4. William K. Vanderbilt Mansion at 660 Fifth Avenue

Photo from Library of Congress.

Affectionately known as the Petit Château, the William K. Vanderbilt House was a Châteauesque mansion at 660 Fifth Avenue closer to the start of Millionaire’s Row. Vanderbilt’s wife, Alva, worked with the mansion’s architect, Richard Morris Hunt, to create her dreamlike French Renaissance-style home. Alva wanted her home to stand out against all the other Fifth Avenue mansions, lifting her into the elite with her “Fancy Dress Ball.” Until that groundbreaking ball, Alva was not welcomed into the established New York City social scene ruled by Mrs. Astor.

Besting Mrs. Astor’s 400, Alva invited 1,200 of New York’s finest to her ball, except for Mrs. Astor. Astor came calling at Alva’s door, symbolically bowing to the new order as she begged for an invitation. Guests were greeted in a hall built of stone from Caen, France. Interiors were decorated from trips to Europe with antiques. The home notably featured an ebony secretary, now in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, that was built by Jean Henri Riesener for Marie Antoinette at the Château de Saint-Cloud near Paris. In the salon, Paul-Jacques-Aimé Baudry painted mythological scenes in a similar style to his ceiling paintings for the Palais Garnier. Sadly, the mansion was demolished in 1926 after being sold to a real estate developer and in its stead rose 666 Fifth Avenue, an office tower.