BIERSTADT'S LOSS BY FIRE
MALKASTEN, THE SUMMER RESIDENCE AT IRVINGTON, DESTROYEDPublished by The New York Times
November 11, 1882
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Malkasten, the Summer residence of Albert Bierstadt, the well-known
artist, at Irvington, was destroyed by fire, with nearly all of its
contents, yesterday morning. The residence was erected on the highest
point of land in Irvington, was built of gneiss, the stone which most
abounds there, and was from plans designed by the artist himself. On
the river-front the building was four stores in height, with a mansard
roof, and surmounted by a large tower from which could be had a view up
the Hudson to West Point and down the river to Staten Island. In the
rear the house was one story less in height, as the lower story of the
building had as a rear wall a bank of rock against which it was built.
The erection of Malkasten was begun in 1864, and it was completed at a
cost of $100,000 in 1866, at which time Mr. Bierstadt first occupied
it. The residence was essentially an artist's home, and about one-third
of the building was an enormous studio, with windows on three sides.
The building has been occupied during the past Summer by Henry J.
Chapman, Jr., a broker, at 72 Broadway, who moved out on Thursday. Mr.
Chapman did not have the use of the studio, which has been used by Mr.
Bierstadt for storage purposes, and which has been locked up for the
past four years, ever since Mr. Bierstadt was compelled to give up his
residence there owing to his wife's ill-health.
In the studio were stored a large number of sketches and studies made by Mr. Bierstadt during the past 20 years, a large collection of engravings, a valuable library of works on the early history of America, which the artist has been engaged in collecting for years, and a collection of Indian implements and other articles. Most of these had been collected during Mr. Bierstadt's residence in the Rocky Mountains and the Yosemite Valley, and had done service as models in some of his well-known paintings. Others were gifts from Gen. Sheridan, Gen. Custer, and other Army officers. All of these were burned, as were a large number of paintings, bronzes, articles of virtu and bric-a-brac, and all the furniture. The two most valuable paintings burned were a large recently completed view in the Hetchhetchy Valley, north of the Yosemite; a view of Niagara Falls from the Canadian side, which was not quite completed, both from the brush of Mr. Bierstadt and both large canvases; and an interior of Westminster Abey, by David Neal, an American artist now a resident of Munich.
Twenty-two picturs that were hung in the living rooms were saved. These include a sunset in California, 3 x 4 feet; Glen Ellis (N.H.) Falls, 3 by 2-1/2 feet; portrait of J.B. Irving, the artist; scene in the Wetterhorn, and Autumn scene in the White Mountains, a Roman villa; scene on the Pemigewassett, N.H.; moonlight in a California forest; a cast scene at Newport; and a sunset scene near Waterville, in this State, all painted by Mr. Bierstadt; two Chinese scenes by E.W. Perry; a coast scene by Baron Gudin; coast scene at Newport by Hazeltine; head of cavalier by J.A. Oertel; grotto in Egeria by H. Ludwig, two Belgian scenes by Lamputen, a New Hampshire scene by E.L. Gerry, and a landscape in Westphalia by Achenbach.
Peter Conrad, who has been Mr. Bierstadt's gardener for 13 years, was the only occupant of the house on Thursday night. He left it at about 5:30 o'clock Friday morning to get his breakfast, and on his return, at 7:15, found the house on fire and the flames beyond his control, although he tried to put them out by the use of a fire extinguisher. The fire seemed to him to have started between the stone wall of the exterior and the interior ceiling of pine in the studio. There had been no fire in the house since Thursday morning. Trouble recently had by Mr. Chapman's family with smoking chimneys would seem to indicate that a defective flue was the cause of the fire. Mr. Bierstadt stated that the house and contents were worth between $150,000 and $175,000, and that his loss above insurance would be $35,000 or $40,000.