Details of the Petit Chateau: 660 Fifth Avenue

660 Fifth Avenue, the "Petit Chateau," in 1925. 
Completed in 1882, the mansion was built for William Kissam Vanderbilt, grandson of the famed millionaire Cornelius Vanderbilt Sr., "The Commodore," who founded the Vanderbilt family fortune, and his wife Alva. With the intention of using the home to signal her and her family's arrival into New York society, she collaborated with architect Richard Morris Hunt to design a French Renaissance-style townhouse known as the Petit Chateau.

Alva Smith Vanderbilt (1853-1933)

The home was revolutionary in that, as the time, it was a blotch of bright limestone in comparison to the drab, dingy brownstones surrounding it, including the ornate, enormous triplex across the street occupied by Vanderbilt's father and sisters, and the town house occupied by Mrs. Caroline Astor, the doyenne of New York society, who had refused to acknowledge the Vanderbilt family by calling on them. In response, Alva famously decided to throw an elaborate costume ball, inviting everyone who was anyone in New York with the exception of one family: the Astors. Caroline Astor was a strong-willed woman, and likely wouldn't have budged had her daughter, young Carrie, not come to her crying because all her friends had received invitations while she hadn't. So Caroline ascended into her carriage, made the drive to the Vanderbilt mansion, and called on Alva and William. Soon after an invitation was promptly sent to the Astor brownstone and that was that.

The costume ball at 660 Fifth Avenue, the talk of New York society. 

Below are some up-close details of the mansion, which was demolished in 1926, after having left Vanderbilt hands.

Exterior of 660 Fifth Avenue, 1925.

The entrance to 660 Fifth Avenue, 1925. 

Details of the windows at 660 Fifth Avenue, 1925. 

Details of 660 Fifth Avenue, 1925.

Details of the roof at 660 Fifth Avenue, 1925.

Details at 660 Fifth Avenue, 1925.

Details at 660 Fifth Avenue, 1925. 

Museum of the City of New York.


  1. Joseph Pulitzer, the first major journalist to rock the boat about what he considered to be the excessive wealth of the Robber Barons of the Gilded Age, lived quite close to the Vanderbilt Mansion, so that Pulitzer's presence would certainly not have made the grade with the Astors, as it were.

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