The sale last week of his imposing mansion at Fifth avenue and Ninety-first street to the Academy of the Sacred Heart gives the final fillip to the story of Otto H. Kahn, late financier and patron of the arts.
In the heart of the fashionable and jealously guarded residential section on upper Fifth avenue, the Kahn residence had long been considered one of New York’s most distinguished homes.
It embodied, to some extent, all that Kahn himself lived for. The banker, who was called “the man who made Wall street art-conscious,” bought the site of the building from Andrew Carnegie in 1916.
The four-story building was designed by two architects, Charles Pierrepont H. Gilbert and J. Armstrong Stenhouse, Englishman. It is regarded as a fine example of French architecture and is one of the largest private houses in Manhattan, covering more than 13,000 square feet. The exterior is made of French limestone imported from St. Quentin and the halls inside are of imported Caen stone.
OVER SIXTY ROOMS
There are more than sixty rooms in the building, ranging from library, Italian room, French salon, dining room and music room on the ground floor to the kitchen, pantries and the forty servants rooms with baths elsewhere in the house. Fitted out with expensive furniture and rare works of art, the residence in its heyday was one of the finest in America.
Although Otto H. Kahn was not specifically identified with Jewish activities, he was well known as a philanthropist and art patron. He often gave large sums for the encouragement of Jewish artists or for the aiding of Jewish experimental art institutions. His interest in art was so remarkable for a practical banker that the elder Stillman ###elt called upon to describe Kahn in the late 90′s “a promising chap if only he will forget that art nonsense.”
The Academy of the Sacred Heart, one of the oldest teaching orders in the Roman Catholic Church, opened negotiations with Mr. Kahn for the negotiations with Mr. Kahn for the purchase of the building back in 1932. One of the chief difficulties encountered was the restriction of buildings in the district to residences alone.
However, an affidavit was filed by Robert D. Steefel of Stroock & Stroock in the Supreme Court, explaining that since the time, years ago, when this restriction had been imposed, “great radical and permanent changes have occurred, and the character of the neighborhood has radically and permanently changed.” It was promised, at the same time, that the school would continue to keep up the standards of the neighborhood.
Several weeks before his death on March 29 of this year, Mr. Kahn had agreed to an exchange of property with the Society of the Sacred Heart. This deal was not binding until restrictions were removed, and last week the sale was finally consummated.
All obstacles having been hurdled, the school will move in with in a few months.
Soon Catholic girls will be reciting their lessons in the very same rooms in which a great Jewish financier had entertained his distinguished guests.