Hershberger: New York mansion an early sighting of baseball clubs?

From SABR member Richard Hershberger at Our Game on November 20, 2012:

The grounds of Kensington House are spacious and well adapted to the playing of the noble game of cricket, base, trap-ball, quoits and other amusements; and all the apparatus necessary for the above games will be furnished to clubs and parties.[1]

In June 1821, an ad ran in some New York papers announcing that “William Niblo has taken the superb mansion formerly known as Mount Vernon, which he has furnished in a handsome style for the reception of boarders and visitors.”[2] The mansion, now open as Kensington House, accommodated dinners and tea parties and clubs . . . and, notably, ballplaying as noted above.

This mention of ballplaying is, however, deceptive: seemingly simple and straightforward, yet pregnant with implications about who was playing early baseball and on what occasions.

Early baseball played by adults presents the problem of when they had the opportunity. Accounts typically place it on special communal occasions such as barn raisings or annual holidays. There is little doubt but that these account for most adult play, but the advertisement for the Kensington House shows another opportunity: at resorts.

Kensington House was situated on what had once been the estate of Colonel William Stephens Smith, the son-in-law of President John Adams. It was located on Manhattan about two hundred yards from the East River. The site is now 60th Street, near the west end of the Queensboro Bridge. The former carriage house of the estate survives on 61st Street as the Mount Vernon Hotel Museum & Garden. The subject of the advertisement seems to have been the estate mansion, which burnt down in 1826.[3]

Read the full article here: http://ourgame.mlblogs.com/2012/11/20/new-york-mansion-converted/

Originally published: November 20, 2012. Last Updated: November 20, 2012.