Tuesday, June 19, 2012
The Astor Double Mansion: Mrs. Astor's Side
As you know from my previous post about the Astor Mansion, millionaire John Jacob Astor IV and his mother Caroline lived in a large double house on the corner of 65th Street on Fifth Avenue. This post will be specifically about Caroline's side of the house and the ballroom that was shared. In 1892 when
Caroline's nephew, William Waldorf Astor, decided to demolish his father's mansion and erect the Waldorf Hotel right next door to her mansion she was literally forced from her home of 40 years because of all the noise, traffic, dust and crowds of people. Caroline's son John came up with a solution and built a massive mansion on a plot the family owned at 65th Street. The mansion on the outside would appear to be one house but on the inside the home was really two with Caroline occupying the left side and John and his family occupying the right side. This way Caroline could enjoy the comfort of her son's home practically in the same house and yet be enabled to enjoy the privacy of her own. Guests entered through large bronze doors and after ascending the large vestibule steps were greeted by the large stair hall.
The stair hall was two storeys high and done in white Caen stone. Along the walls were large Flemish tapestries, painting reproduced from the Palace of Versailles, stucco reliefs and life size female nudes reaching up to the large bronze skylight. In the center hung the large ormolu chandelier and the massive handsome staircase was done in white marble with iron fixtures. Off the stair hall were the entertaining room such as the reception room.
The reception room was the smallest entertaining room and was where Mrs. Astor would receive guest in front of her portrait done by Carolus Duran. The large chandelier had originally graced the entrance hall of her brownstone at 34th Street. The large rug had also come from her home on 34th Street where it had graced one of the reception rooms. From the reception room guests could enter the large drawing room.
The drawing room was the largest of the entertaining rooms (not including the ballroom) and had antique french paneling and a enormous persian rug that completely covered the floor. The doors were mirrored and topped with semicircular mirrors. The rooms was filled with Louis XIV-style carved and gilded furniture, french tapestries and a collection of Sevres vases. From the drawing room one could enter the dining room.
Th dining room was the most detailed room with it's black oak paneled walls accented with ebony and inlays of gilt. The walls were covered with tapestries depicting hunting scenes that had come from the dining room at the 34th Street mansion. Also from the mansion at 34th Street were the fireplace which had originally graced the ballroom and the large statue of Venus which had also graced the ballroom. The last great entertaining room on this floor was the ballroom.
The ballroom, which also doubled as the art gallery, was the largest room in the house and shared by both houses (but it was mainly used by Caroline). This ballroom also happened to be the largest ballroom in the city, capable of holding not just the famous 400 but 1,200 people. It was one and a half storeys high and had a massive bronze skylight. The walls were crammed with row after row of european paintings and art pieces. At one end rose the huge white marble fireplace imported from Italy. At the other end was wrought iron musician's gallery that opened off the second floor. Here there was more objects from the mansion at 34th Street not only had all the art work come from there but also most of the furniture including Mrs. Astor's round red velvet ottoman that was toward the front and the standing gilt candelabra on either side of the fireplace had come from the ballroom.