2. Cultural Services of the French Embassy
Photo by Beowulf Sheehan courtesy the Cultural Services of the French Embassy
One of the few remaining buildings of the Gilded Age, the Payne Whitney Mansion was commissioned in 1902 by Oliver Hazard Payne for his nephew Payne Whitney on the occasion of Payne Whitney’s marriage to Helen Hay. Stanford White, of the prominent architectural firm McKim, Mead & White designed the mansion in the style of an Italian High Renaissance palazzo. White was assassinated by a jealous husband before construction was completed in 1909, making this one of his final projects. In 1970, it was deemed an official landmark of the City of New York. With a grand entrance hall and stairway and ornate marble reception halls, the mansion transports visitors to another epoch.
France has owned the mansion since 1952 and today it is home to the Cultural Services of the French Embassy and Albertine Bookstore. Albertine features a stunning interior design by one of France’s most celebrated modern architects, Jacques Garcia. It holds over 14,000 titles from 30 French-speaking countries. The Cultural Services of the French Embassy promote the best of French arts, literature, cinema, language, and higher education across the US.
In 2018, the Venetian Room, a reception room off the main lobby and one of architect Stanford White’s last creations, was renovated. After four months of renovation, the room is once again open to the public.