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One East 70th Street Papers

Identifier: HCFF.07

Scope and Content Note

These papers, dating from 1907-1931, chiefly document the construction and furnishing of Henry Clay Frick's New York residence at One East 70th Street. Materials include contracts, construction specifications, correspondence, architect's certificates, accounts payable vouchers, accounting and financial records, and inventories, as well as documentation of activities at the house after its construction, and maintenance and improvement of the property. These files do not contain blueprints of the house, or visual renderings (photographs, sketches, etc.) of any aspect of the design and construction process unless noted. For images of the house under construction, see the Wurts Brothers photographs in this repository.

The collection is arranged in eight series: I. Construction Contracts, II. Construction Notes and Correspondence, III. Construction Special Orders, IV. Construction Vouchers, V. Furnishings, VI. Financial Records, VII. Post-Construction and Estate Matters, and VIII. Daily Life.

Series I: Construction Contracts, 1912-1917, includes a bound index of contractors, lists of bids received, cumulative lists of contracts awarded, account summaries and trial balances, summaries of architect's certificates and bills on hand for payment, and files for each contract awarded. Contract files may contain correspondence, executed contracts, construction specifications, architect's certificates, and insurance and bond information. Correspondents include Thomas Hastings and his firm, Carrère & Hastings, construction superintendent D.B. Kinch, and the various contractors involved in the construction of the house. Contracts were issued for all aspects of the building process, from the wrecking and removal of the Lenox Library through the landscape surrounding the finished house. Multiple contracts were occasionally awarded to the same firm (e.g. Edward F. Caldwell & Co. and Cauldwell-Wingate Co.)

Series II: Construction Notes and Correspondence, 1912-1918, contains correspondence, notes, proposals, memoranda, estimates, auditor's reports, invoices, lists of subcontractors, and information regarding costs for labor, materials, insurance, and cartage. These materials document the progression of work at the construction site, as well as the billing, auditing, and payment of accounts. Construction expenses were closely monitored by auditors, and accounting discrepancies are frequently noted. Letters of Carrère & Hastings, superintendent D.B. Kinch, and Frick secretary F.W. McElroy appear throughout these files. This series also contains one letterpress copybook of Henry Clay Frick's outgoing letters during the construction and furnishing of One East 70th Street.

Series III: Construction Special Orders, 1913-1915, documents special orders for work not included among the general contracts in Series I. Folder contents typically include correspondence regarding proposals and acceptances, special order certificates issued by the architect, construction specifications, and itemized bills.

Series IV: Construction Vouchers, 1912-1914, consists of payment vouchers issued to firms, agencies, and individuals during the construction of the Frick residence at One East 70th Street. As was typical of Henry Clay Frick's accounting practices (see Henry Clay Frick Papers, Series III: Voucher Files for additional examples), vouchers were prepared and sent to the payee along with a check for the amount owed. These vouchers were receipted by the payee, and returned to Henry Clay Frick for his files as evidence of remittance received. Vouchers may have correspondence, invoices, or related documentation attached.

Series V: Furnishings, 1914-1924 and undated, contains lists of contracts and estimates, as well as letters, telegrams, notes, and invoices pertaining to the furnishing and decoration of One East 70th Street. As the principal decorators for the house, the files of White, Allom & Co. and Elsie de Wolfe comprise the bulk of this series. Their invoices and correspondence document the procurement of carpets, draperies, mantelpieces, furniture, wall coverings, light fixtures, and accessories for the house. Charles Allom's earliest letters discuss his plans for decorative treatment of various rooms, while later correspondence responds to Henry Clay Frick's frustration at work on the house that remained unfinished. Allom's files also document the changes to the Drawing Room after Frick's acquisition of the Fragonard panels in 1915. Elsie de Wolfe's letters detail the selection of antique pieces through various dealers in London and Paris. Other decorators, dealers, and contractors represented in this series include Duveen Brothers, through whom Frick purchased artwork and furnishings from the J.P. Morgan Collection, E.R. Bacon, who facilitated the purchase of a suite of Beauvais tapestry furniture from the Duke of Devonshire and supplied a set of antique silver wine coolers for the Dining Room, Maus, who overhauled the suite of tapestry furniture, and Gerald and Sydney Letts, who furnished the Bowling Alley and Billiard Room.

Additional material concerning the acquisition of objects from the Morgan Collection can be found in the Henry Clay Frick Papers, Series I: Art Files; the Eagle Rock Papers, Series: Furnishings; and the Henry Clay Frick Art Collection Files, all in this repository.

Series VI: Financial Records, 1907-1918, documents expenditures made during the construction and furnishing of One East 70th Street. Along with a summary of costs associated with the purchase of the property, this series contains canceled checks, monthly statements, and a check register from the Bankers Trust Co. special account established by Frick for the purpose of paying construction expenses. Also included in this series are a cash book, journal, ledger in which construction expenses were recorded by Frick's staff. For day-to-day expenses at One East 70th after construction was completed, see Series VIII: Daily Life.

Series VII, Post-Construction and Estate Matters, 1914-1924, contains inventories of the contents of One East 70th Street as well as Frick's garage property located at 129 West 51st Street. Inventories are grouped by type, namely collection property (i.e. items that would become part of The Frick Collection), estate property (items that became part of Frick's estate for distribution under the terms of his will), and personal property (items that were considered the personal property of Adelaide Frick and her daughter Helen). Additional materials in this series include specifications and contracts for the construction of the Frick Art Reference Library (referred to here as the 71st Street Extension), a file on the disposition of frames from the suite of Chatsworth furniture purchased in 1914, a file on the sculpture gallery proposed by Thomas Hastings but never constructed, a dispute with the city re: flagstones outside the residence, and documentation of a claim against W. & J. Sloane re: outstanding remittance for goods removed from the residence and sold.

The last series, Daily Life, 1914-1931, contains materials documenting the Frick family's activities and interests, along with household operations and expenditures. Of particular note are the household diaries, 1914-1919, which record guests to the house, luncheons, dinners and other entertainments, purchase and installation of paintings and other works of art, and comings and goings of family members. This series also contains notebooks with monthly compilations of household payroll and bills paid, summaries of dinners given at the house (e.g. guest lists, menus, music, etc.), inventories of books, wines, and liquors, and information about employees who served the Frick family at One East 70th Street, Eagle Rock, and other locations.


  • 1907-1931


Access Restrictions

These records are open for research by appointment under the conditions of The Frick Collection/Frick Art Reference Library Archives Access Policy. For all inquiries or to schedule an appointment, please contact the Archives Department at

Biographical/Historical Note

Henry Clay Frick (1849-1919) was a prominent industrialist and art collector who made his fortune in the coal, coke, steel, and railroad industries. Born into modest circumstances in West Overton, Pa., Frick ended his formal education by the mid-1860s. In 1871, he borrowed money to purchase a share in a coking concern that would eventually become the H.C. Frick Coke Co. Over the next decade, he continued to expand his business through the acquisition of more coal lands and coke ovens, and entered into partnership with fellow industrialist Andrew Carnegie in 1882. Frick assumed the chairmanship of Carnegie Bros. & Co. (later Carnegie Steel Co.) in 1889, and served in that capacity until his resignation from the company in December 1899. During his tenure as chairman, differences between Frick and Carnegie emerged, most significantly in their approach to labor issues. The 1892 Homestead Strike further strained relations between the two men, and in 1899, Frick permanently severed his relationship with Carnegie.

In December 1881, Frick married Adelaide Howard Childs of Pittsburgh. The couple purchased a house (Clayton) in Pittsburgh's East End, and had four children: Childs Frick (1883-1965), Martha Howard Frick (1885-1891), Helen Clay Frick (1888-1984), and Henry Clay Frick, Jr. (born 1892, died in infancy). After his break with Carnegie, Frick began spending less time in Pittsburgh, and soon established additional residences in New York and Massachusetts. In 1905, Frick leased the Vanderbilt mansion at 640 Fifth Avenue in New York, which he and his family would occupy for the next nine years. (For lease and other information about 640 Fifth Avenue, see Henry Clay Frick Papers, Series: Subject Files, File #242.)

Eagle Rock, the Frick family's summer home in Prides Crossing, Mass., was completed the next year, in 1906. Also that year, Frick began to make plans for the construction of his own New York residence by purchasing land at the corner of 70th Street and Fifth Avenue. (For more information, see Henry Clay Frick Papers, Series: Subject Files, File #251). At the time of Frick's purchase, however, the Lenox Library was located on the site, and Frick was prevented from taking possession of the property until after the opening of the New York Public Library in 1911. While Frick did offer to relocate the Lenox Library building to another site at his expense, no agreement could be reached with the city, and it was demolished after he took title to the property in 1912.

Although Frick first sought designs from Daniel Burnham, architect of the Frick Building in downtown Pittsburgh, he ultimately commissioned architect Thomas Hastings of the firm Carrère & Hastings to design and build his New York residence. The result was a three-story Beaux-Arts mansion clad in limestone, and featuring a 100-foot picture gallery, a garden on the Fifth Avenue side of the house, and an interior courtyard. The site was cleared, plans for the house were finalized in 1912, and construction began in 1913. Charles Allom of White, Allom & Co. was selected to furnish the rooms on the ground floor, as well as the Breakfast Room and Frick's personal Sitting Room, both on the second floor. The remaining rooms on the second and third floors were decorated by Elsie de Wolfe, who was also commissioned to furnish the Ladies' Reception Room on the first floor (now the Boucher Room).

Frick, along with his wife and daughter, took up residence in the house in November 1914. (Frick's son, Childs, had married Frances Shoemaker Dixon in the fall of 1913, and consequently never resided in the house.) In 1915, two years after the death of J.P. Morgan, Frick had the opportunity to acquire objects from Morgan's famous collection, including paintings, bronzes, Chinese porcelains, and Limoges enamels. Through the art dealer Joseph Duveen, Frick acquired furniture, paintings, and decorative arts, including a series of Fragonard panels on display at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The house's first floor Drawing Room was then renovated to accommodate the panels.

With the exception of the Fragonard Room, the house remained essentially unchanged from the time of its construction until the death of Adelaide H.C. Frick in 1931. At that time, according to the terms of Frick's will, the house was converted into a museum, with architectural changes overseen by John Russell Pope. Expanded to include two new galleries, a Music Room, and a Garden Court, the museum opened to the public as The Frick Collection in 1935.


12.8 Linear feet (27 boxes)

Language of Materials



Henry Clay Frick, 1849-1919, was a prominent industrialist and art collector. His New York residence at One East 70th Street was designed by Thomas Hastings, and completed in 1914. The house was later opened to the public as The Frick Collection in 1935. These materials document the construction and furnishing of the house, as well as some aspects of domestic life there.


Materials are arranged in the following series:

I. Construction Contracts, 1912-1917

II. Construction Notes and Correspondence, 1912-1918

III. Construction Special Orders, 1913-1915

IV. Construction Vouchers, 1912-1914

V. Furnishings, 1914-1924, undated

VI. Financial Records, 1907-1918

VII. Post-Construction and Estate Matters, 1914-1924

VIII. Daily Life, 1914-1931, undated

Custodial History

These files form part of the Frick Family Papers of the Helen Clay Frick Foundation Archives on deposit at The Frick Collection and Frick Art Reference Library. They were received from the Frick Art and Historical Center, Pittsburgh, Pa., in 2001.


Gift of the Helen Clay Frick Foundation, 2015.

Related Materials

Additional materials regarding the furnishing of One East 70th Street can be found in the Henry Clay Frick Furnishings Files in this repository.

Processing Information

Arranged and described by Julie Ludwig, 2011, with funding from the Helen Clay Frick Foundation.

Finding aid for the One East 70th Street Papers
Part of the Frick Family Papers
Finding aid prepared by Julie Ludwig
© 2011 The Frick Collection. All rights reserved.
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Frick Collection/Frick Art Reference Library Archives Repository

10 East 71st Street
New York NY 10021 United States