Friday, July 20, 2012

1025 Park Avenue New York City



By  SAMUEL HOWE                                                       Click HERE for background music.

Residence of Reginald De Koven Esq., New York City. John Russell Pope, Architect. 

Facade - residence of Reginald De Koven Esq., New York City. John Russell Pope, Architect. 
   FOR many reasons the architecture of the Tudors is admirably adapted to our cities and our climate. There is about it much freedom. It is a composit style, the product of a composit people. Within it is to be discerned the exquisite refinement of the Renaissance with its stately proportions, its wonderful accent, its great veneration for classic precedent. There is also noticeable, the directness, strength and romance as well as much of the glamour of the Gothic. “It is the architecture of the big windows.” And throughout the delicate lacework of sculptured stone and stained pane, of lofty openings, subdivided by long thin mullions and transoms, moulded and stopped in a quaint manner is discernible much of the refining grace which for years has been accepted as the characteristic treatment of many of the windows through which the light of Italy has visited a keenly appreciative people. This big window age followed the terrible period of England’s reformation, when, as it were, England endeavored to enshrine her domestic architecture with some peculiarly hallowed form of construction (would that she had been equally tender to her monasteries, even if the spirit they sheltered offended). The big window speaks of England’s love of the sunshine, of her homage to the great beyond, almost as enthusiastically as do her liberal hearths make plea for her hospitality. And it is not to be wondered at that the wealthy American in his frequent trips and occasional residence within the boundaries of The Lone Isle, have learned to appreciate the underlying philosophy of the architecture of the Tudors.

   It is perfectly natural that New York should be among the first favored to receive tangible evidence that our citizens have discovered so much pleasure in this form of architectural expression as to undertake to build for themselves after that style. In other words, the New Yorker is no longer content to import merely bric-a-brac, furniture, costumes, dramas and opinion upon philosophical subjects, the architecture of France and of Italy but he is now reaching out and striving to understand the architecture of the Great Fatherland. There is much more enlightened attitude of mind in this regard than that which obtained years ago. Americans—the best of them—feel instinctively that a man’s personality and character is reflected within the walls of his house. He is therefore taking the thing seriously as no longer something to be toyed with, a mere frivolous fashion of the hour.

   Mr. De Koven’s recent addition to Park Avenue, New York, is an acceptable evidence of the potency and adaptability of England’s Tudor to American needs. Both the temper and the spirit of this flexible style as well as the inches and the material is here seen. The ingenuity of the architect in selecting local materials and making mighty good use of them is obvious. In a whimsical manner he has induced the everyday clay of a neighboring state to accept a brick form and a rich color. He has so bonded the masonry as to make, as it were, a rich low toned mosaic, very much after the fashion of the ancient halls of England when first they built with bricks of the Netherlands, making much of the black headed, diagonal courses. This brick work appears between the big windows, bringing into prominence the balustrading parapet, the columns flanking the entrance, the family coat of arms above and the English imported metal easements, for without these little vanities, where would the style be? It is indeed a human period, flexible in a degree, hence much of its charm, much of its stimulating force to a flexible people. “You can do things with the architecture of the Tudors." 

  Truly the house is serious in plan, well centered, well balanced, well arranged, well built, well and thoughtfully decorated, conscientious and consistent in idea. Every visitor to the house is attracted by the liberality and directness of the plan. The second floor is practically one room, a great hall, gallery, the “center of things,” the soul of the place. It is reached by a staircase which is stately and altogether well worth while. It is built of chestnut after the fashion of the Knole house, Kent, which dates from the time of the dissolution of the monasteries.Whatever Horace Walpole thought and ventured to say regarding Knole, it is, architecturally, a great staircase, and if the architect of the De Koven house had simply contented himself with taking this ancient hall as a model, he would be entitled to our thanks, for he has at once laid aside and neutralized many local prejudices. Here is freely shown the addition of enamel to hard wood. Every foot of the wall surface is made interesting by subtle subdivision and by skillful addition of enamel in two shades of warm gray. Architectural motifs are here handled very much as the designer makes drawings for tapestry cartoons. The projecting lozenge shaped panels of the arabesque strap ornament are floated with dull black enamel. The hand-rail treads and risers of the stairs retain their natural color.

Stair Hall - residence of Reginald De Koven Esq., New York City. John Russell Pope, Architect. 
   The staircase is lighted by a huge window very much after the fashion of those which look upon Park Avenue and is enriched by the addition of painted glass, some of which has been recently made and some which was made before the days of King George. The staircase is wide and liberal, its scale is big; its outline, in spite of all the enrichment, has a certain majesty of its own. 

Minstrel gallery end of the great hall - residence of Reginald De Koven Esq., New York City. John Russell Pope, Architect. 
Great  Hall - south end -  residence of Reginald De Koven Esq., New York City. John Russell Pope, Architect. 
   It connects with the great hall and the little hall at the entrance, for the family rooms above are reached by a separate staircase, one less important, and having but little claim to architectural consideration. Of course there are other rooms, recalling other ideas, other proportions and handled decoratively, that is, in other ways. There is a room paneled with woodwork which, for many years, formed part of the architectural attraction of an old house in Amsterdam. There is another ennobled by the addition of a marble mantle from a house in London built in 1750 with an over mantle of the same period. There is a curious wooden grating enclosing divers strange cuttings more ecclesiastical than domestic, through which the visitor passes as he crosses the threshold of the inner hall. Much could be written of the treatment of the ceilings, the paneling of which is delightfully diversified, recalling somewhat the work at Bromley by Bow, Kirby HallIn the gallery is some memory of Hatfield House.

   As a general rule our mind instinctively pictures some old English manor placed in the midst of a great park at the mention of Tudor architecture. Space and suitable landscape surroundings almost seem an essential setting. Yet in this house of Mr. DeKoven, John Russell Pope, the architect, has well proved the adaptability of this style of architecture for city uses. The end.

   HENRY LOUIS REGINALD DEKOVEN was born in 1859 in Middletown, Connecticut. His father moved the family to England in 1872, where Reginald later attended St. John's College at Oxford University. He studied singing and musical composition in several countries on the continent before returning to America. He was a prolific composer of operettas and operas. He was also a conductor, and a music critic in Chicago and New York. In 1902 he created the Philharmonic Orchestra of Washington, which he managed until 1904. His best-known operetta was Robin Hood, and amongst his compositions was  "Oh Promise Me". He died in 1920 in Chicago. 

   The origin of the commission is not known, but John Russell Pope was a member of several New York clubs such as the Century and Players clubs, where he may have come into contact with Mr. DeKoven. The house was completed late in 1912 and on New Years Eve of that year the couple hosted a musical gathering, inviting some of the most prominent musical artists in New York. Later that season, the 17th Century-style main room was thrown open for an Elizabethan-period costume ball.  

Residence of Reginald De Koven Esq., New York City. John Russell Pope, Architect. 
   On the ground floor, a pair of engaged Doric columns flank the entrance arch in an applied triumphal arch design that incorporates a large crest in its attic and bridges the recess between the two bays. The blank wall above contains a shell niche with an urn inside and a cornice above supported by scroll brackets. A relief panel with a musician, probably DeKoven, sits above this cornice. The third floor consists of three equal stone-mullioned windows, each divided into six sections. The building edges and window openings are all defined by irregular light-colored stone quoins that contrast with the red brick. The wide building cornice is topped by brick piers and stone balustrades concealing the fourth floor servants' spaces.

   The plan of the house is almost a perfect square, as it occupies two lots. It is divided in half by a structural wall parallel to the street that organizes the levels into a series of front and back rooms.

Antique gates leading to entrance hall from corridor - residence of Reginald De Koven Esq., New York City. John Russell Pope, Architect. 
   The screen between the entry hall and the stair was from a Swiss convent. 

   The second floor consisted of three major rooms: the drawing room that extended across the whole front of the house, the stair hall, and the library. Reception rooms for men and women opened to either side, as was customary in the day. The center opening from the hall was on axis with the beginning flight of the stair, which rose in a large square volume enclosed by arches. The dining room, which occupied a rear corner, was the last major space on the ground floor. 

Vestibule - residence of Reginald De Koven Esq., New York City. John Russell Pope, Architect. 

 On the ground floor, a short flight of steps led to an octagonal reception hall. 

Ladies Reception Room; woodwork adapted to frame a set of paintings brought from one of the old Chateaux of France - residence of Reginald De Koven Esq., New York City. John Russell Pope, Architect. 

   To decorate the ladies' reception room, Louis XV panels that incorporated 18th-century paintings by Belgian artists were taken from a house in Utrecht. Opposite, the men's smoking room was finished with darker tones of blue and gold in the late 17th-century English style of Christopher Wren. 

Men's Reception Room, treated in wood paneling painted after the manner of the green rooms of the time of Christopher Wren - residence of Reginald De Koven Esq., New York City. John Russell Pope, Architect. 

The spacious emptiness of Reginald De Koven's music room is of itself an inspiration to people  in the themes drawn from the piano. Country Life 1920.

Bay window of great hall, in the character of Elizabethan work at Hatfield House - residence of Reginald De Koven Esq., New York City. John Russell Pope, Architect. 
The Jacobean drawing room was lit by two enormous bay windows, whose small leaded panels incorporated stained glass crests. The walls were paneled with a lozenge motif that complemented the geometrical strapwork of the ceiling. Opposite the window wall, the two entrances were accentuated by stone portals with full entablatures over the paired doors. Each side wall had a distinctive treatment. 

Great Hall with doubled-storied stone mantel and replica of plaster ceiling from the Reindeer Inn at Banbury - residence of Reginald De Koven Esq., New York City. John Russell Pope, Architect. 
   A huge chimneypiece in Bath stone added a golden color to the room from the north side. Paired columns flanked the hearth opening supporting a mantel entablature that was surmounted by pilasters in the form of musicians under the ceiling cornice.   

Great Hall - residence of Reginald De Koven Esq., New York City. John Russell Pope, Architect. 
   The south wall had a minstrel's gallery above an arcade with paired columns and an elaborately carved railing with lions at the piers. 

At foot of grand staircase; woodwork painted after the manner of Knowle Park, England - residence of Reginald De Koven Esq., New York City. John Russell Pope, Architect. 

Again a strong note of Elizabethan feeling appears in the great stairway  - residence of Reginald De Koven Esq., New York City. John Russell Pope, Architect. 

At head of grand staircase - residence of Reginald De Koven Esq., New York City. John Russell Pope, Architect. 

   The monumental stair was directly inspired by the great stair at Knole in Kent. The detailing on the stair was a very literal interpretation of the raised strapwork and geometrical patterning of the original, including the arches that separated the stair from the halls. 

Few indeed of the world's greatest artists have been blessed with a library such as this splendid room built for the late Reginald De Koven. A mixture of English and Italian ideas, both in its architecture and furnishings - the woodwork being of chestnut and patterned after the famous Knole House at Kent - this room, with its beautifully bound volumes practically covering the walls and surmounted by a rich old leather frieze, combines dignity with luxurious comfort. The New country Life 1917. 

  The library was designed in an earlier Tudor style. The bookshelves that held 4,000 volumes reached two-thirds up the walls to a border of tooled Spanish leather extending to the ceiling.

Elizabethan and Jacobean details are noticeable  in the fireplace of library. 

 Its smaller fireplace had an elaborate oak overmantel with niches to either side of a large crest. According to an article in The New York Sun(1917), the upstairs bedrooms were no less ornate, being "furnished with costly woods, and hung in silk or French cretonnes, all reflecting luxurious surroundings at every turn." Although the house still stands, the facade and interiors had been substantially altered following the conversion of the residence into eleven apartments in 1945. Click HERE to see apartment 1BCD for rent at $16,650 a month. HERE to see rental and sales history(photos) for 1025 Park Avenue.

Click HERE to see at wikimapia with a Bing Streetside link. HERE to read the  New York City Landmark Preservation Commission designation report.

Reginald De Koven House - 104 Bellevue Place - Chicago, Illinois.
Click HERE to see where his Chicago home stood(now demolished) and view his neighborhood. HERE to read the Historical American Building Survey report on the property. Mrs. De Koven was obviously partial to this architectural style.


  1. I was going to inquire about the status of the interiors but from the existing exterior photos it appears that a new mezzanine level was inserted through the Great Hall most likely signaling that the entire room has also been lost. After viewing the rental history link it also appears that no room has survived unscathed. Such a sumptuous Great Hall.

  2. In trying to decipher apartment 1BCD in regards to original layout - It doesn't all add up. To me its a basement and north/left ground floor arrangement. The ground floor taking the men's reception room and the dining room. One of the hangups is the woodwork and doors seem to match the ladies reception room.