Written by Suzie Alvey, Village Historian, firstname.lastname@example.org Saturday, 16 November 2013 00:00
Greta and Christopher Besendorfer and their two daughters have lived at 148 Brixton Rd. for 12 years and wanted to know more about their home. Greta grew up on Somerset Avenue and like her girls, went to Stratford School.
The approximately 2,600-square foot home is located between Stratford Avenue and Newmarket Road. The house has a large modern kitchen with a family room. The Besendorfers reversed the den and the dining room.
“We eliminated the formal dining room and changed it into a great room with the kitchen while keeping the older home’s characteristics,” Greta said. Now the dining room is in the back of the home, behind the living room.
There are four bedrooms on the second floor. Originally there was a screened-in balcony-type of area on the second floor between the two front bedroom windows. Later, it was framed out and replaced with a walk-in closet and bath connected to the master bedroom, as well as an additional bathroom. There are also two bedrooms on the third floor, probably for the servants who lived there long ago. The larger bedroom is now an office with built-in seating under the windows. In the basement there is a fireplace that is being removed shortly.
The 148 Brixton Rd. house was built in approximately 1910 by the first family, Frank James Coupe (1878-1934) and Louise Bennett Coupe (1884-1955). They married in 1901, whereby Louise, who was Canadian, was able to be naturalized. They moved into town from Brooklyn, by way of Hollis, Queens. They had a daughter, Norma F. Coupe (1904-1967) and son, Frank Bennett Coupe (known as “Bennett,” born 1908) as well as a servant from Finland who lived with them.
Frank Coupe worked in the advertising business. One of his main jobs was being a partner in Coupe and Wilcox Advertising for ten years. (This is no relation to Charles Legh Wilcox who married Myrtle Meyer Wilcox in “My History House #5”) Coupe’s second big job was a sales manager at the Sonora Phonograph Company from 1916 to 1928. Sonora started out producing clocks in 1900, but switched to the phonograph in 1913 with rising interest in the new-fangled contraption. By 1924, Sonora included radios from other makers with their elaborate cabinets that were priced from $250 to $375. That is equal to $3,500 to $5,000 today. In photos of the Brixton house interior from that time (see photos), one can see the Coupes owned two large floor models. In those days not everyone owned a radio. In 1928, Frank joined up with another company to form Redfield- Coupe Advertising Agency in Manhattan. In his spare time, he became one of the founders of the Garden City Country Club.
The same year Frank joined Redfield-Coupe, their daughter, Norma married Andrew Francis Thompson (1905-1978) in St. Joseph’s Church. Norma had graduated from St. Mary’s School in town and Katherine Gibbs in Manhattan. Andrew graduated from the University of Pennsylvania, Wharton School, where he had done business research. Norma and Andrew both enjoyed sports; she was an award-winning tennis player and he was on three varsity teams in college. Little Andrew Thompson was born the following year, followed by Norma Patricia Thompson around 1933.
In 1934 Frank Coupe passed away. Their 20-year stay at 148 Brixton had come to an end. Louise and her son, Bennett Coupe briefly lived at 118 Newmarket Rd. and a year later joined Norma, Andrew and their children at 115 Brompton Rd. While there, Andrew was a broker and his brother-in-law, Bennett worked as an electrical appliance salesperson. By 1942, all six moved to 150 Roxbury Rd.
The second owners were the Roberts family. Hugh S. Roberts (b. 1884) and Josephine Majella Owens Roberts (1893-1974) moved to Brixton Road in 1935. Hugh lived in Brooklyn in 1910 and was a supervisor for a plaster contractor. Later, he lived in Manhattan. He was 44 when he married Josephine in 1928.
Josephine Roberts attended Columbia University, Dublin University in Ireland and the Sorbonne in Paris. She started out a teacher in Massachusetts and in the 1930s was a sixth grade teacher in the Cherry Valley School, now known as the Garden City Middle School. (Stewart School had not been built yet.) In 1940, Josephine’s salary was a paltry $2,000 a year, while Hugh, an executive for a credit association earned $50,000 that year. Together, they could afford a servant to live with them. By 1947 Hugh returned to construction, working with his father. He was general contractor for the New Orleans Post Office building; Ridgewood High School in New Jersey and the Milford Town Hall in Connecticut. He also built the basement fireplace in the Brixton Road home.
In Hugh Roberts’ spare time, he volunteered with the Garden City Fire Department. His name is listed on the Volunteer Firefighter Memorial near the fire headquarters on Stewart Avenue.
In 1943, Richard G. Burke (born approximately 1913) and Dorothy G. Burke (born approximately 1910) began their 30-year stay in the Brixton Road house. They lived in the house the longest. Richard grew up in New Jersey and by 1925 lived with his parents at 108 Roxbury Rd. Five years later he was living with his parents down the street at 118 Roxbury Rd.
Richard Burke married Dorothy between 1930 and 1935. He was a salesman in retail auto sales and she was a nurse by 1940. Later, he became a general manager.
The fourth family to live at 148 Brixton Rd. was Charles L. Randazzo and Aurelie Pelton Randazzo, who moved in 1973 and stayed for five years. Mrs. Randazzo grew up in Valley Stream. She said she wanted to live in Garden City because of the good schools. The Randazzos had two children: Carla, who graduated from West Hempstead High School before they moved to Garden City and younger daughter, Donna, who graduated from Garden City High School.
When they first moved in, the Randazzos “received photos in the mail from Bennett Coupe (son of the first family) in 1973 showing photos of the house. It was built around 1910... An Adams mantle from an older house from the 1700s was added later” said Aurelie.
The Coupe photos are the same ones Greta and Christopher Besendorfer have today. They have framed three. They were kindly passed down from one owner to the next. The smaller photos are of the exterior, probably from around 1911. In one photo, two children in white are standing in the front yard, who were probably Norma and Bennett Coupe. The larger photos depict the interior of the Brixton Road home with its furnishings. They are most likely from around 1924, based on the two Sonora Phonograph cabinet designs.
“My favorite part of the house was the staircase with the window. Our daughter, Carla came down that staircase during her wedding. We had the ceremony at the house and then the reception was at the Swan Club,” Aurelie Randazzo reminisced.
After five years, the Randazzos moved to 31 Franklin Ct. for a few decades. During their stay in Garden City, Mrs. Randazzo was president of the Garden City Women’s Club.
The fifth family moved in 1978. They were Victor F. Zolfo and Barbara Manza Zolfo with their children, Victor Jam Zolfo and Suzanne F. Zolfo, who had moved from 36 Kenwood Rd.
The Zolfos enclosed their porch behind their living room in 1989, where it became a den and possibly a bedroom for one of their parents. They lived there for 23 years.
Since the 1980s, Victor J. Zolfo has done set designs for dozens of major movies, including Mr. and Mrs. Smith, with Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt and Mel Gibson’s The Patriot. In 2009 Zolfo won an Oscar with another artist for his set decoration in the movie, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, featuring Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett.
Greta and Christopher Besendorfer bought 148 Brixton Rd. from the Zolfo family and continue to enjoy their home.
She can scan or photograph the items, while you keep the original, or you can donate it. This will be extremely helpful for the Village Archives at the Garden City Public Library. Help us help history!