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8 Facts About a Koch Brother's Bonkers Museum-in-a-Mansion

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Frederick Koch can simply be referred to as the "other" Koch brother, that is, distinct from his politically active siblings David and Charles. (There's also another brother, Bill, but who's counting?) Vanity Fair delves deep into the life of the mysterious Frederick, and comes up with, well, a lot of facts about the Upper East Side mansion he has basically turned into his personal museum. One of three adjacent townhouses built by five-and-dime baron of industry F.W. Woolworth, 6 East 80th Street has a prestigious history and is currently stuffed with a host of even more prestigious objects—art, antiques, furniture, and the like—given that Freddie is a consummate collector of said goodies. There are, unfortunately, no interior photos of No. 6, but revel in the most quotable tidibits about the home from the Vanity Fair article, culled below. If there are any images of the inside, there's a tipline for that.

1) "Built of white marble, Frederick's seven-story neoclassical townhouse is one of a trio commissioned, in the early 1900s, by dime-store magnate Frank Winfield Woolworth, and designed by Charles Pierrepont Henry Gilbert, one of several architects favored by New York's industrialists during the Gilded Age. Woolworth gave the townhouses to each of his three daughters as wedding gifts. Six East 80th Street, the property Frederick now owns, belonged to the tycoon's youngest daughter, Jessie."

2) "Frederick acquired the property for $5 million in 1986, three years after cashing in his stock in the family company, Koch Industries, and in the throes of a frenetic buying spree of historic homes and artwork."

3) "Frederick's longtime architect, Charles T. Young, spent the next decade restoring the townhouse to its former splendor, and in many cases, surpassing it. Frederick spared no expense. He continued a marble balustrade that had ended after the first floor up the staircase and through the remaining six floors of the house. He replaced the crumbling plaster walls with limestone from the quarries of Caen in northwestern France, the kind that would be found in a Parisian townhouse of the French Régence period. In one case, Frederick made structural alterations just to create enough wall space to hang one of the masterpieces of his art collection, widening a pair of stone columns to fit William-Adolphe Bouguereau's The Abduction of Psyche."

4) "Frederick's office is located in what was [Jessie Woolworth's husband's] James Donahue's bedroom. Ornate paneling that once adorned the Palace of Versailles lines the walls. A bookcase, as in some murder-mystery thriller, conceals a hidden passageway, designed, Frederick explains, 'so that the six servants in this house would not be aware of Mr. Donahue's comings and goings.' It leads past a row of stained-glass windows inlaid with the initials of the Donahue clan, to what was Jessie Donahue's bedroom and is now Frederick's."

5) "Frederick spent millions getting every hand-wrought, filigreed detail just right, but he doesn't actually live in the townhouse. When he's in New York—and he moves frequently among his collection of homes, which includes Schloss Blühnbach, a palatial hunting lodge just south of Salzburg, Austria, that once belonged to Archduke Franz Ferdinand—he resides at 825 Fifth Avenue. He just entertains the occasional guest at the Woolworth mansion, his private museum."

6) "'If you pull the carpet back, you'll see a Versailles parquet,' he says, touring the dining room. He pauses to point out paintings by Alexandre-Evariste Fragonard, Edward Burne‑Jones, and Gilbert Stuart; Aubusson carpets; a set of 10 mahogany dining-room chairs that once belonged to financier J. P. Morgan."

7) "In one bedroom, he shows off a canopied bed that he calls 'the most important piece of furniture in the house.' It belonged to Marie Antoinette, a wedding gift from the mayor of Paris, when she married Louis XVI."

8) "Frederick displays one of his most treasured pieces on the top floor, in a sun-drenched, glass-enclosed conservatory that was once Jessie Donahue's studio. On a pedestal beneath a circular skylight ringed with the signs of the zodiac sits a marble head wearing the headdress of an Egyptian pharaoh. The sculpture dates back to A.D. 130."

WHEW. While it sounds like Frederick is going to hold onto 6 East 80th for the forseeable future, a glimpse inside its sister, number 4, which hit the market for $90 million a few years back and then disappeared, must suffice for now.
· The "Other" Koch Brother [Vanity Fair]
· Streetscapes: The Dime Store Tycoon's Kingdom [NYT]