John David Wolfe (1792-1872)

J. D. Wolfe, Merchant & Philanthropist, of New York City

Associated Houses

The Doric Mansion

Throgg's Neck

13 Madison Avenue


He was born in New York City and was "educated in the best schools". He entered the hardware business established by his father and then established the firm of J.D. & Christopher Wolfe at Maiden Lane which eventually became Wolfe, Dash & Spies, of 38 Warren Street. He was also a co-founder of the Chemical Bank and a Director of the Hudson River Railroad. He lived at 744 Broadway before building 13 Madison Avenue where he died with a $4-million fortune. He also kept a country home, the Doric Mansion, at Throgg's Neck where he kept live stock and more particularly poultry. He married Dorothea, daughter and co-heiress of Pierre Lorillard II and had 3-children, notably Catharine Lorillard Wolfe who shared his passion for philanthropy.

On retiring from business with a "large fortune" in 1842, he devoted his life to philanthropy. He was Vice-President of the New York Hospital; President of the New York Prison Association; Vice-President of the New York Association for Improving the Condition of the Poor; Vice-President of the New York Society for the Relief of the Ruptured & Crippled; Senior Warden of Grace Church; and, President of the American Museum of Natural History. He was involved in funding church schools in Denver; building the Episcopal Church at Rome in Italy; and, purchased the library of Buckingham Smith for the New-York Historical Society. He was fondly recalled as, "a cheerful giver".

An article appeared in the Galaxy listing the ten wealthiest men in New York. He came in seventh on the list with a fortune estimated at $3,997,000, behind his brother-in-law, Pierre Lorillard III in sixth place and ahead of M.M. Hendricks in eighth place.
Contributed by Mark Meredith on 31/07/2019 and last updated on 09/01/2023.