But in 1906, Schwab eclipsed these two captains of industry in one regard: he built a larger, more magnificent Manhattan mansion.
While Carnegie and Frick built their palaces on Fifth Avenue, Schwab went west. He constructed his on Riverside Drive, on the site of a former orphan asylum.
His 86-room chateau, situated on an entire block between 73rd and 74th Streets and stretching all the way to West End Avenue, was perhaps the most ambitious private home ever built in Manhattan.
How loaded with amenities was it? The house boasted three elevators, a gym, an indoor pool, a chapel, and a bowling alley, as well as elaborate gardens and a nearly 200-foot tall tower offering spectacular views of the Hudson River.
It also contained its own power plant, to keep the 6,000 incandescent bulbs glowing.
Though other wealthy men also built freestanding mansions here, Riverside never became the “millionaire’s row” developers had hoped.
Still, Schwab and his wife held out in their chateau, which “became the scene of countless gilt and plush social affairs,” wrote the Brooklyn Daily Eagle in 1947.
Before his death in 1939, Schwab offered his mansion to the city of New York, hoping it would be used as an official mayor’s residence.
Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia turned the offer down, finding the house too garish. (Instead, he made the more stately Gracie Mansion the mayoral home in 1942.)
“[N]ewspaper articles at the time mention salvage operations under way for wood paneling, a large organ, chandeliers and stained glass,” wrote the New York Times in 2003.
(Some of the artifacts for salvage, at left.)
What went up in its place? A massive red-brick apartment residence (below) opened in 1950 called Schwab House, after the stupendous home that symbolized Gilded Age wealth and power.
[Photos: MCNY; streeteasy]