5. The Vanderbilt Triple Palace: 640 and 660 Fifth Avenue and 2 West 52nd Street
In 1882, William Henry Vanderbilt, the eldest son of Cornelius Vanderbilt, bought an entire block between 51st and 52nd Streets where he built the “Triple Palaces.” The three nearly identical brownstone homes were for himself and his wife, as well as his two daughters, Emily and Margaret. The two granddaughters of Commodore Cornelius Vanderbilt were each given their own Fith Avenue mansions. When hosting large events, the separate drawing rooms could be converted into one large ballroom.
Another wealthy New Yorker, Henry Clay Frick, reportedly said “That is all I shall ever want” on a drive past the Triple Palaces. Frick would rent out one of the palaces on a 10-year lease while George Vanderbilt was busy building the Biltmore Estate in North Carolina. However, he could not buy the house due to William H. Vanderbilt’s will, which barred George Vanderbilt from selling the home and art outside of the family. Via a loophole, though, the property and artwork were sold by Vanderbilt’s grandson to the Astors, who in turn sold the holdings in the 1940s. You can learn more about the Vanderbilt houses and other Gilded Age mansions in our upcoming Archtober talk, Lost New York: The Mansions of Millionaire’s Row! Tickets are just $10 or free for Untapped New York Insiders!