AVENUE, APRIL 2002
John F. Kennedy and
leave her town house.
Roosevelt visits Prime
Nehru in India.
Guests are welcomed
into the Gandhi home
by a Iovely staircase
and bright open spaces.
Pictures of India are
High ceilings grace the
Ghandis' living room,
accented by Indian art
and Corbusier chairs.
Alongside family port-
raits in Roosevelt's
bedroom is a bedside
photo of David Gure-
While Roosevelt favored
round tables, the
Ghandhis' dining room
features a rectangular
one that can seat 14.
It wasnít just the airy,
high space and wide
ceil-ings that drew the
Gandhi family to the
elegant Upper East Side
town house. It was also
the allure of its previous
Roosevelt. "We feel a
connection because she
had a great love of India
and was the first, First
Lady to visit after its
independence," says Meera Gandhi, who lives with her husband, Vikram,
an investment banker, and their three children. "In
fact, we were given pictures of Mrs. Roosevelt from
that trip, which we display in the front foyer."
The Gandhis purchased the house from Edna
Gurewitsch, who lived in the five-story house with her
late husband, David, and Mrs. Roosevelt from 1959
to 1962. "It was a very happy house," recalls Edna,
who just published Kindred Souls: The Friendship of
Eleanor Roosevelt and David Gurewitsch (St.
Martin's Press). "The house would always be full of
people. She'd have breakfast with President
Kennedy, tea with Khrushchev. There were also
teachers, folksingers, the police commissioner, Golda
Meir, Melvyn Douglas, and many others who came."
Gurewitsch recalls Roosevelt once saying to the
cook, "Only 17 for breakfast, Marge." The more
people the better, and it was a special treat if the
guests included Gurewitsch's children along with
Roosevelt would typically hold large dinner parties
and host lunches on Saturdays that would run into
the late afternoon. On Sundays, she put a chafing
dish in the middle of the table and made scrambled
eggs and tea for supper. This beloved figure
maintained a busy schedule well into her 70ís - and
never drank coffee.
Although these meals were informal gatherings,
her breeding resonated in every room: A carefully set
table. Beautiful silver. Place cards. Exquisite flowers.
Eleanor Roosevelt inspired such affection among
fans and friends that her home was graced with
weekly bouquets - though her favorite remained
small garnet roses.
Her favorite dessert was inspired by a visit to the
restaurant Brussels with Edna and David. Although
she never cooked, Roosevelt delighted in making
dishes of vanilla ice cream topped with whipped
cream, strawberries, and a splash of Grand Marnier.
"One time Leonard Bernstein visited. We were
waiting for the next course to be served, and he
started nervously ringing the dinner bell," recalls
Edna. "Eleanor said to him, 'Put it down, Leonard. We
all know you're here.'"
On New Year's Eve, Roosevelt would have an
annual party that started after midnight. In those days,
it was safe to leave the front door open, and she
would await friends who stopped by to share in
merriment, laughter, and lively discussions of the
day. And she always served champagne.
In her private bedroom, Roosevelt chose stacks
of books and family photos as the main decor. There
was also a damask couch in front of the fireplace
decorated in her favorite shade of blue. Like the
bedroom, the living room walls were painted white.
Here, she had a garnet Persian rug with long red
couches to match. "She wasn't interested in decor or
being fashionably dressed," says Edna. "The interiors
were characterized by things that had meaning." For
example, the living room held watercolor pictures
from Venice, where she and FDR had spent their
When the Gandhis bought the town house from
Edna, it had been converted into an apartment
building. But r8 months of renovation restored it to its
original glory: a large family home with plenty of
opeJ'spaces for guests and family.
"We decorated it in a very Passage to India style,"
says Meera. Sheer drapes and light cream
upholstery help reflect the high ceilings. Zardozi
embroidered tablecloths and cushions are sprinkled
throughout the house to add color and vibrancy. The
art has a spiritual theme to embrace the universality
of all religions. The Gandhis also bought some
Corbusier chairs for the living room, as well as a
custom-made wood inlaid dining table. "We wanted a
table big enough to seat 14, though Mrs. Roosevelt's
dining room somehow sat 22 people," says Meera.
"Instead of a rectangular table, she would have round
For the Gandhi family, it's an honor to live in this
town house, "I do feel humbled by this amazing
woman who really looked at the world as a global
village," says Meera. I've learned so much about her,
which is a good thing, since everyone now expects
us to be experts on her life."