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Our Grand & Randy Great Architects

Briefly put, after having Nesbit’s teeth fixed and taking her virginity, White still had no intention of getting divorced, and the gold-digging girl married the rich but unhinged and sadistic Harry Thaw, who became fixated on the architect’s supposed corruption of little Evelyn (whom Thaw saw fit to horsewhip). The denouement to Thaw’s mad obsession came in 1906 when he gunned down his imagined erotic rival from behind at the roof garden theater White designed at his Madison Square Garden, as the architect watched the finale of a musical trifle called Mamzelle Champagne. White likely and luckily never knew what hit him. The autopsy disclosed that he had nephritis and was unlikely to have lived more than a few months anyway.

The ensuing scandal was enormous, but since White’s weaknesses were well known in the bonhomous circles he frequented, little if any opprobrium attached to his partners, who were models of probity. McKim, a depressive already in failing health and further dispirited by his mercurial but beloved colleague’s fate, died in 1909. Mead carried on until his death, in 1928, but the practice’s output plummeted once his two partners left the stage, though the nominal McKim, Mead & White plodded on until it was absorbed by another firm in 1961.

That precipitous decline is confirmed by the epigonal McKim, Mead & White office’s drab, warehouse-like New York Racquet and Tennis Club of 1916–1919 on Park Avenue, one block but a world away from White’s vivacious, peripatetic portico for St. Bartholomew’s, a contrast that in a single glance explains why this unequal triangle was never again the same without its two most acute coordinates.

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