The Best of The Best

by Liza Laserow

The dining room on the first floor. Decoration by Interior designer Marcy Masterson.

One armchair from a set of 4. England from the early 19th Century

Ebony, Ivory and turtle shell bed in one of the rooms on the second floor.

Last night we were invited to a cocktail at the antique dealer Carlton Hobbs new location at the Virginia Fair Vanderbilt House on 93rd street. It was a beautiful evening with the elite in New Yorks antique world. I had the pleasure to speak to both Stephaine Rinza, the managing director and Mr Hobbs himself. Both lovely people and extremely knowledgable.

Virginia Graham Fair Vanderbilt purchased three houses on East 93rd Street in 1930 – Nos. 60 to 64 to build her a new home. The architect John Russell Pope designed a 50-room limestone palais in a Louis XV-style. The entrance was a lofty arched doorway, placed to the side above a small flight of steps. A steep slate mansard roof was protected by a stone balustrade and high, narrow stone chimneys thrust upward on one side. There was a 20-foot by 57-foot private garden in which to escape on warm afternoons or evenings. To keep Mrs Vanderbilt and her guests separate from the staff, Pope designed the house as two separate sections: the main house rose three stories with 15-foot ceilings in some areas.  The ceilings in the servants’ areas were significantly lower, allowing for seven stories within the same height. Doors between the two sections were padded and there were separate elevators and staircases so servants and gentry had no reason to meet unnecessarily.

Four English and French 18th Century paneled rooms were installed, antique parquet flooring was imported for the third floor, and the gilt hardware for the doors was hand-made by Bricard in Paris. The limestone for the façade was imported from France from the same quarry used for the Loew house next door.  The stones were shipped finished, to be assembled on site. Only the finest materials were used.  The painted paneling in the reception hall, for instance, was of mahogany to withstand the torture of the New York climate in the days before temperature and humidity control.

Birdie Vanderbilt entertained from the East 93rd Street house; often combining her many philanthropists with her social obligations. In 1935 Virginia Fair Vanderbilt  died in her home from pneumonia, leaving an estate of nearly $7 million. The house was bought by Bryan C. Foy and his wife, Thelma. Thelma who was the daughter of the carmaker  Walter Chrysler filled the mansion with French furniture, bronzes and artwork. Her dining room table gleamed with an extensive set of antique Louis XV tableware. Mrs Foy died in 1957.

The house has since had a few different owners such as the Romanian Mission to the United Nations and the French school, Lycee Francaise de New York. 

In 2002 Carlton Hobbs purchased the mansion and had it go through a long renovation. Stephanie Rinza tells that “nothing was lost”.  Each wall and window frame was scraped down to discern the original colors.  Approximately half of the Bricard door fixtures had to be replicated, and cracked limestone blocks in the facade were replicated with stone from the original French quarries.  Sixty workers toiled on the project. The thorough restoration was at times like an archeological dig.  On the back of the carved paneling in the staircase hall were French inscriptions from the manufacturer.  Evidence of French doors that once looked out onto the side entrance hall were discovered, as was an unfinished door behind a wall in a French-paneled upstairs bath.

Having preserved the mansions interior with such finesse you can only imagine the glamourous atmosphere Carlton Hobbs has created. The beautiful rooms are delicately designed with high-end antiques from around the world. Only the best of the best is being presented.

Carlton Hobbs website: