The Writers House
The Writers House consists of two unsuspecting counting houses which, unbeknownst to the common passerby, hold deep historical ties to the U.S' first millionaires, the American Communist Party, and our 35th president's assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald, whom the house corresponded with just months prior to that fateful day. Located directly adjacent to one another in the heart of NoMad, Manhattan, both locations now make up one of the largest literary agencies in the world, representing authors of all genres, many of whom have been awarded some of the most prestigious accolades in the literary world. These authors are also often featured on the New York Times Bestselling List and include writers Neil Gaiman, Stephenie Meyer, James Patterson, and Nora Roberts, just to name a few. Perhaps it is for this reason that the history of 21 and 23 W 26th Street is so shocking, as it bears a strange and altogether uncommon past for a literary agency of such high regard.
Backstory and Context
John Jacob Astor immigrated to the United States from Germany in the year 1783 and founded the American Fur Company in 1808, making him the first millionaire in the continental U.S. Years later, in 1881, Astor's grandson and former civil war general John Jacob Astor, along with brother William Waldorf, commissioned a man by the name of Thomas Stent to build two offices which would allow them to carry on the proceedings of their family business. When Vincent Astor, son of John Jacob Astor IV (the richest man to drown on the Titanic) passed away, the property was given to his daughter, who was married to a man by the name of Corliss Lamont.
Corliss Lamont was associated with the communist party, and it is for this reason that when he passed 23 W became the central headquarters of the American Communist Party from the 1940s-60s. Now housing the party's president Gus Hall, the building became the central location where communists met and corresponded with one another. Most notably, the Communist paper "The Daily Worker" was printed and published here. Because communist presence in "The Capital of The World" was not welcomed during this period in time, the building was under FBI surveillance in addition to suffering bombings from the local militia. Despite this, the building remained a central communist location through the '60s, permitting would-be assassin Lee Harvey Oswald to address his letters to the organization using the same address that would later become The Writers House.
It was June 10, 1962, when Oswald first corresponded with the American Communist Party, addressing his letter to The Daily Worker specifically. In response, a man by the name of Arnold Johnson replies to Oswald, stating that, "Your letter to The Worker has been referred to me for reply. It is good to know that movements in support of fair play in Cuba have developed in New Orleans as well as in other cities." The letter is signed "Arnold Johnson, Director Information and Lecture Bureau." Because of this correspondence, along with a few others, on April 17, 1964, Arnold Samuel Johnson was questioned by J. Lee Rankin, general counsel for The President's Commission on The Assassination of President Kennedy. Although it is widely believed today that Lee Harvey Oswald was acting alone in the assassination of our beloved 35th president, the point in time in which the lone wolf reached out to the Communist HQ in New York does raise concern.
Today, The Writers House bears little resemblance to this troubled past, as it has become an influential publishing house within the literary world. Just a few of the many world-renowned authors who have been published by this agency include Neil Gaiman, Lisa Jackson, Stephen Hawking, and more. Featuring many, if not most, of the authors on the New York Times Bestselling List, the Writers House remains committed to aiding authors in reaching their full potential as masters of literature.
History of the House, Writers House. Accessed December 8th 2019. http://www.writershouse.com/history-of-the-house.
Writers House, a Literary Agency, Writers House. Accessed December 8th 2019. http://www.writershouse.com/home.
Writers House a Literary Agency, Writers House. Invalid date. Accessed December 8th 2019. http://www.writershouse.com/.