The mansion was originally built for R. Livingston Beeckman
While many Gilded Age country escapes have survived the 20th century, the same cannot generally be said of city houses—especially in New York. The grandest mansions by the likes of the Rockefeller and Vanderbilt families were sold and demolished just a few decades after they were completed. High-rise office buildings or fancy department stores now occupy their old plots of land.
That’s why intact city mansions—like this one at 854 Fifth Avenue—are so rare (and expensive). Completed by the firm of Warren & Wetmore, the architectural force behind Grand Central Terminal, the mansion was originally built for R. Livingston Beeckman. Beeckman would later go on to become the Governor of Rhode Island.
The house then sold to Emily White née Vanderbilt, who purchased the house when she and her husband, Henry White—a former ambassador to Germany—were selling one of the grand Vanderbilt mansions on 5th Avenue and East 51st Street. The house most recently served as the office for Serbia’s Permanent Mission to the United Nations.
The interiors are shockingly opulent, and derived inspiration from France—specifically, the style of Louis XV. The grand central hall and staircase is, reportedly, an architectural nod to Versailles, and the delicate wall decorations hark back to Classical Roman frescoes.
The enormous Gilded Age mansion at 854 Fifth Avenue, coming in at 20,000 square feet, is the biggest home for sale in New York City right now. It’s currently owned by the Serbian Permanent Mission to the UN, and it’s asking a whopping $50 million.