The American Irish Historical Society (AIHS) is housed in a magnificent Gilded Age townhouse on Fifth Avenue, across from the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The society has an active schedule of public art and music events which provide the curious a glimpse into this stunning building. We recently took a grand tour of the townhouse as preparation for the next Brownstone 360 from the Metropolis Ensemble, an immersive food and art event to take place this upcoming Monday, was underway. Through our visit, we discovered the many secrets of this historic building at 991 Fifth Avenue, part of the Metropolitan Museum Historic District.
1. It’s One of the Least Altered Interiors of the Fifth Avenue Gilded Age Mansions Still Standing
If you take a look at the blocks between within this stretch of the Metropolitan Museum Historic District, you’ll notice the Gilded Age mansions squashed between large-scale Fifth Avenue apartment buildings. The American Irish Historical Society is the last of its kind on the block, which once consisted of all similar scale townhouses. The Great Depression sent the wrecking ball to many of the original grand homes. 991 Fifth Avenue was saved by a purchase by the American Irish Historical Society for just $20,000 – a steal considering it was built for $75,000 in 1900.
According to Christopher Cahill, a poet and the director of the AIHS, the main floors of the townhouse are one of the “least altered interiors,” still extant from a 1911 renovation by the architect Ogden Codman, Jr. known for co-authoring Edith Wharton’s first book, The Decoration of Houses. In more recent times, a three year restoration commenced in 2005, with the AIHS reopening in 2008.