|Location||29½ 50th Street, 24—26 East 51st Street, and 451, 453, 455, and 457 Madison Avenue, New York City|
|Architect||Joseph M. Wells of McKim, Mead & White|
|Architectural style||Renaissance, Other|
|NRHP reference #||75001210|
|Added to NRHP||September 2, 1975|
|Designated NYCL||September 30, 1968|
The building was constructed in 1884, designed by architect Joseph M. Wells of the architecture firm McKim, Mead and White. It is considered to be a Roman design with specific Renaissance touch points. Among the artists who worked on the building's elaborate interior were artist John La Farge, sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens and painter Maitland Armstrong.
The houses were commissioned by Henry Villard, then president of the Northern Pacific Railway, shortly before his railroad empire began to crumble. Ownership of the building changed through many hands throughout the century. In 1948, the Archdiocese of New York purchased the houses at 451 and 453 Madison Avenue, and in early 1949 it purchased 455 Madison Avenue and 24 and 30 East 51st Street. The houses themselves are now owned by the Sultan of Brunei, while the land remains the property of the Archdiocese of New York under a 99-year lease.
In 1968, the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission designated the complex an historical landmark. A combined restoration/new hotel complex construction project was proposed by real estate developer Harry B. Helmsley who constructed the 51-story New York Palace Hotel tower directly behind the original building. The project was designed by architects Emery Roth & Sons and Hardy Holzman Pfeiffer in 1977 and completed in 1980.
The original building was restored in 2003 and office space was furnished for city preservation group The Municipal Art Society, as part of an agreement to save the building from demolition. As a part of the renovation of the hotel, part of what is now known as the Villard Mansion is available as an event rental.
In popular culture
Exterior shots of the Villard Houses were used on the TV series Gossip Girl as the hotel where the van der Woodsen family lives.
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