Frick Collection—the house built to be a museum

The Frick Museum, which houses a remarkable collection of art treasures, was originally build as a private residence of Henry Clay Frick, a Gilded Age industrialist and art collector. Armed with unbridled ambition, Henry Frick formed his own company by the age of 20. Vowing to himself that he would be a millionaire by the…

The Carnegie Mansion—the plainest house in New York?

All Andrew Carnegie wanted for his home was “the most modest, plainest, and most roomy house in New York.” While the 64-room Georgian Revival house succeeded in being roomy, it failed at being plain. The mansion is adorned by a private garden—a rarity in New York city. Andrew Carnegie, the great philanthropic industrialist and one…

Ukrainian Institute/Fletcher House/Sinclair Mansion

One of New York City’s most impressive turn-of-the-century structures—located on 5th Avenue at 79th Street—houses the Ukrainian Institute. The mansion was built in 1899 for Isaac D. Fletcher—businessman, art collector and museum benefactor. It was designed in the elaborate Châteauesque style by C.P.H. Gilbert, who was known for many notable palatial residences for the wealthy. Châteauesque, inspired by the 16th…

Cartier Building—A Pearl of Fifth Avenue

It’s not so much the shimmering beauty of natural pearls that made them more valuable than diamonds during the Gilded Age, but rather the danger inherent in the task of finding the perfect pearl. The divers plunged deep into the waters in search of the gems—alas, most of the mollusks were empty or the pearls…

St. Thomas—Medieval Church on 5th Avenue

The St. Thomas church we now see is not the first St. Thomas on 5th Avenue. Its predecessor, St. Thomas by Richard Upjohn, stood on the same spot from 1870 to 1905. Nestled among 5th Avenue’s most spectacular Gilded Age mansions, it was the parish of the wealthiest—where the Vanderbilts themselves came to worship. The…

Neue Gallery—Grace Vanderbilt’s “Gardener’s Cottage”

The beautiful mansion that houses Neue Gallery was modeled on the 17th-century Place des Vosges in Paris. It was designed in 1914 by the architectural firm of Carrère and Hastings, well-known for their Beaux-Arts masterpieces such as the New York Public Library. While most of the grand, single-family mansions of Fifth Avenue were destroyed in…

Frank Lloyd Wright at The Plaza

While working on his last major project—the Guggenheim—Frank Lloyd Wright stayed at the Plaza. His impressive 4,000-square-foot corner suite there was his home from 1954 to 1959, the last six years of his life. The architect had been traveling to New York for business and pleasure for decades but was not shy in expressing his…

Saks Fifth Avenue: “a Guarantee of High Style”

The original Saks Fifth Avenue was not located on Fifth Avenue—and for that reason was not called “Saks Fifth Avenue.” Saks & Company opened its first department store in New York in 1902 at Sixth Avenue and 34th Street, calling it Saks & Co. Another retail giant, Gimbel’s, was located in the same area across…

Saks Fifth Avenue: the Story of Yeti and Snowflakes

The story of Yeti, the abominable snowman, gripped the world when the creature was reportedly spotted by various Himalayan expeditions in the 1920s. The seemingly indisputable evidence of its existence was produced on an expedition to Mount Everest in the 1950s in the form of a photograph of a giant footprint. But the elusive creature was…

Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree

The Rockefeller Christmas tree is indisputably one of the world’s most recognizable sites. Its lighting ceremony in early December marks the beginning of New York’s holiday season and its sparkling presence throughout the holidays makes the city magical. In 1931, construction workers building the Rockefeller Center pooled together some money for a Christmas tree. It…

Black and White Ball – a Work of Art by Truman Capote

On November 28, 1966, Truman Capote hosted “a little masked ball” for 540 of his closest friends. The event, held at the venerable Plaza Hotel ballroom, went down in history as the Party of the Century. Though hailed as the greatest party ever thrown, it was also shamed for its over-the-top exuberance in the context…

Rockefeller Center – a City Within a City

Strangely enough, the story of Rockefeller Center starts with that of the Metropolitan Opera. The Met, located at the time on Broadway and 39th, needed a bigger space. The land around 49th Street behind 5th Ave belonged to Columbia University and seemed like an ideal new place for the opera house. As the wheels of…