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603 Park Avenue

Northeast corner at 64th Street

603 Park Avenue is the red-brick building at the right

By Carter B. Horsley

With its exceptional long frontage on a prime location on Park Avenue, this is one of the most visible red-brick, Georgian-style mansions in the city.

While it is rather plain and severe, it is elegant and 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, Park Avenue mansion, the former Lewis Gouverneur Morris and former New World Foundation building at 100 East 85th Street that was designed by Ernst Flagg (see The City Review article).

This building was by designed by Walter Lund and Julius F. Gayler in 1920 for Thomas A. Howell and his wife, Emilia for $65,000. Mr. Howell was a sugar wholesaler, James Trager wrote in his excellent book, "Park Avenue Street of Dreams" (Atheneum, 1990).

"The Howells sold 603 in 1923 to James W. Ellsworth, a retired coal mining magnate, who died of pneumonia in 1925; his son Lincoln was stranded at the time on the Artic icecap with Roald Amundsen. Dr. James B. Murphy, who later headed cancer research at Rockefeller Institute (now Rockefeller University) leased the house in 1927 from Lincoln Ellsworth. American Architecture of Today, published in 1928, called 603 Park a 'friendly, pleasant building....a most interesting adaptation of the American Colonial to a long, thin site.' Dr. Murphy died in 1950 and his widow married Ray S. Blakeman. Mrs. Blakeman lived there until her death in 1987. The house was still a private residence in the spring of 1989, "when it was offered for sale at $20 million," Mr. Trager wrote.

The house was used soon after it was put on the market for the very prestigious annual interior design show benefitting the Kips Bay Boys Club. Many different brokers tried to sell the house and its asked price eroded to $12 million but still found no takers.

603 Park Avenue seen from the north

View from the northwest

The building has a central skylit staircase but it is only 20 feet deep and its interiors while handsome are not spectacular.

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