Stanford White Murder
The Gilded Age was an era known for its splendid excesses, and the most acute gaps between rich and poor in history. White, who was fortunate to be born among the former, built many of the most famous buildings of the day. He designed and decorated spectacular Fifth Avenue mansions for the Astors, the Vanderbilts and other high society families. Whether a family wanted to live simply or opulently, White built more masterpieces all along the eastern seaboard. The projects went over budget, but the charming and forceful White always managed to convince the families that they were obliged to excess.
Not limited to private homes, White built or enhanced many of the great public edifices of his time. He illustrated how hefty donations could be used for the glory of God and church patrons by creating ornate interior pieces for Saint Bartholomews and the Church of the Ascension, among others. He built the most famous private clubs of his day: The Century, The Players Club, The Lambs and The Brooks. He designed the Washington Square Arch, one of only two of his structures that still remain in New York City.
Whites family knew he kept a loft apartment at the Garden. Often obsessed with work, he needed a large, private space to create his designs. Indeed, White often sketched, took photographs and drafted in the extravagant tower apartment. What Whites family, including wife Bessie, did not know or chose not to see, was Whites other use for his apartment.
Among the New York elite Whites reputation as a libertine and voluptuary was legendary. Specifically, White had a particular affection for very young ladies and had been known to keep company with many of Broadways freshest showgirls. He often threw lavish parties for the girls and his friends. At one such gathering, a young innocent named Susie Johnson burst forth from a pie dressed only in a perfunctory bit of chiffon. Other times, White threw more intimate affairs at his tower apartment.
Inside the apartment, he had installed a red velvet swing. Many girls, it had been rumored, had delighted in playing on that swing. Always generous, White usually supported his young protégées. He bought them presents, saw to it their teeth were fixed, bought dance and singing lessons and sometimes paid their rent.
Naturally, White attended the theatre regularly. In 1901, the hit Broadway show Florodora featured a chorus of six young girls. These famous girls were dressed prettily and danced simply.
The male chorus sang:
Tell me, pretty maiden,
The girls replied:
There are few, kind, sir,
Among the Florodora sextet, White spied a sixteen-year old, copper-curled innocent fresh from Pittsburgh. Her name was Evelyn Nesbit.