It is the rare man whose co-ownership of the New York Yankees would go unmentioned in his obituary. Yet such was the case for Bill Devery.1 Largely a silent partner in the club from its founding in 1903 until its sale a dozen years later, Devery had a negligible effect on franchise history, having left operation of the club almost entirely to partner Frank Farrell. But on the larger stage of turn-of-the century New York City life, Devery was a major actor: a flamboyant and notoriously corrupt police official, a Tammany Hall collection man and district organizer, and the favorite villain of reform orators and their allies in the press. A Gay Nineties Falstaff in size (about 6 feet and 260 pounds in his prime) and appetites (for food, liquor, and late-night revelry), Big Bill eventually outlived his times, in both politics and baseball. By the time of his death in June 1919, Devery had been reduced to a marginal public figure, little more than a relic from a bygone era.
William Stephen Devery was born on Manhattan’s East Side on January 9, 1854, the oldest of the five children of Irish Catholic immigrants Patrick Devery (1824-1879) and his wife, the former Mary Geohagen (1835-1890).2 Little is known of Bill’s childhood but the connection to Tammany Hall apparently was made early. Years afterward, Bill would boast that as a boy, he had carried the dinner pail when his father, a mason, laid bricks for the Wigwam clubhouse on 14th Street. Bill Devery’s adult working life began as a bartender in various Bowery establishments. He also reputedly made money on the side as a local club fighter. In 1876 he married Anne Maria “Annie” Burns, like himself the child of Irish immigrants. The couple’s marriage would last 43 years but be laced with heartache. Of the eight children born to the Deverys, only daughters Anna (born 1883) and Florence (born 1891) would reach adulthood.3
In 1878, 24-year-old Bill Devery became a member of the New York City Police Department, reportedly making the standard $200 contribution to Tammany coffers for the appointment. In due course he advanced from patrolman (1878) to roundsman (1881) to sergeant (1884) in unremarkable fashion. As he advanced in rank and proved a reliable servant of Tammany interests, Devery was schooled by Richard Croker, the efficient and ruthless overlord of Tammany Hall, in the collection of honest graft, the tariff imposed upon saloons, gambling dens, brothels, offtrack-betting parlors, dance halls, and other spots requiring police indifference. During the learning process, Devery cemented relations with two men who would loom large in his future: Big Tim Sullivan,4 a Lower East Side powerbroker second in political clout only to Boss Croker himself, and Frank Farrell, an enterprising Midtown saloon keeper who, in time, would come to oversee a horse-racing stable, a succession of high-roller casinos, and more than 250 offtrack betting parlors known as pool halls.
In 1891 Devery was promoted to precinct captain and subsequently assumed command of the Elbridge Street station, the police outpost in the heart of Manhattan’s notorious Tenderloin district. Here, vice was rampant and protection payoffs to police were collected on virtually a door-to-door basis. Upon assuming command, Devery gave a celebrated, if perhaps apocryphal, inaugural address, ordering his new charges to desist from taking payments while on their rounds, as Captain Devery would attend to all graft collection personally.5 A large man of striking appearance – florid complexion, luxuriant mustache, permanently lit cigar – and not given to subtlety of manner, Devery soon attracted the attention of muckraking journalists and governmental reformers. Hauled before a legislative committee empaneled to investigate alleged police payoffs in his precinct, Devery famously informed his inquisitors that “Touchin’ on and appertainin’ to that, there’s nothing doing.”6 For the next several years, Devery was almost constantly under either indictment or administrative charge for extortion, bribery, and other misconduct, but always managed to beat the rap.7
In the municipal elections of November 1897, Tammany was a landslide victor, the usual governmental spoils multiplied by the imminent incorporation of the outer boroughs (Brooklyn, Queens, north Bronx, and Staten Island) into the City of Greater New York. During the administration of Mayor Robert Van Wyck, a compliant Croker puppet, Devery advanced quickly through the command ranks, promoted first to inspector, then deputy police chief. On May 1, 1898, he was made acting chief of the NYPD, an appointment made permanent soon thereafter. Unpretentious, good-humored, and brazenly corrupt, Devery was esteemed by the police rank and file, with whom he regularly fraternized, and was regarded with amusement by much of the city populace. Even those who thoroughly disapproved of Big Bill Devery found it difficult to dislike him. The reform crusader Lincoln Steffens would later remark that Devery was “a disgrace, no more fit to be chief of police than the fish man is to be director of the Aquarium. But as a character, he [Devery] was a work of art, a masterpiece.”8 And he was rapidly becoming rich, largely courtesy of the vice protection syndicate controlled by the alliance of Devery, Frank Farrell, and Big Tim Sullivan. In March 1900 a front-page New York Times expos? alleged – without naming names – that the syndicate took in over $3 million in protection payoffs annually.9 All the while, Devery maintained a daily routine. Each evening, he would leave Police Headquarters and take up station at a fireplug situated in front of an Eighth Avenue saloon called The Pump. There for hours, he would receive the cash tributes of those requiring police favor while doling out rent money or receipts for coal to needy supplicants or finding a job for new arrivals from Ireland.
The steady drumbeat of Devery criticism in the reform press had no effect on Mayor Van Wyck, who pronounced Devery “the best chief of police the city ever had.”10 Shortly thereafter, the New York state legislature stepped in, abolished the position of New York City chief of police. Van Wyck, acting at the direction of Boss Croker and Big Tim, thereupon appointed Devery to the newly created Police Commission. Within weeks, a warrant charging Deputy Police Commissioner Devery with neglect of duty and oppression was issued by New York State Supreme Court Justice William Travers Jerome, a relentless Tammany foe. Brought to trial, Devery handily beat the charges. But the heyday of Bill Devery was drawing to its close. In the municipal elections of 1901, the scandal-plagued Van Wyck administration was turned out by the voters.11 Immediately thereafter, Richard Croker resigned his position as Tammany chief and set sail for the British Isles, far beyond the subpoena power of the incoming reform administration and its new district attorney, William Travers Jerome.
The turmoil created at Tammany Hall by Croker’s abrupt departure would have consequences for both Bill Devery and major-league baseball. On the baseball front, the fall of Croker greatly diminished the political influence of New York Giants owner Andrew Freedman, a Tammany Hall insider and Croker protégé, determined to maintain the National League monopoly on professional baseball in New York City. In September 1902 Freedman sold his controlling interest in the Giants franchise to Cincinnati Reds owner John T. Brush, once a fierce adversary in NL owners councils but since October 1898, a close ally of Freedman’s, if not a personal friend.12 Although now officially separated from the game, Freedman was resolved to protect Brush’s interests. And as catalyst-in-chief for the Interborough Rapid Transit System, the construction colossus building New York’s first true subway, Freedman had the means to do it.13 For months Freedman thwarted efforts by American League President Ban Johnson to relocate the league’s bankrupt Baltimore franchise to New York by encumbering, for putative subway purposes, any parcel of Manhattan property suitable for the erection of a baseball park. With the start of the 1903 season on the horizon and with his hopes for a New York team still unrealized, Johnson warily agreed to meet with a well-heeled, if somewhat unsavory, franchise investment prospect: Frank Farrell. With negotiations brokered by mutual friend Joe Vila, a sportswriter for the New York Sun, Johnson and Farrell reached agreement. For the nominal sum of $18,000, Johnson agreed to confer control of the Baltimore club upon Farrell and his business partner Bill Devery, it being understood that the real cost of the franchise would involve its relocation, the acquisition of Manhattan property, and the erection of a ballpark by the new owners.14
To the writer, it is unclear why Farrell partnered with Devery in the purchase of the franchise. By March 1903, Frank Farrell was a wealthy man, hardly in need of financial assistance. This fact has led others to surmise that Devery was brought on board to take advantage of his political influence. But this makes little sense. Although Farrell was a sporting man rather than a politico himself, he had friends far more politically powerful than Bill Devery, the most important of whom was Big Tim Sullivan, a partner in the Farrell horse-racing stable. Perhaps more to the point, Devery was a spent force on the political scene. In September 1902, control of Tammany Hall was assumed by East Side saloon keeper Charles F. Murphy, a taciturn political genius bent on reshaping the Tammany public image. To Murphy, Bill Devery was an embarrassment, the living embodiment of the crass and mercenary Tammany politician caricatured in the newspapers. With the covert acquiescence of Big Tim, Murphy had Devery put down. Although Devery had been an overwhelming victor in the recent popular election for Ninth District leader, the Murphy-controlled Tammany Election Committee refused to seat him, finding Devery “objectionable” on the ground that his triumph had been procured by voter fraud. At the Democratic Party State Convention in Saratoga that fall, Devery raged in protest, but to no avail. His election as district leader would not be recognized.15 Embittered, Devery then split from the party, making plans to run for mayor in 1903 as a maverick independent candidate. To the writer, these circumstances make it likely that the partnership with Devery in baseball ownership was largely a matter of sentiment to Farrell, not one of commerce or politics. The two men shared Irish working-class roots, had been good friends since the days when Sergeant Devery had been a patron of Farrell’s first saloon, and had later made a fortune together as collaborators in the Tenderloin vice protection racket.
New Tammany Hall chief Murphy was not the only one concerned about the public perception of his organization. Johnson was leery of having his fledgling American League associated with those having as dubious a reputation as those of Frank Farrell and, especially, Bill Devery. To camouflage the actual ownership of the incoming New York team, the public face of the franchise would therefore be genial Manhattan coal broker Joseph Gordon, the new club president. A longtime Tammany regular – Gordon had been a one-term (1888) New York state assemblyman, a Tammany district officer, and deputy superintendent of buildings during the Van Wyck administration – he was entirely acceptable to Farrell’s political backers. Having also been the president of the New York Mets of the deceased American Association as well as a former corporate director of the New York Giants, Gordon was equally acceptable to the New York sports press and Gotham baseball enthusiasts. And as a bonus, Gordon, a city realtor as well as a coal broker, had the inside track on a parcel of Manhattan property that had escaped the notice of Andrew Freedman: a rocky mesa in far north Washington Heights owned by the New York Institute for the Blind. Once a ten-year lease to the property was safely in hand, Ban Johnson was ready to go public with the American League’s entry into New York.
On March 12, 1903, Johnson and Gordon co-hosted a press conference that announced the arrival of the team soon to be nicknamed the New York Highlanders.16 Gordon then escorted Johnson and a press assemblage around the future ballpark site, a forbidding landscape soon cluttered with the debris created by the construction gangs of stadium contractor Thomas McAvoy, a former NYPD inspector and the local Tammany district leader. Noticeably absent from the festivities were Frank Farrell and Bill Devery. Nor were Farrell or Devery listed on the club incorporation papers filed in Albany shortly thereafter.17 But the ownership ruse did not work for long, with the press soon publishing that Frank Farrell was a club principal.18 Sometime thereafter, Devery was detected prowling around the ballpark site. Although long a “keen baseball fan,” Big Bill disclaimed any connection to the new club. “Me, a backer? I only wished I owned some stock in a baseball club,” he lamented. “I’m a poor man and don’t own stock in anything. Besides, how could I pitch with this stomach? Not on yer life!”19 The lie was publicly put to that pretense on April 30, 1903, when the Highlanders played their first game at still-uncompleted Hilltop Park. While club president Gordon presided over the on-field ceremonies, Frank Farrell and Bill Devery were an unmistakable presence, conspicuously seated together in the team owners’ box next to the Highlanders’ bench. For the remainder of the season, however, Devery was a nonfactor in club operations, entirely preoccupied by his campaign for mayor. Running as the candidate of the Peoples’ Independent Party under the banner of The Pump, Devery spent lavishly on parades, outings, and other voter inducements, all for naught. In November 1903 he suffered a crushing election defeat, polling a mere 2,471 votes out of more than a half-million cast for mayor. With that, the political life of Bill Devery was over, the press thereafter taking only occasional note of his shots at Tammany boss Murphy or his reliably eccentric but entertaining observations on matters of fashion, travel, and civic betterment.
Guided by astute pitcher-manager Clark Griffith, the Highlanders posted a respectable 72-62 log in their inaugural campaign. The following season, only a pennant-deciding wild pitch by 41-game-winner Jack Chesbro separated New York from the AL crown. But from there, team fortunes declined, with the Highlanders only rarely in pennant contention. During this period, the club front office was dominated by Frank Farrell, who formally deposed Joseph Gordon as club president in 1907, assuming that title for himself as well as serving as de facto team general manager. Bill Devery, meanwhile, remained near-invisible in club operations, his activities confined largely to Opening Day presentations and second-guessing manager Griffith and the procession of Highlander skippers that followed in the wake of Griffith’s resignation in June 1908.20 Otherwise, Devery tended to his real-estate interests in Manhattan and the Queens resort of Far Rockaway (where he now maintained a summer residence), leaving operation of the franchise to Farrell.
Although a disappointment to Ban Johnson, who had envisioned New York becoming the American League’s flagship franchise, the mediocre Highlanders were not a great money loser for their owners. But as the decade drew to a close, dominant owner Farrell began to feel the pinch of other financial reverses. Relentless Manhattan District Attorney Jerome had forced Farrell and other casino operators to close up their premises in 1906. Thereafter, the New York state legislature enacted laws that eventually culminated in the two-year close of Empire State racetracks, a cruel blow to Farrell, a genuine lover of thoroughbred racing as well as a stable owner and New York City’s offtrack betting “Pool Room King.” But perhaps the most severe drain on Farrell finances involved the Highlanders’ ballpark. Hilltop Park was almost constantly in need of costly refurbishment and renovation. Worse yet, the ten-year lease on the premises would expire at the end of the 1912 season and the Institute for the Blind had placed club ownership on notice that the ballpark lease would not be renewed. In time this prompted Farrell to finance a new ballpark construction project in nearby Bronx, a boondoggle that would never yield a usable playing field but cost Farrell a small fortune. Simultaneously, Farrell would have to fight a two-year court battle with a wounded and disgruntled Joseph Gordon, who belatedly claimed half-ownership in the New York franchise. Ultimately, Farrell would prevail, but not before courtroom testimony by Ban Johnson, Joe Vila, and team attorney Abram I. Elkus had publicly exposed the sham nature of the club’s original operational structure. 21
While Farrell struggled to keep the franchise – renamed the New York Yankees22 when the team became tenants at the Polo Grounds in 1913 – afloat, Bill Devery remained mostly out of the public eye. In early 1913, however, he decided to dabble in minor-league baseball, purchasing the Jersey City Skeeters of the International League and installing nephew Tom Fogarty as club president. Devery himself assumed a seat on the club’s board of directors. As for the Yankees, Devery’s major contribution to club fortunes remained his unwelcomed post-game critiques of managerial strategy, including that employed by Frank Chance, the Peerless Leader of great Chicago Cubs teams who had assumed the New York reins at the beginning of the 1913 season. However well-intended, Devery’s advice was not taken kindly by Chance. The manager was even more unhappy about the roster of nonentities that he had inherited. As the 1914 season wore on and the Yanks languished near the bottom of the standings, a frustrated Chance went public with the demand that chief talent scout Arthur Irwin be sacked. He also complained about the tight-fistedness of New York owners and threatened to quit unless they loosened the club purse strings. For Frank Farrell, who had devoted considerable sums to maintaining the franchise, this gripe proved hard to take. After a tough 2-1 loss to the Philadelphia A’s on September 12, Farrell and Devery entered the clubhouse only to encounter Chance holding court with reporters on the shortcomings of club management. A heated argument ensued. When Devery branded Chance a “quitter,” the manager launched a left hook at him, but missed. Those in attendance then promptly broke up the altercation. After the situation had calmed, Chance apologized. But his tenure as Yankees manager was finished, Farrell formally accepting Chance’s resignation after settlement terms – Chance’s lucrative contract had another year to run – had been ironed out.
The clubhouse incident did more than usher out manager Chance. It also greased the skids for the departure of Frank Farrell and Bill Devery from the game. With the sporting press taking the revered Chance’s side in the dispute, the call went out for Ban Johnson to expel the uncouth Yankees owners. Having faced down far more formidable critics during their salad days in the Manhattan demimonde, Farrell, and particularly Devery, were unfazed by the press censure, and Johnson studiously avoided tangling with the two. But events were taking their toll. In addition to the Chance unpleasantness, Devery was embroiled in litigation with the International League over unsatisfied obligations of the Jersey City Skeeters.23 He had also committed the unpardonable sin of suggesting major leagues accommodation with the upstart Federal League.24 By the close of the 1914 postseason, baseball had lost its charm for Devery and he was ready to get out. Not so Frank Farrell, by now a true devotee of baseball who greatly enjoyed overseeing the Yankees franchise, the headaches notwithstanding. Unfortunately for Farrell, the most promising prospects for replacing Devery, the tandem of New York City brewery owner Jacob Ruppert and millionaire construction engineer Til Huston, were not interested in half-ownership of the Yankees. It was the entire franchise or nothing for them. Two months of painstaking negotiations ensued, with Ban Johnson serving as go-between for the two sides. Finally, on January 30, 1915, a deal was reached, with the club being transferred to Ruppert and Huston for a reported $460,000.25 Farrell and Devery split the franchise sale proceeds down the middle. During the 12 seasons of the Farrell-Devery stewardship, the New York Highlanders/Yankees had gone 861-937 (.479), with no pennant winners. Sadly, the sale of the club did more than mark the end of a baseball partnership. Farrell and Devery had been quarreling, and soon, their friendship would be dissolved, as well. Efforts by Joe Vila, future New York Governor Al Smith, and other mutual friends could not heal the breach, and by the time of Devery’s death in 1919, he and Farrell had not spoken to each other for several years.
The remaining few years of Bill Devery’s life were generally uneventful. In March 1915 he made the separation from baseball complete, abandoning the Jersey City franchise to International League receivers. Thereafter, he maintained the façade of prosperous real-estate magnate, but spent most of his time fishing and giving the random press interview. Now morbidly obese – Big Bill had ballooned to well over 300 pounds – he began to encounter health problems. Devery spent most of the winter of 1918-1919 battling influenza and exhibited the symptoms of heart disease upon recovery. On the afternoon of June 20, 1919, Bill Devery was felled by a stroke while in the bathroom of his Far Rockaway summer home, and died almost immediately. He was 65. After a Funeral Mass at St. Mary Star of the Sea Church, Devery was interred at Calvary Cemetery in Queens.26 Survivors included wife Annie, daughters Anna Devery Fink and Florence Devery Oliver, and four grandchildren. Though he was presumed a man of great wealth at the time of his death, the tenuous state of Bill Devery’s finances would not be publicly disclosed until his will was probated ten years later.27 Devery’s real estate holdings were completely mortgaged and his lone liquid asset, a small Hilltop Park concessions deposit once received from Harry S. Stevens, did not cover the estate’s debts. With funeral expenses and administrative costs factored in, the estate of William S. Devery was $1,023 in the red.28
Major-league baseball took no notice of the passing of Bill Devery, deemed little more than a footnote in the annals of what would evolve into the game’s premier franchise. But if Devery left little impression on the New York Yankees, he made an indelible mark on the city that hosted the club, having been one of turn-of-the-century New York’s most engaging, if incorrigible, rogues and a memorable figure in the political and civic history of the Big Apple.
The writer is indebted to SABR 19th Century Committee chairman Peter Mancuso for his careful review and informative feedback on the draft version of this profile.
1 See e.g., the Devery obituaries published in the Chicago Tribune, Lewiston (Maine) Daily Sun, and New York Times, June 21, 1919.
2 The biographical aspects of this profile have been drawn from US Census data and various of the sources noted below. Bill Devery was born above a saloon located at Third Avenue and East 28th Street. His younger siblings were Andrew (1858-1926), Mary (1864-1925), Rose Ann (1866-1942), and Stephen (1868-unknown).
3 The prematurely deceased children of Annie and Bill Devery were William (born 1877), Agnes (1878), Mary (1880), Joseph (1881), James (1885), and Andrew (1896).
4 Big Tim (Timothy Daniel) Sullivan (1862-1913) is not to be confused with his cousin Little Tim (Timothy Patrick) Sullivan (1870-1909), also an influential Tammany Hall district leader and NYC political operative.
5 Among other places, the anecdote is related in “American Characters,” by Richard F. Snow, American Heritage, Vol. 33, No. 2, February/March 1982.
6 As recounted in Oliver E. Allen, The Tiger: The Rise and Fall of Tammany Hall (Reading, Massachusetts: Addison-Wesley Pub. Co., 1993), 197. The phrase “touchin’ on and appertainin’ to” would become a Devery standby, the near invariable preface to departmental disciplinary rulings rendered by Devery after he became chief of police.
7 Brought up on various administrative charges, Devery was dismissed from the force by the New York City Police Board in August 1894, only to be reinstated by order of the New York State Supreme Court ten months later. Thereafter he was indicted on extortion charges, tried before a jury, and acquitted in March 1896.
8 Regarding ill-suppressed news reporter affection for Devery, Steffens added that “I think we never printed a paragraph against that crook that did not betray our liking for his honesty, courage, and character,” as quoted in Jim Reisler, Before They Were the Bombers: The New York Yankees’ Early Years, 1903-1915 (Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland, 2002).
9 New York Times, March 9, 1900. See also, Luc Sante, Low Life: The Lives and Snares of Old New York (New York: Farrar, Strauss & Giroux, 1991), 172.
10 As quoted in the New York Times, February 2, 1901, and elsewhere.
11 Of the myriad fiascos of the Van Wyck regime, the most politically damaging was the Ice Trust Scandal, a Tammany-hatched scheme that would have doubled the price of that indispensable summer refrigeration commodity to the city poor had it not been exposed.
12 Long a minority stockholder in the Giants franchise, Brush financed his acquisition of Freedman’s controlling interest in the club by selling the Cincinnati Reds to a local consortium headed by yeast manufacturing millionaire Julius Fleischmann, then mayor of Cincinnati and formerly a partner in thoroughbred racehorse ventures with Frank Farrell.
13 The wealthy Freedman, an able but very difficult man, never explained his willingness to protect Brush interests. Perhaps it had been a matter of principle for Freedman. Or it may have been payback to Ban Johnson for unflattering public comments made by the AL president about Freedman, a touchy man who resented personal criticism. Or perhaps Freedman was bent on frustrating the ambitions of Tammany rivals. In any event, Freedman went out of his way to defeat efforts to plant an American League franchise in New York.
14 For more detail on the transaction, see the BioProject profiles of Frank Farrell and Joseph Gordon. The cost of clearing the site and erecting Hilltop Park was later estimated at $275,000.
15 As reported in the New York Times, October 2, 1902, and elsewhere.
16 As reported in the Chicago Tribune and New York Times, March 13, 1903, and elsewhere.
17 The faceless corporate directors of the nascent New York franchise were John R. Bushong, Samuel C. Worthen, Jerome H. Buck, Bernard T. Lynch, and Henry T. Randall, as per the New York Times, March 15, 1903.
18 Farrell’s interest in the new club was first exposed by the New York World, March 18, 1903.
19 As subsequently reported in Sporting Life, May 3, 1903.
20 Devery is sometimes credited with placement of the iconic interlocking NY logo on club uniforms, having supposedly appropriated the design from the NYPD Medal of Valor. But assiduous research by Hall of Fame staffer Tom Sheiber casts serious doubt on both club use of the Medal of Valor template and Devery’s purported role in the matter. See http://baseballresearcher.blogspot.com/2010/03/that-famous-yankees-logo, posted April 12, 2010.
21 See the New York Times, November 22, 1911. In an offhand way, the Gordon lawsuit illustrated Devery’s insignificance in franchise operations. Gordon did not even name Devery as a defendant, seeking damages only from Farrell and the Greater New York Baseball Association.
22 The Highlanders moniker was entirely unofficial, and as early as 1904, local sportswriters had begun to substitute the less unwieldy Yankees or Yanks for it. See Glenn Stout, Yankees Century: 100 Years of New York Yankees Baseball (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2002), 18-19. Once the team left Hilltop Park at the close of the 1912 season, the Highlanders nickname was relegated to the dustbin.
23 Sporting Life, November 28, 1914, and May 15, 1915.
24 Washington Post, November 25, 1914.
25 New York Times, January 31, 1915, and most sources. Others put the total sale price at $400,000. See e.g., Washington Post, January 31, 1915.
26 In February 1926, erstwhile friend and business partner Frank Farrell would also be buried at Calvary Cemetery.
27 The ten year delay in administering the Devery estate was attributed, unconvincingly, to the February 1926 death of widow/administratrix Annie Devery, and the subsequent death of Devery family attorney William Henkel. See New York Times, May 4, 1929. But after Mrs. Devery’s death, her estate was probated within 21 months. Thus, the lengthy delay in probating Big Bill’s estate is facially inexplicable.
28 The speculation that Bill Devery’s wealth had been transferred to wife Annie prior to his death was belied by the probate of Annie Devery’s estate. In November 1927, Annie’s estate was appraised at a modest $6,218 net. New York Times, May 4, 1929. The spacious Devery manse in Far Rockaway was subsequently destroyed in a May 1931 fire.