The 42nd Annual Kips Bay Decorator Show House: A Storied NYC Address
Situated between 50th and 51st Street (across the Avenue from the Gothic Revival spires of Saint Patrick’s Cathedral), 457 Madison, known now as The Mansion on Madison, is one of six private-but-connected brownstones designed and built around a grand central courtyard, in the manner of Rome’s historic Palazzo della Cancellaria.
In the last quarter of the 19th century, journalist turned railroad financier, entrepreneur, and philanthropist Henry Villard (who, with his friend Thomas A. Edison, was also one of the founding partners of GE) commissioned the then fledgling but very-soon-to-be famous architecture firm of McKim, Mead & White to build the classically inspired compound as a Manhattan estate, on a parcel of land on Madison Avenue, between 50th and 51st Streets. But Villard’s Northern Pacific Railway venture went belly-up before the grand residence was complete, sidetracking the family’s townhouse plans, and he never got comfortable in his Madison Avenue dream home—though the properties, named a landmark by the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission in 1968, remain known by his name to this very day.
Instead, the team from McKim, Mead & White completed the project for a few other well-off New Yorkers of the Gilded Age (and their servants). And, of course, in the 1970s, the Villard Houses became the grand entrance at the foot of a luxurious modern hotel tower (and home away from home for celebrities, as well as a fictional TV-show character or two), envisioned by Harry Helmsley. Helmsley’s widow, the ever-flamboyant and fastidious Leona, had to give up ownership, notoriously…but there’s been plenty written about that....
Villard Houses exterior, prior to renovation, circa 1976. Library of Congress.
Enter, this spring, a dream team of 13 internationally respected designers, selected to transform the luxurious north wing of the Villard Houses, now connected to the main entrance of The New York Palace hotel, into a place of wonder and inspiration. And Best & Company is proud to working behind the scenes to make part of the magic possible.
“Rooted in history, the opulence of The Mansion on Madison speaks for itself. Until now, a venue of this scale is one that no show house has ever dreamt of taking on,” said James Druckman, President and CEO of the New York Design Center, and President of the Board of the Kips Bay Boys & Girls Club. “We’re excited to elevate this year’s show house to an untapped level and offer unique amenities through our partnership with The New York Palace.”
Proceeds from the Decorator Show House, which attracts an estimated 15,000 visitors each year, benefit the Kips Bay Boys & Girls Club, which offers innovative after-school and enrichment programs for more than 11,000 youth, ages 6 through 18, in ten locations throughout the Bronx.
The show opens to the public on Thursday, May 1st and remains open through Thursday May 29th. For tickets and information www.kipsbaydecoratorshowhouse.org.
We hope to see you there!
A WINNING TEAM
At Best & Company, we are mindful of the role “home” plays in shaping our lives.
That’s why we volunteer our time and talent to a number of important projects around the metropolitan New York area targeted at providing warm, safe, comfortable living environments for our neighbors in need.
For clients who’d like to join us in our efforts to help assure decent housing for our neighbors, we keep you posted on some of our most recent activities here on our Community page.
Recently, Best & Company had an opportunity to put our organizational skills to work for WIN, one of New York City’s largest nonprofit providers of housing, help, and hope for women and children in need of temporary and transitional shelter, job training, childcare, and the kinds of support families need to get back on their feet and live independently.
Thanks to the generosity of donors from around New York, one of WIN’s residences was brimming with a seasonal supply of warm coats and back-to-work clothes. But the women needed a better place than their cluttered common room to sort through things and try them on for size. That’s where we came in.
By designing and building a new selection room, try-on space, and overflow storage area to organize donated clothing formerly presented to residents in heaps, we hope to contribute in some small way in relieving a bit of chaos in our neighbors’ lives, and restore a sense of self-confidence and hope that is essential to making a fresh start.
We’ll keep you posted on the project’s progress. In the meantime, we hope you’ll want to learn more about WIN and the good work they have been doing for 30 years, here.