The Payne Whitney Mansion

Fallen Tree, YMER&MALTA / Benjamin Graindorge (2011) © Beowulf Sheehan

© Fallen Tree, YMER&MALTA / Benjamin Graindorge (2011) © Beowulf Sheehan

Villa Albertine is headquartered in New York City in the landmarked Payne Whitney Mansion, located on the Upper East Side of Manhattan.

As headquarters of Villa Albertine, the Payne Whitney Mansion is the beating heart of a network of creative thought and innovation across the United States, integrating a storied cultural history with cutting-edge design. Within the Payne Whitney Mansion, one also finds Albertine bookshop, a reading room and center for transatlantic literary exchange, devoted to books in French and English.

As one of the few remaining buildings from the Gilded Age architectural period, the Stanford White-designed Payne Whitney Mansion at 972 Fifth Avenue offers an unparalleled blend of history, location, design, and elegance. Steeped in the history of turn-of-the-century New York, Renaissance Europe, and France, the mansion transports visitors to another epoch and offers the height of sophistication in the 21st century. Its iconic location, across from Central Park and on Museum Mile, is highly desirable and easily accessible.

 

The Building

The marble rotunda, featuring the Young Archer statue attributed to Michelangelo, at the Payne Whitney Mansion

© Beowulf Sheehan

The Marble Rotunda

Just over the threshold of the Payne Whitney Mansion’s elegant wrought iron doors, one enters the rotunda, a hall framed by marble columns surrounding a fountain and supporting a dome ceiling decorated with lattice and vines. On the fountain rests a marble statue of a youth, now thought to be an early work by Michelangelo. Acquired by Stanford White while sourcing Italian marble for the Mansion, the Young Archer was first identified by New York University Institute of Fine Arts Professor Kathleen Wil-Garris Brandt, supported by James David Draper, Curator in the Department of European Sculpture and Decorative Arts at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, after decades of gracing the rotunda.

The Venetian Room at the Payne Whitney Mansion

© Beowulf Sheehan

The Venetian Room

Off the rotunda is one of the architect’s most original creations, a receiving room later to become known as the “Venetian Room.” This fairy tale room is a true museum piece with ornate mirrored panel walls and a cornice of metal lattice entwined with exquisite porcelain flowers and 18th-century European furnishings. Referred to as the “Venetian Room” in the 1930s by Helen Hay Whitney, the room was designed by Stanford White, known for his attention to interiors, to capture the effect of a hall of mirrors, in gilded rococo frames. Constructed by the New York office of the French firm Allard et fils, the room was furnished with pieces purchased by Stanford White and the Whitney family in Europe in the summer of 1905.

Today the interior, restored with the support of friends of the Embassy and the French American Foundation, features original furnishings including Meissen porcelain and 18th century portraits and furnishings.

The ballroom at the Payne Whitney Mansion

The Marble Room and Ballroom

A wide, gracious stairway leads from the rotunda directly to the Marble Room, a reception space of classic proportions, with gilded, mirrored doors on opposite walls of this salon. The Ballroom features a series of gilded oversized windows that overlook Fifth Avenue and Central Park. The Marble Room and Ballroom, two historical spaces located immediately adjacent to the Albertine bookshop on the mansion’s second floor, are the Embassy’s primary reception rooms and underwent a full renovation in 2021. They connect beautifully with Albertine, recreating an en enfilade configuration originally designed by Stanford White and used by the Whitney family when welcoming their own visitors.

For more than fifty years, these rooms have welcomed illustrious guests, housed Legion of Honor ceremonies, welcomed ambassadors, and marked critical moments in French-American diplomacy. Distinguished leaders such as François Mitterrand and Ban Ki-Moon, noble laureates including Albert Fert and Joseph Stiglitz, world renowned artists such as Ellsworth Kelly and Richard Serra, and filmmakers and stars including Meryl Streep, Jim Jarmusch, and Wes Anderson have all graced these rooms. These historic centers for transatlantic exchange have been restored to their original detail, thanks to a recent renovation by the master craftsmen of Atelier de Ricou, with the generous support of Vera Wang and William and Clémence von Mueffling.

The artist's studio in the Payne Whitney Mansion, circa 1902-1919

© McKim, Mead & White, courtesy of the Museum of the City of New York

The Fifth Floor Studio

Originally a study for Mrs. Whitney, the Fifth Floor Studio provided a tranquil space for her to write, play the piano and entertain friends. Helen Hay Whitney was a prominent author of children’s books and poet, and many of her poems were featured in Harper’s Magazine and The Metropolitan Magazine. Following the death of her husband, Mrs. Whitney donated a substantial amount of the Whitney fortune to various causes and institutions, such as the Payne Whitney Gymnasium at Yale. Before her own passing, Helen and her daughter Joan created the Helen Hay Whitney Foundation in 1943, an organization that supports early postdoctoral research training in all biomedical sciences.

An oasis overlooking Central Park and Museum Mile, the Fifth Floor Studio features inviting original details including a brick fireplace, tommettes de Provence flooring and a wooden vaulted ceiling painted with ornate rosettes. The space offers an impressive yet intimate setting for dinners, meetings, and small receptions.

The ceiling of Albertine Books, a periwinkle blue with a gold and black circular astrological map.

© John Bartelstone

Albertine Books

Tucked inside the Payne Whitney mansion, Albertine is the only bookshop in New York devoted solely to books in French and English with more than 14,000 contemporary and classic titles from 30 French-speaking countries. Featuring a celestial painted ceiling in the style of a Renaissance fresco, visitors are invited to discover the best of French and francophone literature and ideas in this intimate space.

A project of the Cultural Services of the French Embassy, the Albertine bookshop brings to life the French government’s commitment to French-American intellectual exchange. The space reflects its belief in the power of literature and the humanities to increase understanding and friendship across borders, and in the power of books as a common good for a better world. Albertine hosts lively debates and discussions exploring popular and classical culture through a modern and global lens.

The Florence Gould Garden outside the Payne Whitney Mansion, featuring wooden walkways and several large trees facing the south side of the building.

© Beowulf Sheehan

The Florence Gould Garden

A peaceful respite, the Payne Whitney Mansion’s adjoining contemporary garden is among the few private gardens along Fifth Avenue’s Museum Mile and offers guests an outdoor space for receptions and other gatherings. It is a delightful venue for any warm weather event. An elegant zen-like design gives the space tremendous malleability, and it features lighting design by Hervé Descottes.

Event Hosting:

Restored to their original detail thanks to a recent renovation by the master craftsmen of Atelier de Ricou, each room of the Payne Whitney Mansion reflects the harmonious vision of renowned architect Stanford White. The last building designed during his lifetime, the home represents the final creation of an era of elegance and craftsmanship that gave rise to other New York landmarks such as the Washington Square Arch and the original McKim, Mead and White Pennsylvania Station.

Featuring panoramic views across Central Park, wrought iron doors, and marble detailing, we invite you to discover the headquarters of Villa Albertine and home of French Culture in the US. The Payne Whitney Mansion offers select availabilities for private events and provides an unparalleled setting for celebrations and gatherings, from intimate dinners to iconic film shoots.

For further information, please contact:

Claire Abell