A Georgian Masterpiece

The Emily Trevor Townhouse, a treasure from the architectural canon of Mott B. Schmidt, is offered for sale for only the third time since its construction in 1928.

To be only the fourth owner of an immaculately preserved, near-century old home in Manhattan is a rarity. At 15 East 90th Street, that immaculate level of preservation is paired with another rarity; the house is the later work of early 20th-century master Mott Schmidt. Reviewing a retrospective exhibit of Schmidt’s work in 1980, New York Times architectural critic Paul Goldberger described the Neo-Georgian style Trevor Mansion as “an exquisite, bursting composition, in which a lovely Corinthian portico with a pedimented window behind it makes the whole façade glow, like a tiny red brick bouquet of flowers.”

Tiny, though, it is not. Measuring over 12,173 square feet, the house contains five bedrooms, five bathrooms, and three powder rooms. The public rooms on the second floor, including a south-facing parlor and a bow-windowed dining room, are connected by a center stair hall and a 14-by-11-foot gallery, all under striking 12-and-a-half-foot ceilings. Designed for formal entertaining, the dining room connects to a butler’s kitchen, located directly above the home’s main kitchen—a tasteful and contemporary 2015 renovation that replaced several maid’s rooms on the first floor.

 According to Mark Alan Hewitt, writer of The Architecture of Mott B. Schmidt, the Emily Trevor Townhouse contains “the finest extant interiors of any Schmidt commission.” Carefully restored plasterwork, paneling, and flooring are on display in the home’s grand entryway and staircase, parlor, dining room, library, and master bedroom. A journey through this home is a tour de force of classical, luxurious living spaces, executed in the 18th-century neoclassical Robert Adam style.

Like the Georgian-style Kenwood House located outside of London, the Trevor Townhouse juxtaposes exterior restraint with lavish neoclassical flair inside. Inspired by his travels to Europe, Schmidt based the parlor room designs for the Trevor Townhouse on the library at Kenwood House, a room designed by Robert Adam himself in the 1760s for the 1st Earl of Mansfield.

Schmidt and his early 20th-century clients were often socialites who saw the outward opulence of the Gilded Age as passé. They instead chose to, as Goldberger put it, “evoke the modest order of colonial times or Georgian London.” This is because Schmidt’s clients, who included an Astor, a Morgan, and a Vanderbilt, wanted to showcase their  deep family roots in colonial America.

As with the Trevor Townhouse, the interiors were showy, sumptuous private spaces for the enjoyment of their guests, rather than passersby. The implementation of hand-picked European materials like imported 18th-century Flemish brick, knotty pine paneling, marble mantelpieces, and carefully transported door surrounds make the home a museum of Mott Schmidt and Emily Trevor’s tastes and travels, perfectly preserved.