Then & Now: The Cornelius Vanderbilt II Mansion on NYC’s Fifth Avenue

Cornelius Vanderbilt II Mansion-Fifth Avenue-House-Gilded Age-NYC-2

Welcome to our Then & Now column, exploring the ever-changing landscape of New York City.  

The rise and fall of the Vanderbilt family, which still pervades American historical lore, can be viewed through the lens of Cornelius Vanderbilt II”s Fifth Avenue mansion. The original mansion was constructed in 1882 at Fifth Avenue and 57th Street in what was a highly respectable residential neighborhood. Although it seems ostentatious today, at the time it was considered restrained by Vanderbilt standards.

Cornelius Vanderbilt II Mansion-Fifth Avenue-57th Street-Bergdorf Goodman-NYC

In 1893, Vanderbilt expanded the original mansion to establish what was reportedly the largest single family house in New York City.

Cornelius Vanderbilt II Mansion-Fifth Avenue-57th Street-Bergdorf Goodman-NYC-2

By the 1920s, the neighborhood had changed. Hotels and commercial enterprises co-opted  this once-residential neighborhood. The Vanderbilt mansion soon begins to appear as an out of place relic from a different time, surrounded by the Plaza Hotel and the Heckscher Building.

In 1926, the mansion was sold to the Braisted Realty Corporation for approximately  $7 million. Bergdorf Goodman‘s flagship store quickly took the mansion’s place. The below photograph from the 1930s depicts a streetscape which has remained almost unchanged.

It is hard to imagine that less than a century ago a chateau stood here, on Fifth Avenue.

For more on the mansion’s history and the relics that remain from it, check out the Remnants of the Vanderbilt Mansion in New York CityNext, see more of the Gilded Age Mansions on Fifth Avenue.

 central park, Cornelius Vanderbilt II Mansion, Fifth Avenue, Gilded Age, mansions, preservation

One Response
  1. Cheryl Mullenbach Reply

    Hello, Benjamin– I would like to acquire a historic photo for a book of one of Cornelius Vanderbilt’s mansions. Do you know how I can get one? Thanks. Cheryl

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