Luxury Real Estate

Belle of the Beaux: Historical Manhattan Mansion House

A much-loved Manhattan landmark, the historical James F.D. Lanier House is a New York City brownstone mansion like no other

Standing between Park and Lexington Avenues in Manhattan’s tree-lined, historical Murray Hill neighborhood is the James F.D. Lanier House. One of the largest single-family homes on the island and a masterpiece of Beaux Arts design, the mansion house has the rarefied grandeur of a country estate combined with the pull and verve of the city. There is provenance aplenty, too—it is both a New York City landmark and listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

“This is a rare bird, a mansion in the real sense of the word,” says Edward Joseph, Associate Broker at Christie’s International Real Estate Group.

Grand dining room featuring candelier, art work and draped curtains
Original oak floors, a crystal chandelier, and an intricate fireplace create a dramatic backdrop for elegant gatherings and dinner parties. Courtesy: Evan Joseph

The house dates back to 1901 when financier James Franklin Doughty Lanier II and his wife Harriet charged architects Hoppin & Koen—who had reportedly studied at the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris—with designing a fashionable home on the combined site of two brownstone townhouses they owned. They wanted a residence worthy of their prominence in New York society, where they could entertain. Two years later, their grandiose plans were realized in the six-story Beaux Arts abode at 123 East 35th Street.

You won’t find another property  like this. It’s not just a mansion, it’s a work of art, inside and out—Edward Joseph

Built from limestone and brick and, at 33 feet (10 m), double the width of neighboring properties, it has a slightly raised, small stone porch—bucking the trend of the time for stoops—which leads to a solid tiger-oak double-door entrance.

Pillared area featuring staircase and chandelier
Vast marble columns and classical sculptures feature throughout the home, creating a dramatic backdrop and sense of grandeur. Courtesy: Evan Joseph

Classical lines, symmetry, and sculptural details of the style are evident in dentil cornices, stonework, and double-height fluted pilasters that rise up to the fourth floor and a full-width cast-iron railed balcony.  The residence is crowned with a copper-covered mansard roof, and spectacular views of the Empire State and Chrysler buildings can be enjoyed from the rooftop terrace.

Parisian Style, New York City Attitude

The interior is equally mannered, replete with gold-plated doors, classical statues, chandeliers, and baroque furnishings throughout. Unlike the main rooms, the vestibule and arched entrance hall with a 14-foot-high (4.3 m) rose-medallion ceiling is an oasis of white, flowing into a marble gallery with water trickling from a fountain built into the wall and light pouring through leaded glass skylights. The noble elegance of a grand Parisian hotel, on which it was modeled, is palpable.

The mansion house has been meticulously restored over a three-year period, at a cost of $10 million. “The present owner has maintained the craftsmanship and integrity of the property, at the same time ensuring it is a smart home in every sense of the word, with up-to-the-minute security, HVAC, chillers, and touch-sensitive automation,” Joseph says. “He has done an unbelievable job. He even saved the original plaster and has used a color scheme akin to the original.”

Ornate bedroom with green walls, velvet bed spread and chandelier
An expansive bedroom suite provides a tranquil refuge from city life. The mansion house has nine bedrooms and seven full bathrooms. Courtesy: Evan Joseph

This is immediately apparent in the light-filled second-floor living room, the epitome of Gilded Age splendor. Reached by a mahogany-railed staircase or elevator, its paneled walls of rich forest green contrast with oversized sofas and drapes in shades of champagne and cream. At the other end is the original wood-paneled library with a marble fireplace and a mirror that reaches the ceiling.

There is a mammoth 11,638 square feet (1,081 sq m) of living space spread across 19 rooms. The residence boasts nine bedrooms, five of them primary suites and all with sumptuous decor, and seven full bathrooms and three half bathrooms are distributed throughout the upper floors.

The mansion house at 123 East 35th Street is one that is well suited for entertaining. This is why the Laniers had their home built, why they chose to embrace the decadence and flamboyance of the Gilded Age. A formal dining room, with its original oak parquet floor, seats 16 beneath its rock-crystal chandelier. For pre-dinner cocktails, there is an adjacent club room with a full bar, a marble fireplace, and drawing-room-style seating, while a 1,000-bottle wine cellar ensures no event runs dry.

Wood panelled study with fireplace
Rich wooden paneling, works of art upon the walls, and the fireplace gives the study a timeless look. Courtesy: Evan Joseph

Service comes via the vast, 400-square-foot (37 sq m) chef’s kitchen, with its commercial Garland oven. This has an adjoining breakfast room with French windows leading out to the courtyard garden. “There are other grand houses, but nothing like this,” Joseph says. “The garden alone is 300 feet (91 m)—in the city!”

Room for Exercise and Relaxation

Extra amenities include a fitness center, a sunken hot tub and cold plunge pool, a sauna and massage room, and, on the fifth floor, three staff bedrooms and storage. Today, Murray Hill is a luxe enclave, just as it was at the turn of the 20th century when the home was built and it was considered to be uptown.

“It is one of the most desirable areas in the city now,” Joseph says. “You’re close to the theaters, five-star restaurants, and major transport hubs including Pennsylvania Station and Grand Central Terminal. The James F.D. Lanier House will appeal to those who have a 
bent towards history and grandness, fine art, and beauty. You won’t find another property like this. It’s not just a mansion, it’s a work of art, inside and out.”