James Bailey House in Hamilton Heights
The James Bailey House stands today as a reminder of the neighborhood’s rich past and history. The majestic residence is located within the areas of Sugar Hill and Hamilton Heights and features some of the most striking Romanesque Revival architecture. Discover why this hidden gem is considered to be the “Grey Gardens” of Washington Heights by reading below!
The James Bailey House is an antique limestone mansion located by 10 St. Nicholas Place and 150th St. Construction work on the house began in 1886 and it took the better part of two years for the project to be completed.
The historic residence was built under the orders of circus magnate James Bailey. He was one of the founders of the Barnum & Bailey Circus along with magician P.T. Barnum.
James Bailey by Strobridge Lith Co._WikiCommons
The mansion stands today as a unique and original piece of architecture that offers a glimpse into the past. It’s over 8,000 square feet in size and is three stories tall. The rooms are wide and spacious. There’s a back garden with lush vegetation, a charming porch, elegant balconies, and grand corridors reminiscent of the Victorian era. The whole house is unique and has special significance for its delicate ornament detail.
The Bailey House features a total of 66 windows. Many of them were made with stained glass and depict different nature scenes with the drawings of animals, leaves, and trees. Some of them showcase a starry night sky as an owl is sitting on a tree’s branch. Others can be viewed as love letters to the cozy warmth of the sun. Each one is a truly hypnotizing work of art that has a magical quality to it; much like one of Bailey’s very own circus tricks.
These windows were created by a cousin of Louis Comfort Tiffany (member of the family behind Tiffany & Co.) called Henry F. Belcher. He was one of the pioneers of stained glass work and was known to be one of it’s greatest artists at the time. In fact, any windows he would work on would immediately come to be known as Belcher Mosaics.
The house was designed by architect Samuel B. Reed. He was member of the American Institute of Architects known for his fantastic work on mansions and religious buildings. Mr. Reed drew inspiration from the Romanesque Revival movement for the layout of this house. The Romanesque style of heavy arches and narrow windows are one of the key characteristics of the Bailey House.
Different variants of wood are present throughout the mansion. The main lobby was built using quartered oak while other areas of the house feature black walnut and hazel wood. Refined touches such as the French polished floors, the glass chandeliers, and the carved-wooden fireplace add a layer of craftsmanship that’s difficult to find today.
The interior of the house is made out of hand-carved timber. The most striking feature of the exterior is the majestic corner tower that hovers above the street. It is a beautiful piece of architecture that captures the attention of even those simply passing by. When standing from afar, the mansion resembles an ancient castle from another era. A time where estates were built to attract and drive affluence to the Washington Heights area.
The Bailey House was added to the U.S. National Register of Historic Places in 1980. It also became a designated New York City Landmark in 1974.
For the last century or so, the mansion has been utilized as a funeral home. However, it’s now currently being restored into a single family private home. It was sold for $1.4 million in 2009, a far cry from the $10 million price tag the original owners were hoping to get. Under new ownership, the Bailey House has a chance for a renewed period of life.
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Edgar is a a film fanatic, a food lover, and an Upper West Side enthusiast. After working in PR and marketing in Chicago, he is pursuing his dream of becoming a writer. He loves photography and on his spare time you can find him hiking or biking the great outdoors (while also snapping some pretty awesome Instagram pics!).