White Man Burden


James Burden is known for little more than marrying Florence Sloane, the daughter of William D. Sloane, a rug and furniture magnate and a descendant of Commodore Cornelius Vanderbilt. That marriage resulted in Adele’s father commissioning the James Burden Mansion for his daughter and her new husband, and giving New York City one of its more underexposed Beaux-Arts gems.

Daddy William Sloane also purchased an adjoining parcel and built a second mansion for his daughter Emily when she married her husband John Hammond. Andrew Carnegie lived in the mansion next door (now the Cooper-Hewitt Museum.) Upon Mr. Burden’s death, Mrs. Burden remarried, leasing house to John Jacob Astor VI, who had been born in 1912, shortly after his mother, Madeleine Astor, was rescued from the sinking Titanic. In 1916, banking magnate Otto Kahn bought the corner lot and built the Otto Kahn mansion on it. Quite a Peyton Place.

Designated a historic site in the 1970s, it was designed by Warren and Wetmore, who designed Grand Central Terminal. The building is an amazing example of spending gone awry – outrageous Hautville marble staircases and a third floor ballroom that is twice the height of the lower floors, with ceiling-heigh French doors that open onto balconies overlooking the Carnegie digs.

The building complex is now owned by the Convent of the Sacred Heart and used for private functions, but you can get a tour it if you are interested in renting it out. The mansions are located on 91st Street and Fifth Ave in Carnegie Hill and are a must-see if you love this sort of thing like I do.  Call in advance to make an appointment (tell them you’re getting married,) show up with a member of the opposite sex, and prepare to hate your parents.


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