By Carter B. Horsley
One of the most impressive and exclusive buildings
on Park Avenue, this 12-story building was erected in 1927 and
has only 11 apartments.
It was designed for Starrett Brothers in Italian
Renaissance-style by York & Sawyer, an architectural firm
best known for its bank buildings.
The luxurious and elegant building has the
city's most spectacular maisonette, a 27-room triplex with its
own entrance on the sidestreet that leads up marble stairs into
the apartment's foyer. The maisonette has its own address, 666
The lower two floors have double-height entertaining
rooms, including one that is 46 feet long, 22 feet wide and 18
feet high. The apartment was specifically designed for Ms. William
K. Vanderbilt II, the former Virginia ("Birdie" Graham
Fair, a daughter of James Graham Fair, a mining magnate who opened
the Comstock Lode of silver in Nevada and became a U. S. Senator.
Mrs. Vanderbilt subsequently sold her palatial apartment to Seton
Porter, a founder of the National Distillers Corporation and husband
of Fredericka V. Berwind, a daughter of a coal magnate.
In his excellent book, "Park Avenue, Street
of Dreams," (Atheneum, 1990), James Trager said that Mrs.
Porter was "once called the most beautiful woman in Philadelphia,"
and had been previously married to the head of the Morgan Harjes
Bank in Paris and had "organized and endowed the first privately
founded military hospital at the front" in World War I. In
1938, according to Salwen, the apartment was purchased by Fan
Fox, whose family had founded the major department store in Hartford,
Conn., and her husband, Leslie B. Samuels. After her death in
1970, the apartment was acquired by Arthur Sackler, the owner
of a medical advertising agency and a medical publication and
a major art collector. He died in 1987, but his widow, Gillian,
remained in the apartment.
The building's facade has a balustrade and
belt course above the third floor that distinguishes the difference
between the maisonette and the rest of the building, which as
one apartment per floor. Apart from the maisonette, the building
is similar to another developed by Starrett Brothers and designed
by W. L. Rouse and L. A. Goldstone at 760 Park Avenue and completed
in 1924, according to Andrew Alpern's excellent book, "New
York's Fabulous Luxury Apartments with Original Floor Plans from
the Dakota, River House, Olympic Tower and Other Great Buildings,"
(Dover Publications, Inc., 1987).
The building has a marquee entrance, a doorman,
a concierge, and no balconies, no garage and no sundeck.