Mamie Fish – the “Fun-Maker” of the Gilded Age

    “Can I get something for your throat, dear?” – inquired Mr. Stuyvesant Fish. His wife retorted: “Yes, this diamond and pearl necklace I saw today at Tiffany’s.” The most irreverent broad of the Gilded Age, Marion (“Mamie”) Fish did not shine with beauty. Nore with education. Heavyset, stern, barely literate, and often quite…

Stuyvesant Fish House @ 19 Gramercy Park South

The house at 19 Gramercy Park South does not look like much from the outside. But do not be fooled by the modesty of the facade – a hold out from the Gilded Age era, it just might be “the Greatest Private House in New York.” By the 1870s, the Gramercy Park neighborhood had become…

Mrs. Astor and “The Four Hundred”

  The winter social season in Gilded Age New York, which started in October and lasted until Easter, was a whirlwind of frantic activity that featured dinner parties, luncheons, receptions, opera performances and, of course, balls. The single most important event of the season was undisputably the annual ball thrown by Mrs. Astor, which always…

The Waldorf-Astoria: hyphenated hotel and a family scandal

Most family scandals don’t result in hotel construction. However, the famed Waldorf-Astoria owes its existence to the Astor family quarrel. The Astor fortune was divided between two branches of the Astor family headed by the two grandsons of the dynasty founder – John Jacob Astor III and William Backhouse Astor, Jr. Each of them had…

The Knickerbocker – a Hotel and a Dry Martini

There are West Coast and East Coast versions of the origins of a martini cocktail. The West Coast stories usually feature a rough character challenging a bartender to mix him a drink before venturing into the town of Martinez to look for gold, or an even rougher personage coming back from Martinez with a fortune…

The St. Regis or What do Napoleon, Dalí and Marilyn Monroe have in common?

Architects: Trowbridge and Livingston Built: 1904 Although there is seemingly nothing in common between Napoleon Buonaparte and the 17th-century French monk named Francis Regis, these names strangely come together in the story of the St. Regis Hotel in New York. Built in 1904 by John Jacob Astor IV as the most opulent hotel in the world, it…

The Plaza – Where Nothing Unimportant Ever Happens

  It was once said that “Nothing unimportant ever happens in the Plaza.” One of America’s finest and most celebrated luxury hotels, it has the distinction of being the one and only. There is only one Plaza. The Plaza, the most expensive hotel in the city’s history, opened amidst much fanfare on October 1, 1907, being…

Consuelo Vanderbilt – A Wedding on Fifth Avenue

The main American export of the Gilded Age was not cotton, not tobacco, not flaxseed, rice, tar, or turpentine… it was the American bride. Refined, educated, and groomed for every social situation, exquisitely dressed, beautiful and fantastically wealthy the American heiresses, joined in matrimony with the English aristocracy, were expected to form a perfect union…

Alva Vanderbilt’s Party of the Century

March 26, 1883 “Petit Chateau” – 660 Fifth Ave @ 52nd Street When Alva Vanderbilt built a home, she built a castle, and when she threw a housewarming party, it was the party of the century. Alva Vanderbilt, the wife of William Kissam Vanderbilt (Cornelius Vanderbilt’s grandson), had a mission: to carve out her own…