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…

St. Paul’s—a Chapel Older than the United States

Built in 1766, St. Paul’s is New York City’s oldest public building in continuous use as well as Manhattan’s oldest surviving church building. After Manhattan fell to the British in 1776, a raging fire set the city ablaze. Nobody knows for certain whether the fire was an accident or an act of arson by retreating…

New York City Hall

The first city hall in Manhattan was built the mid-17th century by the Dutch. It was located in the City Tavern on Pearl Street and served beer. The city’s second city hall, built at the beginning of 18th century by the British, stood on Wall Street. After the British were gone and New York City…

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…

Grand Central Terminal—a Beaux-Arts Masterpiece

Grand Central Terminal, built in 1913 to replace a previous outdated structure, stands as a grandiose Beaux-Arts edifice. Beaux-Arts, the academic architectural style taught at the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris during the 1830s-90s, was based on the aesthetic principles of neoclassicism. It became popular in America as a result of the City Beautiful movement,…

Vanderbilt’s Oak Leaves and Acorns at the Grand Central Terminal

The spectacular Grand Central Terminal owes its presence to Cornelius Vanderbilt, one of America’s first great tycoons and the patriarch of the Vanderbilt family, prominent during the Gilded Age. Cornelius Vanderbilt started his business when he launched a ferryboat service from Staten Island to Manhattan using a $100 loan from his mother. Vanderbilt’s operation eventually…

Salamanders on 7th Avenue

The elaborate facade of Alwyn Court—the most ornate in the city—is encrusted with terra-cotta ornaments such as flowers, urns, crests, and salamanders wearing crowns and breathing fire. Over the centuries salamanders have acquired a special place in folklore as mystical creatures who are resurrected from ashes and get re-born from the fire. While not exactly…

Grace Church—Marble, Talent, and Nepotism

The earliest example of Gothic Revival architecture in New York City, it was the very first commission of James Renwick Jr., who went on to design St. Patrick’s Cathedral and earn his place as one of America’s most prominent architects.

The Longest Survived Elevator Fall in History

The Empire State Building has more than a fair share of earth-shattering records: it was the tallest in the world for astounding 41 years and was built with the lightening speed of 410 days. Yet it has another lesser known but no less astonishing record:  it was the location of the longest survived elevator fall…

Integrity Presiding over the New York Stock Exchange

The group within the pediment over the New York Stock Exchange is entitled “Integrity Protecting the Works of Man,” which makes it fair to assume that the central female figure in the sculpture is Integrity herself. She is tasked with “Protecting the Works of Man”—with Industry on one side and Agriculture on the other. The…