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Carnegie Hill: The heights of culture

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amny Photo Credit: Michael Kirby Smith

Carnegie Hill is one of the most desirable residential neighborhoods in Manhattan, and for good reason. In addition to its proximity to Central Park, its world-renowned museums, awe-inspiring townhouses and prestigious private schools, it’s also full of history, having been home to some of the most well-heeled New Yorkers of all time.

The Carnegie Hill Historic District — which runs north from 86th to 96th streets and east from Fifth to Third avenues — gets its name from steel magnate Andrew Carnegie, once the richest man in the world. Carnegie built his mansion at 91st Street between Fifth and Madison avenues in 1901.

Before then, the area was considered too far north for the upper classes, and was a long way from the genteel neighborhood we know today. But Carnegie’s project set off a veritable housing boom among some of the country’s wealthiest people.

We asked Paul Rush, a seasoned New York City tour guide and Carnegie Hill expert, for a tour.

The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum
1071 Fifth Avenue, at 89th Street
Sure, the Guggenheim is home to masterpieces of modern art, but the building itself is an even bigger draw. The iconic spiral building was the final work of famed 20th-century architect Frank Lloyd Wright. But the architect himself never lived to see it completed — which may have been a good thing. “Wright wanted to paint the building a dark pink color,” Rush said. “And he was not a man anyone argued with.”

National Academy of Design, School of Fine Arts
5 E. 89th St., btwn Fifth and Madison avenues
The National Academy of Design‘s museum, located around the corner on Fifth Avenue, is closed for renovations until September, but the school ­— one of the best traditional art schools in the country — is open to the public.

Central Park entrance at 90th Street and Fifth Avenue
This entrance to the park is picturesque, framed by ancient American elms. Take a look at the gilded bust of John Purroy Mitchel, who served as mayor of New York from 1914 to 1917. At age 34, he was the youngest mayor in New York’s history, and was dubbed “the boy mayor.” Just a few steps away stands a statue of Fred Lebow, founder of the New York City Marathon.

Carnegie Mansion
2 E. 91st St., btwn Fifth and Madison aves.
Completed in 1901, the 64-room Carnegie Mansion was the ultimate in luxury. It was one of the first homes to have an elevator; it also had central heating and a precursor to air conditioning. The sidewalk around the mansion is the only pink granite sidewalk in New York City. And in front of the house, you can still see the chamfered brick sidewalk, built for the horses. The mansion now houses the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum.

Convent of the Sacred Heart
1 E. 91 Street, btwn Fifth and Madison aves.
Across the street from the Carnegie home, this mansion — built in 1918 in the style of a Roman palazzo — was the home of Otto and Addie Kahn, great patrons of the arts. The land, like much of the area, was bought from Carnegie. The Kahns were known for throwing fabulous dinner parties with the likes of magician Harry Houdini, playwright George Bernard Shaw and conductor Arturo Toscanini.

1107 Fifth Ave., btwn 91st and 92nd streets
The top three floors of this building once housed the largest apartment in New York City — with 54 rooms. The apartment, which comprised two top floors plus a penthouse, belonged to Marjorie Merriweather Post Hutton (of the Post cereal family). Hutton only spent several weeks a year at the apartment, from the 1920s through the 1950s.

 


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