By Carter B. Horsley
With its tall cupola, half-fan windows and
oculi, this red-brick Georgian-style building, which is also known
as 1015 Park Avenue, is one of the prettiest and most charming
mansions in the city.
It is surprising, therefore, that it remained
vacant for a decade or so at the end of the 20th and the beginning
of the 21st Century, a fate that also befell another Georgian-style,
red-brick mansion, the Thomas Howell residence designed in 1920
by Walter Lund and Julius F. Gayler, further south at 603 Park
Avenue on the northeast corner at 64th Street. This is the far
more attractive building, because of its dormers and white window
frames whereas the Howell house is more sedate and bland.
In his excellent book, "Park Avenue, Street
of Dreams," (Atheneum, 1990), James Trager provides the following
account of this siteís history:
"Quite a few Park Avenue houses went up
in the years before World War I. A private residence designed
by Hunt & Hunt for Amos R. E. Pinchot was finished in 1910
at the northeast corner of 85th Street. Pinchot, a lawyer, was
the brother of Gifford, the conservationist who superintended
the 119,000 acres of forest that surrounded Biltmore House, designed
by Richard Morris Hunt for William Henry Vanderbiltís youngest
son, George Washington, and completed in 1896. Gifford headed
the U.S. Forest Service but was fired by President Taft after
joining others in charging the Secretary of the Interior, Richard
A. Ballinger, with conflict of interest - a cause celebre in 1910.
The Pinchot house was later occupied under lease by Mrs. Alfred
Gwynne Vanderbilt, Vincent Astor, and Joseph C. Baldwin before
being purchased by Edward R. Stettinus, a J. P. Morgan partner,
who occupied it until his death in the late 1920ís."
Trager also noted that Amos Pinchot had sold
Lewis Gouverneur Morris the 25 1/2-by-82-foot lot on the southeast
corner at this intersection, directly across from the sidestreet
entrance of 1021 Park Avenue. Morris had the building on it razed
and replaced with a building designed by Ernest Flagg that he
moved into from his former residence at 77 Madison Avenue. The
new, gable, dark red-brick house had hip-roofed dormer windows,
a cupola over its elevator tower, and a garage in its east wing.
Trager wrote that the daughters of Morris sold the townhouse in
1967 to the New World Foundation, "established in 1954 to
carry out the testamentary wishes of the reaper heiress, Anita
Lewis Gouverneur Morris, Mr. Trager continued,
was a descendent of "Gouverneur Morris of Morrisania, who
helped draft the Articles of Confederation; of the first governor
of New Jersey; and of a signer of the Declaration of Independence,
both named Lewis Morris." "Lewis Gouverneur Morris was
in the Harvard class of 1906, a member of the New York Stock Exchange,
and a partner in the brokerage firm of Morris & Pope, organized
in 1915. The firm failed in 1917 and Morris, in consequence, went
to jail in 1921. When he died in 1967 at age eighty-five, his
obitiuary in the Times noted that he had been 'confined
in $22,000 bond in White Plains from June 18, 1921 to October
5, 1921.' He was 'discharged as an almost insolvent debtor after
petitioning the court that his only assets were clothing and other
personal effects, $30 in cash, and two tennis racquets.' Morris
first wife, the former Natalie Lawlor Bailey, died in 1935; he
married Princess de Branganca, the former Miss Anita Stewart,
in 1946, and his death occured at Malbon, his Newport, Rhode Island,
estate. The Times obit noted that he also maintained a
residence at '1510' (it meant 1015) Park Avenue and had been a
trustee of the Museum of the City of New York."
Architect Flagg was best-known for the great
Singer Building at 149 Broadway, which was for a while the tallest
building in the world and was the tallest building in the world
ever to be demolished when it was demolished in 1970.
This building was sold by the daughters of
Lewis Gouverneur Morris in 1967 to Anita McCormick Blair whose
New World Foundation was created in 1954 to revitalize "the
institutions of community and public life grown increasingly fragile
in the face of massive loss of federal dollars and inadequate
private funds," Mr. Trager wrote.
One of the most distinctive and elegant buildings
on the avenue, 1021 Park Avenue was erected in 1929 as a cooperative.That
14-story building, shown above, has only 27 apartments and was
designed by Rosario Candela and Kenneth M. Murchison and erected
by John and Joseph Campagna, the son of Anthony Campagna, one
of the cityís most important developers of luxury residential
buildings. Candela was the leading architect of luxury apartment
buildings of his era.
It is just to the south of the charming former
town house at 1025 Park Avenue of Reginald deKoven, a composer,
designed in 1912 by John Russell Pope in Jacobean style (see The City Review article).
The former New World Foundation building is
across the avenue from the Park Avenue Christian Church, designed
by Cram, Goodhue & Ferguson in 1911.
In their fine book, "The A. I. A. Guide
to New York City Architecture, Third Edition" (Harcourt Brace
Jovanovich, 1988), Elliot Wilensky and Norval White, provide the
following commentary about this building:
"The radical English architect and urban
designer Richard Norman Shaw (1831-1912) converted Georgian fantasies
into such rich and complex places as this. A sprightly collision
of quarter-round windows, widow walks, and dormers flying in all
directions. Among Flagg's best."
In 2002, the building underwent handsome renovations.