14. Ruth Brown House, 24 East 72nd Street
The Ruth Brown House, like 10 Washington Place, was not the joyous and festive mansion that many might have pictured. The home was completed in 1895 for its namesake, the mother of the first American racing-car champion David Bruce-Brown. But instead of moving in, she sold it to Alva Vanderbilt. It was at the mansion where Alva’s daughter Consuelo was unhappily married to the Duke of Marlborough, who was a first cousin of Winston Churchill. After Alva divorced her husband William Kissam Vanderbilt, she received $10 million but also the contempt of much of Gilded Age society — at least until the marriage.
The five-story McKim, Mead & White structure was built of mottled brick. It was here that 115 guests joined in the rather sorrowful marriage. Alva, though, quickly remarried, this time to Oliver Hazard Perry Belmont. By 1899, the couple had purchased another house at 677 Fifth Avenue, and Alva sold this one to William Bayard Cutting, a merchant a namesake of the Bayard Cutting Arboretum.