Historic Structures

Leonard W. Jerome Mansion, New York City New York

Date added: November 7, 2013 Categories: New York House Mansion

This complex of buildings, which was very elegant when built, originally consisted of a residence, stables, and private theater. It was part of the exclusive residential neighborhood surrounding Madison Square and was built by the well known banker and broker, Leonard W. Jerome, who was Winston Churchill's grandfather. Its subsequent tenants, various private city clubs, continued its original associations with a luxurious way of life.

The Jerome Mansion was actually a group of three buildings which form a continuous facade along East 26th Street. Occupying the western two-fifths of the lot is the house proper, and on the eastern portion of the lot are the stables, originally with a ballroom above. Between these two buildings is a connecting structure, originally a private theater, which was built shortly after the house and stables were completed. The Jeromes occupied the Mansion as a residence for a few years, but contemporary accounts, relate that Jerome built the complex for the American Jockey Club, of which he was a vice-president. Rider' s New York City (1924) states that the house was "erected at a cost of $200,000."

The first account of alterations to the mansion is given in a description of the formal opening of the Union League Club, which leased the Mansion as a club house:
"Important alterations have been made to adapt this building to its present purposes. The exterior of the building has been long since described in the Times, and the only change here to note is that the Club monogram has been placed on the large lamps at the main entrance on Twenty-sixth street. Within, no expense has been spared in furniture and appropriate ornamentation, and the various floors are subdivided as follows: on the first floor are the visitors' reception-room, the reading room, the art gallery, the billiard room, the cloak and hat room, the bar and the ten-pin alleys. On the second floor is the theatre, which it is proposed will be used for the more important meetings of the Club and hired out for first-class lectures, reading, &c, &c. On this floor also have been constructed a number of private dining-rooms for the Club members. On the third floor is the main parlor, looking on Madison avenue, and from the windows of which the fine balcony running along that side of the building is reached. This parlor is fitted up in magnificent style, and hung around with portraits of patriots, dead and alive, and those of some friends of the Union abroad, and Cropsey's painting of "The Field of Gettysburg." Adjoining the parlor are the library, the trophy room and a fine, spacious saloon by which the theatre is reached. On the three remaining floors are bedrrooms, elegantly furnished, intended for the occasional accomodation of members and for the purposes of hospitality. In the basement are numerous offices, kitchen &c, &c, and an engine to supply heat to the building and power when required. The remodelling and refitting of the interior cost $50,000."

On May 12, 1875, J. Morgan Slade, an architect with offices at 346 Broadway, received approval for Application 555 from the Buildings Department to raise the club house from six to seven stories, and to replace the mansard roof with a flat tin roof having galvanized Iron cornices and gutters, and to install an elevator, at a cost of "about $40,000." Three sheets of drawings, now badly torn, were submitted with the application. Evidently the work of raising the building was never carried out.

In A History of the Union League Club of New York City (1952) the authors state that while the Union League Club occupied the Mansion from 1868 to 1881, the "only notable external changes are the removal of some charming iron balconies on the Madison Square side and the addition of a fifth story with windows, whose design bears the brand of the 1870's." This book also states that Jerome himself paid for this additional story and for the installation of an Otis passenger elevator. This account has, however, been contradicted by other sources. Rider's New...York City; (1924) states that the building at that date still had an elaborate iron veranda." Exactly what is meant by the addition of the fifth story is hot known, perhaps only finishing off the attic under the mansard roof.

In 1883 the University Club leased the building and the following year began alterations. On January 30, 1884, architect Charles C. Haight, of Ill Broadway, submitted Application 97 with drawings to the Buildings Department requesting "to raise the two story connecting front and rear building one story." The building was to be three stories when raised, and the work was to cost "about 5000." This application concerns the portion of the complex that had been Jerome's theater, now used as a dining room; the additional story was to be used for kitchen facilities. The application also proposed "to construct new staircase as shown on drawing from third to fourth floor of front building," The application was approved February 4, 1884. The Buildings Department reported that the work was begun February 6, 1884, and completed by April 26, 1884.

On June 30, 1836, Haight submitted Plan 1492 to the Buildings Department for various alterations to cost "about $9000." Drawings were included and appear to Indicate the following changes. Window sills were to be lowered in the "New Dining Room," the former theater. New windows were to be cut in the south wall, minor partitions installed and removed, and a brick elevator shaft constructed. The work was begun on July 16, 1886, and completed on October 30, 1886.

The Manhattan Club moved into the Mansion in 1899.