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50 Years Ago Today, This Grand Mansion Met a Wrecking Ball

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The Brokaw Mansion used to stand at the corner of 79th and Fifth, but 50 years ago today, demolition started. Built by Isaac Vail Brokaw, a clothing merchant with a rags-to-riches life story, the turreted home was modeled after a 16th-century Loire Valley chateau... even though it was completed in 1890. One of a stretch of Gilded Age mansions that lined the avenue at the time; it was nicknamed Millionaire's Row. (How quaint.) His son eventually inherited the main house, plus the three townhouses Brokaw the elder had built for each child.

George Brokaw wanted to tear it down himself, but family members stopped him. But after his death, the historic homes ultimately sold to the Institute of Radio Engineers, which used them as office space. The institute then sold the parcels to a real estate developer, who (unsurprisingly) readied the wrecking ball in order to build a high-rise apartment building in 1964.

The outcry over the impending demolition made headlines, in part because it piggybacked on the destruction of the old Penn Station. Though the mansion wasn't saved, it helped spark the passage of New York City's landmarks law, which is what preserves designated historic buildings and districts to this day. The law, too, turns 50 this year, and Curbed NY is going to devote special coverage to landmarks all year long. (Like mapping the first 38 landmarks ever.)

It pretty much hurts to look at what's there today.

Bye again, Brokaw Mansion—50 years later. At least you gave us the landmarks law.

· Brokaw Mansions [NYPAP]
· Brokaw House [New York Architecture]
· Flashback: The Brokaw Mansion [Gothamist]
· The Lost Isaac Vail Brokaw Mansion -- No. 1 East 79th Street [DiM]
· Streetscapes: The Wrecking Ball's Last, Uninhibited Dance [NYT]
· Looking Back at Manhattan's Lost Gilded Age Mansions [Curbed]
· Preserving New York: The City's Historic Landmarks Law Turns Fifty [In Collect]