Wednesday, August 8, 2018

23 Park Avenue by McKim, Meade and White


I was walking on Park Avenue, heading to my hotel, when I came across a building I never saw before. I probably went past it a million times, but this time I was walking a bit slower and looking around more than normal. I thought it was just wonderful and crossed the street to get a better look. I was not shocked to see it was a building by Stanford White - my favorite architect. I did a feature on him here on the blog which you can take a peek if you are not familiar with his work. 
The J. Hampden Robb House 1891 -- NYPL Collection

By the time James Hampden Robb commissioned Stanford White to design his home at 23 Park Avenue, he had already been a cotton broker, a New York State Assemblyman and a State Senator. At the time, in 1888, he was busy with the functions of Commissioner of the Parks Department.

Park Avenue and the streets leading off it were lined with substantial brownstone homes of about a decade earlier. White's design for the Robb mansion would be strikingly different. He created a five-story Renaissance-inspired palazzo of iron spot brick with exuberant terra cotta trim on a high brownstone base.  
This is a great location on Park Avenue and East 35th Street ! 

Robb and his wife, Cornelia Van Rensselaer Thayer Robb, moved into their newly completed home in 1891.  The couple filled their home with rare art and antiques, 16th century Persian rugs, Gobelin tapestries, and paintings by Rubens, Van Dyke and Emmanuel.

Twenty years after its completion, J. Hampton Robb died in the house January 21, 1911. His daughter, Cornelia, remained in the house for another year; then sold most of the furnishings at a highly publicized auction at the Plaza Hotel in April of 1912.

Among the items sold were a 7 by 12 foot Persian carpet that brought $22,000 (about three quarters of a million today) and a 16th century terra cotta Madonna and Child purchased by the Metropolitan Museum of Art.


Were it not for the Advertising Club of New York, the Robb House, too, would eventually have been demolished. The organization acquired the house in 1923 as its clubhouse and architect Fred F. French was hired to renovate it for the club’s purposes. A local clergyman made a plea to the Club’s membership. “Save as much of White as possible. He had a wonderful sense of proportion. There is something about a house where he had a free hand that gives you a special feeling of comfort. That’s why I say…that I would rather have a Stanford White house than a painting by Rembrandt.”


Renovations were completed within the year later, at a cost of $250,000, and the club opened on January 6, 1924. Heeding the appeal of the minister, French kept much of White’s interiors intact.

The clubhouse was enlarged after a fire damaged the structure in 1946.  The abutting house to the rear, at No. 103 East 35th Street, was incorporated as an extension of the Robb mansion.  Here, two years later, Mrs. Franklin D. Roosevelt gave an impassioned plea for help for delinquent boys.

The house, considered by many to be one of Stanford White’s finest residential designs, was converted to co-op apartments in 1977. Although landmark status was not designated until 1998, the conversion left the exterior untouched, as well as many of the surviving interior details.


Author James Trager wrote in his 1990 “Park Avenue, Street of Dreams,” “Although Park Avenue has little to match the most glorious Fifth Avenue relics (none of them any longer private residents), it once had many splendid private dwellings and still has some quite respectable survivors. The oldest of the best is 23 Park…This is the only true Stanford White house on Park Avenue and one of the few anywhere.”

This is just so fabulous and the inside is pretty quite amazing too! 
In contract, this layout for a 2 bedroom, 2.5 bath will run you 3.2 million US Dollars. You can see the gorgeous inside from the listing agent . This apartment was actually owned by Kenneth Jay Lane, the jewelry designer. It is worth every darn penny!!  
If money were no object, I could for sure see myself living here. No questions asked.  
How lucky we are to enjoy this work of art from 1891! I am so grateful for the landmark status on so many buildings in the city, that otherwise, would have seen them torn down very easily. This is the wonders that is New York City. You find something new on every visit! 


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