YIMBY attends the plaque unveiling at 17 Beekman Place in Turtle Bay, Manhattan

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Last Friday evening, YIMBY attended the unveiling of a plaque dedicated to the late James Vincent Forrestal at 17 Beekman Place in Turtle Bay. The residential building, located on the corner of Beekman Place and East 50th Street, once served as Forrestal’s private residence and is now owned by the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg and its diplomatic missions. The event brought together Luxembourg Prime Minister HE Xavier Bettel, Karen Donfried, Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs at the US State Department, Lt. Col. James Hendon, Commissioner, NYC Department of Veterans’ Services, and Francesca C. Forrestal, the Forrestals’ only grandson.

“I am very grateful to the Luxembourg government for honoring my grandfather on these two anniversaries and for maintaining the house of my grandparents, my father Peter and my uncle Michael,” said Francesca C Forrestal.

Below are photographs of the plaque now visible on the ground floor next to the main entrance, as well as images of Luxembourg Prime Minister HE Xavier Bettel and Ms Karen Donfried giving their speeches.

Photo by Michael Young

Photo by Michael Young

Luxembourg Prime Minister HE Xavier Bettel. Photo by Michael Young

HE Mrs. Karen Donfried, Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs, US Department of State. Photo by Michael Young

The house number is displayed above the door on a restored semi-circular light fixture, which illuminated at nightfall and the end of the dedication ceremony.

Photo by Michael Young

James Vincent Forrestal, born February 15, 1892, in Matteawan, NY (renamed Beacon, NY), chose the site for his five-story residence in the 1920s, which Harold Sterner designed in a Georgian Revival style. The property features a garden with a planting plan designed by Ellen Biddle Shipman, America’s “Doyen of Landscape Architects,” in 1938. The garden was restored in the spring of 2020 by Dorothy Pfeiffer, owner and creative director of New York. Cornucopia Flowers, in partnership with the Consulate of Luxembourg.

“The Forrestal House is the last residence to be built on the quiet cul-de-sac of Beekman Place,” Consul General Paul Steinmetz said. “On the 90th anniversary of Forrestal’s move to 17 Beekman Place, we are proud to honor the man whose home will first pass to the late songwriter Irving Berlin in 1946 and then to the Luxembourg government on 30 April 1990.”

Photo by Michael Young

Photo by Michael Young

Photo by Michael Young

Photo by Michael Young

Photo by Michael Young

Photo by Michael Young

Photo by Michael Young

Photo by Michael Young

Forrestal graduated from Matteawan High School where he served as editor of the school publication, then went to Dartmouth College and later transferred to Princeton University in 1912 where he edited the Daily Princetonian and is became a member of the University Cottage Club. Leaving Princeton without a degree, he switched from journalism to a career in finance in 1916 and became a successful Wall Street banker at Dillon, Read & Company. Forrestal enlisted in the Navy during World War I. He was released in 1919 and returned to banking. In 1926, he married Vogue magazine writer Josephine Ogden Stovall (1899-1976). The following year they had their first son Michael (1927-1989) while Forrestal became vice president of the company and also worked for the Dutchess County Democratic Party. It was during his thirties that he decided to imagine a house that lived up to his level of success.

His second son Peter (1930-1982) was born during the construction of 17 Beekman Place. In 1940 Forrestal moved to Washington DC to serve as an adviser to Franklin D. Roosevelt. His duties as liaison officer between the President, the Treasury Department, and other government financial agencies led to his appointment as Undersecretary of the Navy on August 22, 1940, where he was put in charge of purchasing of ships, planes, and ammunition. Forrestal became Secretary of the Navy on April 23, 1944.

17 Beekman Place was rented during the Forrestal family’s absence, and was later sold to Irving Berlin, songwriter of “God Bless America”, in 1946. Two years later, Forrestal was awarded the Medal of Merit and the Distinguished Service Medal the day after his resignation from his post on March 28, 1949. Forrestal died less than two months later, on May 22, 1949, from a fall from a window at Bethesda Naval Hospital where he was treated for depression. He is buried in Section 30 of Arlington Cemetery, along with his wife and two sons.

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