Monday, October 3, 2022

The Lost Amos Pinchot House - 1021 Park Avenue


photo by Wurts Bros, from the collection of the Museum of the City of New York

In 1905 Amos Richards Eno Pinchot was hired as an apprentice lobbyist for President Theodore Roosevelt.  Born in Paris into wealth and privilege, Pinchot had grown up at his family's 3,000-acre estate, Grey Towers, in Pennsylvania; and in their Gramercy Park townhome.

The mansion at Grey Towers was designed by Richard Morris Hunt, from the collection Skylands

Pinchot studied law at the New York Law School and had been admitted to the New York bar in 1900.  That year, on November 14, he married Gertrude Minturn, daughter of shipping mogul Robert Bowne Minturn, Jr.  They had two children, Rosamond and Gifford (who was named after Gifford Pinchot, Amos's brother, the first director of the United States Forest Service).

Amos Richards Eno Pinchot, from the collection of the Library of Congress

When the train tracks that ran down the middle of Park Avenue were covered over in 1902, Park Avenue--hitherto a marginal residential street--suddenly had grand potential.  In May 1906, Pinchot purchased the two wooden structures and the brick stable that occupied the northeast corner of Park Avenue of 85th Street as the site of his new mansion.  It was a pioneering move that required additional precautions.  To insure that his investment was secure, he bought up as much of the surrounding properties as possible; selling them only to wealthy buyers, with the stipulation that the plots be used for private house construction.

Pinchot hired the firm of Hunt & Hunt to design his residence.   (The architects were the sons of Richard Morris Hunt, who had designed Grey Towers.)  The limestone-faced, Renaissance Revival mansion rose four stories on a plot 51 by 102 feet.  Pinchot's bold move in building here was reflected in a comment four years later, on August 231, 1909, in the Record & Guide.  "Except for Mr. Amos R. E. Pinchot's house, at the northeast cor. of 85th st. in Park av., there are very few high-class residences north of 80th st. in Park av."

The Brickbuilder, March 1910 (copyright expired)

Following the death of his father, James Wallace Pinchot, in 1908, Pinchot's mother and sister would be frequent house guests.  Mary Jane Eno Pinchot, who lived in Washington D.C., was the daughter of New York City's wealthiest real estate developer, Amos Eno.  Pinchot's sister, Antoinette, was the wife of Lord Alan Johnstone of England.

On March 1, 1908, the New-York Tribune reported, "Mrs. James Pinchot and her daughter, Lady Johnstone, went to New York to-night to visit Mrs. Pinchot's son, at No. 1021 Park avenue, for a week.  On Saturday Lady Johnstone will sail for Europe on the Lusitania and Mrs. Pinchot will return to Washington."

And on December 23 that year, the newspaper reported "Mrs. James W. Pinchot went to New York to-day to spend the Christmas holidays with her son, Amos Pinchot, at No. 1021 Park avenue."

Mary was visiting in June 1911 when she suffered an appendicitis attack.  She was operated upon in the Park Avenue mansion, and on June 23 The Sun noted, "She is believed to be practically out of danger."  And later that year, in December, The New York Times announced, "Mrs. Amos R. Pinchot is giving a dinner this evening, followed by music, at her residence, 1,021 Park Avenue, for Lady Johnstone, who was Miss Pinchot."

The last entertainment for Lady Johnstone and, perhaps, the last social function the Pinchots would give in the mansion, occurred on November 25, 1913.  The New York Times reported, "Mrs. Amos R. Eno Pinchot gave a large dance last night at her residence, 1,021 Park Avenue, for her sister-in-law, Lady Alan Johnstone."

Things had become strained between Amos and Gertrude by then.  On October 3, 1914 the Record & Guide reported that Pinchot had leased "the large furnished house" to Vincent Astor and his bride, Helen Dinsmore Huntington.  Astor's father, John Jacob Astor IV had perished on the RMS Titanic two years earlier, making him among the richest men in the world.

In reporting on the lease, The New York Times noted that the house, "has a large ballroom and is splendidly furnished, having many rare objects of art...It is probable that they will do considerable entertaining this Winter.  They will be seen frequently at the opera."

The ballroom mentioned by The New York Times (labelled "salon" in the floorplans), engulfed the Park Avenue side of the second floor.  The Brickbuilder, March 1910 (copyright expired)

The first "formal entertainment" given by the Astors in the mansion was on February 9, 1915.  The Sun noted, "It will be a dinner and dance, but not a large party."  A less social gathering occurred on February 2, 1916, when the couple invited an unexpected mix of guests for lunch.  Around the table that afternoon were Theodore Roosevelt, Diamond Jim Brady, Mrs. John Astor, Morris Knowles (of the United States Steel Corporation), Ida Tarbell, and Grant La Farge.

Helen Astor had visited Barren Island the previous summer "and saw the shacks in which the Italian laborers live with their families," explained The Sun.  She had become deeply concerned, and the article said that during lunch "the problems of housing the immigrant was discussed."

Pinchot leased the mansion the following social season to Margaret Emerson Vanderbilt, whose husband, Alfred Gwynne Vanderbilt, had died on the torpedoed RMS Lusitania on May 7, 1915.  The Record & Guide reported she would be paying $25,000 rent for the year, or about $528,000 in today's money.

The Pinchot family would not return to 1021 Park Avenue.  (The couple's marriage continued to deteriorate and they divorced in 1918.)  Amos Pinchot sold 1021 to Edward Reilly Stettinius and his wife, Judith Wimbish Carrington.  On November 4, 1916 the Record & Guide reported that they would occupy the house "when the present lease...expires next spring."  Stettinius was the president of the Diamond Match Company in Ohio, but was relocating his family to New York to become a partner in the J. P. Morgan banking firm.  He and Judith had four children, William Carrington, Isabelle, Edward Jr., and Elizabeth Carrington.

As it turned out, Stettinius would see little of the Park Avenue mansion for a few years.  The entry of the United States into World War I changed life for the family.  Stettinius, who had been in the chief buyer of war supplies for the Allies through his position at J. P. Morgan, was now employed by the War Department.  He was put in charge of procuring and producing United States Army supplies.  A year after purchasing 1021 Park Avenue, he was made Assistant Secretary of War.

The family necessarily acquired a townhouse in Washington D.C. and Judith found herself mostly in charge of the family as her husband routinely went abroad.  On November 3, 1918, for instance, The Sun reported, "Mrs. Edward R. Stettinius and the Misses Isabel and Betty Stettinius , who were at the White Sulphur Springs for the summer, will not be in Washington D.C. again.  They are now at their home 1021 Park avenue, for the winter.  Mr. Stettinius is abroad in the interest of the Government."

Edward Stettinius was overseas in the fall of 1919 when he received a telegram that Judith was gravely ill.  It came at a time when the influenza pandemic was taking more victims than the war.  He arrived in New York on the French liner La France on October 8.  The Sun reported, "The ship came into quarantine too late to be passed, but Mr. Stettinius...received permission to leave the vessel in a Customs tug."  An automobile was waiting for him at the Battery, which rushed him to the Park Avenue residence.  "There he found Mrs. Stettinius was very much improved," said the article.

Edward would have been sailing home soon, in any event.  Isabel's wedding to John B. Marsh, took place in St. James's Church on Madison Avenue the following month, on November 19, 1919.  The Sun reported, "Owing to the recent illness of Mrs. Stettinius the reception, which will follow at the family home, 1021 Park avenue, will be small."

On March 30, 1921 William was married to Achsah Ridgely Petre in St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Baltimore.

The political and social ties Edward Stettinius had made during the war were now reflected in the entertainments held on Park Avenue.  On February 20, 1921, the New-York Tribune reported, "Mr. and Mrs. Edward R. Stettinius will give a luncheon party to-day in their home...for Mr. and Mrs. Herbert Hoover.  A number of distinguished persons will be among the guests."  And on April 4 that year the couple hosted a dinner party for General John J. Pershing and other distinguished guests.

Edward Reilly Stettinius, The American Review of Reviews, 1918 (copyright expired)

The following winter social season was an important one.  Elizabeth was to be introduced to society.  But as the December entertainments approached, she was stricken with an attack of appendicitis and in November underwent surgery.  Happily, on November 26 the New-York Tribune reported she was "progressing so favorably that is had not been found necessary to change the date of their proposed dance.  It will be held on the night of December 27."

Fortunately for Betty, as she was known, she was indeed recuperated enough to be feted with a tea in the mansion on the afternoon of December 6, followed by the dance and tea at the Plaza hotel on December 27.

The Stettinius country home was in Locust Valley, Long Island.  It was there that Edward R. Stettinius died on September 3, 1925.  The New York Times commented, "Mr. Stettinius labored so prodigiously for the Allies and later for this country that he undermined his health, and when he underwent an operation for appendicitis in August, 1920, he never fully recovered his strength."  His funeral was held in Locust Valley.

Stettinius left the bulk of his estate to Judith.  On September 16, 1925 The New York Times remarked, "The value was not disclosed, but it is estimated at more than $10,000,000."  (That amount would translate to about $155 million in 2022.)

The following year, on May 15, Edward Jr. married Virginia Gordon Wallace.  Like his father, he would serve his country.  He became the United States Secretary of State under Presidents Franklin D. Roosevelt and Harry S. Truman, and served as U. S. Ambassador to the United Nations from 1945 to 1946.

In 1928, three years after Edward Reilly Stettinius's death and just 21 years after it was built, the magnificent limestone mansion was demolished.  It was replaced by an Anthony Campagna designed apartment building that survives.

image via
photograph by the author
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  1. Doug Floor Plan
    Grey Towers, in the photograph you posted, was designed by Horace Trumbauer. It was Trumbauer's first big commission.
    1021 Park Ave is an interesting house; but the sons did not have the talent of their father.

  2. i think the confusion stems from the wrong the image of grey towers. The one above is the one in Glenside, PA. That one was designed by Trumbauer. it is on the campus of Arcadia University. The Pinchot's Grey Towers was designed by R.M.Hunt and is in Milford, PA. Big Old Houses blogspot has more details under Liberal Towers.

    1. Photograph of Grey Towers corrected. Sorry for the confusion.

  3. The lighter color of the apartment building's three base almost creates an 'echo' of the mansion which preceeded it.

    1. I never would have noticed had you not pointed it out. You have a very good eye.