Vanderbilt Family Residences

William Henry “Billy” Vanderbilt (1821-1885) was an American businessman, the eldest son and heir of Cornelius Vanderbilt. When W. H.  Vanderbilt died in 1885, his will provided some insight into the confusion of mansions along Fifth Avenue. His  “heirs-at-law and next of kin” were

Vanderbilt census 1880
Vanderbilt census 1880. Note that W.K. gave his occupation as Railroad King (click on the thumbnail for a larger image).
  • Marie Louise Vanderbilt, the widow, living at
  • No. 640 Fifth Avenue
  • Cornelius Vanderbilt, a son, living at
  • No. 1 West Fifty-seventh Street
  • Margaret Louise Shepard, a daughter, living at
  • No. 2 West Fifty-second Street
  • William Kissam Vanderbilt, a son, living at
  • No. 660 Fifth Avenue
  • Emily Thorn Sloane, a daughter, living at
  • No. 642 Fifth Avenue
  • Florence Adele Twombly, a daughter, living at
  • No. 684 Fifth Avenue
  • Frederick W. Vanderbilt, a son, living at
  • No. 459 Fifth Avenue
  • Eliza O. Webb, a daughter, living at
  • No. 680 Fifth Avenue
  • George W. Vanderbilt, a son, living at
  • No. 640 Fifth Avenue.

In 1879 W.H. Vanderbilt purchased the entire block between  51st and 52nd Streets, where he built two  brownstones for his daughters (referred to in documents simply as Mrs. William D. Sloane and Mrs. Elliott F. Shepard, as if they had no first names of their own). An atrium separated W.H.’s residence from his daughters’.  In a confusing move, the two brownstones were sometimes called the “Vanderbilt Twins” and sometimes the “Triple Palace.”  Possibly because there were three households represented.

W.H.’s  son William Kissam Vanderbilt (husband of Alva) bought the next building site to the north, on the north-west corner of 52nd Street.  The Petit Chateau was designed by Richard Morris Hunt  and was under construction from 1879-1883. In March of that year Alva Vanderbilt threw a masked ball to celebrate.  Before the  new mansion was ready, they lived in the very exclusive small town of Oakdale.

At his father’s death W.K.’s portion of the estate came to what today would be about $1.3 billion.

Railroad Mogul William Henry Vanderbilt depicted Saying ‘The Public Be Damned’. New York Daily.

Cornelius Vanderbilt II — the second son — built his mansion (designed by George B. Post and Richard Morris Hunt) on Fifth Avenue between 57th and 58th Streets. In 1879leted in 1882 and later expanded. Demolished 1927.

Vanderbilt triple mansions
Vanderbilt triple mansions

Three three mansions that occupied the entire block between 51st and 52nd Street

Vanderbilt Petit Chateau
Vanderbilt Petit Chateau

Alva Vanderbilt’s obsession.

Webb and Twombly Mansions at 680 and 684 5th Avenue
Webb and Twombly Mansions at 680 and 684 5th Avenue

The Twombly residence was  on the corner with the Webb mansion beside it. Beyond the Webb house is St. Thomas’s Church.

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