Sunday, January 6, 2013

Residence, Capt. J. R. De Lamar, Madison Avenue and 37th Street, New York

Residence, Capt. J. R. De Lamar, Madison Avenue and 37th Street, New York.
C. P. H. Gilbert,  Architect.

  This imposing Beaux-Arts style mansion, designed by the noted New York architect, C. P. H. Gilbert, in the great scale and elegance of the limestone mansions that once lined Upper Fifth Avenue, was built for Joseph Raphael De Lamar in 1902.    De Lamar was born in Amsterdam in 1843 and emigrated to this country in the 1860s, settling in Massachusetts where he worked as a ship-contractor. ***He eventually became owner and captain of his own merchant ship and reportedly visited nearly every port in the world.***  With the discovery of gold in Colorado in the late 1870s, De Lamar went west and soon amassed a fortune.***He studied chemistry and metallurgy to inform himself about the mining business. He sold his interest for $10 million in 1898.***After a brief period in local politics, he returned east in 1883 and settled in New York City where he died in 1913.

***Attracted by the financial opportunities in  New York City, he gained additional riches on Wall Street, where his quiet manner garnered him the title "Man of Mystery". 
(His estate paid claimants for the losses they suffered in the stock market because of his death.)  De Lamar never became a part of the inner circle of Society. In the later half of the 1800s he lived in Paris most of the time; wealthy Americans who were shunned by Society often tried their luck in European capitals. In 1902, Joseph bought a choice piece of property at the northeast corner of Madison Avenue and 57th Street, for which he paid the then-astounding price of a quarter of a million dollars. He gave Architect Charles P. H. Gilbert "a free hand so far as the dwelling itself was concerned." However in 1904 he seemed to have lost interest and contemplated selling. NYTimes - Mr. De Lamar will finish the house, but it is said his desire to be the owner of one of the finest dwellings in the city and the costliest one on Murray Hill is not nearly so strong".  De Lamar did not try to break into the socially elite "millionaires row" of Fifth Avenue but took a site in an area Society had long since abandoned.***

  After De Lamar's death, the mansion was sold to the National Democratic Club in 1923 for use as their headquarters. The Polish Peoples' Republic purchased the building in 1973.***there was a lawsuit filed in a purchase dispute between the estate and the Bible Society. They won their deposit back but were barred from moving in.***

  The main facade and entrance of the mansion face 37th Street. The facade is designed in a tripartite division both vertically and horizontally. The vertical division is the dominant one, reinforced by projecting end pavilions. The horizontal division is created by a wide, smooth-faced, molded bandcourse above the ground floor and by the roof cornice above the third floor.

  One of the most attractive features of the design is Gilbert's subtle use of asymmetry within symmetry. The first three floors display a careful balance of architectural elements while the upper two stories introduce an asymmetrical composition creating a sense of height that belies the size of the mansion and gives the building its most striking feature.   The sense of asymmetry and height are further emphasized by the continuation of the rustication of the lower floors up into the fourth floor of the western pavilion, giving it a tower-like appearance.

  The major windows of the first three floors of the building are paired, with the exception of those on the recessed section of the Madison Avenue facade. All have smooth-faced enframenents which provide contrast with the rusticated wall surfaces. At the second floor of the end pavilions, tall paired windows with wide stone mullions and transom bars are set behind balustrades supported on massive console brackets which are decorated with classical swags. Over the windows are dentiled cornices carried on console brackets that are extended up to serve as sills for the third floor windows, uniting them vertically. The windows of the third floor have handsome ornamented, curved transom bars. Above the third floor is a dentiled and modillioned cornice carried on massive, paired console brackets at the corners.

  One of the most impressive elements of the mansion is the recessed entrance facade. The double oak doors of the entrance are flanked by engaged columns and sidelights ornamented with bronze grillework, all set within the outer enforcements. A lintel decorated with cherubs, resting above a foliate cartouche, surmounts the doorway. Decorated urns flank the cherubs and a rectangular transom behind them lights the entrance hall. A stone balcony carried on vertical console brackets crowns the doorway. Behind this balcony is an imposing elliptical arched window with French doors, emphasizing the high main floor. Gracefully curving brackets and a keystone are swept up from the top of the arch to carry a handsome wrought-iron balcony at the third floor paired window.

  The commanding feature of the mansion is the treatment of the upper stories and the great mansard roof above the roof cornice. On the 27th Street facade, the fourth &nd fifth floors of the central section, and the eastern pavilion are generally similar, although their design is quite different from that of the higher tower-like western pavilion where the fourth floor is rusticated and pierced by a tripartite window. By contrast, at the fourth floor, the central section and the eastern pavilion are smooth-faced.  The central section has a semi-dormer window which rises up above the smooth-faced wall and has an elaborate round-arch pediment.  It is flanked by two small, narrow windows with cornice slabs set in the front wall. The eastern pavilion has a double dormer window with a segmental arch that is crowned by a very deep arched pediment with a central scroll motif. The mansard roof rises from mid-height of the fourth floor of these sections, while the mansard roof of the western tower begins at the fifth floor level. Small round-arched dormers mark the fifth floor of the central section and the eastern pavilion. The covering mansard roof of the western pavilion is pierced by a central, square-headed dormer window, on each exposed side, crowned by a pediment similar to the one above the recessed central portion. The lines of this very elegant mansard roof are emphasized by copper crestings decorated with shell motifs. Text from the description and analysis report  Landmarks Preservation Commission 1975. 

Click HERE to see at wikimapia. HERE for Google Street View. New York Times Streetscapes De Lamar Mansion.

Accessed from a sidewalk elevator is a automobile storage room

Interior photos are rare. Click HERE and HERE and HERE for descriptions of the furnishings sold during a three day auction held in November 1919.


  1. see link for LI. estate
    daughter's estate in Palm Beach

  2. I don't believe the final built version of the De Lamar mansion in New York was built as represented by the model, however the facade is still richly sumptuous as intended. T

  3. Walked by the place today and can't seem to see anything too different than what was depicted on the model (a nice photo find btw) aside from some missing ironwork, copper cresting, fence sections, typical of changes that occur over a hundred year period to any building. The model is wonderful, the townhouse itself, just spectacular. Nice post on NY's Landmnarks assessment.