A RESTORATIVE NIGHT: Thom Browne and Andrew Bolton might live at Sutton Place, but they are now ambassadors to the Upper East Side, so to speak.
The Friends of the Upper East Side Historic Districts saluted the pair Tuesday night for doing their part for preservation through the attention that was given to their Georgian town house renovation. Browne and Bolton remodeled the long-vacant house, which was designed in 1920 by Mott Schmidt for Anne Vanderbilt.
Alina Cho, Amy Fine Collins, Emily Rafferty, Nancy Chilton, Matt Foley and Zach Weiss were among the guests who wore Thom Browne ensembles to the event. Other fashion-inclined guests included Harold Koda, Jill Kargman, Sharon Coplan Hurowitz, Edward Barsamian, Lilah Ramzi, Chaz Dean and CFDA member Brooke Garber Neidich. Although she is not a neighborhood resident, with a jewelry store nearby — Sidney Garber in the Mark Hotel — Neidich wanted to show her support. During the cocktail party, louche designer streetwear, the lost art of ironing, the undecided fate of a coveted trove of fashion illustrations and Michael Bloomberg’s commitment to the just-opened Perelman Performing Arts Center were among the conversation topics.
Asked if Browne had joked that the house should be on stage too to accept the award, as one guest had suggested, Bolton affirmed with a laugh, “and David Kleinberg” referring to their interior designer and architect friend, who worked on the project.
“When we moved in, everything was Mongiardino[-designed], but we wanted to take it right back to when Mott Schmidt had designed it for Anne Vanderbilt. What was so nice was so many of those photographs [from that time] still existed and we were able to go through them. It’s not exact, but it’s in the spirit — very pared-down and as true as it’s been, since Moss Schmidt designed it in 1921.”
In 2019, Browne and Bolton purchased the brick town house from the estate of philanthropist Drue Heinz for a reported sum of $13 million with some of the proceeds earmarked for charities that Heinz supported. The prime address had initially been listed for $21 million the year before.
Cho said of the current owners, “Listen [with] Thom and Andrew — what can you say? They are the ultimate fashion power couple. But they are also the kindest, most generous and wonderful people, and they are supremely talented. I think that anybody, who even knows a little bit about fashion knows who they are.”
Friends of the Upper East Side Historic Districts has been key in designating the neighborhood’s 131 individual landmarks and seven historic districts, encompassing a total of 1,907 protected buildings. As a member of the organization’s board of directors, Christian Keesee said, “It’s very important for historic districts to do two things at the same time — to remain the same but also to evolve. They need to remain the same in the sense of the wall on the street, the trees on the street and the lighting need to hold a historic nature. But the way that people live always needs to change. Friends of the Upper East Side has struck a nice equilibrium for the historic district to remain important but also to change with the times.”
One indicator of that is evident on Madison Avenue, where the first two floors of many buildings are used for retail, but everything above that remains historic, Keesee said. His Italianate town house at 129 East 70th Street is the oldest remaining structure in the historic district, dating back to 1862. (Gracie Mansion is older, but it’s not in the historic district.) “It comes with a lot of responsibility. You want to maintain and love something like that. It’s the smallest house on the block, but it holds its own,” he said.
Describing the honorees’ renovations as “superb,” Keesee said, “Not everyone has the financial resources to go to the lengths that they went to, but we’re all trying. And we’re trying to do as good a job as they had.”
Rafferty, The Met’s president emerita, also praised Browne and Bolton, desribing their One Sutton Place address “as one of the finest restorations in the city.” Meanwhile Tuesday night, President Joe Biden and other world leaders were also on the Upper East Side working on the geopolitical foundation — the United Nations General Assembly Leaders’ reception was being held further north at The Met.