Over the years, the story has persisted that 101 West 78th Street, once known as The Evelyn, was named for Evelyn Nesbit. She was the 16-year-old mistress of the famed architect Stanford White of McKim, Mead & White. The same Evelyn Nesbit whose future husband, millionaire Harry Kendall Thaw, would ultimately shoot and kill Stanford White in 1906 in a fit of jealous rage. The problem with this story is that neither White, Nesbit nor Thaw ever had anything to do with this building and furthermore, Evelyn Nesbit was only a baby in 1885 when the building first earned its name.
As of this writing, the building has now shed this moniker and will now be known only as 101 West 78th Street. Located directly across the street from the Museum of Natural History, it is in the midst of a major renovation and condo conversion. The original construction of the striking red brick building began in 1882, when the intended design by architect, Emile Gruwe, was for an 8 story building with a mansard roof. The building rose up to the 5th floor and then the money dried up. Developers, Phineas Smith and Edward Milliken purchased the building after it went into foreclosure and hired new architects, Douglas and John Jardine, to complete it. If you look up at the now 7 story building, you will notice the change in the design form on the top two floors of the building.
The building is adorned with lovely terra cotta figures. In 1987, they were at risk of being removed, but fortunately, a group of Upper West Siders fought and ultimately won the battle to save them.