High Style in the Gilded Age: Grace Clarke Newton

Updated: Jun 17

 

GRACE CLARKE NEWTON - The Poet

22 East 35th Street in 1901 Townhouse of Thomas B. Clarke

There is mystery and romance in Grace Clarke Newton’s story, though as the daughter of the noted collector, close friend of Stanford White, and popular man-about-town Thomas B. Clarke, her path to a good marriage and a privileged life in New York society seems foreordained. When the Clarkes move into the elegant Georgian townhouse with its medieval bow windows--a Stanford White design--their residence at 22 East 35th Street is duly noted in the Social Register, along with Thomas Clarke’s memberships in all the right clubs. As one of Clarke’s four beloved daughters and sole son, Grace seems headed for a life without drama.

Thomas B. Clarke, portrait by Frederick Ulrich

Grace’s mother, the former Fanny Eugenia Morris, hails from a distinguished family and her marriage to Thomas Benedict Clarke in 1871 is no doubt applauded by family and friends. Clarke combines an astute business sense with an artistic sensibility and moves easily in New York society. Having started out as a manufacturer of laces and linens, he moves on to become a dealer in Chinese porcelain--J.P. Morgan’s porcelain advisor--and then to rise in the art world as the country’s foremost collector of contemporary American art.



Entering 22 East 35th Street

In the small world of New York City aesthetes--artists, men-of-letters and wealthy bohemians--Clarke and the celebrated architect Stanford White are destined to become close friends. White is among the high-living circle of artists and wealthy patrons who come and go at 22 East 35th Street, enjoying the Clarkes’ hospitality in the elegant home White designed for his friend Tommy at no charge.

Parlor – Townhouse of Thomas B. Clarke

Master Bedroom – Townhouse of Thomas B. Clarke


In a letter to White expressing their delight in their exquisite townhouse, the Clarkes write: “Your genius and taste is everywhere shown in [our] beautiful house…”

The walls are surely hung with selections from Thomas Clarke’s unrivaled collection of paintings by American artists, which, as early as 1878, included such giants as George Inness, Albert Bierstadt, Frederic Church and William Merritt Chase. By then, Clarke had already amassed 185 paintings, amo