Helen Gould Shepard Residence at 579 Fifth Avenue - New York City (photo from Mrs. Johnston Stewart)

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Helen Gould Shepard Residence

579 Fifth Avenue at 47th Street
New York, N.Y. 10017
           

In private life, Mr. Gould was a devoted husband and father of six children. He spent his spare time with his family, with whom he lived in a mansion on the corner of 47th Street and Fifth Avenue, onto which he had built a small potting shed where he developed an affinity for horticulture and especially the cultivation of orchids.

Gould’s adored wife Helen (whom he called Ellie) became ill while still in her late forties and died in 1889 after a long illness. Gould himself, having been diagnosed with tuberculosis around the time of his wife’s death, lived only another three years, dying in 1892. He left an estate of approximately $125 million (more than a billion in today’s currency) divided equally between his six children with some bequests to members of his family. >>Jay Gould died on December 2, 1892, at the age of fifty-six, in his ugly brownstone mansion on the northeast corner of Fifth Avenue at Forty-seventh Street.

Nothing was left to charity. Some of the Gould children were underage and so the will provided that his eldest daughter Helen could live there (with her siblings until the youngest reached majority). That occurred in 1898. A few years later, Helen bought the property (Lyndhurst) from the estate for $382,000.

Contrary to the prevailing pattern of testamentary distributions among the rich in the nineteenth century, when Astors and Vanderbilts and their imitators were seeking to concentrate their wealth in the hands of their eldest or ablest sons, Jay Gould treated his children rather equably. The money left after the payments of debts, taxes, and administration expenses was divided into six trust funds, each valued at approximately $12,500,000. Each of his four sons and two daughters received the income for life from one of these trusts, with the principal to be distributed among their issue when they died.

The Fifth Avenue mansion, valued at four hundred thousand dollars, was bequeathed outright to Helen. Lyndhurst, however, was left in a state of testamentary limbo. Until Frank came of age, Helen was given the use of it, free of taxes, plus six thousand dollars a month, in the expectation that Anna, Frank, and perhaps even Howard would make their home with her; after that it would become a disposable part of the estate. Howard, of course, at the age of twenty-two, could not be relied upon. He came and went as he pleased and, to Helen’s utter dismay, was already showing a decided preference for ladies of the lighter stage.

Helen Gould Shepard  
Helen Gould Shepard
 

There was not the remotest danger that Helen, then a shy, prim, and inflexibly pious girl of eighteen, would ever fall in love with a coachman, although in 1886 coachmen were considered nearly as great a menace to wealthy young virgins as actresses were to young gentlemen. When her mother died on January 13, 1889, at the age of fifty-one, following a series of strokes, Helen was ready to take over as mistress of Lyndhurst. It was not an easy role to fill. In addition to Lyndhurst, there was the town house at 579 Fifth Avenue to be looked after; the two younger children, Anna and Frank, had still to be raised; and her father, to whom Helen was fanatically devoted and who was now mortally ill of tuberculosis, needed her constant care. But the young lady of nineteen, now more prim and more pious than ever, who would be famous for nearly a quarter of a century as the militantly virtuous Miss Gould, was ideally cast for the part of the daughter who stays home to take the place of her mother and who becomes in time the doting aunt of her brothers’ and sister’s ungrateful children.

Helen Gould married for the first time at age forty-five to a distant cousin named Finley Shepard. They adopted three children and had one foster child. She added the poolhouse and the bowling alley to the property, as well as a schoolhouse for the children. Mrs. Shepard became the philanthropist that her father never was, donating millions to the Red Cross, the Salvation Army and the YMCA. She invited the public onto the grounds for garden tours and picnics and ran a sewing and cooking school for local girls on the grounds.

When Helen Shepard died in 1938 at age 70, the estate was sold to her younger sister, Anna, who was perhaps the most famous Gould after their father. Anna, as a very young woman made a European marriage to Boni, the Count de Castellane, spent her millions fabulously and as profligately as her father’s will would allow. After having three children with him, she had the marriage annulled and married a cousin of his, the prince (and duke) de Talleyrand-Perigord. Helen, who became a thoroughly Franco-American woman as la duchesse de Talleyrand, returned to New York at the outbreak of the Second World War, and lived at the Plaza Hotel.



           

Aeolian Organ, Op. 1280 (1913) in Helen Gould Shepard Residence - New York City (photo from Mrs. Johnston Stewart)

Aeolian Company
New York City – Opus 1280 (1913)
Electro-pneumatic action
3 manuals, 40 stops, 34 ranks
               

In 1913, Helen Gould ordered two pipe organs from the Aeolian Company, one for her Fifth Avenue residence in New York City, and one for "Lyndhurst", her country home in Tarrytown.  The city organ, Opus 1280, was the larger of the two, with three manuals and 34 ranks plus harp and chimes; it was installed in 1914 and cost $21,750. The Lyndhurst organ, Opus 1281, had two manuals and 23 ranks, plus harp and chimes, and was installed in 1914 at a cost of $16,000. Also in 1913, Helen Gould married Finley J. Shepard.

Opus 1280 remained at that location, unaltered, until 1948.  At that time, the home was being readied for sale, and the organ was bought by Johnston Stewart of Convent Station, New Jersey.

Johnston Stewart had been an aficionado of Aeolian Organs for years,  from about 1920.   As a young man, he had won entrance to many mansions in which Aeolians were installed.  He accomplished this by establishing a friendship with Archer Gibson who was personal organist to several wealthy Aeolian patrons.  Gibson was an important figure at Aeolian.  He made many rolls (75)  for the Aeolian player organ and helped with selling several large Aeolian organs.

It was Archer Gibson who alerted Johnston Stewart that Opus 1280 was available for acquisition.  Following the installation in the Stewart residence, Gibson frequently played Opus 1280 as a guest.

Aeolian Organ, Op. 1280 (1913) in Helen Gould Shepard Residence - New York City (photo: courtesy Robert W. Taylor)  
The organ remained in the Stewart residence  until purchased by Robert W. Taylor in 1998.  Included in the purchase was a large collection of 116 note rolls and a smaller collection of Duo Art rolls accumulated by Johnston Stewart.  Stewart had acquired the rolls from the Garwood, New Jersey Aeolian factory, and various patrons of Aeolian.  Notable in that group was John D. Rockefeller, Sr. and his daughter Alta, and his son John D., jr.  

Opus 1280 could only play the non automatic, 116 note rolls.  But like all Aeolian organs, upgrade to the fully automatic Duo Art roll system could be accomplished easily.  Johnston Stewart planned the upgrade by acquiring a Duo Art  roll playing Concertola.  Concertola #232, a ten roll changer, initially owned by John D. Rockefeller, Jr., and subsequently owned by Alta Rockefeller Prentice, was gifted to Johnston Stewart in 1960 in memory of Archer Gibson.  Concertola #232 was included, with the entire roll collection, when Taylor purchased Opus 1280 from Margaret Stewart, widow of Johnston, in 1998.

Aeolian Opus 1280 has been fully restored.  The restoration tasks were started in 1998 and have continued through 2005.  In addition to replacing all worn components and wiring, a MIDI interface has been added to the organ. Now, the MIDI can record a performance into computer files, and the process may be  reversed as those files are used to play the organ.  Most of the rolls, now stored in MIDI files, can be heard through the MIDI system while the fragile rolls are safely stored.

Four methods of playing the organ now exist.  It may played by hand, it can play the non automatic 116 note rolls, it can play Duo Art rolls from the Concertola, and it can play from the MIDI system.
               
Great Organ (Manual I) – 61 notes, enclosed (4" wind pressure)
8
  Diapason [unenclosed]
61
8
  String P
61
8
  Flute F
61
8
  String PP
61
8
  Flute P
61
8
  Clarinet [free reed]
61
4
  Flute (high)
61
8
  Trumpet
61
8
  String F
61
  Tremolo
               
Swell Organ (Manual II) – 61 notes, enclosed (4" wind pressure)
16
  Flute (deep)
61
4
  Flute (high)
61
8
  Diapason
61
2
  Piccolo
61
8
  Flute F
61
  String P (Mixture, 5 ranks)
305
8
  Flute P
61
8
  Trumpet [capped horn]
61
8
  String F
61
8
  Oboe
61
8
  String F (vibrato) [TC]
49
8
  Vox Humana
61
8
  String P
61
  Tremolo
8
  String PP
61
     
               
Choir Organ (Manual III) – 61 notes (duplexed from Great)
8
  Diapason
GT
8
  String PP
GT
8
  Flute F
GT
4
  Flute (high)
GT
8
  Flute P
GT
8
  Trumpet
GT
8
  String F
GT
8
  Clarinet
GT
8
  String P
GT
   
               
Echo Organ (playable from Manual II or III) – 61 notes, enclosed(3½" wind pressure)
8
  Flute
61
8
  Vox Humana
61
8
  Flute Quintadena
61
  Tremolo
8
  String
61
     

     

     
Pedal Organ – 30 notes (4" wind pressure)
16
  Flute F (deep)
30
16
  String F (deep)
30
16
  Flute P (deep)
SW
8
  String F
30
               
Percussions
Harp – 49 bars, augmented to 61 notes, playable from Swell or Choir [Loud and Soft]
Chimes – 20 tubes (21st note added by Deagan), playable from Swell or Great [Loud and Soft]
               
Expression
from left to right:          
    Tonal [Crescendo]          
    Swell Tonal          
    Great and Choir          
    Swell          
    Echo          

           

Source:
     Kintrea, Frank. "The Realms of Gould", article in American Heritage Magazine online: http://www.americanheritage.com/articles/magazine/ah/1970/3/1970_3_46.shtml
     
Smith, Rollin. The Aeolian Pipe Organ and its Music. Richmond: The Organ Historical Society, 1998.
     
Taylor, Robert W. Specifications, photos and historical information on Aeolian Organ, Op. 1280 (1913). website: http://members.socket.net/~rtaylor/aeolian_pipe_organ.html

Photos:
     Taylor, Robert W.

           
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