Friday, July 29, 2011

The Amory S. Carhart Mansion - 3 East 95th Street

photo by Traditional Building Magazine
As the summer of 2000 wound to an end, the Lycee Francaise de New York made a decision.  It would sell the six exquisite East Side mansions that it had used for decades as its “campus” and consolidate into a single, modern building.

Among the grand residences to be sold was the Amory S. Carhart mansion at 3 East 95th Street.

The Carharts had chosen a plot just off Fifth Avenue on East 95th Street in January 1913 as the site of their new home.  Twice the size of most Manhattan residential lots, it measured 50 feet wide.  A more fashionable neighborhood could not have been selected.  Next door Ernesto Fabbri and his wife Edith, a granddaughter of Commodore Cornelius Vanderbilt, were planning their new home as the block filled with elegant mansions.

As was often the case at the turn of the century, property was listed in the name of the wife; as so it would be with the Carhart house.  On August 4, 1913 the American Stone Trade newspaper casually mentioned that “Horace Trumbauer, 200 Fifth Ave., New York City, architect, has filed plans for a 4-story brick and stone residence to be erected at 3 East 95th St. for Mrs. Anthony [sic] S. Carhart, 52 Exchange Place.  Cost about $125,000.”

Although Trumbauer kept an office in New York, he is most often thought of as a Philadelphia architect.   Construction began that year on what Trumbauer designed as a Louis XVI Parisian townhouse – the architectural flavor of the month with New York’s millionaires at the time.

Work on the house progressed steadily and by May 31, 1914 a New York Times headline proclaimed “Expensive Home for Mrs. Amory S. Carhart Nearing Completion in Ninety-fifth Street.”  It would not be so, however.  The Carharts would never live in their grand home.

Work ground to a halt and the building sat uncompleted until 1919 when Mrs. Carhart died.

Millionaire Clarence H. Mackay purchased the unfinished house and construction was resumed.   While Mackay seemed to have every intention to live in the Carhart mansion, within the year he purchased “for his occupancy,” according to The Times, the Stuart Duncan house at 3 East 75th Street, next door to the opulent Edward Harkness mansion.
Clarence Mackay completed construction of the Carhart mansion then hung a FOR SALE sign on the balcony -- photo NYPL Collection

The Carhart mansion was completed in August 1921.  An outstanding example of French Classicism, it rose four stories above the sidewalk.  Above the rusticated base, a stone balcony with wrought iron railing extended the width of the home.    Here three sets of French doors in arched openings opened.  Decorative carved panels separated these from the third floor windows.  Above a bold cornice, a mansard roof was punctuated by three arched dormers.

Inside were wood-paneled rooms, marble fireplaces and a sweeping staircase.

The mansion became home to Mr. and Mrs.  Francis Saxham Elwes Drury.  The English-born Drury came from a noted family and Mabel Drury was the daughter of the fabulously wealthy Elbridge T. Gerry.  When Mabel died in the house in 1930, she left an estate of $7 million and the stipulation that her husband could continue to use her properties.

In 1935 the Lycee Francais de New York acquired the property and began careful renovations.  Three years later, on April 25, 1938, Count de Saint-Quentin, French Ambassador to the United States, dedicated the school.  While care was taken to preserve most of the interiors; renovation of a residence into a school necessarily requires changes – fire doors, exit signs, industrial lighting and communal bathrooms.  In addition, years of use by school-aged children typically wears heavily on any structure.

When the school decided to sell in 2000, it commissioned Zivkovic Connolly Architects to design a compatible structure to replace the uninspired school building next door at No. 5 in hopes of increasing the sale value.  The architects, working with the Landmarks Preservation Commission, produced a striking, modern building drawing loosely on the designs of Trumbauer’s adjoining mansion.

The modern structure next door at No. 5 was build using 2-foot thick masonry construction and superbly-blending architecture -- photo Traditional Building Magazine

In the meantime, the Carhart mansion was renovated into four exclusive residential condominiums.  Among them was the 10,350 square foot duplex owned by executive Dennis Mehiel and his wife.  The five-bedroom unit with a 1,100 square foot living room was relisted by the couple in 2008 for $35 million.

The Carhart mansion was designated a New York City landmark in 1974, the Commission calling it “one of the finest examples” in New York City of 18th Century French Classicism.


  1. Are #3 and #5 joined in the interior making one mansion? I don't see an entrance for #5 so I assume so. Thank you.

    1. Yes, they are. No. 5 is relatively new, built as an annex.

  2. I feel old suddenly ;)
    I went to school there (1985-1989). I was fully aware of the beautiful decor, even if it was not entirely functional as a school building. We had a gorgeous library, and 2 ballrooms for graduation ceremonies, concerts (alas classical only... ), and of course student dances.
    I'm very pleased by the reconstruction of the side building in the same style (the previous was ugly but functional)

    1. II also went to school there (1951-1958). No.3 was all that was there. No. 5 was an empty space where we went for fresh air after lunch. I have great memories. 11eme to 7eme.

    2. (am 1st anonymous) always glad to hear from other alumni (even anon.) !