Saturday, April 28, 2012

Frank Winfield Woolworth's New York City Townhouse

"C. P. H. Gilbert is at work on plans for an elaborate residence to be built for Mr. F. W. Woolworth on the corner of 80th Street and Fifth Avenue. It will be semi-fire-proof and faced with brick and stone; cost, about $90,000." Brickbuilder, 1899.

 At the north corner of 80th and Fifth Avenue Frank Winfield Woolworth  retained  architect Charles Pierrepont Henry Gilbert to design his new townhouse. It was completed in 1901.

For Woolworth, Gilbert designed a house with a lacy roof line with intricate copper roof cresting and crocketed chimneys and elaborately decorated dormers. 

The critic Montgomery Schuyler praised the Woolworth house for its “restfulness and solidity.” - 

"In point of quietness, the next house, the house at the corner of Eightieth, with its longer front on that street, is also exemplary. It is true that the designer of a corner house has the advantage, as we have just seen in another instance, that he need not disturb his basement with the entrance, which is the principal trouble of the designer of narrow fronts, but can keep it unbroken as a support and basis. But this designer has made the most of that advantage, and his shallow three-sided bay looks broad and reposeful. The detail is, perhaps, a little underdone in scale, and thus lacks emphasis and tends to flatness, especially in comparison with its neighbor, in which the scale is perhaps a little excessive. But this detail is so good in itself, and so thoroughly studied as to make the recklessness of much we have been looking at all the more evident. On the long front, too, the wall is of a grateful restfulness and solidity, while the design and distribution of the dormers and chimneys animate the sky line and prevent the quietness from becoming monotonous." SOURCE





In his memoir, “The Towers of New York”  the builder of Woolworth's mansion Louis J. Horowitz  recalled visiting Woolworth at the house, and watching him play the pipe organ. He said that Woolworth “told me that this playing gave him exquisite pleasure; when he was tired or vexed he would play for hours, not stopping until he was relaxed and easy in his mind.” 


In the 1920s, Woolworth’s mansion was demolished for the apartment building at 990 Fifth Avenue.

Before he died(1919) F. W. Woolworth was planing, with Gilbert a new home with a footprint taking a whole city block.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Gilded Age Poster Child

E. D. Morgan - Harvard College - Class of 1877

***Most of the gold highlighted hyperlinks are from the Brooklyn Daily Eagle dating from 1886 to 1901.***

Sportsman E. D. Morgan was the grandson of New York's Civil War governor and a distant relation of  J. P. Morgan.  Because of the early death of his father, Edwin Denison Morgan the Third inherited a fortune valved at $12million when his Grandfather died(February 14, 1883). In a codicil to the will Morgan was to receive an extra $250,000.00 for every "lawful issue"(he had five).

What timing! Young, good looking, RICH(no taxes), Harvard graduate(1877) and newly married(1880) during the glory days of the Gilded Age. 
"The old garden of Gov. E. D. Morgan, 37th Street and Fifth Avenue. Purchased by the late Mr. Samuel P. Avery, Sr., and three neighbors to preserve it, and maintained by them until very recently." - Valentines 1919.

He probably inherited his grandfathers New York City home at Thirty-seventh and Fifth Avenue after the death of his grandmother(date unknown). His main focus early on seemed to be yachting and horses(Meadowbrook Hunt/Polo Clubs). He later went on to build two memorable homes "Beacon Rock"(1888 - link to earlier post) in Newport, RI and "Wheatly" in the area of Old Westbury, NY starting around 1890, both designed by  McKim, Mead & White.  

Starting around 1887 Morgan began buying parcels of land

To create the plateau on which the complex sat, massive stone fortifications were constructed to the north and east. On the south crest of the hill stood the 200-foot long Colonial shingled residence. To the north, across an open courtyard from the house, stood a water tower and nearby stable. 
Architectural Record, 1895
"Wheatly" was  created over a 10-year period(1890-1900)
The property was one of the areas first, transforming Old Westbury(Wheatley Hills) from a rural farming community into one of Long Island's largest and complete estates. 
The highest hill of the seven that made up the area know as Wheatley Hills
Atop the highest hill, for which the area and house was named, "Wheatly" offered panoramic views of the 700-acre estate and the distant waters of Long Island Sound. 
Architectural Record, 1895
In early views of "Wheatly" you can see the hill's change from a bare landscape to a wooded knoll thanks to the work of Hicks Nurseries known for relocating full-grown trees
"Wheatly" - E. D. Morgan Estate - Library of Congress

Fellow neighbors W.C. Whitney(original location), Mr. Clarence Mackay("Harbor Hill"), Mr. Dudley Winthrop("Groton Farms") and  Mr. Foxhall Keene("Rosemary Hall") joined Morgan in starting the Rosyln Power and Electric Company bringing electricity  to the area for the first time.  Morgan also worked with neighbor W. C. Whitney in changing the path of a road that cut through their property.

***From Brooklyn Daily Eagle - September 30, 1894***

"During the long term of building of this house it was a wonderful revelation to the quiet members of the old community(***Quaker***) who had never dreamed of such creations in the way of size and number of buildings necessary for such princely living. Some of the farms, previous to their purchase by Mr. Morgan had been owned by successive generations of one family for over two centuries. Long Island farmers pride themselves on their capacious well built barns, but when the one at Wheatly began to grow to the extent 250 feet by 60 and a coach house was added 200 by 40 feet, then even from the undemonstrative came exclamations of surprise and wonder.
The next project to demand attention was the water tower, its tank having a 40,000 gallon capacity. Drilling for the first well necessatated the investigation of 400 feet below the earth's surface. a second attempt probed 322 feet and only a limited quantity of water could be found and still there had to be another search, trusting that a Mosses might be found to smite some undiscovered rock for an unfailing supply. The house, as a home and exponent of individual taste, is an interesting study. While there is no conspicuous embellishment, provision for comfort has been wisely planned at royal expense. The hospitality of its owner is made evident by the number of guest rooms and their perfect appointments, while whatever represents the every day needs of a family has received the most careful thought and consideration.

The library is the center where beauty of grace and richness of detail make it a dividing line between the austere simplicity, which is a marked feature of the main hall and dining-room, the later having, however, in its quaint old time corner cupboards delightful bits of color in rare old china. Equally quaint sideboards, with their fine array of glass and silver, are in pleasing contrast to the dark wood of floor and ceiling. On entering either of these rooms one is instantly impressed with the size of the fireplaces. Swinging above the cavernous spaces are wide frills of sail cloth, these, and the floors planked like the deck of a ship with tarred seams, suggest the sailor traits of the owner. The massive andirons in the dining-room fireplace assume a new interest when one learns they were designed by Mr. Morgan. The wood work of doors, wainscoting and ceiling in this room is of a rich olive color, exquisitely polished, and simulates wood centuries old. 

In keeping with the rush bottomed, straight backed chairs and exposed beams of the ceiling are plain wooden receptacles for the fire logs, a rude revival of primitive days, recalling Charles Kingsley's descriptions in "Hereward".  Through the library windows, from south, east and west, a flood of sunshine streams into the room, luxuriously and uplostered chairs and divans invite to comfortable reading, while two desks proclaim its home use and individual tastes. On one are framed photographs of five Edwin Morgans, the war governor's father preceding him, the governor followed by Dr. Morgan, the banker yachtsman by the sweet face of his own little lad. The collection of books in the library is an exceptionally fine one, begun by Governor Morgan and greatly added to by Dr. Morgan, father of its present owner. The books are supplemented by an equally fine collection of rare old engravings, each worthy of careful study. A room interesting to the visitor and of importance to its owner - but hiding away out of thoroughfares and unobtrusive in size and 
location, has been reserved for the practical routine of Mr. Morgan's life as pertaining to the great tract of land and its immediate interest. Here he meets those in his employ and arranges all business of the estate; here also he has made a place where memories of his student life will keep him long in touch with the youth he has by no means left far behind. A drafting desk and designers implements show that the yachtsman has ideas of his own. Facing this desk are the framed letters of Lincoln and his secretary, according such honor to the governor as his decedents may well proudly cherish; photographs of Harvard classmates and the well worn chair of the student, hold posts of honor and are loyally remembered. Illustrations of the hunt, in old English prints, give evidence that Mr. Morgan interests for water sport have not dulled those for the land. 

After leaving the rooms, large and small, where each is severely plain, one is surprised and delighted with the unexpected warmth and color of the two halls and stairways leading to the upper rooms. The background of dark and heavy woodwork left behind makes these seem like the lace frills of the velvet gown of a duchess. The long windows at the half landing let in through their many small panes untainted sunlight that is reflected in a warm glow on the sumptuous crimson of the richly papered walls and carpeted floor. The stairway is painted white and its graceful spirals and newel posts are marvels of beauty in artistic designing. The lavatories include every modern appointment which the present day of grace provides for those who can emulate the old Greeks and Romans. The charm of the whole house is that in its construction and furnishings more than one good type has been harmoniously blended and adapted with a fine finesse to its present use."

E. D. Morgan 1901
Over time the courtyard was enclosed on three sides with additions in the style of the original house. 
"Wheatly" - E. D. Morgan Estate - Library of Congress

"Wheatly" - E. D. Morgan Estate - Library of Congress
On the west side a two-story gate lodge with central entrance archway was added, as well as wing extensions containing a ballroom and  schoolroom for the Morgan children. On the north side flanking wings from the existing water tower, one holding a playroom/squash court and private chapel(Episcopalian - never consecrated), the other an indoor swimming pool and servants' quarters were added. 
"Wheatly"-  E. D. Morgan Estate - Library of Congress - no columned collaboration DFP :)
A continuous one story columned arcade along the west and north sides of the courtyard connected the additions to the main house. A labyrinth of underground tunnels also connected the house to the indoor pool, servants' quarters, chapel, and squash court. 
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
On the open fourth side of the courtyard, beyond a low wall enclosing the service court a long formal walled garden and greenhouse, the garden divided into two sections centered on a rectangular pool and circular fountain. The walls of the conservatory were wired and lined with charcoal and moss for vines, ferns and orchids. The basement was designed for mushroom culture. The walled garden featured geometric beds of grass, flowers, and WELL-clipped ornamentals, all enclosed by a wall of thick privet. The head gardener had over a dozen men working under him and these with the carpenters, masons, plumbers, farmers, laborers and stablemen brings the number of employees to over fifty. 
"Wheatly" - E. D. Morgan Estate - Library of Congress
Major portions of the house, including its central block, were demolished in the early 1950s. Click HERE to see remains at For more on "Wheatly" visit

E. D. Morgan 1917
Above photo from the privately printed book for the occasion of the fortieth anniversary of graduation - Harvard College - class of 1877.  Click HERE to read Mr. Morgan's words as he reflected on his life's accomplishments.

In my Google based research for this post I found a interesting bit of information relating to a name change for Edwin Denison Morgan -

"Mary Brewer Penniman, daughter of George H. Penniman; she d. at Newport, Aug. 8, 1886, without issue. His name was Alfred Waterman Morgan, changed to Edwin Denison Morgan (on his father's death at his grandfather's request)." 

I don't know the circumstances for her death but I did find a article stating that Morgan would be sailing to Europe(after her funeral) and sell his racing stable in Hempstead "in which Mrs. Morgan chiefly delighted". This was from September 5th 1886. Did Morgan have a presence in the area before "Wheatly"? Or did he changed his mind and continue adding to the existing property after meeting his second wife?  

If he lived at 886 Fifth Avenue, his grandfathers New York City home it wouldn't have been for long. It was mentioned as being the new club house for The Saint Nicholas Society  in 1889 - arguably NYC's first 400 - really 300  

I've also seen Morgan's estate called "Wheatlands". It was noted at, the story being told by the 2nd Mrs. Morgan, that the "e" was purposely taken out of Wheatley when naming the home.

Further would it be common at the time to have a photo of your secretary(male) on your desk???

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The Acropolis of Newport

''Beacon Rock'' dubbed the ''Acropolis of Newport'' was built in 1888-1891 for Edward Denison Morgan III (1854-1933) of New York shortly after his marriage to Elizabeth Mary (nee Moran) (1860-1948). The Beaux Arts-style villa overlooking Newport Harbor and Brenton Cove was designed by Stanford White of the architectural firm McKim, Mead, & White; the landscape architect was Frederick Law Olmstead. Marion Eppley (1883-1960) and his wife, Ethelberta Pyne (nee Russell) (1867-1952), bought ''Beacon Rock'' in 1921 and had the property renovated extensively before taking possession in 1922. Captain Eppley, a Princeton graduate who served in both World Wars, was a physical chemist and research scientist(The Eppley Foundation for ResearchMarion Eppley Wildlife Refuge). In 1951 the Eppleys sold the estate to acclaimed sculptor Felix de Weldon (1907-2003), who used the estate's carriage house as a studio for many years. Newport attorney Brian R. Cunha bought ''Beacon Rock'' in 1996 and as of 2012 still owned the property.

Below photos are from the 1930s.

Click HERE to see "Beacon Rock" at
Click HERE to see  Captain Eppley's  home in Oyster Bay, NY.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Mr. E. D. Morgan's Residence at Newport, R.I.

***Below article appeared in Country Life in America 1919, interlaced with additional photos from the Smithsonian***

ALTHOUGH it was built more than a quarter of a century ago Mr. E. D. Morgan's residence at Newport, R. I. ranks today, as it always has, amongst the finest country homes in America, both for architectural beauty and for comfort. Time indeed seems to have softened its lines and mellowed its tones so that the house blends easily with the background of sea and sky, something which alas, cannot be said of some of the more modern country houses that arise every now and then.
Mr. E. D. Morgan's summer home at Newport, R.I.                                       Painted by John Vincent
In the construction of Mr. Morgan's house, the architects—Messrs. McKim, Mead & White, of New York—sought to make use of the natural advantages to the fullest extent possible. 
***"Beacon Rock" Home of E. D. Morgan***
Situated on a rocky promontory, they selected gray stone to blend with the rock, so that the house seems a part of the rocks themselves instead of being merely perched on a cliff. The ivy covers both the rocks and the stone work to such an extent that it is almost impossible to distinguish where one ends and the other begins. To relieve the monotony of the gray stone, white pillars surround the wide porches and the pediments and gables are all painted white.
First Floor Plan

In the arrangement of the rooms, the living and masters' rooms occupy one wing of the house, while the other wing contains the servant quarters. One enters a spacious hall, out of which opens the living room with windows from which one obtains a splendid view of the waters of the Atlantic. The dining room, which has a similar view, adjoins the living room and can be entered either from the hall or living room. There are three large master's rooms on the first floor and two baths. In the opposite wing there are six servants' bedrooms with a bath room.
***"Beacon Rock" Home of E. D. Morgan - Newport Bay Saturday 25, 1903***
***"Beacon Rock" Home of E. D. Morgan***
The house is built around a court and a wide terrace in the rear overlooks the rocks and the bay, and near by is the famous bathing place, Bailey's Beach, probably the most famous beach in the world—where the members of Newport's summer colony take a morning plunge almost daily.

In addition to its convenient planning and its architectural beauty, the Morgan house is essentially homelike. Every room seems to possess this quality and not even the hallway appears cold and cheerless. Possibly the passing years have added some of the softness and mellowness to obtain this desirable effect.

Click HERE to see "Beacon Rock" at

Tuesday, April 3, 2012


From the address by Joseph H. Freelander
Chairman, at the unveiling of the Carrere Memorial at Ninety-eight Street and Riverside Drive on Thursday, October 16, 1919.

THE memorial to John Merven Carrere which we unveil to-day may, with peculiar fitness, be termed a labor of love, for it came into being as the result of a spontaneous testimonial on the part of his friends to the admirable qualities of this remarkable and many-sided man.

Taken off in the very prime of his professional career, he left a gaping void, for to the fine arts and to civic betterment he had rendered at all times inestimable service. It is a situation that I can best describe by saying that, although some years have elapsed since his untimely end, no one has taken his place.

His virility, his keen conception of the dignity of the art of architecture, his willingness to be the standard-bearer par excellence of an idea, made him at all times an acknowledged leader in the profession.

He found time for all, notwithstanding the exaction of his busy workaday life. I believe that I correctly interpret the sentiment of the architectural profession when I say that we not only esteemed but that we loved him —we loved his high sense of honor, his kindliness, the sweetness of his nature, and the consideration and tact with which he handled the great mass of professional questions continually placed before him for solution by his colleagues.

It is to the affection in which the profession holds his memory that this memorial is due.

The memorial, designed by Mr. Carrere's partner, Thomas Hastings, is the only monument, with the exception of the Richard Hunt Memorial, erected to any architect in this country. It speaks well for the increasing public appreciation of belles-lettres and the fine arts that a place in one of the city's garden-spots should have been set aside to perpetuate the memory of a great artist.

Section of Terrace Wall with tablet to John Merven Carrare

Here in this lovely park, in the autumn, in the winter time, through the hot, lazy summer days, let the passerby who holds in greatest affection all that is beautiful in life pause an instant to lay at this shrine a token of appreciation to one who carried high at every turn the banner of the ideal and the true.

The committee in charge of this memorial included the following distinguished members of the architectural profession: Joseph H. Freedlander, Chairman, Donn Barber, Electus D. Litchfield, H. Van Buren Magonigle, William Rutherford Mead, Benjamin Wistar Morris.

*** Terrace and Balustrade - Milford Pink Granite***

Memorial at

Click HERE for Bing Streetside.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

"Villa Maria" on the Dunes - Southampton L.I.

THE designing of a building to conform with its natural environment is about the most important problem which an architect has to take into consideration for solution when the problem of designing is presented. 

Some of the facts coming under the head of natural environment are those of elevation and contour of the property, as well as the coloring, character, and atmosphere of the property in question and surrounding properties. This problem of the relation of a building to its natural surroundings has been successfully solved by the architect, E. P. Mellon, which is clearly demonstrated by the result obtained in the Villa Maria, at Southampton, Long Island. 

The property on which this building is erected is a narrow strip of rough and rugged sand-dunes lying between the waters of the Atlantic Ocean and those of Shinnecock Bay, the average width of this strip being about 850 feet. This particular piece of property, comprising about six acres, has a frontage on both of these waters of 300 feet. The highest dune, which is on the west of this property, rises to a height of 52 feet, sloping gradually to the east and to 
the south to the sand of the beach. To the north there is a gradual slope to Shinnecock Bay. 

The erection of a house on this wild, narrow strip of sand-dunes was a pioneer undertaking, as never before had any of this strip of land been used for building purposes, and there was no means of access through the deep sand until after the building was started, when Meadow Lane, 50 feet wide, was built to and through the property. 

All possible means were used while planning the house and during its erection to preserve the natural contours and beauty of the property as well as the natural growth, which is composed mostly of beach plumb, beach grass, and wild sweet pea. 

In the selection of the site for the location of the house consideration was taken of the location of the high dune and its protection of the house from the westerly winds. From the sea side of the house the walls were designed to conform with the natural undulation of the dunes, with the result that the house on this side appears to be only two stories in height, the service court and entrance floor here being below the level of the top of the dune. From the north or entrance side the house shows the full three stories, the service court being on the level of the entrance story. 



The driveway running from the main entrance, directly to the entrance of the service court, follows a natural depression in the dune, and swings around the dune, of about 12 feet in height, to the main entrance. Directly from the axis of this main entrance, running straight to the main road, there is a tapis-vert of 30 feet in width, bordered on either side by a high hedge. This being the only lawn on the property, it gives a strong and very pleasing contrast to the otherwise ruggedness of the property, and helps to heighten the Italian character of the house itself, the Italian character being considered the most suitable and harmonious for this wild natural setting. 

The unusually intense blue of the Southampton skies, which blueness is reflected in the ocean, has exactly the same character and feeling as the skies and sea of the Mediterranean. While the brilliant sunlight reflected by the sea and sand casts similar shadows to those found on the borders of the Bay of Naples and the Adriatic Sea, on which shadows Italian buildings are so dependent. 


The color of the stucco used is about the same as the sand, being of a deep cream tone, varying from light to dark, and has already been delightfully streaked by the winter storms. Around the smaller windows the raised stucco frames have been stained a dark brown. 

The stone work around the main entrance also has the worn brown soft tone, while the plaster panel back of the bas-relief of the Virgin and Child is colored a sky-blue. 


The walls surrounding the property, as well as the garage and chauffeur's cottage, maintain the same color as the main house, and the three buildings are roofed in the most careful way possible, with old color-worn Italian tile, which is laid with an irregular ridge grouted by cement. All iron used on exterior and interior is hand-hammered. The building has taken upon itself the look of ages. 

The construction is of terra-cotta block. The floors are of concrete, so that the house is virtually fireproof, and absolutely dry, even during the dampest and most foggy weather. The secret of this dryness is due to the fact that no portion of the house anywhere touches the sand-dunes, the architect having constructed a 10-foot area-way, surrounding the entire house, between the house and the dunes, over which loggia overlooks the sea.


The floor of this loggia is about 40 feet in elevation from the high-water mark, this being the same height as the main floor of the house, which gives every window on this floor and the floor above the full command of exceptionally wonderful views, every window having an outlook over one of the waters. 



On the interior the same character is followed as on the exterior. The floors of the main rooms and hallways are of old worn black-and-white marble, retaining its beautiful antique patine. The walls are rough-plastered and vary in their delicate dull tinting in the same tones, colors, and variations as those of mother-of-pearl. The plaster is returned into the window-frames, and there is no trim used around the windows or doors, nor is there any wooden base. The window-sills throughout the house are of dark-red tile, the same tile being used on the floors of the bathrooms. 

The stairway is semicircular, being completely of cement, rubbed to worn and uneven edges. This cement is painted white. The simple hand-wrought iron railing makes a complete contrast in color with the white of the stairway. The circular walls of the stair-well are penetrated here and there by simple niches. 

The stone mantels of the house are imported from Perugia, and the very rare and wonderful eighteenth-century frieze, which is placed on the wall of the dining-room, directly under the ceiling, was imported from the Palazzo Torlonia. 

The planning of the different floors of this home was not done with the idea of monumental effect, but was planned wholly to suit the needs of the owner and for the sake of convenience. 

***Edward Purcell Mellon was the grandson of Thomas Mellon, founder of Mellon Bank and patriarch of the Mellon family of Pittsburgh. It appears he worked as an associate architect for a number of firms including Trowbridge & Livingston and York & Sawyer. A number of Pittsburgh properties are attributed to Mellon including the former Gulf Tower. Edward P. Mellon was born March 13, 1875 and died April 10, 1953. Married to Ethel Churchill Humphrey.

THE properties history beyond this 1919 Architecture article is unknown to me. The gardens are gone along with the bay-side boathouse and deck/pavilion. Garage stands, chauffeurs cottage demolished, looks like it stood into the 1980s. A complete redo to main structure sometime after 1994. BlockShopper list a Stone as current owner - same family? Next door to "Villa Maria" is the Reginald Fincke Estate by Peabody, Wilson & Brown. Mellon also designed a mansion at 700 Meadow Lane for Mrs. Duncan Ellsworth in 1925. I can't confirm if it still stands or went through a remodel. Next door stood  "Elysium".  Along with "Oceans Castle" these properties where part of the Beach Road Historic District. Questionable the value this held for the Mellon designs and "Elysium".

"Villa Maria" at

Click HERE for a 1954 aerial showing house before additions and gardens still intact. 

Current Bing view.***