When "The Queen of Fifth Avenue", as Mrs. Cornelius Vanderbilt III was called, finally gave up her brownstone palace to developers in 1945 and moved far uptown to a much smaller townhouse, formerly occupied by the Miller family, one of the few remaining symbols of the era, that by then had become "unfashionable", was gone. That era was known as The Gilded Age.
Edith Miller's Sudden Death In Her Hotel Room Was Very Mysterious, From Her Estate, The New York City Mansion Was Put On The Market, Until Sold To Mrs. Vanderbilt For $300,000
Mrs. Cornelius Vanderbilt III, Grace Wilson, Known As "Her Grace", Was The Only Woman Ever To Replace The Mrs. Astor As Queen Of New York City Society
The new chateau that Grace had purchased had been built in 1914, in an area that then was considered a "Fashionable No Man's Land", but by the 1940's the former "No Man's Land" had turned into one of the most fashionable districts in the city. It had been built by William Starr Miller and he had lived there, with his family, for many years. When he died, he left the mansion to his wife. Upon his widow's death, their daughter, Edith, inherited the house. She casually maintained the house until her own, sudden death in Paris. Her estate sold the mansion to Mrs. Vanderbilt in 1945, who refused to leave the avenue she had dominated for so many years.
Grace regally brought with her from 640 Fifth Avenue her butler and her bathroom. Her husband had left her $2 million and she had $1 million left of the $6 million her father had left her, she didn't have much room to work with. She cut her original staff of 30 people down to 18, which included the family butler, Gerald, the housekeeper, cook, 2 footmen, 4 maids, a scullery maid, lady's maid, chauffeur, laundry ladies and the handyman. All of these people were given the responsibility of maintaining the house and it's beautiful interiors.
Mrs. Vanderbilt was used to giving large events in the Vanderbilt mansion at 640 Fifth Avenue and she continued to do at the 1048 Fifth Avenue mansion. Her opera balls, held after the openings of the Metropolitan Opera House, also called "The Met", were considered the highlight of the season. She never missed an opening of the opera and year after year she was always the center of attention upon her arrival.
Besides the New York City chateau, Grace still resided in her Newport cottage, "Beaulieu", where she regularly held dinner parties for between 50 and 100 people. Grace had purchased "Beaulieu" long ago from William Waldorf Astor, whose son was the one that had purchased the 640 Fifth Avenue mansion.
Grace continued to entertain in Newport and New York City for 8 years. She was still herself on her last arrival at the opening of The Met. She arrived in a wheelchair, pushed around by two of her guests staying with her at 1048 Fifth Avenue. With her were her three signature symbols: her diamond "headache band", her famous diamond stomacher and her silver fox wrap (which had become somewhat seedy over the years, but Grace, who like most rich people had her small economies, never replaced it)
After Grace died, the house was sold to the Yivo Institute for Jewish Research, which maintained the original interiors of the first and second floors, while gutting the third and fourth floors, making room for needed book space.
In 1922 the mansion was sold to the Neue Gallery New York, which carefully renovated the building, keeping most of the original interiors. They continue to operate the building today.