The Foundation’s Italianate townhouse, at 8 East 69th Street, was constructed in 1893 from designs by Peabody & Stearns, one of the leading architectural design firms of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Although many of the buildings Peabody & Stearns designed have since been destroyed through fires or urban renewal (including the first Breakers, in Newport, Rhode Island), the Boat Houses the company designed for Harvard University, D'Hauteville Cottage in Newport, Rhode Island, and the Lawrenceville School, Lawrenceville, New Jersey still remain standing.
As was customary at that time, the townhouse was built with many luxuries: twenty foot ceilings, carved fireplaces of Italian marble, carved mahogany panels, elegant tapestries, an organ, and curved glass windows and doors. The kitchen was on the lower floor and the prepared food was brought to the dining room above through a dumbwaiter to an adjacent luxurious pantry. This arrangement required a large staff needed to care for the very large five-story building. This lifestyle was possible until household help became more expensive and less available.
The townhouse was built for Charles S. Colby, a railroad operator whose father endowed Colby College, in Waterville, Maine. Other notable New Yorkers lived in the townhouse including Jas. A. Burden, Jr., a noted book collector, Mr. and Mrs. Frederick Baldwin, and the family of Laura Delano Adams Eastman, whose mother was a cousin of Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
By 1967, the townhouse was owned by the Kingdom of Sweden, which was using the premises as its New York Consulate. The building also housed the Royal Swedish Academy of Engineering Sciences. Sweden’s Consul General wanted the country’s offices to occupy more modern space, with all the offices on one floor.
In 1969, Members of the Columbus Citizens Committee, led by Fortune Pope and Judge S. Samuel Di Falco, oversaw a bond issue that led to the acquisition of the building from Sweden. When purchased, the building required total restoration. This was accomplished by Italian Artisans who were also members of the Foundation. The building today is a totally restored and beautifully maintained example of the mansions prevalent on the Upper East Side at the turn of the century.The townhouse is home to the Foundation’s offices and is frequently the site of cultural and social events. It is noted for its Oak Room, which features elaborately carved panels, and for its gracious and spacious rooms.
Images from The Townhouse
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