Mrs. William B. Astor House
It was originally constructed for Caroline Astor, the wife of real estate heir William Backhouse Astor, Jr.. Construction started in 1893, the mansion would turn out to be the largest of its kind on Fifth Avenue.
The mansion was designed by Richard Morris Hunt, who used the early French Renaissance architecture from the period Louis XII and Francois I, style similar to a château and the french Louis XII Style(in French), revival of the Château de Blois.
The house saw many parties and was a New York City attraction; the ballroom could hold 1,200 people, compared with 400 at her previous mansion at 350 Fifth Avenue and 34th Street.
Upon entering the house, one entered a domed vestibule from which one could enter the mansion. When guests arrived, they normally were greeted by Caroline, and her butler, Mr. Hefty, in the Adam style reception room, under Caroline's portrait by Carolus-Duran, decked in her jewels to receive her guests.
The reception room was entered from the marble great hall (from the vestibule one entered a hall lined with busts of her ancestors which led to the great hall), where a huge handsome marble staircase led to the upstairs.
Off of the great hall, one could enter the gold ceilinged drawing room, the walls of which were covered with gold framed mirrors, and the floor of which was covered in expensive oriental rugs, tiger rugs, leopard rugs and several rugs woven out of feathers.
One could also enter the dining room, the black marble walls of which were covered with tapestries depicting hunting scenes, and the black and white marble tiled floors covered with polar bear rugs all centered on the marble stoned fireplace, the mantle of which was crowded with vases and the huge crystal chandelier draped with various satin drapes.
Through the dining room, one entered the breakfast room, which was stuffed with Caroline's tea cup collection and a small table which was covered with a red and white table cloth and a small oriental vase with flowers in it. At the very end of the great hall was the entrance, flanked by two large vases and gold satin curtains, one entered the ballroom.
The ballroom was the largest room of the house, spanning the entire rear of the house and rising four stories to the house's roof. The ballroom doubled as the art gallery; the satin-paneled walls were covered with Mrs. Astor's famed art collection, while the parquet floors were covered with four massive red oriental rugs and 16 long narrow red Persian rugs. Also dotted around the floor were colorful peacock feathered woven rugs.
On the ceiling were four massive crystal chandeliers, each with several pearl strings drooping from one to the other. At one end of the ballroom was a massive marble fireplace that went all the way to the ceiling, on the mantle of which were sculpted two massive marble nude men holding a built-in picture frame containing a painting of a gala at the palace of Versailles. At the other end was a musician's balcony opening off of the second floor, where a wall of Chinese screens blocked the musician's view of the ballroom. In front of the balcony was Mrs. Astor's statue of Venus; around it were several potted plants and a small marble waterfall. In front of the fireplace stood two the Louis XVI candelabra that her dead husband William had bought in Europe. In between the candelabra was a raised dias covered in fur blankets, on top of which was a red satin divan, upon which Caroline would sit. In between the divan were two small tables, on top of which were two marble horse heads. In the middle of the ballroom was Mrs. Astor's red velvet plush round ottoman with a round back in the middle and a huge marble vase at the top. Also along the walls and in the center of the room were several plush red velvet couches, lounge chairs and chairs.
On the second floor was Caroline's bedroom, domed boudior, dressing room, bathroom, closets and her pink sitting room. also on this floor was a guest suite and the linen closet.
The remaining floors contained numerous guest rooms and servants rooms.
- Kathrens, Michael C. (2005). Great Houses of New York, 1880-1930. New York: Acanthus Press. p. 71. ISBN 978-0-926494-34-3.
- Architectural blog
- Miller, Donald L. Supreme City: How Jazz Age Manhattan Gave Birth to Modern America
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