Property

A Look Inside Manhattan's Last Gilded Mansion, The Most Expensive Property in New York City

The Fifth Avenue residence built in 1905 and previously owned by a Vanderbilt is on the market for $50 million.
IMAGE DOUGLAS ELLIMAN
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The last of Manhattan's Gilded Age mansions could be yours—for $50 million.

As the New York Post first reported, the six-story Beaux Arts limestone townhouse once owned by the granddaughter of railroad baron Cornelius Vanderbilt is on the market for the first time in years.


The 20,000-square-foot mansion at 854 Fifth Avenue was built in 1905 for R. Livingston Beeckman, a stockbroker and future governor of Rhode Island, and was designed by Warren & Wetmore, the firm that worked on Grand Central Terminal. A working stove from 1905 is still in place, and the interior is essentially unchanged from the way it looked during the era when Mark Twain and Charles Dudley Warner coined the term Gilded Age.

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The house cost $60,000 to build and was sold in 1912 for $725,000, setting a Manhattan real estate record for the time. It next traded hands in 1925, when Emily Thorn Vanderbilt Sloane White and her husband, Henry White, paid $450,000 for it. The granddaughter of "Commodore" Vanderbilt added ceiling frescoes and gilded touches, including the gold leaf-coated cherubs that adorn the ceiling moldings of the second-floor dining room.

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The Landmarks Preservation Commission classified the Upper East Side property a New York City landmark in 1969, recognizing the house for its "palatial scale" and "elegant grandeur," which "reflects the influence of the Eighteenth Century classic period of Louis XV."


During Vanderbilt's ownership, the Post reports, it was "the first Manhattan residence to feature front-and-back electric elevators, and the children who lived there were told to use them sparingly because each ride cost 25 cents." (There are now two elevators, eight bathrooms, 32 rooms, and a white-marble staircase modeled on Versailles.)

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In 1946 Vanderbilt and her husband sold what the New York Times called at the time "one of the finest private homes remaining on Fifth Avenue" to the Republic of Yugoslavia for $350,000. Since then it's housed world leaders and reportedly still contains "a secret top-floor, metal-padded room known as a Faraday Cage that allowed officials of the Soviet ally to converse or make calls without the risk of being wiretapped."

Now Bosnia, Serbia, Croatia, Slovenia, and Macedonia—the five states that came out of the former Communist state—are selling the townhouse fully furnished (along with a Park Avenue co-op that was once the UN ambassador’s residence and other property the countries own in Japan and Switzerland).

Interested parties may be in for a bidding war though—the Post reports that listing broker Tristan Harper already has six potential buyers.

Scroll down to see more photos.


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This story originally appeared on Townandcountrymag.com.
* Minor edits have been made by the Townandcountry.ph editors.

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Sam Dangremond
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