ralph lauren polo shirts on sale Madison Avenue and 72nd Street
ONE CORNER, THREE BUILDINGS In the early 1950s, Ruth Brown five story house was replaced by a two story taxpayer, left, now occupied by a Ralph Lauren store, right. The new store will be the third structure to occupy the southwest corner, whose complicated history began with a McKim, Mead White mansion in 1894.
Although upper Madison Avenue near Central Park is now a shopping street, it emerged after the Civil War as an address not far in prestige from Fifth Avenue. Elite families built big houses on Madison, especially straddling the spine of Lenox Hill.
In 1893, Ruth Brown, a widow, hired McKim, Mead White to design a house at the southwest corner of Madison and 72nd. The architectural firm produced a commodious five story house of Bostonian sobriety, with a classical balustrade and a columned portico but mostly a simple, unassuming facade of mottled brick, albeit on a lot 48 feet wide and 100 feet deep.
Mrs. Brown’s town house was finished in 1894, but for unexplained reasons she never occupied it. She sold it in early 1895 to Alva Vanderbilt, recently divorced from William K. Vanderbilt II. The Real Estate Record Guide noted at the time that “the neighborhood is rapidly becoming one of the swellest in town.”
In the year of her arrival, Mrs. Vanderbilt staged one of the most important social events of the decade: the wedding of her daughter, Consuelo, to the Duke of Marlborough. “Great Crowds Cheer the Bride,” The New York Times reported, as thousands choked the streets near the house for a glimpse of the bride or any of the society folk who were in the wedding party.
Mrs. Vanderbilt had bullied her daughter into a titled marriage to a man she cared nothing for. In “The Vanderbilts and the Gilded Age” (St. Martin’s Press, 1991), John Foreman and Robbe Pierce Stimson wrote that Miss Vanderbilt “wept uncontrollably” before the ceremony. For his part, the duke hoped the Vanderbilt fortune would recharge his family’s dwindling resources.
As the couple left the wedding luncheon at the 72nd Street house, The Times noted that the bridegroom “ducked his ducal head” to avoid a shower of rice. Then, an usher swung his high hat over his head and led a cheer for the newly married pair. They were divorced in 1921.
The Vanderbilt house was eventually sold to William Bayard Cutting, a lawyer, reformer and member of another socially prominent family. His wife, Olivia, remained in it into the 1940s, becoming one of the last private holdouts among the shops on Madison Avenue.
In a letter to a reporter in 1983, Bronson Chanler, Mrs. Cutting’s great nephew, recalled visiting the house between 1936 and 1941, when it was still a bastion of high Victorian propriety. He wrote: “Meals were served with a butler (Johnson) and two footmen (Patrick and Thomas) in attendance, even if there were only three or four at table. In spite of the forbidding atmosphere, Aunt Olivia was a merry soul who chattered and laughed away, so that the mood was always cheerful.”
The Cuttings sold the house in 1941, and 10 years later it was replaced with a two story high taxpayer style building, designed by Boak Raad with severe simplicity.
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Ralph Lauren acquired the old Rhinelander mansion for its flagship store in 1986, and seven years later took over the taxpayer on the site of the Cutting house. It has operated a store there since then.
Now the company is nearly ready to start on what will be one of the most remarkable specimens of revival architecture yet seen in New York: a lush limestone Beaux Arts building four stories in height. As viewed in a rendering, it could be a small country palace in France, although squeezed into an urban site.
The Ralph Lauren company says its new store, designed by the Hut Sachs Studio of New York, will open in 2009 and was “influenced by such Upper East Side iconic landmark buildings as the Rhinelander mansion and the Duke and Frick mansions.”
The new building, which will be in the Upper East Side Historic District, has the preliminary approval of the Landmarks Preservation Commission.
The Friends of the Upper East Side Historic Districts was split in its opinion. Although some found it “a magnificent new building, in keeping with the Upper East Side’s varied architectural heritage of the last century,” the group wrote, “others were frankly horrified at such an ersatz historical building proposed for the 21st century.”
A company spokesman for Ralph Lauren said: “We are very proud of the design of the new building. Complementing the Rhinelander mansion, it is an elegant, appropriate addition to the neighborhood.”.