Inside The Fletcher Mansion on Fifth Avenue

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.

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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.

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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.

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This guy is above one of the windows:

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Two dragons stand guard over the door:

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Inside are a number of formal rooms in differing styles. The first floor parlor:

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(pan – click for larger image!)

The second floor ballroom:

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(pan – click for larger image!)

The west view looks out over Central Park:

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A beautiful egg-shaped room on the north side of the building:

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A gorgeous library on the third floor, complete with leather couches:

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(pan – click for larger image!)

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:

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Here it is – I’d love to know what the drawers were originally installed for – perhaps a sewing room?

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The view up 79th Street:

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The ceiling:

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The drawers and tiled floor:

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Another favorite is the intricately detailed wooden staircase…

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…which features this beautiful design:

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You can find a similar motif above the front doors:

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The design even continues up at an angle:

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One more favorite bit: in the library, the door on the left…

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…leads to a very cool little bar…

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…complete with a scale built into the floor!

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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.

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12 comments

  1. You might also consider taking a look at Marymount School of New York on 84th and 5th. It was a series of three mansions (the Pratt mansions) joined to form a K-12 Catholic girls’ school. It features a lot of really beautiful architecture and even some secret passages!

    Marymount bought another building a few blocks away some seven years ago to function as their middle school; sadly, they had to rip out the original staircases to comply with NYC law. The original Marymount building, however, is now some sort of landmark. It still has its lovely spiral staircases reaching almost all the way to the gym at the top.

  2. The pop-culture nerd in me loves this building because it was used as the Valmont mansion in Cruel Intentions – I suppose there was no clever way to work that embedded scale into the plot, though. Alas.

  3. I remember my sister and me getting stopped dead by this mansion one day as we were walking west to the Met; I ran off to do all the research on it that I could. I keep on meaning to get inside for a visit to one of their shows, but I’ve never gotten around to it, so thanks for taking us inside!

  4. The little room you like so much was used as a greenhouse or conservatory. The marble counters and tile floor allowed for watering and plant care. The doors were kept shut so the humidity levels would remain high. If I recall, its off a family space that visitors would not have seen unless invited – kind of in the inner sanctum of the family area.

  5. Love the detail on staircase.

  6. that tileed floor is just stunning. and that wooden staircase is, well, you never see that anymore.
    thanks for sharing

  7. A greenhouse with tons of drawers? I don’t think so, my friend.

  8. I serendipitously ended up on a tour here during Open House NY weekend a couple years ago and my photos are pretty much exactly the same as yours– the bar and the fish detail carvings are my favorite spots! I believe they are usually open for tours during OHNY weekend, so anyone wishing to check it out should keep that in mind.

  9. I was supposed to go to the Metropolitan when I realized the view of the mansion. It surprised me such a mansion!!!! I use to write about my visits in my blog and tah’s what I’ll do, for sure! Thanks! And congratulations for the release!!!!!

  10. I really like it. It is very impressive!

  11. Interiors of this building were used in Kate and Leopold. I recognize the staircase from the film as well as the ballroom (I think).

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