, Justus Vinton Locke, to open his own firm, Locke & Co., which would later become one of Manhattan’s premiere coach builders. Locke was an engineering graduate of Central New York’s Hamilton College and had served his apprenticeship at Healey & Co. He later went to work for Demarest and became superintendent of their New York City branch during the 1890s.

Another coachbuilder who worked for Demarest was Paul Ostruk, the founder of Brooks-Ostruk. Trained as a coachbuilder in his native Czechoslovakia, Ostruk emigrated to the United States in 1908. He worked for a number of New York City coachbuilders before being hired by Demarest, which is where he became friends with a Demarest customer named Mr. Brooks, who offered to help Ostruk form a firm of his own.

The following item appeared in the July 9, 1908 New York Times:

“A.T. Demarest Poisoned – New York Manufacturer is Taken Violently Ill After Eating Clams.

“Greenwich, Conn., July 9 – A.T. Demarest, a wealthy carriage manufacturer of New York City is seriously ill at the Kent House, a summer resort, the victim of ptomaine poisoning contracted two weeks ago while attending the graduation at Yale of his grandson, Francesco Whitmore.

“On the day following commencement he went to a shore dinner at Savin Rock and it was there, he believes, that he was poisoned eating clams. On his return to Greenwich he was taken violently ill. For several days he was in a dangerous condition.

Four days later, July 13, 1908, the Times announced his death:

“Greenwich, Conn., July 13 – A.T. Demarest, the New York carriage and automobile manufacturer, died tonight at the Kent House following, it is said, ptomaine poisoning. Mr. Demarest had been ill for more that three weeks, but a week ago it was thought he was recovering.

“Aaron T. Demarest was the president of the firm of A.T. Demarest & Co. of 335 Fifth Ave. which had been engaged for the past six years in making bodies for automobiles in “addition to carriage building, in which the firm has engaged in this city for forty-eight years.

“He was born in Nyack in 1841 and came to New York in 1855. In 1860 he went into business for himself in Park Place. After a short interval Mr. Demarest, with his partner, Gabriel C. Chevalier, moved to Broadway, between Houston and Bleeker Streets, and remained there for thirty years, when they transferred the carriage business to 335 Fifth Ave, the present address.

“Gabriel Chevalier said last night that Mr. Demarest had a stroke of paralysis six years ago and had not taken an active interest in the business since. His death last night was due, Mr. Chevalier said, to a second stroke of paralysis brought on by Mr. Demarest having gone to Yale during the great heat so see his grandson, Francesco Whitmore, graduate. In addition to his grandson, he is survived by two sons, Warren G. and John Howard, and a widowed daughter, Mrs. F.B. Whitmore. William R. Demarest, a brother, and Warren G. Demarest, the son are directors of the company and Gabriel Chevalier is Secretary.

A new 9-story building  (117’x66’ – 7700 sq ft per floor) was constructed by A.T. Demarest & Co. in 1909 at the southeast corner of Broadway and 57th St (224-228 West 57th Street aka  1758-1770 Broadway). It was designed by the famous New York architect, Francis H. Kimball, who also designed the new factory Peerless distributorship next door.

At the 1911 New York Importer’s Salon, Demarest’s large exhibit attracted the attention of the New York Times reporter:

“Demarest & Co. will place the 38 horsepower English Daimler Silent Knight show chassis in the space this morning.  The other cars they are displaying are three Italas and three Renaults. All the bodies having been built in their own shops. One Itala is a 30 horse power with a green limousine body, another is a 20 horse power show chassis, and the third is a 15 horse power dark blue folding front landaulet.

“The Renaults shown in the Demarest space are a 12-16 horse maroon extension front landaulet, with one-fourth windows at each side in front; a 14-20 horse power green landaulet, with a detachable top over the driver’s seat and folding window pillars arranged so the body can be changed into an open one for touring, and a 20-30 horse power maroon limousine.

Demarest also built a large number of bodies for the luxurious Simplex/Crane-Simplex/Simplex-Crane automobiles of 1907-1919. They also supplied bodies for the American Singer as well as the F.R.P., Porter and Hol-Tan as well as imported chassis such as Benz, Panhard et LeVassor, Renault, English Daimler and Itala.

Few Demarest bodies are known to exist but the Owl's Head Transportation Museum in Owl's Head, Maine has a 1905 Panhard with a Custom King of Belgium touring body by Demarest. At the time of his death, the great bandleader, Don Ricardo, owned a 1911 Benz with Demarest Victoria Touring body originally owned by C.M. Hayes, President of the Chicago Grand Trunk Railway.

Demarest also exhibited at the 1912 and 1913 Salon but they were noticeably absent from the 1914 edition and all subsequent salons. In 1915, A.T. Demarest & Co. discontinued their New Haven factory, and two years later the firm’s board of directors accepted a very lucrative offer by William’s Durant’s General Motors Corp. to buy out their lease on the 57th St. property.

Both the A.T. Demarest building and it’s Peerless sister structure were acquired in 1918 and combined into one office building by the recently-formed General Motors Corporation for its initial major corporate headquarters. The building was used by General Motors for over fifty years, until its purchase in 1977 by the Hearst Corporation to house offices of its Heart Magazines division. The A.T. Demarest/Peerless building was designated an official New York City Landmark in 2000.

The Demarest board - William R. Demarest, president; Warren G. Demarest, vice-president & treasurer; and Gabriel Chevalier, secretary - elected to sell the business as well and on February 7, 1919, F. Neubauer, W. Farrell and A. Cordes incorporated the A.T. Demarest Co. Inc. with a capitalization of $50,000.

The new owners re-located the new firm to a leased factory located at 521 E.72nd St., which is on New York’s upper East Side between York Ave and the East River. Hugo Pfau remembered frequenting the new firm during the late twenties at  to check up on repair work they had undertaken for LeBaron.

Demarest also built some of the early LeBaron-designed bodies, including the first Locomobile Sportif introduced in 1923 and a sporting roadster fitted to a 1923 Peerless V8 model 66 chassis. Later that year LeBaron designed a pair of bodies for the well-known female architect, Theodate Pope Riddle.

She owned two 1915 Crane-Simplex chassis, and wanted to update their coachwork. Under LeBaron's guidance, Demarest built a new Coupe-Landaulet and Sedan Limousine and fabricated completely new radiators, hoods and fenders that did not betray the 8-year-old chassis.

Demarest continued to build bodies into the late twenties, but by 1930 most of their work involved collision and paint work. They also refurbished older bodies and mounted them onto new chassis, a job that often involved extensive rebuilding of the cowl and rear quarters.

© 2004 Mark Theobald -






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