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Dec. 19: The stunning mansion of 'the most hated man in America,' born on this day in 1849

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Steel magnate Henry Clay Frick

It wouldn’t be easy to know you’re “the most hated man in America.”

Steel magnate Henry Clay Frick, who was born on this day in 1849, earned the moniker when his hired goons tried to break up a strike at one of his plants and wound up killing nine workers.

It might be this reputation that led Frick to hide away in his own world, surrounded by a beautiful European art collection (Rembrandt and Renoir, anyone?) and a mansion so stunning it made Andrew Carnegie a bit envious.

Frick’s New York City estate, built in 1913, still rests on its original lot today at the corner of Fifth Avenue and 70th Street, with an elevated garden and magnolia trees out front. Designed by architectural firm Carrere and Hastings, the mansion was created specifically to house Frick’s amazing collection of paintings, sculptures, drawings, prints and other artworks.

Frick only got to live in the mansion for about five years before his death, but one can assume the tycoon spent those years enjoying some of the advantages of being filthy rich in the Gilded Age. He built a huge bowling alley within the mansion—long before they became de rigueur in homes of the wealthy. The residence also boasts a billiards room, an interior courtyard and marble-lined walls. The Frick family vault, a virtually impenetrable room built five floors beneath street level, is also capable of housing his entire art collection.

These days, at Frick’s request, the mansion is only a gallery, and no one has lived there for about 80 years. The permanent Frick collection boasts 1,100 works of art from the Renaissance to the late 19th century, and the building has been thrice expanded to accommodate the art-viewing public.

People now have a little less hate for the tycoon, possibly because he bequeathed his stunning residence, most of its contents, hundreds of works of art and a $15 million endowment to establish the public gallery.

Ilyce Glink is an award-winning, nationally syndicated real estate columnist, blogger and radio talk show host, and managing editor of the Equifax Finance Blog. Follow her on Twitter @Glink.

On This Day, previously:

Dec. 6: The most famous inventor you never heard of died on this day in 2006
Nov. 25: The only house that JFK and Jackie ever built
Nov. 14: On Monet's 173rd birthday, we visit his Giverny home in pictures

 

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