A Classical Revival Terra Cotta Palace
Mr. and Mrs. Hermann Oelrichs
McKim Mead & White
Brick faced with glazed terra cotta
Rosecliff (1898-1902) was designed for Hermann and Teresa Oelrichs as a theatrical setting for grand parties and entertainments. Stanford White, of the architectural firm of McKim, Mead & White, modeled Rosecliff after the Grand Trianon (1687), the garden retreat designed by Jules Hardouin Mansart for Louis XIV of France in the park of Versailles.
The Grand Trianon was built with an open-air colonnade at the center, and White freely adapted this concept for Rosecliff. At the center of Rosecliff is a ballroom, a space ideal for entertaining on a grand scale, which can be opened up like a colonnade. The impression is similar to the Grand Trianon; the difference is in the details. This is typical of architectural practice in the Gilded Age, when history was used for inspiration, but the designer was free to adapt to suit modern needs.
Rather than using marble, like the Grand Trianon, White selected china-glazed terra cotta, which resembles marble from a distance, to face the exterior of the building. White saw many examples of glazed terra cotta used as an architectural surface material on his extensive travels in Turkey and the Mediterranean. Rosecliff is one of the earliest and largest scale examples of the use of terra cotta in the United States.
Other details adapted from the Grand Trianon include the paired Ionic columns, pilasters on the second story and the roofline balustrade that conceals third-floor staff quarters.