Mansions of the Robber Barons

The industrial billionaires of turn-of-the-century America were referred to as “Robber Barons” comparing them to the highway men and bands of robbers that plundered passing merchant wagons. The name suggests that these men made their money by exploiting workers in America and that their massive wealth was an accumulation of the money that they looted from the American people. The term was applied to men like Andrew Carnegie, John D. Rockefeller and Cornelius Vanderbilt who monopolized a modern industry.

Millionaire's Row: From 65th Street and Fifth Avenue North in 1898 and in 2005

Frick Mansion

Henry Frick's mansion was designed by Carrere and Hastings and built in 1913 at a cost of $5,000,000.

Architecture Style - Neo-Classical

Henry Clay Frick began his career working at his father's farm. Later, he was a store clerk and even a bookkeeper before starting his own industrial company and gaining control of Pennsylvania 's coal mines. This led him to business relations with Andrew Carnegie, who controlled the steel industry.  



Above Left: Front door; Above Right: Frick Fifth Avenue courtyard architecture

Above: Fifth Avenue side of Frick Mansion

Duke Mansion

James Duke of Duke University was actually known in his day for pioneering the sale of pre-rolled cigarettes. With the help of Oliver Hazard Payne, he bought out tobacco competitors in North Carolina . His wealth came from the American Tobacco Company.






Above Left: Duke Mansion from Fifth Avenue; Above Right: Front door

Above: Duke Mansion from 78th Street

Payne Whitney Mansion

Architecture Style - Italian Renaissance Palazzo Style

Payne Whitney was born in New York City in March of 1876 and died in May of 1927. He served as director of the Great Northern Paper Company, the First National Bank of New York , the Whitney Reality Company and the Northern Finance Corporation, and became a trustee to the New York Hospital as well as the New York Public Library.



Above Left: Payne Whitney from Fifth Avenue; Above Right: Front Door

Fletcher-Sinclair Mansion

The Fletcher Sinclair House is now the Ukrainian Embassy on 79th and 5th Avenue .

Built in 1899, it was commissioned by Ian Fletcher, a banker and railroad investor.

The architect was C.P.H. Gilbert.

Architecture Style - French Renaissance (note the gargoyles – the building has been likened to a compressed country French castle)



Above Left: Corner of 79th Street and Fifth Avenue; Above Right: Entrance

Above Left: Front entrance; Above Right: First Floor Interior, stairs.

Above Left: Ceiling Tile; Above Right: Gargoyle

Vanderbilt Mansion

The Neue Galerie, which is now a museum for German and Austrian Arts, is located at 86th Street and 5th avenue. It was built in 1914 by Carrere and Hastings. The Vanderbilts who lived there, however, were estranged from the family because Cornelius Vanderbilt III had married Grace Graham Wilson against his father's wishes. They lived in the house because Cornelius's uncle, George Washington Vanderbilt, had left it to him.






Above: Corner of 86th Street and Fifth Avenue

Carnegie Mansion

The Carnegie Mansion, now the Cooper Hewitt Museum , is located on 91st Street and 5th Avenue and was built in 1899. It was Andrew Carnegie's mansion, but after his retirement he didn't live in it much since he often traveled to and from Scotland.

Architecture Style - Beaux-Arts: the French school of architecture, a subset of Neo-Classicism.

It is the first residential home in the U.S. to have a structural steel frame, an elevator, air conditioning and central heating.




Above Left: Carnegie Mansion Courtyard; Above Right: Carnegie Mansion From Fifth Avenue

Above Left: Front of Carnegie Mansion from Street; Above Right: Front entrance

Otto and Addie Kahn Mansion

The Otto Kahn Mansion was constructed between 1914 and 1918 with J. Armstrong Stenhouse and C. P. H. Gilbert as its designers.  Kahn, a German-born investment banker and important patron of the arts moved to the United States after World War I.  The mansion, with its eighty rooms and capacity to house up to forty servants, was built in the neo-Italian Renaissance style in imitation of the Papal Chancellery in Rome .  Otto Kahn was an important patron of the arts, especially of the Metropolitan Opera, and many celebrated musicians including the Italian tenor Enrico Caruso and American composer George Gershwin performed at Kahn's residence.  After Kahn's death in 1934, his widow Addie sold the home to the Convent of the Sacred Heart, and it is still used as a girls' school along with the neighboring James Burden Mansion .






Above Left: Interior of driveway; Above Right: Exterior of driveway

Above Left: Fifth Avenue side of Otto Kahn Mansion; Above Right: Corner of 91st Street and Fifth Avenue

(Above two pictures courtesy of

Above: Otto and Addie Kahn plaque

Warburg Mansion

At 1109 Fifth Avenue and 92nd Street stands the Felix Warburg Mansion. It was finished in 1909 and is of the French chateau style. In 1944, Frieda Warburg donated the building to the Jewish Theological Seminary, and as of 1947 it became the home of the Jewish Museum. This Chateaux was newly expanded in 1993. Architect C.P.H. Gilbert built the house for the Warburg's after they fell in love with a home owned by the Fletchers close by. However, the Warburg's house is more often praised for its lively detail that the Fletcher home lacked. When the museum expanded to include more property, a more modern-style plaza was built but it was aesthetically imcompatible with the original structure.  In 1993, the firm Kevin Roche, John Dinkeloo & Associates replaced this plaza with a new one that better matched the French chateau style of the Warburg mansion.


Above Left: Warburg Mansion from Fifth Avenue; Above Right: Front door

Above Left: Warburg Mansion - Jewish Museum Plaque; Above Right: South facade of Warburg Mansion

Above: Warburg Mansion