The Real Deal New York

Looking back at author Edith Wharton’s Manhattan home

Today the Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist’s once-stately brownstone houses a Starbucks

November 30, 2014 02:00PM

 14 West 23rd Street and Edith Wharton

14 West 23rd Street and Edith Wharton

Edith Wharton spent her life chronicling the excesses and dramas of Gilded Age New York in her novels. But alas, all that is solid melts into air: today Wharton’s childhood home at 14 West 23rd Street is a Starbucks.

As a young woman in the late 19th-centruy, the then Edith Jones lived in what was a stately new brownstone in the fashionable Madison Square neighborhood, according to Ephemeral NY.

In 1934, Wharton remembered her old Manhattan stomping grounds in “A Backward Glance,” writing:

“The little girl and her father walked up Fifth Avenue; the old Fifth Avenue with its double line of low brown-stone houses, of a desperate uniformity of style, broken only—and surprisingly—by two equally unexpected features: the fenced-in plot of ground where the old Miss Kennedys’ cows were pastured, and the truncated Egyptian pyramid which so strangely served as a reservoir for New York’s water supply.”

“The Fifth Avenue of that day was a placid and uneventful thoroughfare along which genteel landaus, broughams, and victorias, and more countrified vehicles of the ‘carryall’ and ‘surrey’ type, moved up and down at decent intervals and a decorous pace,” she added.

But by the 1870s, Wharton’s family had left the home and it was extensively remodeled, with a cast-iron front.

Still, there are a few brownstones on the block that still resemble the façade of Wharton’s famous home. [Ephemeral NY]Christopher Cameron