Tortoise Strolls

Archive for September 2011

4 E. 75th St. “The Harkness Mansion”

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Larry Gagosian is the new owner of the Harkness Mansion, a very historic and especially wide (50Ft.) townhouse just off Fifth Avenue. It can be sometimes confused with the Harkness House which is the more grand mansion located at 1 E. 75th St. and home to the Commonwealth Fund. Gagosian bought this half gutted mansion from J. Christopher Flowers who needed to sell due to his divorce and financial issues at hand. Flowers originally paid $53 million in 2006 and put in a couple million towards his renovation project which did not get completed. Gagosian paid $36.5 million, a steal, even in today’s down market. A local resident told me that in the 80’s this mansion’s second floor was being used as a dance studio with a cafe down below. Gagosian will probably not be able to turn his mansion into a gallery space due to stricter zoning laws these days. His neighbors, undoubtedly, do not want a Chelsea scene, but I’m predicting many parties will be thrown at 4 E. 75th Street.


Written by agnesbstanton

September 21, 2011 at 8:54 am

10 Gracie Square

with 3 comments

My husband’s childhood home was sold in early 2010 due to the fact that his mother had recently passed away. The writer Tom Wolfe once mentioned in a 1985 Esquire article that there are 42 “Good buildings” in Manhattan. Tim’s childhood apartment was in one of them: 10 Gracie Square.

I’ve visited a few times when Tim’s mother, Joan Stanton (her stage name as an actress was Joan Alexander) was still living, and there were things I liked and other things I liked less. I’ll start with the latter. As one enters the building, there really isn’t much room to sit and linger since not much of a lobby exists. You walk into what basically amounts to a driveway with three elevator banks. The driveway cuts right through the entire building from 84th street all the way to 83rd street coming face to face with Brearley, one of Manhattan’s top private all-girls schools. Some noted Brearley alumni include such stately and elegant women as Jill ClayburghTea Leoni, and Caroline Kennedy. Private individuals love this driveway, as it allows them to pull into the building, enter and leave without being seen. Security wise it makes sense, but the cost is reflected in not having a beatified entry.

Another slight detriment, in my opinion, as well as Christopher Gray’s, is rust. 10 Gracie Square, when built in 1930, was not made rust-proof. It was in fact not even primed, as Gray’s New York Times “Streetscapes” column, published November 1, 1992, makes note of. Renovations had to therefore be made and dealt with in the early 90’s.

There is one last bit of unmatched curiosity that abounds 10 Gracie Square. Is it one building or 3 put together? As my photos clearly show, the southeast corner bordering Carl Schurz Park, is made of limestone. It is bordered on both sides by red brick. The red brick side facing Carl Schurz Park houses many of the bedroom wings with approximately 9 Ft. high ceilings. The limestone part is primarily occupied with 12 Ft. high living/dining areas with full East River frontage. The red brick part cornering 83rd Street has complete apartments all to themselves, a few lucky enough to even have balconies facing the River. The three different facades only slightly take away from uniformity, but in no way do they depreciate the building’s value.

The 83rd Street corner of 10 Gracie Square showing the red brick part of the building

That being said, 10 Gracie Square has many charming aspects centered primarily on the individuals who have resided in between its walls. The list is not short by any means, and the varied stories could easily fill a Dominick Dunne novel. I’ll just have to give you the short version.

10 Gracie Square was designed by architects Van Wart & Wein, Pleasants Pennington & Albert W. Lewis. It is part of a square block between 83rd and 84th streets and East End Avenue and the East River. The 15-story building was built in 1930. Originally there was a private club on the lower level below the street, that opened onto a yacht mooring. This was demolished to make way for the FDR Drive in later years.

 The Stairs that once led to the yacht mooring

The building ran into financial problems in 1937 and suffered a foreclosure. It was said that Margaret Mellon Hitchcock, one of the residents, helped to bring back financial stability to the building. Margaret was a descendent of the well-known Mellon family. She married Tommy Hitchcock, Jr., a polo player, whom after F. Scott Fitzgerald loosely modeled his character Tom Buchanan in the Great Gatsby. One of their sons, William Hitchock married my sister-in-law, Jane Stanton Hitchcock.  They moved into their own apartment at 10 Gracie on a low floor, closer to 83rd St., with direct views of the East River. 10 Gracie was favored by the Stanton family including my husband’s uncle, Frank Stanton, who chose to reside in the maisonette. One of his sons, James Stanton, recently bought an apartment in the building as well.

Another family with strong roots at 10 Gracie would be the Rudin family. Beth Rudin DeWoody, the socialite known for her art patronage, has lived on the 4th floor for quiet some time, while Eric Rudin, just recently bought  a 6th Floor apartment. Both Rudins are on the board of Rudin Management, one of the largest landlords in New York City.

The apartment that Eric Rudin bought once belonged to Albert Gordon, a financier who is credited in saving Kidder Peabody during the stock market crash of 1929. Albert passed away on May 1, 2009  having lived 107 years. Coincidentally this was only 20 days before my mother-in-law, Joan Stanton, died at the age of 94. They lived in such close proximity that Albert at times could even be found having a drink with Joan even though they did not run in the same circles.  He was known for being an extremely hard worker throughout his life and didn’t stop at 65 but continued to work until he was 105. Albert took care of himself with early morning jogs well into his 90’s. As a child, my husband remembers getting ready for school each morning, and witnessing, through his bedroom window, Albert wearing a tracksuit, coming up the East River and through Carl Schurz Park. He was a mighty force to be reckoned with and also one of the friendliest men around.

Security had to be tightened when Madame Chiang-Kai Shek moved into 10 Gracie in 1975, after the death of her husband. Having once been the First Lady to the Republic of China, as well as appearing on the cover of Time Magazine, undoubtedly, required her have an over-the-top security force. My husband remembers there being security whenever Madame Chiang-Kai Shek left or entered the building. He doesn’t remember much of Madame Chiang-Kai Shek, except for maybe a foot or  arm, entering a chauffeured car. Too bad there wasn’t much to see, as she was known for her style, the reason Vanity Fair included her in their annual International Best-Dressed List in 1943. She unfortunately did not have the luxury of being able to just stroll and go about as she pleased. Her comings and goings were a very stringent affair. She died in 2003 at the age of 105. A biography on her life was recently written by Hannah Pakula and published in 2009 titled “The Last Empress”.

Jean Queen and socialite Gloria Vanderbilt, chose to reside at 10 Gracie after not being able to get past the co-op board of River House. She bought the penthouse apartment after the death of her fourth husband. One of her sons with fourth husband Wyatt Emory Cooper, is Anderson Cooper, the well-known CNN anchor. Her other son, Carter Cooper, committed suicide from the terrace of that apartment, at a very young age, not long after finishing his studies at Princeton. Anderson Cooper wrote this article about his loss. Gloria has two other sons, Stan and Christoper, with her second husband Leopold Stokowski.

Steve Ross, who invented the modern entertainment conglomerate Warner Communication, also lived at 10 Gracie Square in the late 70’s and early 80’s. He was married to his second wife Amanda Burden, daughter of socialite Babe Paley, during this time. Amanda had been previously married to Carter Burden, a man of great style and taste. When Steve and Amanda divorced, he hopped over to 740 Park Avenue after marrying his third wife, Courtney Sale Ross in 1982. Warner Communication merged with Time Inc. and became Time Warner in 1989. After Steve Ross died in 1992, Courtney started the Ross School in her husband’s memory, a very successful private school in the Hamptons. My husband Tim remembers Steve as a really friendly kind of guy who once invited him to the Atlantic Records Grammy party held at “21”. Steve also got him a summer job at Atlantic Records where he had to make an inventory of every record in their warehouse.

Literature giants such as critic Alexander Woollcott as well as publishers John Fairchild and Horace Havemeyer III also resided in between 10 Gracie’s walls.

One of the heirs to the Mosler safes, as well as John Marion, a chief  auctioneer at Sotheby’s, Andre Kostelanetz a music conductor, and an ambassador to Turkey, all enjoyed their times in the building as well.

Written by agnesbstanton

September 2, 2011 at 10:05 am

Posted in Co-ops, Upper East Side