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Mansion in the Clouds

On the corner of Fifth Avenue and 78th Street is the magnificent Maison Labottiere inspired James B. Duke house designed by Horace Trumbauer (1868-1938). If heaven were to be conveyed architecturally then the Duke house would be heaven incarnate. Needless to say this has to be one of my favorite Gilded Age houses in New York City. I once proposed taking the general shape and design of the Duke house and creating a thirty floor apartment house, each apartment being a duplex or full floor with 12 foot ceilings. Of course the homes there would be equipped with every conceivable luxury – a mansion in the clouds! I had a major New York realestate developer very interested in my idea until we found out the proposed site had been sold already- anyone have a vacant lot?

Here I am standing at the entrance to the Duke house – I am wearing a Gucci nylon box quilted jacket with brown suede trim, a Gucci cotton/silk Russian floral print shirt, brown wool striped Scarf by Paul Smith, Diesel black skinny jeans, green python belt with silver double horse head belt by Gucci, brown leather “Chelsea” boots by Gucci, glasses by Dior, and brown suede gloves by Sermoneta.


  1. Magnaverde says:

    That’s always been one of my favorite building along the Avenue, but then, Trumbauer has always been one of my favorite architects. Like a lot of students, I made my way through college waiting table, but I was fortunate enough to spend four years working in the main dining room of the Hotel Pere Marquette in Peoria, Illinois, a splendid 1927 Trumbauer design dropped down in the middle of the Corn Belt.

    A few years ago, they restored the place–sort of, if restoring means picking out classic moldings in vibrant pastels–but 25 years ago, in a heavier-handed renovation, a lot of Trumbauer’s original details were scrapped, & I was there at just the right time to rescue cast-bronze door fittings, silver-plated sconces and a carved walnut Louis XIV-style console that had been been banished to the head housekeeper’s room since the 195Os. I’d been in plenty of good-looking buildings before I went to college, but four years of daily wandering through the hotel–OK, sneaking, since employees were supposed to be out the door five minutes after we punched out on the time clock, and I often stayed an hour or more after that, to silently steal through the Pere’s handsome public rooms & down its broad, silent corridors–taught me more about scale, proportion & rhythm than I ever learned from any architecture book, and after looking up Trumbauer’s other works in the dusty bound volumes of American Architect & Architectural Record in the campus library, I always intended to hitchhike out east over the summer break to see firsthand what was left of Whitemarsh Hall, but I never made it. Outside of NY & Philadelphia, Trumbauer seems to be pretty much unknown, but as far as architecture & beautiful buildings go, he’s my hero. Magnaverde.

  2. James Andrew says:

    Thank you so much Magnaverde for sharing your beautiful thoughts and experiences! – A pleasure to read.


  3. James Andrew says:

    Thanks Thomas – this is one of my favorite scarfs!

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