who's selling

Who Owns This $18 Million Triplex With Museum-Quality Art?

Gilbert Stuart’s 1796 painting of George Washington was copied many times over after the president’s death, and one of those copies seems to be hanging in a Fifth Avenue penthouse — an obscure choice. Photo: Compass

953 Fifth Avenue is a skinny, 14-story 1924 building squeezed between bulkier high-rises overlooking Central Park, between 76th and 77th Street. The top three floors — an $18 million triplex that sprawls onto a private roof terrace — are now for sale. The space is clearly owned by someone significant: It’s saturated with famous paintings, including The Schooner II, by Fairfield Porter, which set an auction record; a Thomas Pollock Anshutz of a caped woman on a boat; and a Gilbert Stuart portrait of George Washington — or a copy of it — which looms over a sitting room.

But there are no records in the city’s online database for who lived here. And a quick attempt to try to figure it out wasn’t especially successful; whoever listed the apartment seemed intent on obscuring the identity of its residents by clearing out clutter and blurring family photos. The giveaway came by way of a painting hanging behind a turquoise armchair. The 1916 impressionist painting of a Fourth of July parade in New York was very publicly donated by Richard Gilder Jr., the Wall Street broker better known as a philanthropist, whose name adorns the new Gilder Center at the American Museum of Natural History and the street outside the New York Historical Society, now known as Richard Gilder Way.

Left: “The Fourth of July, 1916,” by Childe Hassam. Center: “The Schooner II,” by Fairfield Porter. Photo: Compass

Of course, the painting hanging here could be a knock-off, owned by someone else. But that this would be his apartment seems right. The building has always drawn big money and bold names. Frederic Fekkai, the shampoo king, bought a duplex here on the third and fourth floors from billionaire John Kluge. The ex-wife of billionaire Steven Rales, Christine Rales, bought an apartment here in 2012. And this place, specifically, seems designed to house an American-history nerd whose collection of 70,000 documents became a research institution and whose bust of Jefferson was donated to Monticello. There’s a traditional, early American look to all the moldings, armchairs, and spindly end tables.

Then there’s the view, which gazes over Central Park. Gilder, a New York native, is credited for restoring the park’s luster by stepping up in the 1970s when the city was out of cash, pledging $17 million, and creating the Central Park Conservancy. When Gilder died in 2020, friends dedicated the “Richard Gilder Walk,” which winds along a route that was personal to him and starts, of course, from his “east-side home.”

The chandelier may be another clue. Its design resembles the galleons sailed by Columbus, and Gilder donated the funds for a boathouse to Yale University, his alma mater. Photo: Compass

Compass broker Elizabeth “Lib” Hyatt Goss didn’t respond to a call, text, or email about the sale of the Gilder family’s apartment. But other paperwork connects the apartment to Gilder’s wife, Lois Chiles. They married in 2005, and in 2012, she registered to vote at this address. That same year, Chiles agreed to an interview with the New York Times about her past life as a Bond girl and granted the interview from “the living room of her grand Fifth Avenue apartment,” in which she was photographed ascending a staircase with the same knotty balustrade and sweeping curve as the stair that is shown in the listing. Plus, property records show she bought another apartment down the street in December at 797 Fifth Avenue for $3.6 million, and on that deed, she lists her last residence: 953 Fifth Avenue.

Who Owns This $18 Million Triplex With Museum-Quality Art?