Friday, January 8, 2021

The Adolph and Lillian Pavenstadt House - 10 East 64th Street

An idea of the original appearance of No. 10 can be gotten from the glimpse of No. 12, to the left.

In 1878 the architectural firm of D. & J. Jardine designed a row of four high-stooped houses on East 64th Street, just east of Central Park, for Edward Kilpatrick.   The neo-Grec design of the 20-foot wide homes was the latest in domestic fashion.

No. 10 was purchased by Isaac Meinhard and his wife, the former Amelia Rosenheim.  Meinhard was born in Burghashlach, Germany in 1836 and immigrated to Savannah, Georgia with his family in 1860.  He and his brother Henry opened a wholesale dry goods firm, Meinhard Brothers & Co., there.  Following the end of the Civil War he brought his family to New York.

Isaac and Amelia had four children: Henry, Alice, Minnie and Leo.  The family's name only occasionally appeared in society columns, mostly in reference to their trips abroad.  Significant exceptions were the marriages of their daughters, Alice in 1886 and Minnie in 1894.  Both were married in upscale ceremonies at Delmonico's.  As had been the case with her sister's wedding, following Minnie's "a reception dinner and ball followed," as reported by the New-York Daily Tribune.

In June 1898 Meinhard sold the house to William P. and Adelaide C. Hardenbergh.  The Sun reported the price paid was "about $40,000," or just over $1.25 million today.

Hardenbergh was a vice-president of the New Jersey Zinc Company.  He and Adelaide had two children, William, Jr., and Sara.  Their country home was in Bernardsville, New Jersey.

It was there, in St. Bernard's Church, that Sara was married to Hugh J. Chishold, Jr. on June 25, 1910.  The Sun romantically reported, "It was at a country wedding that Mr. and Mrs. Hugh J. Chisholm Jr. were married."  The reception was held in the Hardenbergh house.  The Sun noted that William "has just bought the Marion Story place at Westchester," as well.

Adelaide appeared in society pages as she hosted receptions and other entertainments.  An example was on December 8, 1920, when, as reported by The New York Times, she "entertained with a dinner and dancing at her residence."

By the time of that event the brownstone house was more than three decades old and decidedly out of architectural fashion.  But that would change when the Hardenberghs sold it to newlyweds Adolph and Lillian M. Pavenstadt in July 1922.  The following month the Real Estate Record & Builders' Guide reported that the Pavenstadts had hired architect Donn Barber to make $35,000 worth of alterations to the residence.  (The cost would translate to about $534,000 today.)

While renovations got underway the Pavenstadts went to Europe.  On November 5 the New York Herald reported "on their return [they] will occupy their new home at 10 East Sixty-fourth street."  

The house to which the couple returned looked nothing like the one they had purchased.  Barber had stripped off the brownstone front and stoop, pulled the façade to the property line, and produced a limestone-faced Adamesque style mansion unlike anything in the district.  A broad, grilled entrance sat within the rusticated base.  The two-story midsection was dominated by double-height, free-standing columns.  The grouped openings of the fourth floor sat below a triangular pediment which fronted the slate mansard level.

The Pavenstadts had been married in 1921, just months before buying No. 10.  The Washington D.C. newspaper The Evening Star noted, "Mrs. Pavenstedt is remembered in Washington as the Baroness von Sternberg, wife of the late former ambassador of Germany."  Her former husband, Baron Hermann Speck von Sternburg, died in 1908.  Born in America as Lillian Langham, Adolph was now her second German-born husband.  

An expatriate banker, Pevenstadt had been an advisor to Count Johann von Bernstorff during World War I.  Both drew governmental suspicion when Pavenstadt negotiated a deal between von Bernstorff and an infamous spy, Bolo Pacha.  $1,700,000 was passed to Pacha who was to use it bribe the French press to start a propaganda campaign.  Although Pavenstadt swore he did not know the intended use of the money, in January 1918 he was detained on Ellis Island for the duration of the war.  

The couple now immersed themselves in Manhattan society.  On February 21, 1927 The New York Sun reported, for instance, "Mr. and Mrs. Adolf J. Pavenstedt will give a dinner this evening at their home, 10 East Sixty-fourth street, and take their guests to the opera." 

Lillian's sister, Ivy, had married Count de Faramond de Lafajole of France in 1904.  The two couples traveled back and forth across the Atlantic for extended visits.  On November 23, 1934, for instance, The New York Sun, reported "The Countess de Faramond de Lafojole, from Paris, has joined Mrs. Adolph J. Pavenstedt at 10 East Sixty-fourth street."  And on October 17, 1936 the newspaper reported that the Pavenstedts had returned from Europe, adding that "Count and Countess de Framond de Lafajole and their youngest son, Vicomte Jack de Faramond de Lafajole, are due from France soon to join Mr. and Mrs. Pavenstedt."

Receptions and dinners slowed at No. 10 East 64th Street by the early 1940's.  A somewhat catty article in the Albany Times-Union on February 21, 1941 began, "Mrs. Henry S. Redmond and Mrs. Adolf Pavenstedt are two formerly prominent hostesses of whom one hears little these days."  The writer noted that "Both ladies still possess sizeable fortunes and dwell in the grand manner," but continued "Mrs. Pavenstedt has followed in Mrs. Redmond's footsteps--I suspect both ladies with years creeping upon them, have wearied of the very thing that once was the Alpha and Omega of their existence."

By 1947 the mansion was home to Arthur T. and Alice M. Ford.  It received a high-profile owner in 1992 when it was purchased by Ivana Trump, former wife of Donald Trump, for $2.5 million.  

She raised the ire of her neighbors in 1994 by installing gilded lamps on either side of the entrance and erecting a "large burgundy canopy," as described by The New York Times on March 27.  The commercial-looking canopy did not escape the notice of the Landmarks Preservation Commission, either, which slapped her with violations.

Art dealer and neighbor Pat Kery told Times reporter Marvine Howe, "what strikes me more than the canopy is all that gold glitter and red flocked wallpaper in the lobby, which really lights up the block."

Ivanna Trump's canopy and façade-mounted lighting fixtures quickly came down.  photograph by William E. Sauro/The New York Times.

The house was the venue of Ivana Trump's launch of her "Ivana Living Legend Wine Collection" on October 18, 2011.

Ivana Trump and her daughter, Ivanka, at the launch of the wine collection within the house.  Black Tie Magazine, October 22, 2011

As it did in 1922, Donn Barber's striking remake of the 1879 brownstone stands out along the upscale block, unlike anything in the neighborhood.

photographs by the author

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