Monday, June 17, 2013

Henry Villard Houses

The 6 Villard houses are amongst the most famous of New York City mansions. Having the benefit of being designed and built by legendary architect Stanford White and his associates, it still stands today, in the shadow of the skyscrapers that surround it. Henry Villard ~ then president of the Northern Pacific Railway ~ built the residences. On the outside, the home appear as one large mansion, much like the Astor mansion on Fifth Avenue, but on the inside are 6 separate, comfortable townhouses, all situated around a large court. Villard took the largest of the 6, his residence occupying the entire right wing. 

Henry Villard ~ 1883
Before the home was completed, Villard's railroad empire crashed and left him a broke man. He sold the home to Republican politician Whitelaw Reid, who finished the home and moved into the wing. Reid, who had recently been the vice presidential nominee for Benjamin Harrison's reelection campaign, also had an 1,000 acre estate in Westchester, 'Ophir Hall'.

The wing remained in the Reid family until 1935, later serving several different uses during World War II. It was purchased by Harry Hemsley in 1974. Hemsley, who constructed the New York Palace Hotel behind the houses, had purchased the homes as part of a hotel-developing scheme. He soon carried out his idea and the houses became part of the behind hotel. 

The dining room at the New York Palace Hotel ~ which formerly
served as the music room during the Reid residency.
In 2003, the houses were restored and office space for provided for the city preservation group The Municipal Art Society, all part of an agreement to save the houses from demolition. The houses, today, serve as a landmark to New York's former Gilded Age self.

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