By Carter B. Horsley
very handsome mansion on the southeast corner of Fifth Avenue at 86th
Street is across from Central Park and a few steps away from one of the
city's most prestigious co-operative apartment houses at 1040 Fifth
It houses the
Neue Galerie that was created by Ronald Lauder and Serge Sabarsky for
their great collection of German Expressionist art. It has a
great bookstore about such art as well as a very fine German cafe
overlooking Central Park.
At his magnificent webside, daytonianinmanhattan.com, Tom Miller provides the following commentary about this building:
"By the time
William Starr Miller retired from the legal profession, the
neighborhood around his elegant brownstone residence at 39 Fifth
Avenue, between 10th and 11th Streets, was becoming less and less
exclusive. Apartment buildings were replacing the staid old homes
of New York's elite as the wealthy moved further and further uptown.
remained an active industrialist and real estate operator, commissioned
Carrere & Hasting in 1912 to design his new home at 1048 Fifth
Avenue at the southeast corner of East 86th Street across from Central
Park. The firm, which had just completed the magnificent white
marble New York Public Library, created a surprising red brick and
limestone Louis XIII palace that would easily at home in Paris's Place
following the lead of Andrew Carnegie's 64-room brick and limestone
English Georgian residence completed in 1903, the architects' choice of
styles and materials was unusual nevertheless. On an avenue lined
with white marble and limestone chateaux and palazzos, many of them
dripping with scrolled brackets, swags and garlands, Starr's mansion
was quietly restrained in comparison.
Street, the house sat on a rusticated base, the central three bays
projecting from the bulk of the structure. A high slate mansard
roof with tall stone-framed dormers sat behind a limestone balustrade.
"As the mansion neared completion, The New York Times
commented on the atypical choice of style and materials on December 7,
1913. 'There is a dignity and simplicity far more pleasing than
some of the excruciating ornate creations on the avenue,' the newspaper
said. 'The use of red brick with limestone adds a cheerful touch
of color suggestive of early Colonial to the Miller house.' The Times added that the new house would be 'of more than ordinary importance.'
"By 1921, The Times
had changed its opinion of the mansion. It report[ed] that
Starr's 33-year-old daughter, Edith Starr Miller, had quietly married
the divorced 60-year-old Lord Queenborough in 'the big dull red and
"If The Times
found the exterior big and dull, the interiors were sumptuous.
The library and drawing room were oak paneled, the dining room hung
with tapestries, and the second floor music room spacious.
wedding in the music room of No. 1048 Fifth Avenue did not last.
In 1932 Edith sued the baron for separation on ground of 'cruelty,
inhuman treatment and abandonment.' The following year she died
at age 45 in Paris.
Miller died in the mansion on September 14, 1935, followed by his wife
nine years later. The house was opened in November 1944 for
buyers to preview the art and furnishings as preparations were made to
auction off the Miller estate.
"A month earlier the mansion had been sold to the most socially prominent name in New York.
"On October 44, The New York Times
reported 'Mrs. Cornelius Vanderbilt, whose historic and palatial home
at 640 Fifth Avenue recently was acquired by the William Waldorf Astor
estate, has purchased the large stone house at 1048 Fifth Avenue,
southeast corner of Eighty-sixth Street.
Vanderbilt, accustomated to the much larger home to the south, referred
to the Miller mansion as 'the gardener's cottage.' Cottage or
not, Mrs. Vanderbilt made the house the center of lavish
entertainments, charity events and glittering balls.
"Here on the night of January 8, 1953, the undisputed leader of New York and Newport society, died of pneumonia.
for half a century the place of dinner parties and balls for the creams
of New York society, was purchased by Yivo Institute for Jewish
Research. The institute converted the mansion to offices;
however, because funds were tight, rather than strip out the
architectural detailing the institute simply covered them over.
heir Ronald Lauder conceived of a museum in the 1990s to house his
collection of German and Austrian modern art. Lauder partnered
with this friend, art dealer Serge Sabarsky whose collection was
comparable. The two quiety purchased the Miller mansion from YIVO
in 1994 and initiated a four-year renovation and restoration of the
"Architect Annabelle Selldorf was given the task of sensitively bringing the mansion back to life and creating an art museum....
before the project was completed; yet today the Neue Gallerie is home
of paintings by such artists Gustav Klimt, Egon Schiele, Paul Klee....
"The exquisite home remains remarkably intact, an elegant survivor of Upper Fifth Avenue's golden age."
Ronald Lauder's brother, made a major gift in 2019 to the Metropolitan Museum
of Art of his important collection of Cubist Art early in the 21st