The James F. D. Lanier House
Murray Hill, New York City
The James F. D. Lanier House is more than a testament to the Gilded Age. It is an exuberant celebration.
The magnificent Beaux-Arts mansion at 123 East 35th Street, between Park and Lexington Avenues in the historic Manhattan neighborhood of Murray Hill, presents a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to own a New York City landmark and inhabit a living work of art.
The James F. D. Lanier House stands 33 feet wide, 75 feet deep, and 66 feet tall, with 11,638 square feet of palatial living space across eight levels. One of the city's largest single-family homes, it is also among the grandest.
The brick and limestone mansion was built between 1901 and 1903 for James and Harriet Lanier. James Franklin Doughty Lanier II was a banker, sportsman, equestrian, and a pioneering automobilist. His grandfather, James Franklin Doughty Lanier, co-founded Winslow, Lanier & Co, one of the oldest private banks in New York. (The firm financed Thomas Edison's development of the electric light.)
The Four Hundred
The Laniers were prominent New York socialites and, emblematic of the Gilded Age itself, listed at No. 137 and 138 on self-appointed social arbiter Ward McAllister's famous Four Hundred. (Legendarily, the arriviste McAllister's elite 400 were supposedly the number of guests who could fit into The Mrs. Astor's ballroom in her mansion at Fifth Avenue and 34th Street.)
Lanier hired the architectural firm Hoppin & Koen to design a mansion. Francis Laurens Vinton Hoppin and Terence A. Koen had studied in Paris at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts and met as draftsmen for the prestigious architectural firm McKim, Mead & White. Among Hoppin & Koen's notable works is Springwood, which houses the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Presidential Library in Hyde Park, New York.
The James F. D. Lanier House remains one of their finest residential works in New York City. Among the significant features of this 33 feet wide mansion (the size of two brownstone rowhouses) are the fluted Ionic pilasters; dentil and modillion cornices; carved stonework; stately stone porch, and copper mansard roof with three dormers. Designated by the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission in 1979, The Lanier residence reflects the principles and influence of Parisian Beaux-Arts style . . . an especially fine example of the type. The total composition is elegant and dignified, one that might be as much at home in Paris as in New York.
The interior is grandly scaled and intricately adorned. The original architectural finishes and materials have been meticulously preserved for more than 40 years under the stewardship of the current owner, with thoughtful improvements sensitive to the original design.
A House for Gatherings Great and Small, Past and Present
In 1903, fashionable guests in formal attire arriving for the first time at the newly built Murray Hill house would alight from their cabriolets to the curb and look up to fluted stone pilasters rising two stories across the three bays, latticed wrought-iron balustrades on the upper floors, and a mansard roof with three copper-clad pedimented dormers.
Stone steps at street level rise to a porch flanked by a limestone balustrade with panelled end posts topped by stone urns. Double doors of solid tiger oak grace the arched entrance. Above is an ornate oeil de boeuf adorned with cornucopia.
The doors open to a vestibule with decorative iron and gold leaf gates. The magnificent details begin at the arched entrance hall with its high, rose medallion ceiling, flanked by classical statuary and crowned with an antique crystal chandelier. Beyond lies the magnificent gallery, in the same white marble as the reception hall, adorned with carved niches, classical statuary, monumental carved-stone basins and urns under an exquisite crystal chandelier. Water cascades from a marble fountain carved into the wall and light streams in from three leaded glass skylights above.
The gallery leads guests into the elegant club room, the first of several grand reception rooms, for aperitifs and at the stylish marble-topped bar with a decorative mirrored drinks cabinet; a marble fireplace; and 14-foot ceiling crowned by an antique chandelier. Two south-facing Palladian windows flood the room with light, illuminating the decorative gold leaf details adorning the walls and entryway.
Dinner for 16
From the club room, the gallery flows into the grand formal dining room, which seats 16 under a monumental rock-crystal chandelier. The room epitomizes Gilded Age splendor, with its Ionic pilasters, gilded sconces, rich tapestries, ornate marble fireplace, and original parquet floors. Dinner is served from the butler's pantry, with a dumb waiter, access to the service stairs and kitchen below, and a window onto the garden.
The mahogany staircase and a wood-panelled private elevator rise to the second floor reception rooms, where a gallery landing is flanked by an inviting living room with gold leaf wainscoting. The grand living room has an alluring green palette, beautiful parquet floors, a 12-foot ceiling with chandelier, and antique fireplace. Three south-facing French windows reveal the Gothic facade of the New York New Church. Across the landing is the library/study, grandly appointed with oak-panelled walls adorned with gold leaf, a carved stone fireplace, and a crystal chandelier. The adjacent service bar overlooks the ivy-trellised garden and terrace below.
The main kitchen is situated at the rear of the house with a view of the garden. This inviting, light-filled space extends to 400 square feet and includes every amenity for the chef, with two islands, Garland commercial fixtures, a gas range, Bosch ovens and dishwashers, three fridges, and a pantry. Just beyond is an elegant breakfast room with a powder room and French doors to a private courtyard garden graced with a stone fountain, statuary, and ivy-clad trellises. This level also features a fitness center with a sunken hot tub and cold plunge pool, sauna and massage rooms, and a full bathroom. The service stairs descend to the sub-basement and the home's commercial-grade control center, which includes brand-new HVAC, security system, and smart-home automation. The floor also includes a laundry and temperature-controlled wine cellar.
Since those first guests arrived in 1903, nearly 120 years have passed, vanished like the Gilded Age in the glare of a tumultuous 20th century to come. Still, the James F. D. Lanier House stands as a high-water mark of those bygone days, a pinnacle of timeless design and sensibility.
By the Numbers
The James F. D. Lanier House offers nine generously appointed bedrooms (five of which are suites), seven luxuriously appointed bathrooms, and three powder rooms. A staff wing includes an office, three bedrooms, and two bathrooms. There's a vast chef's kitchen with a breakfast room, a fitness center with a massage room and hot and cold plunge pools, two offices, a tranquil courtyard garden, and rooftop—with its clear view of the Chrysler and Empire State buildings. A mahogany staircase and an oak-panelled elevator serve all floors. A service staircase rises from the sub-basement to the fourth floor, and a service entrance offers access from the garden level to the street.
Footprint: 11,638 square feet; 33.33 feet wide; 75 feet deep; 66 feet high
Private Quarters: 9 bedrooms, 7 full baths, 3 half baths (five suites)
Staff Quarters: 3 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, office
The Garden Level: Service entrance, 400 sq. ft. chef's kitchen with Garland commercial fixtures, a gas range, Bosch dishwashers, 2 Bosch ovens, functional dumbwaiter, 1 freezer, 3 fridges, double sink, Corian kitchen countertops, pantry, breakfast room, powder room, and private courtyard garden. Fitness center with hot tub, cold plunge, sauna room, massage room, and full bathroom. Stairs to the sub-basement: 1,000-bottle temperature-controlled wine cellar, laundry and service areas, smart-home automation, brand-new elevator mechanics, gas boilers, chiller, and water boost pump
The First Floor: Vestibule, arched entrance hall, marble gallery, dining room (seats 16+), full wet bar, entertainment room, two-story butler's pantry, safe, powder room, Sonos remote-controlled sound system, several closets
The Second Floor: Oak-panelled library/study, original mini wet bar (ideal as a wine cellar), half bathroom, security closet, regular closet, south-facing living room
The Third Floor: 2 principal suites, each with 2 bedrooms; 2 luxurious bathrooms, large walk-in closets, and sitting rooms
The Fourth Floor: 1 principal suite with 1 bedroom and 1 bathroom; 2 guest bedrooms sharing a bathroom; Douglas fir floor; sewing room; linen closet; entertainment center with pop-up cabinets
The Fifth Floor: 2 guest bedrooms and 1 bathroom; staff wing (with office, 3 bedrooms, and 2 bathrooms), ironing room, stairs to the roof level
The Sixth Floor (half floor): Attic with 1 full bathroom, doors to the roof (air-conditioning system)