6. James Burden’s Mansion

grand staircase in the James Burden mansion one of NYC's most beautiful Beaux Arts mansions
Photo courtesy of Jonathan Wallen

The stately mansion at 7 East 91st Street, between Fifth and Madison Avenues, was built as a wedding present for Adele Sloane, a great-granddaughter of “Commodore” Cornelius Vanderbilt, upon her marriage to James Burden, heir to his family’s ironworks in Troy, New York. Their lavish wedding in the Berkshires was attended by Richard Morris Hunt, who likely would have been hired to design the mansion had he not died just a couple of weeks after the wedding. Instead, the commission went to Whitney Warren of Warren & Whetmore.

Warren went to Paris to study at the École des Beaux-Arts and returned ten years later. He designed a mansion described aptly by Dodd as “a French interpretation of an Italian palazzo.” Unlike most Gilded Age mansions, which had the “piano nobile” entertaining rooms on the second floor, Warren put the piano nobile on the third floor, so guests had to climb two floors of the oval grand staircase topped by a dome and adorned by a stained glass window by Tiffany Studios. On the third floor is a ballroom inspired by the Hall of Mirrors at Versailles, a reception room, and a banquet room in the Louis XIV style. The mansion now houses the Convent of the Sacred Heart Catholic school for girls.