RPJ’s New York: Edith Wharton’s Home

This is the second in a series of non-legal articles on the city we work in and love. 

For some of us at Reavis Page Jump LLP, the Starbucks near the corner of 23rd Street and 5th Avenue is an important part of our morning commute.  Unless they take time to read the red plaque by the door, those lining up for the lattes probably don’t appreciate that they are in the childhood home of the great American novelist Edith Wharton.  Born Edith Jones, the author of The Age of Innocence and The House of Mirth spent her youth perusing the house’s extensive library and developing her extraordinary eye for social detail.  According to Wharton’s autobiography, A Backward Glance, the Fifth Avenue of her day was a “placid and uneventful thoroughfare.”  One can only imagine her reaction to the selfie-snapping tourists and crazed Citi Bikers who inhabit the intersection today.  Wharton might have appreciated Starbucks though; describing her distaste for bad coffee and her own talents for making a good cuppa, Wharton’s House of Mirth protagonist Lily Bart said of her houseguest, “The coffee was so exquisite that he asked for a second cup: such a contrast to the watery stuff at the club!”


The plaque outside Edith Wharton’s former home at 14 West 23rd Street, now a highly trafficked Starbucks.


By RPJ Partner Alice K. Jump, whose practice focuses in litigation and dispute resolution, employment, real estate and infrastructure law.