The mansion that gave Carnegie Hill its name

Andrew Carnegie’s steel mills made him a huge fortune in the 19th century.

Still, he found “‘ostentatious living’ profoundly distasteful and the conduct of most New York millionaires strictly irresponsible.”

So in 1903, he decamped from his brownstone on Fifth Avenue and 51st Street, on Millionaires’ Row, and moved into a home he built 30 blocks north—practically the country at that time.

He wanted “the most modest, plainest and roomiest house in New York” with land for his wife to garden.

The Georgian mansion he commissioned was a palace compared to most New Yorkers’ homes—but it reflected his view that “the houses of some should be homes for all that is highest and best in literature and the arts…. Without wealth there can be no Maecenas.”

The four-story, 64-room mansion at Fifth and 91st Street was a technological marvel with a steel frame, elevator, central heating (sucking down two tons of coal on a winter day) and a primitive form of air conditioning.

Carnegie lived here for 16 years with his wife, daughter, and 20 servants. Every morning an organist arrived, so he could wake up to his favorite tunes.

He contemplated his philanthropy in his library overlooking Fifth Avenue, as a neighborhood built up around him.

The mansion is still there, but now houses the Cooper-Hewitt Design Museum.

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5 Responses to “The mansion that gave Carnegie Hill its name”

  1. focusoninfinity Says:

    Across from my late 1950’s Fishburne Military School, Waynesboro, Virginia; was the town’s still-in-use, small Carnegie Library. The high open insides had black rough-iron balconies with bookshelves. And I think several iron spiral stairs? Surely the mid-size and small Carnegies were from costs-saving, standard designs?

    I read Carnegie’s tome of a biography which left me much long lingering respect for him. Some Liberals say he played one ethnic group, or immigrant nationality against each other; each with it’s home-territory department, within his steel mills.

    I think it is true, there were such ethnic-group departments; but the contemporarily perceived, malevolent intent on Carnegie’s part may be in error; as even in my 1940’s childhood, ethnic groups seemed more unified within, and consolidated against other groups without; than they/we, are today. Carnegie was dealing with the realities of his times.I admire the man, and his progressive public libraries campaign.

    I also admire our today’s, better ethnic relations; though it seems two-steps-forward, one-step-backwards, progress.

    The Right-wing can’t claim this pragmatic Progressive: Carnegie.

  2. A settlement of shacks on upper Fifth Avenue | Ephemeral New York Says:

    […] by the industrialist Andrew Carnegie, who purchased land on Fifth Avenue around 90th Street in 1898 and built a 64-room mansion,” states the New York Times in a 1994 […]

  3. The poorest New Yorkers lived in these shacks | Ephemeral New York Says:

    […] final photo was taken in 1894 and gives us Fifth Avenue at 101st Street. Not far from where Andrew Carnegie’s massive mansion would rise, New Yorkers lived in these hovels, the riches of the Gilded Age no where in […]

  4. This pricey co-op building was once a Lower East Side public library | Ephemeral New York Says:

    […] “Carnegie” libraries, funded by wealthy industrialist Andrew Carnegie (who lived in a spectacular Fifth Avenue mansion more than 100 blocks north). The main New York Public Library building was still under construction […]

  5. Clearing Gilded Age Fifth Avenue of its shacks and shantytowns | Ephemeral New York Says:

    […] of the shanties were residential. A New York Times article from 1901 that focused on the eventual mansion Andrew Carnegie was building on Upper Fifth Avenue referenced the “relics” of another era, when this section of […]

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