This old, five-story building on E. 28th Street seemed too grand and unusual not to have a story behind it. So I did a little detective work on the current home of Chef 28.
First of all, old it indeed is. It was built in 1879. And not by some hack either. The architect was Renwick, Aspinwall & Russell, as in James Renwick Jr., as in Grace Church and St. Patrick's Cathedral.
It's not so unusual that Renwick should design such a minor building, when you consider its occupants. This was the first fraternity house of St. Anthony Hall. Wha? Huh, you say? Read:
St. Anthony Hall, also known as Saint Anthony Hall and The Order of St. Anthony, is a national college literary society formerly known as the Fraternity of Delta Psi... The first, or "Alpha" Chapter was founded at Columbia University on January 17, 1847, which is the feast day of St. Anthony...In 1879, Baird's Manual characterized the organization as having "the reputation of being the most secret of all the college societies." References appear in several F. Scott Fitzgerald short stories, and the Order has a distinguished architectural inheritance.
Yeah, Fitzgerald would be obsessed with such a club as St. Anthony. Anyway, this chapter was connected to Columbia when the university was at 49th Street and Madison Avenue. When Columbia moved uptown in the late 1920's, the fraternity relocated but kept the building on 28th as a clubhouse for some years.
There is a small coat of arms, worn down by time, on the fourth floor.