Egbert Guernsey

88 Sheriff Street, New York City

Dr Guernseys discription of 88-90 Sheriff Street, 1865

"The place and its inhabitants have been aptly described in the following language by Dr. Guernsey in a special report made to the New York Sanitation Association by that Physician:

"This nuisance should be destroyed. It is situated in the rear of Nos. __ and _ Sheriff street. The houses are of wood, 2 stories with attic and basement. The attic rooms are used to deposit filthy rags and bones as they are taken from the gutter and slaughterhouses. The yards are filled with dirty rage hung up to dry, sending forth a stench to all the neighborhood and is exceedingly nauseous, operating upon me as a emetic. The tenants are all Germans of the lowest order, having no national or personal pride. They are exceedingly filthy in person and their bedclothes are as dirty as the floors they walk on. There food is of the poorest quality, and their feet and heads, and doubtless there whole bodies, are anasarcous, suffering from what they call rheumatism, but which is in reality a prostrate nervous system, the result of foul air and inadequate supply of nutritious food. They have a peculiar tastes for association of dogs and cats, there being about 50 of the former and 30 of the latter. The whole number of apartments is 32, occupied by 28 families, numbering 120 in all, 60 adults and 60 children. The yards are small and the sinks running with filth. The owner of this row is _____ and of the other __. The latter gentleman is a wealthy man and lives with his tenants in the rear, although he owns the front house; he prefers the filth because he thus saves money. He buys and sells rags - a perfect "chiffonier." Not one decent sleeping apartment can be found on the entire premises and not one stove properly arranged. The carbonic-arid gas, in conjunction with the other emanations from bones, rags, and human filth, defies description. The rooms are 6 by 10; bedrooms 5 by 6 feet. The inhabitants lead a miserable existence and their children wilt and die in their infancy."

Egbert Guernsey (1823-1903)

Egbert Guernsey was a person whose name had long been associated with "works of a public character". He wrote a report on the conditions of the streets in 1890. He sat on a commission to supervise the New York slaughter houses in 1885. While no first name is included on the report on 88-90 Sheriff street, I believe that it is save to assume that "Dr. Guernesy" was Egbert Guernsey.

Egbert Guernsey was born July 8, 1823 in Litchfield, Conn. a descendant of "old New England stock". He was 6th generation from a Boston family who moved to Connecticut in 1638. He was educated at Phillip's Andover, spent two years studying science at Yale, did his "Grand Tour of the Continent" for a year and graduated medicine from the University of the City of New York in 1846.

Shortly after graduation he co-founded the Williamsburg Daily Times (later called the Brooklyn Daily Times). He was the founder and editor of a prestigious monthly medical journal, the New York Medical Times. He wrote prolifically including Homoeopathic Domestic Practice in 1855 (still available online) He was president of the Medical Board, Metropolitan Hospital (NY) 1875-1903. Professor of materia medica at NY Homeopathic Medical collage for six years. He was also a founder of the State Hospital for the Insane in Midletown, New York

He switched from traditional medicine to homeopathy — A move that caused him some lose of patients and stature, however, he stuck to his believes.

In the 1870 and 1880 census he was listed with his wife, daughter and son and multiple servants. The were living in the 20s on the East Side. The neighbors were among other of similar ilk: merchants, the president of a steam ship company, a retired gentleman.

In 1890 Egbert Guernsey was formally censured by the Homeopathic Medical Society:

Whereas, Dr. Egbert Guernsey has used abusive terms for some six years past as to his colleagues who are members of this Society, and as to all other homeopathic practitioners, and in recent interview has admitted and renewed his vilification of his associates:
Resolved, that Dr Guernsey should, in the opinion of his associates, resign his membership in this society, and discontinue his affiliation with Homeopaths and homeopathic institutions"

1890 Medical Advise

His obituary states:
"Something more than 10 years ago... Dr. Gurnsey was expelled fro the County Homeopathic Medical Society for heresy to the Hahnemann doctrines, this growing out of his efforts to bring all reputable practitioners together. About four years ago his final triumph came when the late D. William Todd Helmuth moved that he be reinstated. The motion was promptly seconded, and .... when each member at once arose, and wild demonstrations of approval followed when it was seen that Dr. Gurnsey was unanimously indicated by those who had scorned him a decade before."
According to his obituary in the New York Times, he weighted 400 bounds. His wife, Sarah Lefferts Schneck Guernsey, had been a relatively slimmer 200 bounds.

At Sarah Gurnesey death's in 1901 and at his own death in 1903 they were living in the Madrid, 180 Central Park south.

Goehle Homes in New York City Updated April 2009
88 Sheriff Street
Peter Goehle
New York City Pictures
New York City Tenement Life
If you have any suggestions, corrections, information, copies of documents, or photos that you would like to share with this page, please contact me at