When wealthy industrialist Henry Clay Frick moved to New York City in 1905, he initially rented one of the Gilded Age mansions known as the Vanderbilt Triple Palaces in Midtown for $100,000 a year and hung his formidable art collection on its velvet-lined walls. That is, until he went for a drive in Central Park and spotted an enormous new mansion surrounded by gardens on Fifth Avenue and 90th Street. Upon hearing that the new mansion was built for his former business partner and arch-rival Andrew Carnegie, he apparently vowed to build himself a home that would “make Andy’s house look like a miner’s shack!”
The result of Frick’s competitive ambition still stands on Fifth Avenue at East 70th Street. As New Yorkers will know, it now houses the Frick Collection (and is currently under renovation). The mansion, designed by Thomas Hastings of Carrère & Hastings, replaced the Lenox Library designed by Richard Morris Hunt, whose collection became a founding part of the New York Public Library‘s collection. A memorial dedicated to Hunt still stands opposite the Frick, two Beaux-Arts landmarks that show the grandeur of the Gilded Age.
Sometimes called the American Renaissance, the Gilded Age was a period of unprecedented wealth and change in the United States, especially in New York City. Industrialization allowed tycoons like Henry Clay Frick, Andrew Carnegie, Commodore Cornelius Vanderbilt, and J.P. Morgan to amass huge fortunes, which they used to build private mansions as well as civic buildings like the New York Public Library, Grand Central Terminal, and Carnegie Hall. They were larger-than-life characters with massive egos, towering ambitions, and sometimes scandalous affairs.
On our popular Fifth Ave Gilded Age Mansions Tour, which launched this spring, you’ll have the chance to take a stroll along Fifth Avenue as it was during the Gilded Age when grand mansions of millionaires lined the illustrious street. As you revisit Millionaire’s Row, you will discover works of architecture lost to time and some that remain today with a new purpose. This tour will resurrect some of the magnificent mansions that no longer stand, bringing those glamorous abodes back to life with stunning historical images and scintillating stories of the affairs that took place inside.
You’ll also see the aforementioned Frick Collection and the memorial to Richard Morris Hunt opposite it, learn the story behind the Pulitzer Fountain in front of the Plaza Hotel, gaze at Temple Emanu-El, which replaced Mrs. Astor’s mansion, and visit the beautiful bookshop Albertine inside the French Embassy, housed in the Payne Whitney mansion built in 1906 by renowned Gilded Age architect Stanford White.
The tour lasts 90 minutes and costs $29 to $35 per person. You can also book a private tour starting at $280. This tour is open to the public, but Untapped New York Insiders get a $5 discount. If you’re not a member, become one now (and use the code JOINUS to get your first month free). New dates are now available on select Saturdays and Sundays through the end of this year.
Fifth Ave Gilded Age Mansions Tour
Next, read about the Gilded Age 5th Avenue Mansions of Millionaires Row!