By Carter B. Horsley
This elegant, 13-story, limestone-clad, Italian
Renaissance-palazzo style apartment house was built on the site
of a house owned by Mrs. Hamilton Fish and was completed in 1926.
It was designed by J. E. R. Carpenter for the Bricken Construction
Company. It has only 13 apartments and was converted to a cooperative
Because of its superb location close to midtown
and directly across from the low-rise, Georgian-style Knickerbocker
Club and because of the fact that it has only one apartment per
floor, this is one of the most desirable and exclusive buildings
in the city.
The building is nicely detailed and has a very
impressive marquee entrance on the sidestreet.
In his excellent book, "Luxury Apartment
Houses of Manhattan, An Illustrated History," (Dover Publications,
Inc., 1992), Andrew Alpern notes that the buildings original
sales brochure discussed the convenience of nearby subway stations,
a few blocks away.
"Perhaps the combination of bucolic and
urban amenities led Nelson Rockefeller to create a triplex penthouse
in the building for his first wife, Mary Todhunter Clark, and
himself. It was here that he raised his first family, and it was
this apartment he most considered home, despite houses in Westchester
Countys Pocantico Hills and in Venezuela. He liked it so
much, in fact, that he did not move out after his divorce. As
part of the settlement, he kept the lowest floor of the triplex,
while his wife retained the upper two levels and converted them
to a duplex for her own use. To provide for his second wife, Margaretta
Fitler (Happy) Murphy, and her children, Rockefeller
expanded his one floor at 810 by connecting it to a full floor
he purchased in the newly constructed building at 812 next door.
Because of floor-level differences, a half-flight of steps was
needed between the two sections of the sprawling 12,000-square-foot
complex....Sensitive to his first wife, Rockefeller and his second
wife planned their new home so that they could use the 812 Fifth
Avenue entrance, thereby avoiding the possibility of chance encounters
in the elevator of Number 810."
Nelson Rockefeller, of course, was the Governor
of New York State and in 1963 former Vice President Richard Nixon
purchased the fifth-floor apartment at 810 Fifth Avenue, taking
possession not long after Happy and Nelson Rockefeller had moved
into their new home. The two would become major rivals in the
Republican Party and Nixon would eventually move out of the building.
The building, which has sidewalk landscaping
and a maisonette facing the avenue, replaced many of its older
multi-paned windows with modern single pane windows. The building
has a doorman and a concierge, but no garage and no balconies.