jewel of a Georgian-style
mansion, this very handsome townhouse was designed by Delano &
Aldrich for in 1915 for Willard Straight, the founder of The
New Republic magazine, and his wife, Dorothy Whitney
a founder of the Junior League of New York.
Delano & Aldrich specialized in red-brick Georgian-style
sometimes referred to as American Colonial style, especially for
social clubs. Its other buildings on the Upper East Side include
the Colony Club on Park Avenue (see The
City Review article), the Union Club on Park Avenue, the
F. Baker Jr. house on Park Avenue (see The
City Review article) and the Knickerbocker Club on Fifth
(see The City Review article).
building is distinguished
by its circular windows below its cornice and its black window
shutters that give it a very dramatic compositional rhythm.
his fine book, "Touring
The Upper East Side, Walks in Five Historic Districts" (The
New York Landmarks Conservancy, 1995), Andrew S. Dolkart provides
the following commentary:
"For the Straights, Delano & Aldrich provided one of
its boldest designs; one inspired in large part by Sir Christopher
Wren's late 17th Century wing at Hampton Court Palace near London
(this is especially evident in the use of round windows). The
Baroque quality of Wren's building was tempered by the flat, refined
Neo-classical forms that are Delano & Aldrich's hallmark.
Especially lovely details are the wrought-iron peacock set above
the entrance and the carved birds pecking at a bowl of fruit and
the frieze o the central second story window."
Mr. Dolkart also remarked that the "main hall, with its black
and white marble floor and Adamesque ceiling embellished with
painted rondels, is worth a visit."
his book, "Beaux-Arts
Architecture in New York" (Dover Publications Inc., 1988)
which has excellent photographs by Edmund V. Gillon Jr., Henry
Hope Reed provides the following commentary:
is a certain
sober, subdued touch in the work of Delano & Aldrich. It is
found in their Greenwich House in Greenwich Village, in the
of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia at Park Avenue
and East 93 Street, and in the private houses now occupied by
St. David's School at 12 East 89 Street. Nowhere is their touch
better exemplified than here, where it lies in the use of a good
red brick and marble (rather than the customary limestone) trim.
It is the firm's favorite style, English Georgian, treated severely.
At the ground floor, the windows are small, and even the doorway
is modest, although it has a pair of engaged Tuscan columns. As
always in these houses, the accent is on the second story, where
the tall windows extend to the floor. The otherwise simple facade
at this point has as a modest accent the window over the entrance
with a stone frame and pediment. The round windows at the top
at a Delano & Aldrich signature...."
article in the October
14, 2001 edition of The New York Times, Christopher
wrote that "a final burst of confidence in the future of
upper Fifth Avenue as a street of single-family houses came in
1914, when Willard D. and Dorothy Straight began work on their
trim brick-and-marble house." "Straight, the son of
a missionary and a schoolteacher, was born in 1880 in Oswego,
N.Y. He graduated from Cornell University in 1901. His work in
commercial and diplomatic affairs in the Far East so impressed
the partners at J. P. Morgan that they hired him as their agent
in China. In 1911, Straight married Dorothy Whitney, the daughter
of William Collins Whitney, a financier and streetcar millionaire
who live in a big Victorian mansion at 68th and Fifth. Within
a few months the couple went to China, and they barely escaped
the unrest that soon toppled the Manchu rulers."
After the Straights, the house was owned by Judge Gary and then
by Mrs. Harrison Williams. In 2001, the photography museum announced
it would vacate the building and its subsequently acquired by
Bruce Kovner for $17 million and spent another $10 million or
so in restoring the building for residential use. The photography
museum continued operations in midtown.