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1130 Fifth Avenue

(originally the Willard and Dorothy Whitney Straight House, then the National Aubudon Society, then the International Center for Photography)

Northeast corner at 94nd Street

1130 Fifth Avenue

1130 Fifth Avenue

By Carter B. Horsley

A jewel of a Georgian-style mansion, this very handsome townhouse was designed by Delano & Aldrich for in 1915 for Willard Straight, the founder of The New Republic magazine, and his wife, Dorothy Whitney Straight, a founder of the Junior League of New York.

Delano & Aldrich specialized in red-brick Georgian-style buildings, sometimes referred to as American Colonial style, especially for social clubs. Its other buildings on the Upper East Side include the Colony Club on Park Avenue (see The City Review article), the Union Club on Park Avenue, the George F. Baker Jr. house on Park Avenue (see The City Review article) and the Knickerbocker Club on Fifth Avenue (see The City Review article).

This building is distinguished by its circular windows below its cornice and its black window shutters that give it a very dramatic compositional rhythm.

Sidestreet facade

Sidestreet facade

In his fine book, "Touring The Upper East Side, Walks in Five Historic Districts" (The New York Landmarks Conservancy, 1995), Andrew S. Dolkart provides the following commentary:

"For the Straights, Delano & Aldrich provided one of its boldest designs; one inspired in large part by Sir Christopher Wren's late 17th Century wing at Hampton Court Palace near London (this is especially evident in the use of round windows). The Baroque quality of Wren's building was tempered by the flat, refined Neo-classical forms that are Delano & Aldrich's hallmark. Especially lovely details are the wrought-iron peacock set above the entrance and the carved birds pecking at a bowl of fruit and the frieze o the central second story window."

Mr. Dolkart also remarked that the "main hall, with its black and white marble floor and Adamesque ceiling embellished with painted rondels, is worth a visit."

In his book, "Beaux-Arts Architecture in New York" (Dover Publications Inc., 1988) which has excellent photographs by Edmund V. Gillon Jr., Henry Hope Reed provides the following commentary:

"There is a certain sober, subdued touch in the work of Delano & Aldrich. It is found in their Greenwich House in Greenwich Village, in the headquarters of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia at Park Avenue and East 93 Street, and in the private houses now occupied by St. David's School at 12 East 89 Street. Nowhere is their touch better exemplified than here, where it lies in the use of a good red brick and marble (rather than the customary limestone) trim. It is the firm's favorite style, English Georgian, treated severely. At the ground floor, the windows are small, and even the doorway is modest, although it has a pair of engaged Tuscan columns. As always in these houses, the accent is on the second story, where the tall windows extend to the floor. The otherwise simple facade at this point has as a modest accent the window over the entrance with a stone frame and pediment. The round windows at the top at a Delano & Aldrich signature...."

In article in the October 14, 2001 edition of The New York Times, Christopher Gray wrote that "a final burst of confidence in the future of upper Fifth Avenue as a street of single-family houses came in 1914, when Willard D. and Dorothy Straight began work on their trim brick-and-marble house." "Straight, the son of a missionary and a schoolteacher, was born in 1880 in Oswego, N.Y. He graduated from Cornell University in 1901. His work in commercial and diplomatic affairs in the Far East so impressed the partners at J. P. Morgan that they hired him as their agent in China. In 1911, Straight married Dorothy Whitney, the daughter of William Collins Whitney, a financier and streetcar millionaire who live in a big Victorian mansion at 68th and Fifth. Within a few months the couple went to China, and they barely escaped the unrest that soon toppled the Manchu rulers."

After the Straights, the house was owned by Judge Gary and then by Mrs. Harrison Williams. In 2001, the photography museum announced it would vacate the building and its subsequently acquired by Bruce Kovner for $17 million and spent another $10 million or so in restoring the building for residential use. The photography museum continued operations in midtown.

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