By Steve Brawley
Painting by Aaron Shikler of Jackie in the 1040 Living Room with John and Caroline
Jackie fled Washington, DC in 1964 to escape the hounds of tourists camping outside of her door in Georgetown. With the guidance of financier Andre Meyer she found an apartment at 1040 Fifth Avenue in New York, not too far from her sister Lee Radziwill. She would raise Caroline and John here and find it a safe haven filled with her favorite books, art objects and family mementos. Those who visited her on the 15th floor found it warm and inviting, much like her private quarters in the White House.
Behind the sleek facade of spare, modern elegance was a woman who surrounded herself with boudoir femininity. The apartment, with its red and gold drapes, fauteuils cabriolet, decorative drawings, floral cache-pots, its dining table dressed in flowery fabric and chairs in chintz, already seems to belong to another era - now that Upper East Side apartments are obligatorily filled with modern art.
Jackie's official White House Painting by Aaron Shikler
of Jackie in the 1040 Living Room - below.
Jackie was not a modern collector except with a keen eye for pretty things. Only a 1960 Robert Rauschenberg gouache of the presidential couple with emblems of America struck an abstract modern note.
Her tastes were exotic! For a world traveller who insisted on seeing the Taj Mahal by moonlight and riding an elephant with her sister, Lee, on a trip to Pakistan was drawn to miniatures of Mogul gardens.
She liked chinoiserie, scattering black-laquered cabinets and a screen with cherry-blossom tendrils among the Louis XVI ormulu. The porcelain include Chinese plates intensely decorated with birds and flowers and the discreet Davenport version with sepia traces of foliage around an empress with parasol. The terraces would bloom with crabapple trees in blue planters.
She was perhaps not as complex as her inscrutable exterior suggested. A traditional upscale childhood left a legacy of a careless appreciation of fine things (the apartment and its objects were well-worn) and a lasting passion for ponies.
Horsey pictures filled her home, from the fine equestrian portrait over the marbled fireplace, through the charcoal drawings of horses' heads and the tally-ho Spode dinner plates of fox hunters galloping through a green landscape.
As one of the most watched women in history, she turned the tables on unsuspecting people down below on Fifth Avenue by checking them out with her high power telescope.
In the early 70's, she would favor fabric designed by Design Works, a
textile firm located in Bedford Stuyvesant that trained people in the
craft of textile design and production. The company, then created by an
agency that was founded by Senator Robert Kennedy, was championed by
Ari Onassis who, then helped recruit D.D. and Leslie Tillett to teach and
mentor the Design Works employees.
She could gaze with pride from her own bedroom window down onto the MET and see the home of the historic Temple of Dendur which she helped secure for the museum and America. Her library, shown above, was an inviting setting for guests including First Lady Hillary Clinton.
Her bedroom was modeled after Marie Harriman's Georgtown bedroom where Jackie stayed after moving from the White House - with pale green walls and bright Scalamandré silk baldachino coverings using a Jardin de Tuileries floral pattern. The iron John Fowler bed a gift from her best friend Bunny Melon.
From one of Jackie's decorators - Keith Richard Langham. Source: New York Social Diary 2006
"I did a lot of refurbishing over the years for her. I did the bed she died in, re-dressed it. She had a John Fowler bed, she and Evangeline Bruce and Bunny Mellon all had the same bed. Jackie had never replaced the hangings in 20 years.
...You would have been shocked at how rudimentary that apartment was. She didn’t even have a dressing room. For all those clothes! She had an old 1950s bathroom that was never refurbished. She didn’t have a make up table.
She was grand and humble all at once. She loved surprise attacks, because that way nobody gathered … so many mornings at 8:30 my buzzer would ring: [puts on breathy ‘Jackie’ voice] ‘Hi it’s Jackie Onassis. Can I come in and look at some swatches of pink silk?’ And there she’d be. And she’d sit on the floor cross-legged and love it. She’d say ‘I’ll bring tuna fish sandwiches for us,’ and we’d eat tuna fish sandwiches out of brown paper. Sometimes I would pinch myself and say: ‘This can’t be true.’ I really knew her!
Photo by Tim Sukhenko 2011
As in life, the apartment would be a safe haven for her own farewell. She chose to check herself out of the hospital so she could die privately surrounded by her family and friends at home. Her wake would take place in her living room. Her son John would announce her passing on 1040's front steps.
Today, hundreds of people own items from 1040. The famous auction would make one of the most private women very public. Today jewelry and furniture from 1040 are copied and sold worldwide.
History of 1040 - 15th Floor:
- 1964: Mrs. Lowell Weicker sells apartment to Jackie for $200,000
- 1964: Jackie renovates apartment at an estimated $125,000
- 1964-1994: Jackie's primary residence ($14,000 a year co-op fees)
- 1996: John and Caroline put apartment on market after famous auction of Jackie's personal items
- 1996: $9.5 million purchase by David Koch - estimated $5 million+ in renovations
- 2006: $32 million purchase by Glen Dubin
One of the tallest of the limestone-clad apartment houses on Fifth Avenue, this prominent 17-story structure has one of the most distinctive rooflines along the avenue.
The building was erected in 1930 and was designed by Rosario Candela, one of the city's most prominent designers of luxury apartment buildings in the late 1920's and early 1930's.
The asymmetrical roof, which is setback and clad in a pale yellow brick, has several tall arches whose openings were filled nicely with huge windows in the late 1990's in a remodeling of the spectacular penthouse. The handsome rooftop design is somewhat similar to the roof at Ten Gracie Square, which was erected in the same year and designed by Van Wart & Wein with Pennington & Lewis.
1040 Fifth Ave. Sales Ad from 1931
The canopied entrance has very attractive cast-iron doors and extensive sidewalk landscaping. The facade, which has had many repairs, is relatively plain except for several sculpted faces at the fifth story. The large building has only 27 apartments and has had many prominent residents, including Jackie.
Mr. Koch, who purchased the apartment in 1996, said that he remained keenly aware of Mrs. Onassis' former presence at 1040 Fifth. In a April 16, 2006 New York Times interview he said, "For a while there, we sort of felt her spirit in the apartment," he said.
"The way she had it decorated, the arrangement of the rooms. It was hers, and it gave me a feeling about her. I met so many people after I bought the apartment who told me they had been there for dinner and told me what it was like to be entertained in the apartment, and I almost had a sense of history about it," said Koch in the New York Times tory.
"Her two children grew up in the apartment. We had our son in Caroline's old room and our daughter in John Jr.'s room. I was always aware of that. There was sort of a force that is hard to describe that kind of affected me," Koch said.
Jackie with pets at 1040, early 1970s.
Source: Marta Sgubin/Cooking for Madam
The apartment was in need of complete renovation, and Koch hired the New York City based architectural design firm of Cooper, Robertson and Partners to assist in the process. They changed the layout, replaced the wiring and the plumbing, and installed central air-conditioning in a project that lasted four years. Koch would also use the interior design services of Alberto Pinto.
In the New York Times story, Koch said that after buying the apartment, he had numerous requests from the media to photograph or film Jackie's former home, and that he refused. "I thought I would have been dishonoring her memory to have done that, and I never let any press in there at all," he said. "I would hope anybody I sell it to would feel the same way."
According to Chris Britton, a former partner at Cooper, Robertston and Partners, "I only saw the property after all of her personal belongings had been removed for auction. There was a melancholy feeling to the place, with "ghosts" on the walls where paintings had hung."
Britton, who worked on the 1040 remodel, said that some of Jackie's decor lived on through the new design. According to Britton, "We re-used the "boiserie" carved wood paneling that Jackie had installed in the living room. We selected the best of the panels and laid them out to line the walls of John's former bedroom, which was in need of a "boost," as it faced the interior of the block, and had the least daylight of any of the bedrooms."
The Fifth Avenue apartment has four bedrooms, two dressing rooms, a staff room, a library, living room, dining room, conservatory, two terraces, three fireplaces, five and a half bathrooms and a wine room.
Koch and his wife Julia lived in the apartment for six years, until deciding to find a larger space for their growing family of three children. In 2006, 1040 was sold to Glenn Dubin, a hedge fund manager for $32 million.
But more interestingly, Dubin was also chairman of the Robin Hood Foundation, a
favored charity of the late John F. Kennedy Jr., who also had a seat on its
board and who grew up in the 1040 apartment Dubin purchased.
It was through the famous 1995 Sotheby's Auction that we got a rare glimpse into Jackie's life at
1040 - her nest and safe haven for 30 years.