Posts Tagged ‘East 69th Street Carriage Houses’

The Lenox Hill carriage houses from a fairytale

December 28, 2020

There’s nothing like walking through Manhattan during Christmastime and coming upon a row of elfin former carriage houses that look like they were made out of gingerbread and belong in a holiday fairytale.

This “stable row,” as it was known in the late 19th century, is on East 69th Street between Lexington and Third Avenues.

The north side of the street is home to several conjoined carriage houses of different architectural styles and sizes—but all with the traditional arched entryway to fit not just horses but the tall carriages they pulled.

It’s not Lenox Hill’s only row of carriage houses. As Upper Fifth Avenue became the city’s new millionaire mile during the Gilded Age, these new rich New Yorkers built not only resplendent mansions for themselves but decorative stables for their equipage and the workers who took care of them.

These wealthy owners wanted their stables nearby—but not so near that they had to smell and hear their horses. Other stable rows are on East 73rd Street and East 66th Street, and they tend to be east of Lexington Avenue (and thus closer to the tenements and elevated trains, not to mention on the other side of Park Avenue, where the New York Central Railroad had its tracks).

Number 147, the first in the row closest to Lexington, was built by a banker named Herbert Bishop in 1880, according to Christopher Gray a 2014 New York Times article, which delves into the backstories of some of the carriage houses on the block. Bishop lived on Fifth Avenue and 70th Street.

A dye company owner, Adolph Kuttroff, built numbers 153-157 a few years later, according to Gray. John Sloane, of the department family Sloanes (owners of the W.J. Sloane rug and furnishings store on Broadway and 19th Street), parked his vehicle and horses at 159.

“In 1896 came the most remarkable stable on the Upper East Side, when the streetcar millionaire Charles T. Yerkes, whose large house was at 69th and Fifth, had the otherwise little-known Frank Drischler design a three-story-high stable with a broad, double-height arch, gabled front at No. 149,” wrote Gray.

Number 161 has the initials “BB” in the keystone, notes the AIA Guide to New York City. Those initials are for William Bruce-Brown, brother of wealthy sportsman David Loney Bruce-Brown. His obituary says Bruce-Brown resided at 13 East 70th Street, but the Upper East Side Historical District Designation Report from 1981 says he lived in the upper floors of the stable.

George G. Heye, collector and founder of the Museum of the American Indian, owned number 167 (described as “plodding eclectic” by the AIA).

Horses and carriages (and their grooms and drivers) didn’t occupy these stables for much longer. By the teens, they started getting converted into garages for automobiles, then remade into living quarters for people—including Mark Rothko, who lived and had his studio in 157 until his death by suicide in 1970.

Lately, these Victorian, Georgian, and Romanesque stables have changed hands for big money. Art dealer Larry Gagosian sold number 147 for $18 million, according to 6sqfeet.

They’re remodeled, restored, and really, really pricey. But from the street you can imagine them as part of a fairy tale village, or the kind of delightful structures you find in a snow globe—very appropriate for the holiday season.

[Fourth photo: MCNY 1976 2013.3.2.716]