Sunday, December 11, 2011

Four Corners; Madison Avenue and Forty First Street

Residence of Chas. Sneff, ESQ  (1900)
41st St. and Madison Ave., New York City

In the same vicinity of the Carrere & Hastings workshop  Charles H. Sneff's four-story house, designed by Carrere and Hastings,  stood at the northwest corner, 300 Madison. Built of brick and granite it required two years to build. The interior was trimmed in expensive woods, mainly mahogany. The masterpiece was the Great Hall in black mahogany beautifully carved. The main stairs had treads of white marble and the dining room was burnished with real gold.

Residence of Mrs. Thompson
(Indiana Limestone)
Madison Avenue and 41st Street, New York City                     Montrose W. Morris, Architect

On the southeast corner was this limestone clad house designed by Architect Montrose M. Morris, circa 1900 for the Thompson family. In 1891 Frederick Ferris Thompson succeeded his father John Thompson(mentor to George Fisher Baker) as president of Chase National Bank. 

 The Sneff and the Thompson house at 297 Madison Avenue reflected the bad timing of building in the expanding commercialization of the Murray Hill area. 

In the 1850s this area was considered "Uptown" and the well-to-do moved into the neighborhood. Where the NYPublic Library stands today was a reservoir for the city. Numerous brownstones lined the streets.  When J. P. Morgan built his mansion in 1882 on Madison Avenue at 36th Street it was considered a fashionable but slightly old-fashioned address.(J.P. Morgan actually purchased property from Isaac Newton Phelps, who had built three garden-surrounded brownstones in 1853 for himself and family members.) Instead stylish merchandising was changing the neighborhood. 300 and 297 Madison Avenue, built at the turn of the century lasted just ten years. 

The family of Thomas Adams, inventor of modern chewing gum lived at 295 Madison. Frederick A. Adams was married to Eudora Thompson, sister of Frederick Thompson. No dates or architect. Its conceivable the Adams had Montrose Morris or C. P. H. Gilbert design their home because of their work in Brooklyn's Park Slope area where Thomas Adams Jr. lived.  

At the northeast corner, 299 Madison,  was the home of Oakleigh Thorne, a capitalist involved in banking, railroads and mining.  His home was described as Modern Renaissance, which was a combination of 18th-century French and Italian styles. 
Looking north on Madison Avenue from Forty-first street, about 1900

The southwest corner was the first to be torn down for  commercial use with the twelve-story John Mansville Building in 1912. For some time that side of the street had dilapidated and vacant houses. 

The Charles H. Sneff corner house was leased in 1914 to the Lady Baltimore Cake Shop after being vacant and for sale since the death of Mr Sneff in 1911(estate valued at 12million) Mrs. Sneff had moved to 16 79th Street. I don't have the complete time line on when house was torn down.

Newspaper accounts have Frederick Thompson living abroad. The house was rented to Richard Hudnut the "perfumer" for a number of years before 297 Madison first put up a lease sign in 1910. Charles M. Warner of Syracuse, another capitalist with sugar, railroad and mining interests,  had acquired property along with the Adams property at 295.  He had just finished the 12-story Physicians Building at 40 East 41st Street adjoining the Thompson house and the Chemists Club to the east.  For a short time property served as the headquarters for the Aero Club of America who represented the $25,000 Orteig Prize. With the success of the Physicians Building Warner planned  a 25-story annex at the corner of Madison and 41st. At some point Abraham Lefcourta prominent real estate developer  purchased Warner's holdings, tore down the the Physicians Building and built the 45-story Lefcourt Colonial Building in 1929. The rest of the block fronting Madison Avenue was leveled around 1925 for the Murray Hill Building

Oakleigh Thorne's 299 Madison survived a fire in 1902 -    "Rare Furnishings Burned". In 1911 he built at the northeast corner of Park Avenue and 73rd Street, now occupied by a mid-size apartment building. In 1912  a 12-story office building designed by Hill & Stout was erected on the corner. Now location of the Library Hotel.

The Sneff's had a country estate somewhere in Flushing called "Whitestone" described as one of the finest residence on Long Island Sound. I have yet to find any further information on this property.  In the 1920s Mrs. Sneff purchased "Knollwood"  the Charles Hudson estate in Muttontown, L. I. The Sneff's also owned  Curl Neck Farms along the James River in Virginia. Later owned by C.K. Billings. During Mr. Billings ownership Curles Neck was the home of “Harvester", one of the most famous race horses of a generation.

The Thompson family had a summer home in Highland, NY. Frederick built "Sonnenberg" in Canandaigua, NY. 

Oakleigh Thornes' family had a  South Shore estate called "Thorneham". Thorne had his own place in Millbrook, NY.

A further spin - The stepdaughter of Richard Hudnut was the second wife of Rudolf Valentino.

All this from four corners!

The view today.

For more on "Knollwood" visit oldlongisland.


  1. Just a small correction. Frederick F. Thompson's summer home, Sonnenberg is located in Canandaigua, New York and is now a state historic park - Sonnenberg Gardens and Mansions.