Stanford White, Collector

Stanford White may best be known for his murder by Pittsburgh businessman William Thaw, but he was also an antiques collector, and we might also note, an architect. I imagine White himself might like to be best known as an architect, so I’ll note his achievement in the Washington Square Arch, which I mentioned previously in my post about John Sloan.

His firm, McKim, Meade and White was responsible for achievements of perhaps the most-ever lamented loss, Penn Station, the Columbia University Morningside Heights Campus, the Boston Public Library as well as Grand Army Plaza and the Brooklyn Museum, the latter two of which I see most every day.

The notion of Stanford White, the antiques collector, came in a book I’m reading called Conquering Gotham. The book refers to him as a “frenetic collector of beautiful things.” So much so that White, having an affliction many collectors of art and antiques share, overspent, and went into debt. More, owning up to his faults, White moved a large number of French antiques to a warehouse where they would be auctioned. If you’re suspecting this story may also be a tragedy, you’ve got a good sense. The warehouse burned and all but the bronzes were lost.

Is there more tragedy? The murder of Stanford White was over a woman (Stanford White was known to have seduced Thaw’s wife, showgirl Evelyn Nesbit.) He was also shot in a building of his own design, Madison Square Garden, above where the figure of Diana, an emblem of chastity, by Augustus Saint Gaudens, pointed her arrow.

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