|Mrs. Henry Parish, 2nd, known as "Sister".|
Photo from THE GREAT LADY DECORATORS.
The Devoted Classicist has received a number of inquiries and comments on the recently-offered-for-sale former apartment of Mrs. Henry Parish, 2nd, the legendary decorator Sister Parish, founding partner of Parish-Hadley Associates, my former employer. There have been several newspaper articles and numerous blog postings on the subject, but all are filled with inaccuracies. Hopefully, this essay will answer those questions about the idiosyncrasies of the apartment.
|The residence of William A. Clark formerly occupied the corner of Fifth Avenue and East 77th Street before being demolished for the construction of the apartment building 960 Fifth Avenue.|
The prestigious Manhattan co-op apartment building known by its address 960 Fifth Avenue was completed in 1928 and designed by Rosario Candela in association with Warren & Wetmore, Cross & Cross architects, and Mrs. George Draper (later to be known as the decorator Dorothy Draper). The site was formerly occupied by two houses, the Charles F. Dieterich residence at 963 Fifth Avenue and the exuberant William A. Clark residence at 1 East 77th Street. (The 121 room Clark mansion was recently in the news as the childhood home of the billionaire recluse Hugette Clark who died in May, 2011, with an estate that included three palatial residences that she had not occupied in years).
|960 Fifth Avenue, showing the former apartment of Sister Parish on the ground floor, corner.|
Image from Brown Harris Stevens.
960 Fifth Avenue originally contained fourteen lavish duplex and simplex apartments with rooms of varying ceiling heights; some have since been divided into smaller apartments, however, without a loss of luxury. The Mark Hampton-decorated apartment of socialite Anne Bass approaches 10,000 square feet according to the New York Observer. Although the apartments contained dining rooms and kitchens, an original feature was a for-residents-only restaurant and entertaining facility, The Georgian Room, sometimes also called The Georgian Suite, which can be entered on the ground floor of 960 Fifth Avenue or through a separate entrance at 1A East 77th Street. There is also an associated building, originally a rental, containing smaller apartments with its own entrance at 3 East 77th Street.
|Floor plan of the former apartment of Sister Parish at 960 Fifth Avenue, New York City.|
Fifth Avenue would be at the top and East 77th Street at the left.
Entrance is gained from a hallway adjacent to the elevators.
Image from Brown Harris Stevens.
Mrs. Parish's apartment was originally a duplex maisonette at the corner of Fifth Avenue and East 77th Street. It had its own entrance which can still be seen on East 77th Street, the third opening from the corner. Mrs. Parish used the doorman entrance on Fifth Avenue, but liked being on the ground floor so her dogs, who went with her to the office every day, did not use the elevator. Her apartment had already been reduced to one floor with the original Dining Room incorporated into the adjacent apartment. The former Stair Hall became her Dining Room of sorts and the former Vestibule, shown in the plan as a Study originally did not have the door to the Living Room, held a day bed and was used as a Guest Room. Mrs. Parish's bedroom was formerly a Library. Also, there was a staff room elsewhere in the building, unattached to the apartment.
|Sister Parish's Living Room at 960 Fifth Avenue.|
Photo from PARISH-HADLEY, SIXTY YEARS OF AMERICAN DECORATION.
Mrs. Parish would have very likely spent the rest of her days in the apartment had she not been approached with a generous offer to sell. As she was in ther late 70s by this point, she felt that a room within the apartment for her live-in housekeeper would be a desirable feature and set out to see if there was a maisonette on the market that would provide that. The Manhattan residence of the late film star Gloria Swanson fit the bill, with a small adjacent outdoor space as well. So Mrs. Parish moved in the mid 1980s and the new owner had the apartment completely redecorated by Irvine & Fleming, changing everything except the trompe l'oeil painted cabinet doors in the pantry-like kitchen.
|The Living Room with remnants of the decoration by Irvine & Fleming.|
|The Living Room as decorated by Mario Buatta.|
A Before and After article in the February, 2008, issue of Architectural Digest magazine showed remnants of the Irvine & Fleming decoration before the next transformation by Mario Buatta. Acoording to the magazine article, the Buatta client and present owner of the apartment is Patricia Altshul, the widow of banker-philanthropist Arthur Altshul. (A few years ago, Mrs. Altshul sold her Long Island estate Southerly overlooking Oyster Bay Harbor and paid a record price for the 1851 Mikell House in Charleston, South Carolina).
|The Dining Room with remnants of the decoration by Irvine & Fleming.|
|The Dining Room as decorated by Mario Buatta.|
Irvine & Fleming made a few changes such as closing one doorway from the original Vestibule and opening a new one to the Living Room. Also, Irvine & Fleming added mirror in the Living Room and Bedroom. (Keith Irvine formerly worked for the legendary decorator John Fowler whose influence can be seen in the curtains).
|The Living Room as decorated by Mario Buatta with a false fireplace added.|
It seems that Mario Buatta's work was purely decorative, keeping these alterations and adding only a false fireplace to complete his trademark look.
|The Bedroom as decorated by Mario Buatta.|
|The Bathroom as decorated by Mario Buatta.|
More information can be seen at the Brown Harris Stevens website www.bhsusa.com. The listed price is $3,500,000 with a monthly maintenance charge of $3,732. The property ID is 1559532.
|Mrs. Henry "Sister" Parish, 2nd, with her beloved Peke, Yummy.|
Portrait by Aaron Schikler.
More about the legendary decorator Sister Parish can found by searching this site for mentions in previous posts of The Devoted Classicist, and in books here, here, here, and here.
ADDENDUM, February 18, 2012