Wednesday, March 13, 2024

Emery Roth & Sons's 1938 2 Sutton Place South


image via

By the first years of the Great Depression, the Sutton Place neighborhood--described by The New York Times in 1920 as "a slum"--was rapidly transforming into one of Manhattan's most fashionable enclaves.  In 1937, the old houses at the southwest corner of Sutton Place South and 57th Street were demolished and Emery Roth & Sons was commissioned to replace them with a high-end apartment building.  

Notable for designing apartment buildings, Emery Roth & Sons drew from the Italian Renaissance for 2 Sutton Square South.  The two-story base was clad in mauve-veined stone, its entrance discreetly tucked within a recessed, corner porte-cochère behind a stone balustrade.  Here well-heeled residents could alight from their vehicles in privacy.  In contrast to the relatively unadorned upper floors, the porte-cochère featured double-height Corinthian pilasters and spandrels of carved Renaissance decorations.

The is entrance hidden within the porte-cochère .  image via

The brick-faced upper floors were relatively unadorned, other than stone quoins and a course of inset geometric designs between the third and fourth floors.  The triptych windows were as much an architectural element as mere fenestration.

Among the early residents were newly-married William Saroyan and his bride Carol Grace, who leased one of the penthouses.  Still in the U.S. Army, the playwright and novelist was stationed in the Astoria Army Post in Queens, assigned to the Army's film unit.  According to Lawrence Lee and Barry Gifford in their 1951 Saroyan, A Biography, Saroyan was not cut out for military life.  "What is certain is that, by the late summer of 1943, Saroyan's obstinate attitude had gotten him into serious trouble with the Army."

William Saroyan in 1940.  from the collection of the Library of Congress.

One morning a slipped disc prevented the writer from commuting to the Queens post.   He called his sergeant and explained the situation.  The Army was not so understanding a few months later.  Saroyan wrote,

A month later, I couldn't get out of bed again, so again I phoned, and I believed the situation was the same as last time, but around eleven two military police, two medical corps sergeants, and  two privates all came up to the penthouse at 2 Sutton Place South.

He was taken to a military hospital for observation as to determine "whether he should be discharged as mentally unfit," according to his biographers.

Another playwright in the building was Rose Franken and her writer husband William Brown Meloney.  The couple married in 1937.  Among the works Franken completed while living here were the 1937 Of Great Riches; Strange Victory and Claudia: the Story of a Marriage, both published in 1939; and the 1940 When Doctors Disagree.

In 1946, producer Walter Wanger was searching for an apartment in the Sutton Place neighborhood as a setting for his film Smash-Up, starring Susan Hayward and Eddie Albert.  In his Keep 'Em in the East--Kazan, Kubrick, and the Postwar New York Film Renaissance, Richard Koszarski writes, "Wanger was even 'stymied for a while by the reluctance of Sutton Place property owners to cooperate in the interests of cinematic art' until one friendly tenant, the playwright Rose Franken, allowed access to her apartment at 2 Sutton Place South."

The most celebrated tenant to date was actress Marilyn Monroe, who moved in following her divorce from baseball great Joe DiMaggio in 1955.  Barbara Leaming, in Marilyn Monroe: A Biography, writes, "On the morning of February 25, 1956, a limousine pulled away from 2 Sutton Place South.  Marilyn, a dark mink coat slung over her shoulders, was on her way to the airport."  Monroe was headed to the West to shoot Bus Stop.  Simultaneously, playwright Arthur Miller was flying to Nevada where he would establish a six-week residency in order to file for divorce from Mary Slattery Miller.

Marilyn Monroe gets into a waiting car at 2 Sutton Place South.  image via

Although several accounts have Monroe and Miller being married in her 2 Sutton Place South apartment, the couple was wed at the Westchester County Courthouse in White Plains, New York on June 29, 1956.  They took an apartment around the corner at 444 East 57th Street.

A much different sort of entertainer at 2 Sutton Place South was Mabel Garrison.  Described by the Daily News as "one of the leading American coloratura sopranos of her time," she had joined the Metropolitan Opera Company in 1914.

The affluence of the residents' was reflected in an incident involving Harry P. Barrand and his wife, the former Helen Stukenborg in 1961.  Barrand was vice president of Manufacturers Hanover Trust Company (where he first met Helen).  The couple was married in Grace Church on April 3, 1948.

Harry and Helen returned from Europe on September 8, 1961.  Cab driver Anthony Soldano picked them up at the pier.  When the Barrands unpacked, they realized that a bag containing $50,000 in jewelry (closer to $490,000 by 2024 conversion) was missing.  The 38-year-old cabbie was tracked down in Florida and arrested on October 21.

Living in a 10-room penthouse apartment in 1963 were Carl J. Schmid and his wife.  Schmid was the owner of Julius Schmid Inc., a pharmaceutical firm.  When the maid answered the door at 1:30 on the afternoon of May 2, 24-year-old David McNeil and 16-year-old Wendell Shanks asked to see Mrs. Schmid.  The Daily News reported, "Mrs. Schmid was at the luncheon table when they were ushered in.  She was immediately suspicious."

"Are you Mrs. Schmid?" asked McNeil (who had recently been released from federal prison after serving a term for impersonating an officer).

Mrs. Schmid replied, "I am, but I'm afraid I don't know you."

"Well, I know you.  This is a stickup," he answered.

Burglarizing the penthouse would be simple.  The Daily News reported, "The Schmids returned only on Wednesday from Europe.  Still in bags, unpacked and easy to cart off when the intruders showed up, were tens of thousands of dollars worth of furs and jewelry."

With unbelievable calm, Mrs. Schmid rose from the table and eased her way out of the room while the young men were distracted.  She later explained, "I nudged Doris.  We walked to the foyer and out the door.  They made no move to stop us.  We went down in the elevator to the ground floor, and the manager called police."

As luck would have it, an elevator maintenance man was working in the building, and he shut off power to the elevators.  When police arrived, they merely waited at the staircase doors to make their arrests.  With the crooks in custody, the mystery remained, according to the Daily News, "how did McNeil know about the Schmids and where they lived?"

By far the most socially prominent resident of 2 Sutton Place at the time was Consuelo Vanderbilt Balsan, the former Duchess of Marlborough.  Her summer estate was in Southampton, Long Island.  The daughter of William Kissam and Alva Smith Vanderbilt, she was married to the ninth Duke of Marlborough in St. Thomas Church on Fifth Avenue on November 6, 1895.

Consuelo Vanderbilt Balsan, the former Duchess of Marlborough.  from the collection of the Library of Congress.

The Duke and Duchess divorced in 1921.  Later that year Consuelo married Lt. Colonel Louis Jacques Balsan of the French Air Army.  The couple built a villa at Èze on the French Riviera, and during World War II came to the United States where Consuelo Balsan regained her United States citizenship.  Balsan died in 1956 at the age of 88.

Consuelo Vanderbilt Balsan lived here and in Southampton, supporting her many charities, until her death on December 6, 1964 at the age of 88.

Millionaire Michael Bloomberg was 34 years old before he turned his attention to romance.  He married Susan Elizabeth Barbara Brown on December 15, 1976.  His biographer, Joyce Purnick writes in Mike Bloomberg, Money, Power, Politics, "The newlyweds lived first at 2 Sutton Place South on the East Side, then moved to Armonk in suburban Westchester in the mid-1980s."

Emery Roth & Sons's dignified and discreet 2 Sutton Place South continues to house well-heeled New Yorkers, its outward appearance barely changed in nearly a century.

many thanks to reader Lowell Cochrane for suggesting this post.
no permission to reuse the content of this blog has been granted to

No comments:

Post a Comment