|photo by Alice Lum|
Here at No. 28 East 21st Street the architect established his studio and office. Trained at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris, he had already received important commissions from wealthy New Yorkers and that year had completed his own Newport summer cottage.
|Behind the quiet brownstone facade, some of the most impressive buildings in America were conceived -- photo by Alice Lum|
In 1878 Hunt founded The Society of Decorative Arts to provide art classes for respectable women. The society was operated from the East 21st Street mansion. The 1887 guidebook “How to Know New York City” mentioned the Society’s “classes, library and sales-rooms,” and a few years later, in 1893, “King’s Handbook of New York City” said it “has classes in fine needle-work, china-painting, fan-painting, water-colors, and other branches of art; and aims to thoroughly train women, each in one kind of decorative art.”
|The heavy double entrance doors were, no doubt, part of the 1896 re-do -- photo by Alice Lum|
Annually the Society would put on its highly-anticipated Easter Sale. On April 11, 1886 The New York Times reported that among items offered would be “many charming specimens of needlework. There will be also a variety of chairs, cushions, curtains, and bedspreads, and many other novelties for Easter gifts.”
The Easter Sale of 1892 reflected the Society’s increased selection of courses. There were now “Hungarian embroidery work” and a “fine display of china painted by the students.” A reporter noted that “The china display has attracted much attention, and the pieces are as a general thing remarkably well arranged.”
There were a “number of pieces of ribbon work set in Louis XVI screens,” deemed “particularly fine” by The New York Times critic, and a number of “handsome” hand-painted fans, as well as lamp shades, cushions, and sofa pillows.
The modern housewife could economically accessorize her home with the latest in domestic fashion by attending the Society sales.
Richard Morris Hunt died in 1895. He had not only produced monumental structures like the façade of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, he had founded the American Institute of Architects and the Municipal Art Society.
|photo by Alice Lum|
|Classic brownstone Italianate pediments cap the windows. The diamond-panes were part of the 1896 update -- photo by Alice Lum|
|Richard H. Hunt's studio in 1915 -- photo by The Architectural League (copyright expired)|
|Little has changed on East 21st Street since the 1950s -- photo NYPL Collection|
|The original iron railings have been lost and the brownstone stoop could use repair; but the house at No. 28 E 21st survives remarkably intact -- photo by Alice Lum|