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Greenburgh Public Library Blog

House Hunting with Andrew Carnegie in Manhattan

by Nancy Larrabee on 2019-08-03T09:30:00-04:00 in Local History | Comments

The Carnegie home at East 91st Street and Fifth Avenue on the Upper West Side of Manhattan is an impressive tribute to the Carnegie's  forward-thinking vision. Their home took approximately four years to build and was finished in 1902.  Andrew, Louise, and their young daughter Margaret moved into the newly completed mansion in late 1902. The building received landmark status in 1974, and in 1976 opened as the Smithsonian Institution's Cooper-Hewitt Museum.This majestic 64-room mansion is in the style of an English Georgian country house and designed by the architectural firm of Babb, Cook & Willard. This house was far ahead of its time in its design, with modern steel-frame construction and its spacious landscaped garden; and in its technology, with multiple electric elevators, a fully electrified laundry, and an extremely sophisticated air conditioning system capable of heating, cooling, and humidifying individual rooms.  The selected site was groundbreaking: in its location, far from what was then fashionable New York.  The home was a catalyst for development, giving rise to the neighborhood known as Carnegie Hill.

Family, Career, and Libraries

Scottish-born Andrew Carnegie was an American industrialist who accumulated a fortune in the steel industry and became unrivaled in his philanthropic pursuits. His family emigrated to the United Sates from Scotland and settled in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Carnegie worked in a Pittsburgh cotton factory as a boy, before rising to the position of Division Superintendent of the Pennsylvania Railroad in 1859. While working for the railroad he invested in various ventures, including iron and oil companies, and made his first fortune by the time he was in his early 30s. In the early 1870s Carnegie entered the steel business, and over the next two decades became an influential force in the industry. In 1901 he sold the Carnegie Steel Company to banker John Pierpont Morgan for $480 million. The equivalent of $14,464,545,882.35 in 2019Carnegie then devoted himself to philanthropy, eventually giving away more than $350 million. 

When Andrew's mother Margaret died in 1886, he was 51 years old. Only then did he feel the time was right to marry Louise Whitfield, who he had met six years earlier while horseback riding through Central Park.  Margaret was a  strong force to be reckoned with her son's life; it was rumored he and Louise were engaged on three different occasions, Margaret being undoubtedly responsible for two of those failed attempts. 

One of the most tangible examples of Andrew Carnegie's philanthropy was the founding of 2,509 libraries in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.  Of these libraries, 1,679 were built in the United States, several located in Westchester County, New York.  Carnegie spent over $55 million of his wealth on libraries alone, and he is often referred to as the “Patron Saint of Libraries.”

Want to see this historical architectural treasure in person? The Greenburgh Public Library offers Greenburgh cardholders a chance to reserve free passes to multiple museums in New York City and Westchester, including the Cooper Hewitt.!/ 



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