If you’ve ever been annoyed at the fact that most of Fifth Avenue’s mansions probably don’t want you knocking at their front door, do yourself a favor and check out one most don’t realize is open to the public: the Ukrainian Institute at the corner of 79th Street and Fifth Ave, built in 1899 as the private home of banker and railroad investor Isaac Fletcher.
Designed by architect Charles P. H. Gilbert, it was later occupied by the scandal-plagued oil industrialist, Harry Sinclair, followed by Augustus Van Horn Stuyvesant, descendant of Peter Stuyvesant. It was purchased by the Ukrainian Institute in 1955, and is currently used as a function space for art galleries, dinners, and private events including film and photo shoots, as well as for the Ukrainian Institute’s club.
Designed in the neo-French Gothic style, the building is covered with really neat details inside and out, and I wanted to highlight a few of my favorites. First, there are a number of dragon sculptures lining the building’s facade. They’re small, which makes finding them a bit more fun.
This guy is above one of the windows:
Two dragons stand guard over the door:
Inside are a number of formal rooms in differing styles. The first floor parlor:
The second floor ballroom:
The west view looks out over Central Park:
A beautiful egg-shaped room on the north side of the building:
A gorgeous library on the third floor, complete with leather couches:
One of my favorite exterior details is this little tower on the eastern corner, and I’ve always been curious about was on the other side:
Here it is – I’d love to know what the drawers were originally installed for – perhaps a sewing room?
The view up 79th Street:
The drawers and tiled floor:
Another favorite is the intricately detailed wooden staircase…
…which features this beautiful design:
You can find a similar motif above the front doors:
The design even continues up at an angle:
One more favorite bit: in the library, the door on the left…
…leads to a very cool little bar…
…complete with a scale built into the floor!
Again, the Ukrainian Institute regularly features gallery shows and is open to the public. Just call ahead to be sure they’re open. Plenty more about the history and architecture of 2 East 79th Street at nyc-architecture.com.