The history of Pratt Mansions is one of Gilded Era luxury, exquisite architecture, illustrious families and a mansion that, when it was built, was the most expensive in New York City.
Beginnings: After Central Park was opened in 1876, upper Fifth Avenue emerged as one of New York City’s most desirable addresses. Beautiful views, limited cross town traffic and wide sidewalks (perfect for promenading) all helped make Fifth Avenue north of 59th Street a mecca for influential families of America’s Gilded Age.
A Golden Age (1890-1910): Scores of mansions and townhouses were erected on Fifth Avenue including many designed by Richard Morris Hunt who introduced the country to Beaux Arts and Renaissance Revival architecture. A plaque commemorating Hunt is installed in the wall of Central Park across Fifth Avenue from today’s Frick Museum at 70th Street.
The End of an Era: But the mansion era ended as quickly as it began. After 1910, no new mansions were constructed and many were torn down to make way for apartment houses. Today, remarkably few remain – the three that make up Pratt Mansions (at 1026, 1027 and 1028 Fifth Avenue) are a window into a storied past. Now combined and interconnected, they were originally designed as three separate mansions.
1028 Fifth Avenue – Thorne Mansion: Originally a retirement home for Jonathan Thorne, Jr. a major figure in New York’s large and prosperous leather industry, 1028 was designed by the well known architect Charles Pierrepont Henry (C.P.H). Gilbert who, like Richard Morris Hunt, was famous for adapting the French Late Gothic limestone châteaux style to America. Gilbert’s other mansions on Fifth Avenue include the Jewish Museum at 92nd Street, the Ukrainian Institute at 79th Street and the Cartier building in midtown. The construction at 1028 spanned 1901-1903 and remained Thorne’s home until he died in 1920 when the house was sold to Florence Vanderbilt Burden, the granddaughter of William Henry Vanderbilt and the great-granddaughter of Cornelius Vanderbilt.
1027 – Pratt Mansion: Designed by the architectural firm of Van Vleck and Goldsmith, and built on speculation for Benjamin Williams between 1901 and 1903, the milk-white façade of 1027 Fifth Avenue was unusual even by the standards of Gilded Age extravagance. An article appearing in the New York Times described 1027 as a mansion “on a magnificent scale,” the most expensive house built for sale in New York when it was erected. Once completed, Williams sold it to George Crawford Clark, a banker, for $540,000. In 1919, the mansion was purchased by Herbert Lee Pratt who, like his father before him, was a leading figure in the U.S. oil industry. When he became head of Standard Oil Company of New York in 1923 he appeared on the cover of Time.
1026 – Milbank Mansion: Constructed at the same time as 1027, also on speculation for Williams and designed by Van Vleck and Goldsmith, 1026 Fifth Avenue was first occupied by Mary Kingsland, a banker’s widow, and upon her death in 1919 was sold to Dunlevy Milbank, the son of Joseph Milbank (one of the builders of the Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Paul Railroad) and a financier who was one of New York’s leading philanthropists.
The preservation of these three historic mansions is the result of their purchase and continuous use as the Marymount School of New York. The 1028 mansion was purchased from the Vanderbilts in 1925 in preparation for the opening of the school a year later. The 1027 building was purchased from Herbert Pratt in 1936 and in 1950 the School bought 1026 Fifth Avenue from the Milbank family. In 1971, the three mansions were designated by the Landmarks Commission as part of the Metropolitan Museum Historic District and in 1999, inducted into the National Register of Historic Places.
To inquire about using all or part of Pratt Mansions for an event or special occasion, call 646-879-7259 or email.