When the Presbyterian Hospital moved north in the mid-1920's its former site became available for development--the entire block between Madison and Park Avenues, and 70th to 71st Street. It sat among the epicenter of Manhattan wealth and society.
Developer Alfred Rheinstein obtained a substantial chunk of midblock property which contained a total of seven plots on 70th and 71st Streets. He chose architect Aymar Embury II to design his own house, at No. 44; and then urged his six buyers to go with the same architect to maintain continuity. Five agreed including Charles Senff McVeigh who purchased the plot next door to Rheinstein's at No. 40.
In reporting on McVeigh's purchase of the plot, on April 30, 1928 The New York Times explained Alfred Rheinstein's vision of a Sutton Place-type enclave. "These houses will be restricted to five stories and have been so planned that they will surround a garden about 7,000 feet in area. All the sites in this development have been sold to prominent New York families."
Indeed, the houses were being handled as a project. On a single day, August 1, 1928, Aymar Embury II filed plans for four of the residences. Included was the McVeigh house with construction costs set at $75,000; just over $1 million today.
Like its neighbors and completed the following year, the house was faced in red brick and trimmed in marble. The doorway was flanked by fluted pilasters which supported a swag-carved entablature. Blind balustrades front the trio of French windows at the second floor. Between the fourth and fifth floors were three delicately-carved marble panels. A brick parapet perforated by stone balustrades crowned the simple cornice.
|The Alfred Rheinstein house is to the left of the newly-completed McVeigh residence photo by Samuel H. Gottscho from the collection of the Museum of the City of New York
Charles S. McVeigh was a partner in the law firm of Morris & McVeigh and the chairman of the board of the Fulton Trust Company. He and his wife, the former Alice Antille Bacon, had three children, Charles, Jr., Walter and Newton.
|Certain of the interiors closely followed the 18th century motif of the architecture. photo by Samuel H. Gottscho from the collection of the Museum of the City of New York
Not having a daughter of her own did not completely prevent Alice from getting involved in the exciting debutante seasons, at least in 1932-33. In December 1932 the New York Evening Post commented, "The second Junior Assembly on January 5, is to be the excuse for several exclusive dinner parties this season. Added to the number is one Mr. and Mrs. Charles S. McVeigh of 40 east Seventy-first street will give for Miss Elizabeth Corson Ellis, the debutante daughter of Mr. and Mrs. john MacEwan Ellis of Rumson, N. J."
|Other areas of the house like the dining room (above) and entrance hall were decidedly influenced by the current Art Deco style. photos by Samuel H. Gottscho from the collection of the Museum of the City of New York
The family's country residence was Knollwood, a 270-acre estate near East Northwich, Long Island. McVeigh had inherited the 60-room mansion and grounds from his aunt, Gustavia A. Senff, in 1927.
|The McVeigh family's summer home, Knollwood, was designed by Hiss & Weekes in 1906. photo Architecture Magazine, 1911 (copyright expired)
As the McVeigh boys married and left, Charles and Alice seem to have downsized. Around 1950 they moved to a large apartment at the corner of Fifth Avenue and East 76th Street. A story in The New York Times in September 1951 said that McVeigh had sold Knollwood to Gustav S. Zog I of Albania, and that the former king had paid "with a bucket of diamonds and rubies."
No. 40 East 71st Street became home to Murray M. Salzberg. A renovation completed in 1951 resulted in a garage carved into the ground floor--a decision that neither Aymar Embury, Charles McVeigh nor Alfred Rheinstein would have embraced.
The son of Russian immigrants, Salzberg was the owner of two Queens bus companies as well as the Des Moines and Southern Railroad, the Johnsbury County Railroad in Arkansas, the Arkansas and Ozark Railroad and other short-line railroads in Maine, Kansas Arkansas, and upstate New York. He helped to develop the Salzberg Transportation Institute at his alma mater, Syracuse University.
The Salzberg residency would be relatively short-lived. On June 12, 1959 The New York Times reported that he had sold the house to the Government of Tunisia for use as its mission to the United Nations. Interior alterations were completed for the mission in 1962. When the mission later moved to Beekman Place the McVeigh house returned to a single-family home.
photograph by the author