At the turn of the 20th century, John Wendel II had a property empire in the heart of Manhattan that would be worth around $1 billion today. He built his fortune on four firm principles—never mortgage, never sell, never repair, and always remember that premium real estate prices on Broadway will move uptown ten blocks every decade.[
Wendel had equally firm principles when it came to his family. Their house was in a commercial district, surrounded by shops and hotels, and thus completely unsuitable as a home but worth a fortune. He did not hold with wasting moneyon fripperies such as electricity, telephones, or newfangled automobiles. There was no fence around the house, and passersby often pressed their noses against the windows to catch a glimpse of the strange inhabitants, who they dubbed the “Weird Wendels.”
Wendel had seven sisters, who all lived in the house with him. Wendel was referred to as “the hermit of Fifth Avenue.” They lived quietly together, refusing to change with the times.