Most of the Gilded Age mansions still standing in Manhattan are found on the Upper East Side, where aristocratic families such as the Astors, Vanderbilts, and Rockefellers once called home. However, Riverside Drive on the city’s Upper West Side was also once lined with many Gilded Age townhomes that also, if more quietly, belonged to some of the city’s wealthiest individuals of the time.
Of the many historic homes that remain today, the freestanding mansion at 25 Riverside Drive remains an iconic residence that recalls the lifestyles of the great American families of the 19th and early 20th centuries. On the market for $55 million, the Renaissance Revival-style residence was built between 1895 and 1897 for Henry Vail, the editor of the textbook publisher American Book Company.
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Located at the corner of 75th Street and Riverside Drive, the seven-story home stands 30 feet wide and measures about 12,000 square feet, making it one of the largest private residences on Riverside Drive. The oversized windows and curved exterior walls, especially from the street, showcase just how imposing this home is. It was built with limestone and Roman beige bricks by renowned architect C.P.H. Gilbert, known for designing elegant mansions and apartment houses throughout New York City.
The home has changed hands many times over the past century yet retains its opulent period architecture and ornate interior design details, in part thanks to a meticulous renovation completed in 2022.
The 24-room abode is unlike almost every other residence in New York. There are vast living spaces with 13-foot ceilings, eight massive bedrooms, nine bathrooms, and four floors of outdoor terrace space. The corner location allows for three exposures: to the north, south, and west.
“I sometimes call this the ‘Great American Estate’ because it feels more reminiscent of what you’d find with industrial barrons in the Midwest, like Chicago, or Philadelphia,” says listing agent Loy Carlos with Nest Seekers International Realty. “It has more of a Renaissance Revival, or Neo-Renaissance style, compared to the more European-inspired homes on the Upper East Side.”
Carlos explains that the Upper West Side, during this period, was home to more vertical townhouses or smaller homes, meaning a mansion of this size is exceptionally rare for the area and time period. The interiors are covered in detailed mahogany woodwork, and each room is rich in both color and materiality. Many of the rooms are designed with stained glass doors and windows from Tiffany & Co. as well as from stained glass artist John La Farge.
The main floor features a beautiful marble entrance foyer, a music room with large windows, a wood-paneled library with floors imported from Paris, and a wet bar. Details like dramatic archways, intricate railings, and dazzling chandeliers make each space even more reminiscent of the period in which it was built.
The second floor is designed for entertaining. It houses the light-filled kitchen, which has incredible river views, along with a breakfast nook, twin ovens, copper sinks, and French doors that lead to Juliet balconies. This level also houses a living room, a mural-accented, carved mahogany fireplace, and a formal dining room with a gold-leafed ceiling, as well as a dedicated room for storing fine china.
While all eight bedrooms offer their own personalities, the primary bedroom is the crown jewel, with a terrace overlooking the river, a spa-like bathroom, a fireplace, a sitting room, and an impressive boutique-like dressing room and walk-in closet.
Elsewhere within the residence are a study with Jacobean-style paneling, a home office, a glass conservatory, and a media room outfitted with a projector screen for movies and a cork-lined ceiling to absorb the sound. “Most media rooms these days are in the basement, but this is on the fifth floor just below the roof terrace and near some of the guest bedrooms,” he says. “It really brings people together, whether you’re watching sports and hosting a party on the terrace or watching a movie with family and friends.”
The rooftop terrace, located on the sixth floor, can host up to 100 people. It has views of Riverside Park as well as the Hudson River. There is beautiful landscaping with exotic florals and pear trees that give the essence of a country home. Meanwhile, the basement houses staff quarters, an office, a gym, a sauna, a wine cellar, and ample storage. An elevator connects each level.
“Because it’s a wide home, you have several sitting rooms at each landing,” he says. “The sitting rooms can be transformed into a homework room for the kids or hobby rooms, depending on what you need.”
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