Tuesday, September 14, 2021


William Henry Vanderbilt - 640 Fifth Avenue, New York City

 THE interior of the mansion lately completed for Mr. W. H. Vanderbilt, in Fifth Avenue, New York, is described as being of unequaled magnificence. 


 The main entrance from Fifth Avenue is by a large vestibule, which gives admission on the left to Mr. Vanderbilt's own dwelling, and on the right to that of his daughter, Mrs. Sloane. Another daughter, Mrs. Shepard, has the northern half of the part of the building to the right of the vestibule, which is entered from Fifty-second street. The whole house can, however, when desired, be thrown into one vast suite. 

with the Demidoff Malachite Vase

 The walls of the entrance vestibule are of African marble, with a frieze of figure subjects in mosaic, and with applied decorations of bronze. The pilasters and mouldings are decorated with rich mosaic, as are also the spaces between the bronze beams of the ceiling, where they are not filled with stained glass. The floor is likewise of mosaic. The mosaic work of this vestibule, and that of the smaller vestibule on Fifty-first-street, which gives access to the picture gallery, were made of glass and of marble by Pacchina, of Venice, from designs made in New York.


 Around the walls of the vestibule are seats and tables of a beautifully-coloured African marble. 


 Passing now to the right, through the gilded bronze doors, which are copies of the famous Ghiberti Gates in Florence (and which were made by Barbedienne, of Paris, and exhibited there in 1878), the visitor finds himself in a square, vaulted vestibule, with walls and architraves of a pale yellow marble, richly carved over the doors. Three bronze doors (besides the one already described) give access—the one on the right to cloak-rooms and dressing-rooms, that on the left to Mr. Vanderbilt's private reception-room, and the third to the main hall. 


 This vast hall extends the full height of the house with galleries on each storey leading to the private living-rooms. Square columns of a deep red marble, with rich capitals of bronze, support the galleries. 


 The friezes around the hall on each storey are a mass of figures, wreaths, and garlands in high relief, coloured in harmony with the surroundings. 


 The hall has a richly-carved wainscot of English oak, about 12 ft. high, and opposite the entrance is a mantel-piece built up the whole height of the storey, in the shadow of the gallery. This mantel is of the same red marble as the columns, adorned with a profusion of bronze ornament, and flanked by bronze female figures in high relief.

 With Lampidiere by Noel

 To the right as one enters is a wide staircase. The newel, not yet completed, is to be, a female figure, holding an urn from which a light will issue—the whole to be of bronze, marble, and enamel, skillfully blended. 

 Stained Glass   Designed by Lafarge

 The staircase is lighted by nine large windows with stained glass by Mr. John La Farge, noticeable for the fine arrangement of colour, and especially for the management of greens and blues. All the stained glass is Mr. John La Farge's work. All of the marble was imported especially for this house, and much of it is very rare, especially the beautiful red and yellow Numidian or African marble. The latter was brought from distant quarries long disused. The onyx, used particularly in the drawing-room, is also from Africa, and much more beautiful and delicate than the greenish-toned Mexican onyx, which is better known. Messrs. E. L. Fauehere & Co. made all the marble work. Admirable finish and workmanship are shown in the bronze work, which is used in many parts of the interior in connection with marble and with wood, besides as stair-railings and balustrades around the hall, and in the massive entrance doors. Mr. Henry O. Bernard, of New York, had the charge of its execution. The outside railings and the lamps were the work of Berseau Brothers, of Philadelphia.


 Halfway between the first and second stories is a landing as large as an ordinary room, from which one may pass to the gallery of the aquarelle room, which looks out through a wall arcade into the picture gallery. Similar arcades open from the conservatory opposite, and from the second storey hall, the latter being intended for the musicians when an entertainment is given.

 The door at the east end of the hall, flanked by massive oaken seats, leads to the drawing-room. 

 The paintings for the ceiling of the latter stately apartment are by Galland, and are now on their way to New York, the present ceiling of blue and gold being only temporary. 


 The woodwork of this room is profusely carved, and has beautiful inlays of mother-of-pearl. The whole is gilded and glazed with warm tints. The wall spaces are hung with a pale red velvet, embroidered with designs of foliage, flowers, butterflies, &, the colour scheme culminating in the cut crystals scattered throughout the embroidery, and suggesting dewdrops or precious stones. Around the room, at each side of the doors, stand rich columns of onyx, inlaid with bronze, and with bronze capitals, carrying baskets or vases made of bronze and rich stained glass, by means of which a mellow light is shed over the room. Clusters of lights springing from the vases give the more brilliant part of the illumination. In the corners of the room are female figures in solid silver, which carry clusters of lights, while the wall behind each figure is covered with mirrors. The carpet of the drawing-room was woven in one piece, by hand, to fit the room. The whole room gives an effect of richness and brilliancy of colour which is difficult to imagine or to describe.

 With Portion of Galland's Fete

 At each end of the drawing-room gilded and carved sliding doors, draped with rich curtains, give access on the north to the library, and on the south to the Japanese parlour. 


 The most striking feature of the library is the inlaid work, of antique Greek pattern, in mother-of-pearl and brass, upon a ground of rosewood, which forms the decoration of the book-cases, mantel, and doors. The furniture is designed in the same style and workmanship. The fretted ceiling is of rich work, with incrustations of small square mirrors.


 In the doorway, on the west of the library, hang heavy rich curtains of Oriental embroideries, which separate it from Mr. Vanderbilt's private reception room. The latter is fitted with a high mahogany wainscoting, with settles and book-cases of the same material, and a massive ceiling of mahogany, with decorations in stamped leather.


 The Japanese parlour, on the south of the drawing-room, testifies as strongly as any room in the house to the skill and resource which have been drawn upon so lavishly in the entire structure. It is modelled and furnished entirely in a free Japanese fashion. The ceiling is of bamboo, with an open truss ceiling of wood resembling the red Miaco or Soochou lacquer, which is the treatment adopted for all the woodwork, and is hero and there picked out in the low yellows and greens of the red Japanese lacquer work. A low-toned tapestry on the walls is covered in places with panels of Japanese uncut velvet, in curious designs, and the furniture and cushions, &, are also of this velvet. Around the room runs a low cabinet of fantastic Japanese shape, with innumerable shelves, cupboards, and closets. At different points are beautiful panels of bronze, of which the different details are picked out in gold and silver and in varied metallic colours. A screen of stained glass forms a recess on the Fifth Avenue side. By the door leading from the west of this parlour, access is given to the dining-room, which has also an entrance on its east side directly from the hall.


 The dining-room is in the manner of the Italian Renaissance, and entirely distinct in character of treatment from any of the other rooms. It consists of an arrangement of glass-faced cases, holding the silver, porcelain, and glass, supported by rich consoles that rest upon a beautiful wainscot. The wood is of English oak, of a rich mellow brown-golden hue, and of great beauty. The panels of the ceiling are filled with fruits and foliage, beautifully modelled and picked out in different colours of gold. The furniture is in a style to correspond, of English oak, with brass ornaments, and covered with stamped, highly coloured leather of special designs.


 The entrance to the picture gallery is at the west end of the main hall opposite the drawing-room, so that a vista of the whole depth of the house is obtained in that direction. 


 The picture gallery, with its entrance on Fifty-first-street, occupies the whole rear of the house. It is 48 ft. long, 32 ft. wide, and 35 ft. high. Over the doors on the north, east, and south sides are balconies connecting with the second storey of the house,the balcony on the south side over the Fifty-first-street entrance to the gallery opening into the conservatory, that on the east side over-the main entrance from the house opening into the second story hall, and that over the north door opens into the second storey of the aquarelle room. The west wall of the picture gallery is occupied by a monumental mantelpiece of red African marble, the overhanging cove being inlaid with glass mosaic work. The woodwork of the room is black oak with San Domingo mahogany for the caryatides and pilasters. The fire-place is in a deep recess with seats on either side.


 The description of the second storey of the house may begin with the family parlour at the north-east corner, looking out on Fifth Avenue, a room 18 ft. wide by 20 ft. long, entirely finished in ebony, inlaid with ivory. The large mantel-piece at the north side of the room is capped by a frieze painted by Mr. Christian Herter, consisting of an allegorical representation of the Triumph of Cupid. The ceiling is divided into small panels with paintings of children at play. The walls are covered with a dark blue silk brocade made in France from designs furnished by Messrs. Herter Brothers, who have executed the whole of the decorative work. 


 The next room on the Fifth Avenue is Mrs. Vanderbilt's bedroom, finished by Alard of Paris, the walls hung in silk and white marble, and the ceiling covered with Lefebvre's painting of the Awakening of Aurora. The frieze and cove of the room is in rosewood and mahogany. One curious feature of Lefebvre's painting is that, as placed at present, the sun rises in the west. The room is 20 ft. square. 


 Adjoining it is Mr. Vanderbilt's room, finished in rosewood, inland with satin wood, the ceiling divided off in painted panels one foot square.

 Some notion of the magnitude and cost of the work in connection with Mr. Vanderbilt's house may be inferred from the fact that between 600 and 700 men were employed upon the interior decorations for a year and a half. Sixty foreign carvers and sculptors were employed for two years, having been engaged in Europe for the work and brought to the United States under contracts which assured them pay at an average rate of $60 a week and passage both ways.

 Click on the Label - Vanderbilt - below for all past post on 640 Fifth Avenue plus other Vanderbilt Family homes.