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Gilded Age Mansion at 973 Fifth Avenue for Sale

by habituallychic

01 . 30 . 22

Last year, someone I follow on Instagram posted a few photos just inside 973 Fifth Avenue. The decor looked very intriguing but I couldn’t find much about the house online then. When I posted an exterior photo of the front door in my Instagram Stories last week, a kind follower alerted me to the fact that the house was on the market. I almost fell over when I saw the asking price was $80 million, especially since it was purchased in 2012 for $42 million. So of course, I had to do deep dive into the property.

The top image is one of my recent photos of the house. The image above shows the facade when it was listed in 2011. The front stairs were altered to allow room for the French planters. I’m surprised the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission allowed the change but I love the planters.

There’s some interesting history behind 973 Fifth Avenue and its neighbor at 972 which were both designed by McKim Mead and White for two different clients at the same time. The photo above is from circa 1909 when they were almost finished. There is much more known of 972 Fifth Avenue which is known as the Payne Whitney Mansion. There is a theory that 973 was designed by Charles McKim due to its more austere design and 972 was designed by Stanford White since it was more decorative.

The New York Social Diary has the best background on the two properties. Henry Cook, who once owned the entire block, from 78th to 79th and Fifth, and from Fifth to Madison, commissioned 973 Fifth Avenue. He had it written into the deeds of all the lots he sold on the entire block that none of the buildings could be more than five or six stories. In the late 19th-century he built a big Victorian mansion on the corner of 78th where the James B. Duke mansion stands today. Cook had sold his 78th Street house to Mr. Duke early in the new century. Duke tore it down and put up his town palace designed by Horace Trumbauer.

The building of the house at 973 started in 1902, the same year Henry Cook sold the lot next door at 972 for the Whitney house. He did not live to see the house completed, dying in 1905, a couple of years before completion. (Stanford White didn’t see its completion either — he was murdered by Harry Thaw in 1906.)

The 972 Fifth Avenue house was built as a wedding gift for Helen and Payne Whitney from Mr. Whitney’s uncle Oliver Payne. It remained in the Whitney family until Helen Hay Whitney died in 1944 and left it to her children John Hay Whitney and Joan Whitney Payson. A few years later it was sold to the French who use it as part of the French Consulate in New York. It now houses Albertine Bookstore and event spaces as well as the beautifully restored Venetian Room.

Back to 973 Fifth Avenue. According to New York Social Diary, Henry Cook left the house to his daughter but, according to Christopher Gray of The New York Times, she rarely used it. In 1919 she sold it to a Mr. Joseph Feder who lived there with his wife and family. Twenty-nine years later in 1948, the family sold it to the Mormon Church who used it as a training center. In 1978, they sold it to Victor Shafferman, a real estate investor, for a reported $600,000. I found photos on the website of M. Frederick Design so they were probably the decorators and it’s their work that appears in the 2012 real estate listing photos.

In 2012, 973 Fifth Avenue was purchased by Alexia and David Leuschen for $42 million. David Leuschen is a former partner at Goldman Sachs who oversaw the bank’s global energy and power group who later co-founded of energy investment firm Riverstone Holdings. They are unfortunately going through a divorce right now which is probably why the property has been listed for sale.

Alexia Leuschen is the daughter of the late architect Costas Kondylis. She is also an interior designer who most certainly decorated the house. It appears to be turn key ready for the new owner so it would be stupid for them to gut renovate it after purchase instead of just making minor cosmetic changes. That being said, I do think the $80 million asking price is a bit high but it does leave room for negotiation. I’d say it’s worth closer to $55-65 million.

The house is approximately 15,000 square feet. This is the floorplan from 2012 which still shows eight staff rooms on the 6th floor. It would be interesting to see how that floor was renovated but none of the rooms on the lower level or floors four to six were included in the real estate listing photos.

I don’t normally love when historic properties are white washed but in this case, I think it looks very fresh and modern with the antiques, mid-century Mathieu Matégot benches, and contemporary art.

The house has nine bedrooms, ten bedrooms, and three half-baths. There is also an elevator.

This is how the grand entry foyer looked in 2012.

The gallery area as it currently looks.

The gallery leads back to this trellis-clad sitting room.

The parlor floor landing was hung with a tapestry in 2012.

The hallway from the landing to the drawing room.

The same hallway in 2012.

I wonder if the interiors are landmarked since they kept the beautiful green paneling in the drawing room.

The drawing room in 2012.

There are beautiful photos of the house from M. Frederick Design from before 2012.

Another photo of the drawing room from M. Frederick Design from before 2012.

The dining room from 2021.

The dining room in 2012.

The dining room in 2012.

A view of the dining room from 1938 when it was owned by Mr. Joseph Feder and family.

The staircase sits on the left side of the house next to 972 Fifth Avenue. It looks like room was given for an airshaft to allow for windows along the staircase wall. The red carpet and red velvet handrail were replaced by green.

The main staircase in 2012.

They kept the original wood paneling in the front Fifth Avenue facing library on the third floor.

The library in 2012.

Another view of the library in 2012.

A view of the library from M. Frederick Design from around 2012.

A view of the library from M. Frederick Design from around 2012.

A view of the library from M. Frederick Design from around 2012.

A view of the library from M. Frederick Design from around 2012.

A view of the library from M. Frederick Design from around 2012.

A view of the library from M. Frederick Design from around 2012 with a view out to the third floor landing.

The third floor landing chandelier from M. Frederick Design from around 2012.

The third floor landing from M. Frederick Design from around 2012.

None of the bedrooms or upper floors were photographed for the 2012 listing or the current one. This is a view of a bedroom from 1939 when it was owned by Mr. Joseph Feder.

Another view of the same bedroom from 1939 when it was owned by Mr. Joseph Feder. Based on the windows, I think this is the fourth floor bedroom on the front of the house.

Another bedroom from 1939 when it was owned by Mr. Joseph Feder. Based on the windows, it was most likely a back bedroom on the third or fourth floor.

There’s a large roof terrace but the structure just covers the stairwell and elevator mechanical room.

There are views of Central Park and The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

It was serendipitous to find out this rare private Gilded Age mansion was for sale just as The Gilded Age television show is airing on HBO. I happen to enjoy the show but so many people are nitpicking every detail of it to death. When they’re finished with The Gilded Age, they should do one on Stanford White. There’s enough drama in his life for multiple seasons but that’s a story for another day.