Mine Host McCann and the Woolworth Clan

Charles E. F. McCann, son of the proprietor of the esteemed refreshment house

Some time back, we recounted here the testimony of Mr. Patrick H. McCann before the Fassett investigating committee in 1890. McCann told how his lease on the Mount St. Vincent Hotel (later renamed McGown’s Pass Tavern) was not being renewed because he had refused to give freebies to Mayor Hugh Grant and Tammany “Boss” Richard Croker.

We felt pity for the unfortunate and ethical Mr. McCann, and wondered what became of him. Library and Google searches only led us to biographies of Mr. Croker, with McCann as a little footnote.

Particularly pitiful was the fact that McCann and Croker were quasi in-laws: they had married the sisters Maria and Elizabeth Frazer, so it looked as though McCann’s proprietorship of the Central Park refreshment house was a bit of family charity on the part of Boss Croker.

Helena Woolworth McCann, portrait c. 1936

Now it turns out that our pity was misplaced. Patrick and Maria had a fine son, Charles E. F. McCann, who carved out a fine career for himself as a lawyer, and an even finer career for himself in society. He married Helena (Lena) Woolworth, eldest daughter of five-and-ten tycoon Franklin W. Woolworth.

In the early 1900s, old Woolworth built the McCanns a fine mansion on East 80th Street, along with two flanking mansions for the other two families of Woolworth descendants, the Huttons and the Donahues.

Thus, “Mine Host McCann” was not only the great-uncle of the Poor Little Rich Girl herself, Barbara Hutton, but the great-uncle of the even more notorious party-boy Jimmy Donahue.

Woolworth mansions, unchanged for a century. The McCann house is in the middle. Photo from New-York Historical Society.

Unlike the Huttons and Donahues, the McCann’s were fairly sedate, noted mostly for their Long Island estate, “Sunken Orchard,” and their daughter Helena’s marriage to the polo-playing Englishman, Winston Guest. The three Woolworth piles on East 80th Street survive to this day.

For the past few years the McCann mansion has been for sale, for the record-setting price of ninety million dollars. Estate agents Brown Harris Stevens advise us that you can also rent the place for a measly $165,000 per month.

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