A French chateau on old Fifth Avenue

In the early 1880s, W.K. Vanderbilt (grandson of Cornelius) and his wife, Alva, moved into this French Renaissance–style mansion on pristine Fifth Avenue and 52nd Street, near where various Vanderbilts had also constructed luxe gilded-age houses. 

Alva, who later became a prominent suffragist, helped architect Richard Morris Hunt (he also designed the facade of the Metropolitan Museum of Art) plan it out. She was determined to make her mark on New York’s movers and shakers.


Her efforts probably paid off. It’s a pretty impressive home.

Sold in 1926 to a real-estate developer, the mansion was demolished and replaced by—no surprise—an office building.

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21 Responses to “A French chateau on old Fifth Avenue”

  1. Quid plura? | "Working on his ark, working all by himself..." Says:

    […] Ephemeral New York recalls a French chateau on Fifth Avenue. […]

  2. Stephan C. Drew Says:

    I am a student of Beaux-Arts Architecture and I thoroughly enjoy all of Richard Morris Hunt’s work. I was wondering if you had any more information about the Alva Vanderbilt NY Chateau (which Hunt designed)? I would certainly like to read more. I have the book, “The Vanderbilts and the Gilded Age: Vanderbilt Houses”. Do you know of any sites or locations where I may find more material about Richard Morris Hunt’s work (especially this one house)?

    Thank you,
    Stephan C. Drew

    • scooter Says:

      If you find any info on this house I would love to find out more!Great tragedy that it was tore down!! Thanks for any info

  3. Dr. Coleen Roberts Says:

    My great grandmother ..I believe was the chief cook for the Vanderbilts at their 660 5th Ave home. Can anyone validate this? Her name was Bridigit Nee Boylan.

  4. bloonsterific Says:

    Just wanted to tell you all know how much I appreciate your postings guys.
    Found you though google!

  5. Dr. Coleen Roberts Says:

    Dr. Coleen Roberts wants the Vanderbilts to know that my Irish great grandmother, Bridgit Nee Boylan, who was their great grandparents head cook, raised a family of children who worked as producers for NBC, ran the Atlantic City Race Track, and became educators for Gwinnett County Schools. Her grandaughter Muriel Agnes Boylan Shea raised four children and seven grandchildren who all went to college. My great grandmother was the force behind the evolution of a n Irish Catholic family in the USA.

  6. Dr. Coleen Roberts Says:

    Muriel Agnes Boylan’s grandmother worked for the Vanderbilts as their head cook on the early 1900’s/

  7. Muriel Agnes Boylan Says:

    Muriel Agnes Boylan’s great grandmother taught all of us the receipts for desserts that were used at the Vanderbilts home on 5th Ave.

  8. January 17: happy birthday, Vanderbilt style « Clio’s Calendar: Daily Musings on Architectural History Says:

    […] Newport, Rhode Island.  It was her third architectural acquisition, following the château-style mansion on Fifth Avenue and Long Island estate Idle Hour.  All three list Richard Morris Hunt as the architect, but […]

  9. Genteel Fifth Avenue at the turn of the century « Ephemeral New York Says:

    […] The street sign appears to read 52nd Street. That means the two mansions on the left belong to the Vanderbilt family, as does the French chateau-like mansion next door. […]

  10. The Gilded Age past of a Central Park gate | Ephemeral New York Says:

    […] The gate was created to serve as the imposing front entrance to Cornelius Vanderbilt II’s magnificent mansion. (Not to be confused with another Vanderbilt house palace several blocks south.) […]

  11. The most famous party dress in New York history | Ephemeral New York Says:

    […] Vanderbilt, the super competitive wife of William K.Vanderbilt, was throwing a masquerade ball at her new Fifth Avenue chateau-like mansion. On the guest list were the highest members of New York […]

  12. January 17: Happy Birthday, Alva | Clio’s Calendar: Daily Musings on Architectural History Says:

    […] Newport, Rhode Island.  It was her third architectural acquisition, following the château-style mansion on Fifth Avenue and Long Island estate Idle Hour.  All three list Richard Morris Hunt as the architect, but […]

  13. 1880s New York’s most insane fancy ball costume | Ephemeral New York Says:

    […] The ball was arguably the most incredible social event of the year, and it also served as kind of a housewarming for the new Fifth Avenue Vanderbilt mansion. […]

  14. Grand Central is filled with acorns and oak leaves | Ephemeral New York Says:

    […] Gilded Age also featured acorns and oaks. Those flourishes may not have gone with the decor in this chateau-style mansion, for […]

  15. The rich activists of New York’s “mink brigade” | Ephemeral New York Says:

    […] (left), daughter of financier J.P. Morgan, and former society queen bee Alva Belmont,  ex-wife of W.K. Vanderbilt and widow of banker Oliver Hazard Perry […]

  16. A memorial to the Gilded Age’s favorite architect | Ephemeral New York Says:

    […] also designed “Petit Chateau” for W.K. Vanderbilt and his social-climbing wife, Alva, in 1883 at Fifth Avenue and 52nd Street. […]

  17. The 57th Street mansion built as a wedding gift | Ephemeral New York Says:

    […] the couple moved in, the East 50s off Fifth Avenue was a residential enclave crawling with rich Vanderbilt family members, including Cornelius Vanderbilt II, whose spectacular mansion was just down the block at One West […]

  18. The nude statue outside Alice Vanderbilt’s window | Ephemeral New York Says:

    […] calendar of society events. This mother of seven even wore the best gown to Alva’s famous 1883 masquerade ball: an electric dress that actually lit up thanks to a portable battery pack […]

  19. A Gilded Age chateau on Madison Avenue, and the old-money owner who never moved in | Ephemeral New York Says:

    […] the most famous chateau was constructed in 1882 at Fifth Avenue and 53rd Street: the William K. Vanderbilt mansion—called […]

  20. This 1899 Gilded Age fairy-tale mansion on Fifth Avenue has had only 4 owners | Ephemeral New York Says:

    […] 79th Street in 1897, he supposedly wanted the house to rival William K. and Alva Vanderbilt’s 1882 “petit chateau” on Fifth Avenue and 52nd […]

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