The small stretch of Madison Avenue from 72nd street to 71st street has almost feels as if it’s become Ralph Lauren’s private block. Lauren has leased the original and iconic flagship store the Rhinelander Mansion since 1983, as of 2011 the woman’s collection is housed in an equally imposing building across the street, and the kids collection further south closer to 71st street.
The Rhinelander Mansion itself, was commissioned by Gertrude Rhinelander Waldo to be her residence, it was designed by Kimball & Thompson in the, popular at the time, French Renaissance style and completed in 1898. The building is richly adorned with French gothic ornamentation, magnificent stone carvings, slender dormers, and a beautiful slate roof. The ornate building itself, oddly enough mimics the story of its habitation, or lack thereof, Mrs Waldo in fact never moved in to the building choosing instead to live with her sister across the street. She passed away 1911 leaving the building filled with unpacked antiquities and art work, a mortgage and unpaid taxes. Dime Savings Bank who then took possession of the home made the effort to demolish the home to build an apartment building, but was denied zoning by the city. The mansion more or less remained empty and uncared for until 1921 when it was converted to ground floor retail and apartments above. Over the years the inside was further divided and subdivided, Wikipedia has a good history of the how the property eventually came in to the hands of Ralph Lauren. I skip over this part because in researching the mansion, I’ve been curious who exactly the Rhinelander’s were and how they were tied to NYC.