President Chester A. Arthur House, Manhattan
Address: 123 Lexington Avenue
LPC Action: Public Hearing 12/27/1966
LPC Backlog Hearing: Removed from the calendar without prejudice
123 Lexington Avenue is the former residence of President Chester A. Arthur and his wife, Ellen. Arthur served a short term as Vice President of the United States, and became president after taking the Oath of Office in this house in 1881 after President Garfield was assassinated. Arthur left Lexington Avenue during his presidency in Washington, and returned after his term and lived in the house until he died there in 1886. The entire block of once-elegant brownstone townhomes remains along this stretch of Lexington. All of the buildings have converted storefronts, speaking to the evolution of Lexington Avenue from upper-class residential to a commercial corridor.
LPC Statement of Significance:
The President Chester A. Arthur house was originally one of nine similarly designed five storied structures completed in 1855 on the east side of Lexington Avenue between 28th and 29th Streets. Today, only their upper three floors are the same, the first and second having been altered to such an extent, that the row house architectural character of the group has been all but destroyed. The Arthur house and adjacent number 121 remain the least altered, particularly number 121 which still retains its outside steps and trim iron railings leading from the sidewalk level to the second, or parlor floor. The high entrance doors and transom at the second floor, of greater height than the others, is framed by a wide molded stone band, segmental head, and a horizontal series of moldings above supported on a row of brackets. Although extremely simple, the proportions of the whole register dignity and scale. On the Arthur house, no doubt originally a facsimile of Number 121 the doorway motive has been altered to provide a street level entrance leaving only the segmental head and cornice with the frame terminating at the second floor level. The upper floors each have three segmental headed double hung windows with molded stone sills and cap molded lintels. A metal cornice on brackets, typical of so many brownstone fronts, crowns each building at the roof level. The buildings, of native brownstone color originally, are now painted white.
It was in this house on September 20, 1882, that Chester Arthur took the oath of office President of the United States following the assassination of President Garfield. The house had been purchased by his wife Ellen Herndon Arthur in 1858 and remained their home when he left office in March 1885 until his death the following year. The report that William Randolph Hearst who occupied Number 119, the southern corner building of this historically distinguished row of houses, bought the Arthur house later for his own residential use has been disproved. Records show, however, he did buy it in 1901 to house automobiles on the ground level and provide quarters for a caretaker on the floors above.