February 01, 2012

For Sale: Gilded Age Luxury


A tempting thought: Slipping into the Nickerson Mansion with a sleeping bag and claiming the east guest bedroom—a beauty, with Japanese folk carvings in the woodwork—and making oneself at home. Rather how Tony Curtis did with that wealthy man’s yacht in Some Like it Hot (except without the affections of Marilyn Monroe).

There’s no need to risk getting acquainted with the Museum’s security staff, however, because Gilded Age luxury is just a call to a realtor and a signed check away. And thanks to the housing market’s recent misfortunes, many of the list prices are a steal compared to more prosperous times. Do you dream of the same treatment Teddy Roosevelt had when he commissioned McKim, Mead and White to redesign his White House? No problem. For $8.9 million, Astor Courts—designed by Stanford White of that same great 19th-century architectural firm—is yours. Want a taste of elite Rhode Island summers from days long past? There are so-called cottages on the market in Newport, too.


Whitewood Point, Lloyd Neck, New York

Price tag: $21 million (as of Oct. 2010, according to Luxist)
Exterior: 55 wooded acres; a Long Island bluff to oneself; sturdy brick colonial façade; separate caretaker, summer guest, and chauffeur residences.
Interior: 18 rooms trimmed with painted white; glassed-in porch views of aforementioned wooded acres and Long Island Sound.
Gilded Age pedigree: Built in 1917 and designed by the firm McKim, Mead and White.

HH Hill / Photo by Bruce Buck

Astor Courts, Rhinebeck, New York

Price tag: $8.9 million (discounted from its first list price of $12 million)
Exterior: Lifelong direct access to the Hudson River thanks to written permission from New York State; 50 acres with views of the Catskills; low-slung, crisp, and classical Beaux Arts exterior.
Interior: Indoor swimming pool with vaulted ceilings with Corinthian columns; expansive, courtyard-style balcony with black and white diamond-shaped tiles; massive, ornamented fireplaces; airy 15-foot ceilings.
Gilded Age pedigree: The building was commissioned by John Jacob Astor IV, famous for his family wealth but perhaps even more famous as the Astor who perished on the Titanic’s maiden voyage in 1912. The architect was, again, McKim, Mead and White. Astor Courts was completed in 1904 as a sporting pavilion on Astor’s 2,800-acre property (think indoor tennis court, indoor pool, basement bowling alley, and squash courts). It was converted to a residence in 1941.

Brown Harris Stevens

973 Fifth Avenue, New York, New York

Price tag: $49 million (Central Park views are priceless, after all)
Exterior: Private property gives way about three steps out the front door to yellow taxis and Manhattan traffic; Central Park’s manicured lawns located directly across the street; gray limestone façade adorned with ivy and Italian Renaissance motifs (for more on Gilded Age fascination with Renaissance themes, read this post).
Interior: Approximately 15,000 square feet on seven levels; opulent interior displays complete with Oriental rugs; Italian marble fireplaces.
Gilded Age pedigree: It’s one of the last buildings Stanford White designed before his death in 1906, and as the house was completed in 1907 neither he nor its intended resident, the Gilded Age railroad magnate and financier Henry H. Cook (who died in 1905), saw its completion.


Far From the Wolf, Winter Harbor, Maine

Price tag: $5.1 million (nearly half off the 2006 asking price of $9.65 million)
Exterior: Sprawling Shingle-style residence with views of the Atlantic and Frenchman Bay; tiny tea house perched on the rocky shoreline.
Interior: 19 rooms, 10 of which are bedrooms; heavy use of cherry, ash, birch, whitewood, and oak woods throughout, not only for the wainscoting but including a wooden dining room chandelier.
Gilded Age pedigree: Built in 1892 for John G. Moore who developed the Grindstone Neck area for high-society New Yorkers in need of a getaway.


Clarendon Court, Newport, Rhode Island

Price tag: $15.8 million
Exterior: Palladian exterior; classical columned back porch looking out to a sleek in-ground pool, then across an expansive emerald lawn, and finally down to the waterfront; stately gated entrance; two-story carriage house with brick façade.
Interior: Curved marble staircase with gilt accent spindles; 21 rooms.
Gilded Age pedigree: The notable architect Horace Trumbauer, who created other legendary Newport summer estates such as The Elms, designed this stately 12,000-square foot residence and an accompanying two-story carriage house. It was completed in 1904 and originally named Claradon for owner and railroad executive Edward R. Knight’s wife, Clara.

—Lindsey Howald Patton

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