The story of the New York City Cartier mansion, which started with a pearl necklace, continues after a massive two- and-a-half year overhaul. Now, the historic building has re-opened, as the largest Cartier boutique in the world.

Back in the early 1900s, Pierre Cartier, the grandson of the founder of Cartier, was searching for a New York building that was at least a match for the brand’s Paris and London locations. What eventually met all of his desires, was the Plant mansion located at 653 Fifth Avenue.

Curiously, the mansion owner’s wife, Maisie Plant, had desperately fallen in love with a perfectly matched double strand pearl necklace from Cartier, worth one million dollars.

It was then decided that Cartier would trade the necklace, in exchange for the deeds to the the mansion in 1917 and it has since served as the U.S.  flagship location, for the maison, ever since.

Recognized as a New York City landmark in 1970, the building was expanded during the renovation: the retail space has now grown from two to four floors; an event space and a rooftop terrace are also in the mix now.

The entire building has been modernized, however, it still retains the feeling of being in a 20th century home, complete with molding and paneling that was found in the original décor along with more than 100 antiques.

“Upon stepping into the Mansion, we want you to feel that you are a part of our family, that you experience the house of Cartier in the way it was originally intended, as a home with a very warm feeling,” explains Mercedes Abramo, president and CEO, Cartier North America.

“This made choosing an architect a very important aspect of the project. We approached Thierry Despont because of his experience with historic buildings and his ability to restore cultural landmarks to their original state while modernizing them.

We knew that it was going to be a vital part of the selection process, choosing an architect who understood the values and the DNA in the history of Cartier but also someone who could understand that this was also a retail boutique. There is great charm in the way that Thierry is able to blend the past with present and the present with the future..

One of the important elements of having a multi-level boutique is to encourage our clients to explore, to see what we offer on all the other floors, so the presence of a grand staircase was a key element in the design,” continues Abramo.

Renovating a historic building in New York City can be a challenge. “Of all the changes to the Mansion, the one that is most historically significant is the move of the façade entrance slightly to the north,” she adds.

“This is very important because as a historical landmark we had to get permission from the New York Preservation Commission to physically move the entrance.

It result is a renewed symmetry for the building, a very center hall look that is very classically Fifth Avenue. In fact, by doing so, we actually returned the entrance to its original position.

We were able to show drawings where the entrance had been on the 52nd Street side originally, so there had already been a change in the façade and the commission was then quick to approve our request.”

A huge undertaking, Cartier is understandably proud of the finished product and anxious to hear what admires and friends of the brand think of the refreshed space.

“The Mansion holds significance both for the city of New York and for Cartier,” says Abamos. “The renovation has proven to be an amazing personal and professional experience. It has been awe-inspiring to see and to experience the Cartier team working with such a level of care and painstaking attention to detail through each element of this building.

My hope for the future is for the Cartier Mansion to be a renewal of the relationship that Cartier has in America and with the city of New York. It is a very special icon in the history of the maison, as well as in New York, and our goal is to make you feel, when you walk in, that you are a part of our present and our future.”

Some faces present at the grand opening party

Also Read