Posts Tagged ‘Joseph Pulitzer Gilded Age Mansion’

A newspaper magnate builds a soundproof, Venetian-style mansion steps from Fifth Avenue

December 19, 2022

The year 1900 wasn’t a good one for Joseph Pulitzer—the rich and influential owner of the New York World, one of Gilded Age Gotham’s most popular and sensational newspapers.

His elegant mansion at 10 East 55th Street, designed by Stanford White, had been destroyed by a fire earlier that year. Two household servants died in the blaze, according to architectural historian Andrew Alpern, author of Luxury Apartment Houses in Manhattan: an Illustrated History.

His health was in bad shape as well. The 53-year-old Hungarian-American immigrant was almost totally blind, and he had developed a condition that made him so excruciatingly sensitive to sound, even the striking of a match sent him into “spasms of suffering,” per a New York magazine article.

So while he and his family temporarily relocated to the posh Savoy Hotel on Fifth Avenue and 57th Street after the fire, Pulitzer shelled out $240,000 on a plot on East 73rd Street measuring 98 feet wide—about three times the size of the land on which his 55th Street mansion stood.

He then asked Stanford White to design a spectacular residence, one that would be soundproof in addition to being fireproof.

For Pulitzer’s new mansion, White looked to Italy for inspiration, basing his design on the Palazzo Pesaro and Palazzo Rezzonico, both built in Venice in the 17th century.

“The limestone-clad, 4-story structure has a rusticated base with a step-up entrance with a pair of rusticated columns that leads to a step-up lobby that opens onto a very large and impressive entrance hall with a quite grand staircase,” stated

Unlike more typical Gilded Age mansions, which tended to be decorated with lots of terra cotta ornamentation and other Beaux Arts bells and whistles, the facade of Pulitzer’s new palace is relatively plain—likely a nod to Pulitzer’s lack of sight.

“While the design of the outside of the house had been developed in a way that took Pulitzer’s blindness into account, the interior made no such concessions,” wrote Alpern.

“Completed in 1903, it was the sort of lavishly grand pastiche of period styles that had made Stanford White the architect and interior designer most sought out by the socially secure and the arrivistes alike. It was a visual feast that Pulitzer could hear described to him but could not enjoy himself.”

White took steps to address Pulitzer’s sensitivity to noise. Said Alpern: “Especially sound-resistant construction was specified, and a secondary glazed partition was erected to acoustically block the windows that overlooked the street.”

Unfortunately, Pulitzer was still tortured by sounds. So in 1904, a one-story extension of the house was created at the end of a small side garden, stated Alpern. Construction “was set as far from the street as possible, and was built with massive walls and only one small window.” Even so, Pulitzer’s noise sensitivity continued.

For all the effort that went into constructing and perfecting his Venetian-style mansion, Pulitzer ended up living there for only another eight years. This accomplished publisher—who bequeathed the funds to start Columbia University’s journalism school, established the Pulitzer prizes, and led a campaign in the World to help finance the Statue of Liberty—passed away in 1911.

After his death, Pulitzer’s family moved out of the mansion, according to, and it stood vacate for years because a buyer could not be found. Grand stand-alone residences like Pulitzer’s were going out of style, and apartment living was preferred by wealthy residents, In 1930, investors planned to knock it down and put up an apartment house.

The Depression put an end to that, and in the 1950s, another plan to bulldoze the mansion and replace it with an apartment building also fell through. Somehow, Pulitzer’s palazzo managed to escape the wrecking ball a second time.

This beautiful and unique dwelling house has since become a co-op with 16 apartments carved out of the original mansion. Occasionally an apartment will come up for sale, like this one on the ground floor—which the listing says includes Pulitzer’s post-construction bedroom.

[Third image: New-York Historical Society; seventh image: Wikipedia]