7. Otto Kahn’s Mansion
One of the grandest Beaux-Arts mansions, and the last Gilded Age mansion built in New York City, was the home of wealthy investment banker Otto Hermann Kahn. Born into a distinguished German-Jewish family, Kahn left Germany for London and then New York. He built Oheka Castle on Long Island—the second largest private home ever built in the U.S.—a villa in Palm Beach, and finally this mansion on East 91st Street on the Upper East Side.
Kahn hired British architect J. Armstrong Stenhouse and C.P.H. Gilbert to design his opulent mansion. Stenhouse based it on the 16th-century Palazzo della Cancelleria in Rome. The top floor was designed as a private penthouse in the Roman garden villa style, complete with an arched loggia and fountains, which served as an art studio for the artists Kahn sponsored. A generous patron of the arts, Kahn loved to entertain, and was friends with Enrico Caruso, George Gershwin, and Anna Pavlova, who gave recitals in the palatial ballroom. From his private quarters on the third floor, he would look down through a discreetly placed window to watch his guests gathering in the Gothic Room to admire his art collection before making a dramatic entrance. The mansion was joined with the Burden mansion to form the campus of the Sacred Heart Catholic school for girls.