Following the Civil War, Manhattan’s Fifth Avenue became something of a high society enclave where developers erected palatial mansions on the strip that spans from 59th to 78th Street. In the ensuing years, other wealthy families began to build similar residences just uptown—in what is known today as the Upper East Side—marking the start of the Gilded Age. While this era, which spanned the late 1800s and early 1900s, is thought of as one of New York City’s most important time periods for architecture, only a few structures remain intact today.
Of the remaining residences is 991 Fifth Avenue, an extraordinary Upper East townhouse that’s been meticulously preserved since it was built in 1901, at the tail end of the Gilded Age. It’s a chance to own a piece of history—for the hefty price of $52 million.
Situated across from Central Park and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Beaux-Arts style manse was built for Mary Augusta King, daughter of New York Governor John A. King and widow of Edward King, who made his fortune in the China Trade. King’s inheritance after her husband’s death was roughly $5 million, equivalent to $113 million today. With that substantial sum of money, King hired architects James R. Turner and William G. Killian to construct the 15,000 square foot home, described at the time as “something superior in all details.” And it surely was.
The five-story residence was designed with a bowed front on three levels, allowing for light to flood the home from not only the west, but also the south and north. The fourth floor features a grand terrace, and floor-to-ceiling windows create an openness to the home—a rarity today in New York City real estate.
The home’s interiors have only been drastically reimagined once, in 1906, when banking magnate David Crawford Clark purchased the home following King’s death. Clark hired designer Ogden Codman, Jr. to carry out the renovations, and the home has since become the blueprint for how to decorate with “nobility, grace, and timelessness,” as Edith Wharton wrote in her 1897 pioneering guide THE DECORATION OF HOUSES.
The third—and last—resident of 991 Fifth Avenue was William Ellis Corey, president of the Carnegie Steel Company from 1901 to 1903, and president of U.S. Steel from 1903 to 1911. For some time he lived in the home with his wife, musical comedy star Mabelle Gilman, though the two divorced in 1923 leaving him alone in the large mansion until his death in 1934. The home was then acquired by the American Irish Historical Society in 1939, and in 2006 the Society hired architect Joseph Pell Lombardi to restore the entire property.
While many similar listings come with the caveat of needing major renovations, this property has been meticulously preserved by the finest of craftspeople. Other highlights of the home include private outdoor spaces, gardens and elegant terraces, and an elevator. The home is listed by Paula Del Nunzio of Brown Harris Stevens. You can view the listing here.
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