The Myriad Manhattan Residences of the Vanderbilt Cousins Part 3: The Children of Emily Vanderbilt Sloane and Eliza Vanderbilt Webb
Each of my previous posts concerning the New York domiciles of the cousins lucky enough to have been born the children of the eight Vanderbilt siblings, focused on the offspring of one brother and one sister. My last post will cover the children of the four remaining siblings. This is in no way to give them short shrift, but merely due to the fact that the third son, Frederick, had no children and the youngest brother George had but one child, a daughter Cornelia, who between Biltmore in Asheville, North Carolina, (the largest private home ever built in America), a mansion in Washington, D.C. and a flat in Paris, managed to get along just fine without a New York City base. That leaves us with the children of the two younger sisters.
The Children of Emily Vanderbilt Sloane
Vivacious Emily Vanderbilt Sloane (later White), while neither as imperious nor as immensely rich as her older sister Florence, more than held her own in New York Society where she was acknowledged as one of the leaders of the Four Hundred. While she loved entertaining, being generous to her family, and all the material trappings of the gilded age, thanks to her marriage to William Douglas Sloane her personal fortune grew substantially from the original $10 million left to her by her father. After her two oldest daughters wed, she built homes for them that put most of those built for their cousins to shame.
Florence Adele Sloane Burden Tobin
Emily's eldest daughter Florence Adele married James Abercrombie Burden Jr in 1895. Adele, as she was known (fortunately, as it turns out - for her husband's cousin Willam Burden married her first cousin Florence Adele Twombly, creating two Florence Adele Burdens which had the potential to tax all but the savviest of social secretaries) and her husband swiftly became leaders of their generation’s smart set. Her parents parents who had purchased several lots from Andrew Carnegie, had Warren and Wetmore (who also were designing the new Grand Central Station for the Vanderbilt family) design a mansion on the western half for the happy couple at 7 East 91st Street. Considered one of the finest examples of beaux arts architecture in the city, designwise it represented a major departure from many other mansions built during the era. Typically, a townhouse on this scale had a reception area on the ground floor, principal entertaining spaces with the highest ceilings on the parlor floor (or Piano Nobile) above, followed by family living spaces and servants quarters on successive floors above that. This arrangement was generally reflected on the street by a diminishment in scale and embellishment as one’s eye swept up the façade. Warren and Wetmore ingeniously but quite commonsensically inserted the family quarters immediately above the ground floor, creating an entresol below the public entertaining rooms above.
The resulting façades' architectural hierarchy is both visually arresting and lively at the same time. Guests pulling into the mansion's internal porte-cochere to attend one of the Burdens' many dinner parties and balls didn't complain about having to an extra story on the sublime oval staircase.
when greeted by the site of the mansion's gorgeous dining room
or marble-clad ballroom (loosely based on the Galerie de Glaces at Versailles).
Although Adele remained a fixture in New York social circles after James passed away in 1932, she spent more and more time in Paris and at her estate in Syosset. With all of her children grown and no longer at home, keeping such a large establishment in the city didn't make sense. Remarried to Richard Tobin, Adele rented the mansion for a while but eventually sold it and auctioned off the contents in 1948, taking up residence in an apartment at 1 East 66th street (which she kept until her death in 1960).
She left 7 East 91st in good hands though. Today her former home is well cared for by the Convent of the Sacred Heart, and is a popular spot for weddings and photoshoots.
Emily Sloane Hammond
Adele’s younger sister Emily married John Henry Hammond in 1899. Her parents had the architectural firm of Carrere and Hastings design a majestic mansion for them to the east of the Burdens at 9 East 91st.
While not as hyper-social as their sister, Emily and her family loved music (son John Henry Hammond became a legendary jazz impresario, critic, and record producer while daughter Alice married Benny Goodman). The Hammond's white and gold music room saw almost as many guests coming for the musicales and concerts performed there (often by members of the family) as the Burden's marble ballroom.
The Hammonds remained in the home until 1946, when they sold the mansion and moved into an apartment at 778 Park Avenue.
After John Henry died in 1949, the pious Emily became firmly under the spell of Frank Buchman and his Moral Rearmament movement. She eventually gave the MRA her Mt Kisco estate as well as several million dollars, moving out of 778 Park Avenue to live with a Hammond relative in a much more modest environment at 134 East 64th Street in the process.
Here she lived until her death in 1970 at the age of 95. Today the Hammond's former mansion is home of the Russian Consulate, who gave the building a thorough cleaning after the iron curtain fell and it was acceptable for Russians to enjoy gilding again (below is a photo of the Music Room today).
Lila Sloane Field
When the Sloane"s youngest (and according to some, Emily’s favorite) daughter Lila married William Osgood Field in 1902, the Sloanes chose not have a mansion built for the couple. Instead, they purchased one of the Marble Twins at 645 Fifth Avenue for them.
Built by Emily’s brother George Vanderbilt, the townhouse happened to be conveniently located directly across Fifth avenue from Emily’s own massive home at 2 West 52nd Street (lest one feel the Field’s got the short end of the stick, they also received Highlawn, a huge Lenox estate from her parents). The Fields owned the home (although they stopped living there sometime in the early 1920’s) until Lila died in 1934, after which it was sold to developers who promptly razed it. Fortunately its twin at 647 Fifth Avenue, survives today as the Versace store.
Malcolm Douglas Sloane
The Sloane’s only son, Malcom Douglas, quietly married Elinor Lee in 1915. Whether because his father had recently died, or perhaps because he was of a more modern mold, the couple did not receive a townhouse as a wedding present. Instead they started married life in an apartment at 521 Park Avenue on the corner of 60th street.
When Malcom died less than a decade later in 1924 (the men of his generation tended to have much shorter lives than their female relatives), the couple was living at the Montana apartments at 375 Park Avenue
an address better known today as the location of the Seagram building.
The Children of Eliza Vanderbilt Webb
The youngest of William Henry’s eight children was his daughter Eliza (known as Lila), who married William Seward Webb in 1881. Like her eldest sister Margaret, Lila’s husband managed to spend most of the money she had inherited, leaving her with only the income from a 5 million dollar trust to live on. Unlike her sister Margaret, the Webbs continued to operate several very large expensive establishments in addition to their New York residence; Shelburne Farms, an agricultural estate on over a thousand acres in Vermont, a Great Camp in the Adirondacks, and a Palm Beach mansion, which all together ate up a good deal of Lila’s annual income. When it came time for her children to marry she couldn’t afford to start them off with a gift of a mansion like her sisters. That didn’t stop the two eldest though, thanks to advantageous marriages.
Frederica Webb Pulitzer Jones
When the Webbs only daughter Frederica married Ralph Pulitzer in 1905, his father Joseph gave the couple a townhouse at 17 East 73rdstreet, immediately adjacent to his own famous mansion (In the event her father in-law was not home to borrow a cup of sugar from, Frederica's first cousin Florence Twombly Burden's home was immediately to the west of his at 5 East 73rd Street).
It was still their home in 1924 when Frederica scandalized society by obtaining a divorce from her husband in Paris, then marrying their sons’ tutor in short order. The newly minted Mrs. Cyril Hamlen Jones left New York for the more academic atmosphere of Hyde Park Massachusetts, where her new husband taught school, never again living in Manhattan. Her former house here survives to this day.
James Watson Webb
The Webb’s eldest son James Watson married Electra Havemeyer, heiress to the immense sugar fortune. Her parents gave the couple a townhouse at 852 Fifth Avenue.
It was adjacent to their famous art-filled, tiffany-decorated mansion at 1 East 66th Streetand from the exterior almost seamlessly blended in with it
The Havemeyers eventually built a house for Electra’s brother and his wife as well at 853 Fifth Avenue, creating a mini-urban family compound. Although the Havemeyer fortune was secure, when the family was offered a $25 million lease for the three properties in 1930, it would have been foolhardy to say no. Almost immediately the three mansions were razed and an apartment building at 1 East 66th Street rose. The apartment was in turn torn down in the 1940’s to make way for a larger one, where the Webb’s cousin Adele eventually lived). James and Electra took their share of the windfall and purchased an apartment at 740 Park Avenue, one of the toniest buildings in New York.
Here they remained until the end of their days, when not at their estate in Shelburne Vermont (originally a portion of his parents), or their home in Old Westbury.
William Seward Webb Jr
The Webb's second son (shown above at the time of his daughter's wedding circa 1930) eloped with Gertrude Gaynor, the daughter of New York’s then mayor in 1911. Although he went on to become a successful New York real estate developer (selling his interests to the Zeckendorf firm in the 1930’s), there are few records of Seward and his family owning a residence in Manhattan. In 1912, when the couple’s first child was born, they were listed as living with his parents at 680 Fifth Avenue though they couldn’t have remained there long, as the mansion was sold to John D Rockefeller in 1913.
Although it is very likely they kept an apartment in New York, in 1933 the couple’s residences were listed as Manhasset and Palm Beach.
Vanderbilt, the youngest of the Webb’s children, married Aileen Osborn in 1912. The couple has always been more famously associated with both Shelburne Farms (Vanderbilt having bought out his siblings shares after their parents’ deaths) and their estate in Garrison, NY.. They also kept a Manhattan apartment as a base however. When Vanderbilt Webb died in 1956, his residence was listed as 66 East 79th Street.
And thus concludes my examination of the 21 Vanderbilt Cousin’s homes. Although some of the next generation led well-known Manhattan lives and had palatial abodes like Gloria Vanderbilt and Cornelius Vanderbilt Whitney, it was this group that collectively made New York their principal home, and maintained the the notoriety of their parents' generation, leading society columnist Cholly Knickerbocker to declare on otherwise un-noteworthy days in his column "Thank God for the Vanderbilts!"