Saturday, May 21, 2011

The 1921 Arthur Sachs House -- No. 42 East 69th Street

Charles Pierrepont Henry Gilbert designed an austere Gothic mansion for the Sachs -- photo by Gryffindor
East 69th Street just off 5th Avenue in 1919 was well-established as a high-toned residential neighborhood. The New York Times proclaimed that “This block is considered one of the most attractive on the entire east side, containing the homes of many prominent citizens.”

Indeed, residents like Henry Sloane, George Blumenthal, Augustus G. Payne and Percy Pyne were living on this block when financier Arthur Sachs purchased two large homes at Nos. 42 and 44 in February of that year.

The two 25-foot wide mansions had been owned by Mrs. N. H. Herzberg and Mrs. S. H. Abrahamson. Sachs spent a total of $200,000 for the two homes in order to build “two interesting additions to the fine east side residence colony,” as explained by The Times.

The newspaper went on to say “The purchaser will raze the present dwellings and erect a modern English basement residence. The remaining 22 feet he will reserve for another fine residence.”

In planning his “modern English basement residence,” Sachs sought the services of mansion architect C. P. H. Gilbert. Throughout the 1880s and 90s Gilbert had designed some of the most lavish homes in New York, including the French Renaissance Isaac D. Fletcher mansion, the Felix M. Warburg house in a similar style, the elegant Morton F. Plant house (later to become the New York headquarters of Cartier) and the extravagant De Lamar House at the corner of Madison Avenue and 37th Street.

Gilbert was entering the final years of his active career – by the end of the 1920s he would stop designing homes altogether. For the Sachs house he would take an abrupt change of course from his trademark ornate structures.

For Sachs, who was a member of the banking firm Goldman, Sachs, Co., the architect produced a severe Gothic structure with little ornamentation other than the pointed-arch windows and their surrounds, a carved stone balcony at the fourth floor with heavy open quatrefoils and two pointed dormers thrusting through the roofline. Years later the AIA Guide to New York City would pronounce it “stolid medieval,” The Guide added that the “flat limestone fa├žade, ornamented only at the openings, gives it bearing.”

In 1921, after two years of construction the house was completed. Sachs and his wife, the former Alice Goldschmidt, lived and entertained here for only nine years. In 1930, not long after the couple hosted a stylish reception following a concert by Andrew Segovia, Alice Sachs died. Within a year Arthur sold the home he had built with his wife.

Edward H. Foley, Jr., the Under Secretary of the Treasury under President Truman, purchased the house. The couple split their time between No. 42 E. 69th Street and their home in Washington D.C. until July 13, 1954 when the mansion was sold to the Jewish National Fund of America.

The non-profit Fund was organized in 1901 as part of the World Zionist movement to purchase land for a Jewish State in the Ottoman-controlled Palestine. As the state of Israel was born, the organization turned its focus to creating parks, planting trees and serving the residents of Israel.

After a one-year renovation, the Fund opened its new headquarters on November 6, 1955.

Quietly performing its operations from the house for over half a century, the Fund flies no flags nor banners; it announces its presence only by a small plaque. The austere Arthur Sachs house is remarkably unchanged nearly a century after construction.


  1. really love the architecture and color...


  2. It's quite a unique house -- one you wouldn't quite expect in Manhattan.