Located on East 79th Street at the corner of Fifth Avenue and across from Central Park, sits one of New York City’s last turn-of-the-century, French-Gothic styled-structures. Designed by Gilded-Age architect Charles Pierrepont Henry Gilbert, the building was home to Isaac D. Fletcher and Harry F. Sinclair, giving it the fitting name of the Fletcher-Sinclair Mansion. Now, the mansion is occupied by the Ukrainian Institute of America, a nonprofit organization that has promoted Ukrainian art, music and literature since 1948. Ahead, join 6sqft on a tour of the landmarked building and check out some of the unique features within this hidden-in-plain sight New York City architectural gem.
Gilded Age Mansions
Mrs. Astor’s House on 65th Street and Fifth Avenue. Image via Library of Congress
Last week, 6sqft went through the many mansions, predominately lost, along Millionaire’s Row on Fifth Avenue up to 59th Street. Most of this stretch has been converted into upscale luxury retail and corporate skyscrapers, but Millionaire’s Row continued northwards along Central Park, which opened in 1857. Though some have been lost, a significant number of these opulent Gilded Age mansions still stand within this more residential zone. The AIA Guide to New York City calls this area of Fifth Avenue from 59th Street to 78th Street the “Gold Coast,” and rightly so.
Walking up 5th Avenue, you’ll first pass the decadent Sherry-Netherland Hotel with its recently uncovered 1927 Beaux-Arts mural and the Stanford White-designed Metropolitan Club, founded by J.P. Morgan in 1891 for friends who were rejected from the old-money Knickerbocker Club. But even before the construction of the Metropolitan Club, a mansion was rising less than a block away on 61st Street and Fifth Avenue.
An incredible Georgian estate in Ridgefield, Connecticut is up for auction at an asking price of $4.75 million. The 10-bedroom mansion at 162 Old West Mountain Road, also known as Sunset Hall, was owned 100 years ago by Harry Houdini’s brother, Dr. Leopold Weiss, and it’s said that the magician practiced his underwater escapes in the pool. It’s listed on the National Register of Historic Places and sits on nearly seven acres of land with sweeping views of the Long Island Sound and Catskill Mountains. As the New York Post learned, it also has quite the celebrity pedigree. It was originally built in 1912 for U.S. Ambassador to Great Britain James Stokes and was subsequently owned by the Brooklyn beer baron Samuel Rubel and famed actor Robert Vaughn; and after WWII, it was considered for an official site of the United Nations.
A few weeks ago the New York Post reported that the six-story Beaux Arts mansion at 854 Fifth Avenue that had belonged to the granddaughter of railroad baron Cornelius Vanderbilt and which most recently housed Serbia’s Permanent Mission to the United Nations was about to hit the market for $50 million. Built in 1905 for stockbroker and future governor of Rhode Island R. Livingston Beeckman and designed by the same firm that designed Grand Central Station, the building is virtually unchanged, including hand-carved balustrades of white marble, ceiling frescoes of angels and clouds and an original working stove. The opulent abode includes two elevators, eight bathrooms and 32 rooms in total. Now officially listed for sale, the storied Upper East Side manse reportedly already has six potential buyers.
The Gilded Age mansions that once stood along 5th Avenue — nicknamed Millionaire’s Row — have mostly met the wrecking ball. But the Villard Houses remain remarkably preserved since their construction in 1884. The famed architecture firm McKim, Mead and White designed this visionary six-house complex for Henry Villard, a railroad magnate whose empire began to crumble as construction wrapped. Today — after many changes in ownership and a landmark designation — the buildings stand as the entrance to the Lotte Palace Hotel. The hotel has just offered several rooms inside the south wing of the property, the former home of Villard himself, up for lease, offering a rare look into the lavish interior that’s hardly changed since it was designed over 100 years ago.