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.
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.