Housed in Henry Clay Frick's former New York mansion, The Frick Collection is an important collection of Western fine and decorative arts. The Frick Art Reference Library contains resources for the study of art history, including books, photographs, and archival material.
In 1905, Henry Clay Frick moved his family from Pittsburgh to New York, leasing the Vanderbilt mansion at 640 Fifth Avenue. He kept his Pittsburgh residence, along with a country estate in Prides Crossing, Massachusetts.
Frick purchased a lot 125 feet deep with 200 feet of frontage on Fifth Avenue from the New York Public Library in 1906. Additional parcels were purchased from the Library in 1907.
The property was finally deeded to Frick in May 1912, shortly after he returned from an extended trip abroad.
Weeks later, though, Frick withdrew the offer, citing the "discussion and opposition which my offer has occasioned." Demolition of the Lenox Library began in July 1912, at a cost of $11,000.
At the end of 1911, Burnham rendered a bill to Frick for his services. Thomas Hastings would soon be selected as the new architect, but in early 1912, when Frick and his family sailed from New York bound for Egypt, designs for the house were still very much up in the air.
The Fricks returned to New York in May 1912, after canceling their plans to sail on the Titanic. Several friends wrote to them and remarked on their narrow escape.
By summer, a model of the house was ready for inspection, and Frick registered his approval in a letter to Carstairs: "We have the model of the house here and it seems to receive unstinted praise."
Frick's secretary, James Howard Bridge, wrote in July to inform Frick of a meeting with Hastings. His letter hints at Frick's intention to one day leave the house as a museum.
The architect's model of 1 East 70th Street no longer survives, but blueprints of the north and south elevations of the house show Hastings's conception for the house.
Construction continued through the summer of 1913.
The structure of the house's Art Gallery was largely in place by early October 1913. Note the coats and hats of workmen hanging along the walls.
Upon returning from abroad in June 1914, Frick wrote to Roland Knoedler to report on progress at the house: "The picture gallery is going to be a dream; I like its proportions immensely."
Allom's lengthy letter to Frick in March 1913 discusses how the house's interior might complement Frick's collection. Already, his two Veronese paintings were designated for the walls at the west end of the gallery.
Allom also conferred with Hastings on schemes for the house's interior, altering his designs in accordance with Hastings's suggestions.
Writing from London, Charles Carstairs informed Frick about his meeting with Allom. As an art dealer, Carstairs was ever mindful of both Frick's taste and how best to display his paintings.
Frick and Allom corresponded about the house throughout 1913 and by December Allom was ready to prepare photographs and drawings for the interiors.
Frick's reply, drafted on the verso of Allom's letter, urges restraint in the house's decoration: "We desire a comfortable well arranged home, simple, in good taste, and not ostentatious."
By mid-July 1914, Allom's work at 1 East 70th Street totaled more than $300,000. This figure would soon be dwarfed by the cost of Frick's acquisitions from the Morgan estate.
In January 1914, Elsie de Wolfe wrote to Frick to inquire if she might have a role in decorating the house.
While many of the furnishings provided by Allom were produced in his London workshop, Elsie de Wolfe procured mostly antiques for the family's private rooms.
While abroad in the spring of 1914, Frick accompanied de Wolfe to various antique dealers in search of suitable furnishings.
Items purchased at Jacques Seligmann's, for instance, included a $40,000 antique table, formerly in the collection of Sir John Murray Scott, for Mrs. Frick's boudoir.
In this view of Adelaide H.C. Frick's boudoir, the Riesener table purchased from Jacques Seligmann can be seen in the foreground.
Frick did not allow de Wolfe free rein, however, and took the opportunity to tutor her in shrewd business practices when he saw fit.
Frick cabled de Wolfe in August to urge her home to attend to matters at his house. Her response suggests passage to the United States might be difficult.
Allom's work was affected as well, and Frick had little patience with the delays. He cited Allom's conduct as unbusiness-like and did not view the war as an acceptable excuse.
After a delay of several months, Mr. and Mrs. Frick moved into the house on November 17, 1914.
Though her contract had been fulfilled, de Wolfe was still procuring furniture for Frick in 1915. She wrote from Europe late that year about the lack of suitable pieces and the pervasiveness of the war: "One eats, drinks, and sleeps it morning, noon and night."
In June 1915, Frick hosted a dinner in honor of Hastings. The event was attended by John Russell Pope, who would later be involved in converting the house to a museum.
Hastings wrote to Frick the next day to express his gratitude: "It means everything to me to have had so many artists see my work."
Visits to the Morgan Collection at the nearby Metropolitan Museum were noted in the 1 East 70th Street household diary.
Acquisitions from the Morgan collection included the Fragonard panels shown here, which were installed in the former drawing room of Frick's residence.
Frick (referred to as "Papsie" by his daughter in this diary entry) visited the Fragonard panels on the same day that he arranged to acquire them through Duveen Brothers.
Additional items acquired from the Morgan Collection included a large group of Limoges enamels installed in a dedicated room off of Frick's Art Gallery.