William A. Clark House
|William A. Clark House|
Main frontage along East 77th Street
|Architectural style||Beaux-Arts Châteauesque|
|Location||New York, New York U.S.A.|
|Address||962 Fifth Avenue|
|Cost||$7 million (equivalent to $188,225,000 in 2018)|
|Client||William A. Clark|
|Design and construction|
|Architect||Austin W. Lord|
J. Monroe Hewlett
The William A. Clark House, also known as "Clark's Folly", was a mansion located at 962 Fifth Avenue on the northeast corner of its intersection with East 77th Street on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. It was demolished in 1927 and replaced with a luxury apartment building (960 Fifth Avenue).
William A. Clark, a wealthy entrepreneur and politician from Montana, commissioned the New York City firm of Lord, Hewlett & Hull to build the house in 1897. The house was completed in 1911, after numerous legal disputes, at a cost of $7 million (equivalent to $188,225,000 in 2018). The house contained 121 rooms, 31 baths, four art galleries, a swimming pool, a concealed garage, and a private underground rail line to bring in coal for heat.
It was reported that Clark bought a quarry in New Hampshire, at a cost of $50,000 (equivalent to $1,344,000 in 2018), and built a railroad to get out the stone for the building. He also bought a bronze foundry employing 200 men to manufacture the bronze fittings. In addition, he imported marble from Italy, oak from Sherwood Forest in England, and parts of old French châteaux for the interior.
The building of the mansion is described in the bestselling biography of Clark's daughter, Huguette, and her family, Empty Mansions: The Mysterious Life of Huguette Clark and the Spending of a Great American Fortune by Bill Dedman and Paul Clark Newell, Jr.
The house had 250 feet on 77th Street and 77 feet on Fifth Avenue, more than any other rich man on Fifth opposite the park, except for Andrew Carnegie. The Fifth Avenue front was large for a New York house, with three bays of granite.
On 77th Street, the house featured a long facade rising to a steep mansard roof. The house featured a spectacular four-sided tower with a three-story-high inward-curving arch topped by an open pergola that was said to have been visible from almost anywhere in Central Park.
The house rose nine stories, with Turkish baths below ground level, laundry rooms on the top floor and many Greek marble columns. There was a Numidian marble fireplace in the banquet room that measured 15 ft. across, with life-size figures of Diana and Neptune. The 121 rooms were filled with medieval tapestries and artwork. In the breakfast room, there were 170 carved panels, with no two being identical.
On the second floor was a rotunda, 36 feet high, of Maryland marble with eight Bresche violet marble columns, used as the statuary room. The room opened onto a conservatory of solid brass and glass, 30 feet high and 22 feet wide. Across the rotunda was the marble-paneled main picture gallery, which was 95 ft. long and two stories high. An organ loft housed the largest chamber organ in America. The organ had four manuals (keyboards) and pedalboard, 74 ranks and 71 speaking stops.
There were 25 guest rooms with their own baths, and 35 servant's rooms, with men’s quarters (to the east) and female rooms (to the west). There was also a Gothic library that was 90 feet long, featuring a beamed ceiling and an immense carved fireplace.
Clark's art collection included works by Eugène Delacroix, Jean-François Millet, Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot, John Constable, François Boucher and Charles-François Daubigny. It was reported that he spent $200,000 (equivalent to $5,378,000 in 2018) for the Gobelin tapestries owned by Prince Murat and $350,000 (equivalent to $9,411,000 in 2018) for those of the Earl of Coventry.
In 1925, upon Clark's death, his widow and his daughter, Huguette Clark, decamped to 907 Fifth Avenue, where the annual rental for a full-floor apartment was about $30,000. Shortly thereafter, the mansion was sold to Anthony Campagna for $3 million (equivalent to $42,860,000 in 2018). He had the home torn down in 1927, less than 20 years after it was built. It was replaced with the current luxury apartment building at 960 Fifth Avenue. The Salon Doré was bequeathed to the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.
Montgomery Schuyler, in a column titled "Architectural Aberrations" in Architectural Record, stated that the house was “an appropriate residence for the late P. T. Barnum.” He felt the tower was “meaningless and fatuous”; the rounded rustication on the first floor suggested the prototype of “a log house.” At the time, the French style had gone out of fashion and the ornamentation was no longer in vogue. Schuyler wrote that “a certified check to the amount of all this stone carving hung on the outer wall would serve every artistic purpose attained by the carving itself.”
The editor of The Architect called the place “The House of a Thousand Cartouches” and despised the “dolorous and ponderous granite” chosen. At the time, these opinions were widespread, earning the home the nickname "Clark's Folly".
In 2011, however, The New York Times architectural critic Christopher Gray stated the house was, in fact, "a pretty neat house. If Carrère & Hastings had designed it for an establishment client, its profligacy would certainly have been forgiven, perhaps lionized."
- Senator Clark's New Home Causes a Suit New York Times, December 11, 1901.
- "'Clark's Folly' Brings Price of $3,000,000 in Sale". Pittsbugh Press. February 2, 1927. Retrieved 19 October 2015.
- Gray, Christopher (June 2, 2011). "Huguette Clark's 'Worthless' Girlhood Home". The New York Times. Retrieved 19 October 2015.
- Bill Dedman, Paul Clark Newell, Jr., Empty Mansions: The Mysterious Life of Huguette Clark and the Spending of a Great American Fortune, New York: Ballantine Books, 2013
- "The Lost 1908 William A. Clark Mansion". Daytonian in Manhattan. March 21, 2011. Retrieved 19 October 2015.
- Clark Residence Organ, Organ Historical Society, retrieved 19 June 2019
- "Lifting the Curtains at Corcoran's Salon Dore". The Washington Post. November 20, 2001. Retrieved 7 February 2018.
- "The House of Senator Clark: Architectural Aberration No. 21." The Architectural Record, vol. 19, no. 1 (January 1906), pp. 27–29.
- Kathrens, Michael C. (2005). Great Houses of New York, 1880-1930. New York: Acanthus Press. p. 207. ISBN 978-0-926494-34-3.
- Craven, Wayne (2008). Gilded Mansions: Grand Architecture and High Society. New York: W. W. Norton & Company. ISBN 978-0-393-06754-5.
- "Huguette Clark's Worthless Girlhood Home." New York Times, June 2, 2011.
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