Deep in the heart of midtown, in the shadows of St. Patrick’s Cathedral and The New York Palace Hotel, stands a lasting remnant to 19th-century design and opulent Gilded Age living—the Villard Houses, also known as The Mansion on Madison. Built by budding architecture firm McKim, Mead & White in 1884 on the southeast corner of 51st Street and Madison Avenue, the six-story, 26,190-square-foot building was commissioned by Henry Villard, president of the Northern Pacific Railway.
The home looks like one large mansion from the outside, but the inside was designed to house six private yet connected brownstones for Villard and his business associates. Villard took the largest residence of the six, occupying the entire right wing. This set of row houses, instead of relating to the street line, non-traditionally forms a U-shaped block around a fenced-in courtyard to “secure privacy and get rid of tramps,” said Villard, “and to live in a quiet and secluded way.”