Thomas A. Clarke
Thomas A. Clarke was the son of Joseph Clarke and Mary
Gilmartin. He was born in Morris Run on November 3rd, 1878. Very little is known
about his youth as he was about nine years older than my father. We started
research on Thomas too late to collect a lot of information. He went to Brooklyn
sometime before 1900. We located his first address as being 155 Monitor
Street, Brooklyn. He worked as an ironworker with the address of 232 Kent St.
The area was associated with a downtown section of Brooklyn, near the Brooklyn
Navy Yard. In 1903, he was listed as a contractor at the same address. In 1910,
he is listed as a "builder" at 26 Court Street. In 1918, he lived in a
large home at 176 Seeley Street. We know our great grandparents, grandfather,
and later my father, lived in homes between 18th and 19th
St., which he owned. In 1928, he had moved his offices to 1310 Bedford Avenue,
in Brooklyn. He remained there until his death in 1935.
THIS 1924 PHOTO SHOWS P.S. 193, E 26 ST., IN
BROOKLYN, NY . THE SCHOOL WAS CONSTRUCTED
BY THE T.A. CLARKE CONSTRUCTION CO.
AND JAMES P. GILMARTIN WAS THE SUPERINTENDENT .
standing and looking terrific in the year 2000. Those Gilmartins could sure
build them! Click
on photo for a full sized photo. Photo by Richard Duvall
In 1928, he was one of the largest contractors in the city. He
was President and owner of seven investing firms, having large holdings in West
Palm Beach, Florida. He owned land in Huntington, Centereach, and
Northport, along with two theaters, and a large construction supply depot in
College Point. It seems unusual for one man, who grew up in a mining town,
beginning as an ironworker, to become a multimillionaire in twenty short years.
Although my father (James P. Gilmartin) worked for him for 39 years as an
apprentice bricklayer, bricklayer, foreman, and superintendent, Dad never gave
us the full story of his success. We do know indirectly that he was a hard
driving, strong willed man who pushed hard in everything he did. He belonged to
all the right clubs in Brooklyn, Montauk, Emerald, Brooklyn and Crescent. The
clubs were frequented by many of the business, political, religious, and social
leaders of the day. It was in these places that contacts were made with the
right persons to insure a contract for a school building, the purchase of
stocks, real estate deals, and so on.
The Democratic party controlled Brooklyn. It was at this time
in his life that T. A. Clarke was in the right place at the right time. John H.
McCooey as the Democratic Leader of Brooklyn and in his early youth worked at
the John Roach & Sons Worthington Pump Works, at the Brooklyn Navy Yard. T.
A. Clarke also worked as an ironworker. John McCooey developed strong control of
the party throughout the city. In 1918 he was able to elect Mayor J. H. Hylan to
the cities highest position. During the years 1918 to 1925, the city built 191
schools, along with many other buildings. T.A. Clarke was a building contractor.
In 1925, with the help of John McCooey, Clarke was able to pour his many profits
into the purchase of land in Florida. It was a time of great optimism in the
business circles of Wall Street, and land development in Florida was a good
risk. T. A. Clarke slowly withdrew from his building of schools, while building
in West Palm Beach. He had constructed The Palm Beach Hotel, a church, and a
post office. He acquired many hundreds of lots along many of the small
communities growing along the Florida coast near and around Palm Beach. His
investments amounted to a net worth of three million dollars by the summer of
1929. I’m sure his mind was not on the Wall Street stock market in early
October, 1929. It was not long before the effects of the crash affected every
investment T. A. Clarke had.
The Palm Beach Hotel,
constructed by Thomas Clarke in 1925 featured a large supper club known as
the Roof Garden. It was lost under several misguided renovations in the
late 1940's and the early 1980's. After the hotel was condominiumized,
that portion of the hotel became a commercial condominium unit which was
foreclosed in 1988.. I purchased it from the lender and did a total
restoration which was completed in 1994. It now again serves its original
purpose and is the site of many wedding receptions and banquets. While
researching the history of the hotel, I found this wonderful website and
can understand the reason for the excellent design and original
construction of this building. I continue as an outspoken advocate of the
restoration of the remainder of the Palm Beach Hotel to its original
design. -R. Julian Rogers, Manager Roof Garden Ballroom Palm Beach
Hotel 235 Sunrise Avenue Palm Beach, FL 33480
Palm Beach Hotel -235 Sunrise Avenue, Palm Beach, FL 33480, Built by Thomas A.
Clarke in 1925 (Photo
the Desmond Family Website)
2008- The Palm Beach Hotel received Landmark
designation from the Town of Palm Beach. The Palm Beach Hotel has over
200 units and each is individually owned. It does have a rare
Hotel/Condo license which allows owners to rent anywhere from one day
stays to year round stays by guests. No restrictions on rentals.
P.S. 66, Richmond Hill, NY, one of Clarke's first construction
projects, completed in 1899, will be designated a National
Landmark in June, 2011. The school is named for Jacqueline
This time he was at the wrong place at the wrong time. His
properties were bought on a low margin in order to make more acquisitions. The
crash caused Clarke to immediately sell some of his holdings in order to hold on
to others. He played this cat and mouse game for the next six years, which could
have contributed to his sudden death on May 31, 1935, at the age of 58. He made
an heroic attempt to salvage his major properties by conducting a land auction
in Florida in February, 1935. He only lived three more months.
T. A. Clarke's daughter, Geraldine Clarke Kravis,
recalled a visit to her father in Palm Beach in the spring of 1935, shortly
before his death. "I went by train and met him at the Hotel in Palm Beach.
He looked old and tired. He had suffered financially during the depression. We
motored to New York with a chauffeur. His doctor sent him to the hospital for
tests. I went to see him there and asked him if he wanted to see the Catholic
Chaplain to make his Easter Duty. This done, he seemed to lapse into a coma. He
died May 29th, 1935. In his will he did not forget me. He was generous to the end." (From the unpublished work "Papa" by Geraldine Clarke
Kravis) Read the entire work, Papa, by
T. A. Clarke was a very generous
person, despite his
reputation of being a hard bitten business man. He was the one person that
made it possible for every member of his family, including the Kilmartins,
Clarkes, Driscolls, and Desmonds, to go to Brooklyn from the dreary
mines and begin a new life in the wonderful atmosphere of Brooklyn. In the
1900’s, Brooklyn was without question the nicest place in all of New York City
to live and work.
It will be a very difficult task to uncover all the money he
gave to charity. He found work for countless uncles, cousins, nephews and
friends. Even in his death, he provided a place for all his family and relatives
at Holy Cross Cemetery, in Brooklyn.
I have had the opportunity to check some of his will and know
of his efforts to help those in need. He cannot be condemned, but rather praised
for his efforts. He came a long way from the life of a miner’s son. With a
little luck he would have been in Florida enjoying some of the hospitality he
showed to many of the Priests of the Brooklyn Dioceses. His wife, Lenora
(Desmond) Clarke, lived only one more month than Thomas, dying on May 29th,
1935. Click here to view Thomas A. Clarke's obituary.
Joseph Clarke married in 1870 to Mary
Married. Sara Hornsby
Married Thomas Driscoll (1871-1922)
|Married Leonora Desmond( 1880-1935)
Married John Leonard
Married John Reilly
Married. John Lynch
married Helen Schema
Married Ellen Roger
(?- 1980) Married in 1930 Mr. Colgan
(?- May 1985)
in 1935, Ludlow Kravis
1920 United States Census entry on Thomas A.
Clarke and Family at 176 Seeley St.
I have listed a little bit of information concerning the
descendants of Joseph Clarke and Mary Gilmartin. Joseph Clarke arrived in Morris
Run in 1868, and married Mary Gilmartin, in 1870. Joseph was a sailor became a
coal miner. We don’t know what brought him to the mining area but he appears,
from the pictures of him, as a hardy, friendly man. When he arrived in Brooklyn,
with his family, we know little about him except he worked in insurance. He had
a great working relationship with his two nephews, Frank and Joseph Driscoll.
When Frank and Joe’s mother died at an early age, he helped to bring them up. He
lived until the age of 86 in Windsor Terrace, in Brooklyn, frequently going to
the movies nearby. He was loved by his nieces and nephews. He saw his sons go
from success to failure, but kept a warm smile for all that knew him.
Additional Reading: Visit
The Remainder of our family history is
password protected to safeguard and respect the privacy of our living family. However, I
have left the past paragraph of chapter 17 for public viewing as it so
eloquently expresses the feelings of our late beloved Edward Gilmartin, the
primary researcher and author of this history:
"It is time to close this uneven story -for now -because it never really
ends. We hope and expect that the youngsters will read this story, the story of
their family and their roots, and carry the torch, embellishing and improving on
the story as they go along. I am sure that if they do, they will find a hobby
that can open up many new mysteries, and that in doing that they will insure the
continuance the valued traditions of our family life."
Chapter 16 (password