Saturday, June 17, 2017

I Walked New York City's Cartier Building

The Cartier Building is a former mansion that is now home to the French jeweler and watch manufacturer. The building was constructed in 1904 and designed by English-born architect Robert W. Gibson (who is also known for his All Saints Cathedral in Albany, NY) as the home to millionaire Morton Freeman Plant. Plant acquired the land for his mansion from William K. Vanderbilt under the condition that the property not be used for commercial purposes for at least twenty-five years. The resulting mansion was a six-story Neo-Italian-Renaissance palazzo that features an exterior of marble and granite.

Plant resided in this building for just over ten years with his wife, Mae Cadwell Manwaring (aka Maisie). At the time of their union, Plant was sixty-one years old while Maisie was thirty years younger. In 1917, the Plants began to consider moving uptown as were many of their notable neighbors including the Vanderbilts. It was during this time that Maisie discovered an object of her desire and of considerable cost. On a visit to the Cartier store of the time, Maisie fell in love with a pearl necklace that was being showcased and estimated to have been valued at $1.2 million. Feeling it to have been a wise investment at the time, the Plants sold their six-story mansion to the Cartier store for the strand of pearls along with $100 in cash. The Plants, in turn, moved to a new home located near 86th Street.

New York City's Cartier Building

Unfortunately for the Plants, the value of pearls declined in the ensuing years by a significant amount due to the commercialization of cultured pearls. When the necklace was sold the year after Maisie’s death (in 1957) it sold for a paltry $170,000. Sadly, the whereabouts of the necklace today have been lost to time, although Ms. Maisie is said to still to obsess over its existence. Supposedly within a hotel in Clearwater, Florida that was formerly built by Morton’s father, there resides a disturbed female ghost who appears to be looking as though she lost her most prized possession.

Upon acquisition of the former mansion in 1917, the Cartier Corporation transformed the building into what some now refer to as the House of Cartier. The interior was reportedly completely redone by architect William Welles Bosworth, less the second floor music room. Cartier was founded in 1847 in Paris by Louis Francois Cartier. The family became well known in 1902 when it was hired to design a series of twenty-seven tiaras for the coronation of King Edward VII. A New York location was opened in 1909 by Louis’ son, Pierre who would eventually move the store to this locale in 1917.

  • Website:
  • Address: 651 Fifth Avenue, New York City, NY
  • Cost: Free.