Margaret Louisa Vanderbilt Shepard

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Margaret Vanderbilt Shepard
'Portrait of Mrs. Elliott Fitch Shepard' by John Singer Sargent, San Antonio Museum of Art.jpg
Portrait of Margaret by John Singer Sargent, 1888
Born(1845-07-23)July 23, 1845
DiedMarch 3, 1924(1924-03-03) (aged 78)
New York City, New York, U.S.
(m. 1868;died 1893)
Children6, including Edith, Alice, Elliott
Parent(s) William Henry Vanderbilt
Maria Louisa Kissam
RelativesSee Vanderbilt family

Margaret Louisa Vanderbilt Shepard (New Dorp, July 23, 1845 – Manhattan, March 3, 1924) was an American heiress and a member of the prominent Vanderbilt family. [1] As a philanthropist, she funded the YMCA, helping create a hotel for guests of the organization. She was married to prominent New York City lawyer, banker, and newspaper editor Elliott Fitch Shepard.


Early life

The Shepards' New York City townhouse (right), part of the Vanderbilt Triple Palace 640 & 642 5th Avenue and 2 West 52nd Street, New York, NY.jpg
The Shepards' New York City townhouse (right), part of the Vanderbilt Triple Palace

Margaret was born on July 23, 1845 in Staten Island, New York. She was the eldest daughter of William Henry Vanderbilt and Maria Louisa Kissam Vanderbilt. Her older brother was Cornelius Vanderbilt II and younger siblings William Kissam Vanderbilt, Emily Thorn Vanderbilt, Florence Adele Vanderbilt Twombly, Frederick William Vanderbilt, Eliza Osgood Vanderbilt Webb and George Washington Vanderbilt II. [2]

She was the granddaughter of the Commodore Cornelius Vanderbilt and his first wife, Sophia (née Johnson) Vanderbilt. [3]

Charity work

An ardent supporter of the YWCA, she built, in 1891, the Margaret Louisa, a YWCA hotel strictly for transient guests at 14 E. 16th Street in New York City. Mrs. Shepard fully financed and furnished the building which was named the "Margaret Louisa Home for Protestant Women". [4] [5]

Margaret Louisa narrowly escaped being a victim of the RMS Titanic, having booked passage but for unknown reasons cancelled and traveled a week earlier on the RMS Olympic. [6]

Personal life

Woodlea, her home in Briarcliff Manor, New York in 1895 Woodlea in Briarcliff Manor (27a).png
Woodlea, her home in Briarcliff Manor, New York in 1895

On February 18, 1868, Margaret Louisa was married to Elliott Fitch Shepard (1833–1893) in the Church of the Incarnation in New York. [7] He was the son of Fitch Shepard and Delia Maria Dennis. Shepard was a lawyer, banker, and owner of the Mail and Express newspaper, as well as a founder and president of the New York State Bar Association. [8] Together, they had five daughters and one son:

Margaret died at her apartment on 998 Fifth Avenue in Manhattan on March 3, 1924. [2] She is buried in the Vanderbilt Private Section, a burial ground just outside the Vanderbilt Mausoleum Moravian Cemetery, Staten Island. At her death, she left over $5,000,000 in trust to her daughters. [16] She donated $180,000 to charities, $20,000 to each of her sixteen grandchildren, and $100,000 to the Scarborough Presbyterian Church, [16] in addition to the $100,000 left to the Church upon her husband's death in 1893. [17]


The Shepards owned a townhouse (double mansion) (1882) on Fifth Avenue and 52nd Street designed by John B. Snook, provided to them by her father and shared with her sister Emily Thorn Vanderbilt, who was married to William Douglas Sloane and, after his death, Henry White, the American Ambassador to France and Italy, and a signatory of the Treaty of Versailles. [18]

They also owned Woodlea, built between 1892 and 1895, a McKim, Mead & White-designed [19] country estate in Scarborough, New York, a neighborhood of Briarcliff Manor. The estate is now operated as Sleepy Hollow Country Club. [20] [21] [22]

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  18. "HENRY WHITE WEDS MRS. WM.D. SLOANE; Ex-Ambassador to France Is 70 and Daughter of Late Wm. H. Vanderbilt Is 68. RELATIVES ONLY AT NUPTIAL Ceremony in St. Bartholomew's Chapel Follows Issuing of License --Couple at Bride's City Home". The New York Times . 4 November 1920. Retrieved 21 July 2017.
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