There are families steeped in history, and there are those with a past. The same can be said about great homes. History may or may not be helping to sell three parcels of pricey real estate–each a decadent home with a past–currently on the market trying to garner top prices.
OnJuly20,the 28,500-square-foot townhouse at 9 East 86th Street, which was built for William Woodward Sr. in 1916, went on the market for $21 million with the Corcoran Group. The very social Woodward family threw lavish parties in this six-story Neo-Georgian mansion until, in 1955, William Woodward Jr. was shot and killed by his wife, Ann, at their home in Oyster Bay, Long Island. Mrs. Woodward told police that she mistook her husband for an intruder; she later killed herself, as did her two sons. The story was the basis for Dominick Dunne’s 1985 book, The Two Mrs. Grenvilles .
According to Mr. Dunne, all of the Woodward daughters had their coming-out parties at the Manhattan townhouse. Before one, he said, “a man on a ladder was cleaning the chandelier in the hall when it crashed to the ground and killed him. Somehow they kept that quiet until after the chandelier was re-hung.”
In 1957, the home was purchased by the private Town Club. Fourteen years later, a high-stakes card game at the club was held up, and $100,000 in cash and jewelry was stolen.
The townhouse, which features a large swimming pool, two elevators and a sauna, first went on the market last winter for $27 million with Massey Knackal Realty.
“It was clearly overpriced,” said broker Elizabeth Mottram of the Corcoran Group, who is now selling the place with Sharon Baum. “The market was not responding to that price, so adjustments had to be made.” Ms. Mottram said the townhouse was shown on July 23 to a potential buyer who wanted to turn the property into a two-family residence.
Last year, when the Steinberg family’s insurance company went bankrupt, that clan was scarred, too–many members still aren’t speaking to each other. According to East End brokers, in late June an offer was made to buy the four-acre Quoguee state of Saul Steinberg, former billionaire and chief executive of Reliance Group Holdings, and his socialite wife, Gayfryd, for about $6.3 million. The Steinbergs had been living at the estate at 188 Dune Road since they parted with their triplex penthouse at 740 Park Avenue last year, for $37 million, after Mr. Steinberg’s fortune started to dissipate.
Considering the recent offer, the house seems to have declined in value as the Steinbergs’ stock plummeted. The recent offer was a major discount from the $15 million price tag the property had back in 1995, when it first hit the market. It has been on and off the market for years, and in January the price was reduced to $9.5 million. Brokers involved in the deal said no contract had been signed for the property. The Steinbergs’ broker, Peter Hallock of Allan M. Schneider in East Hampton, wouldn’t comment..
“It was the nicest house in the neighborhood,” said one broker who has shown the house. “That was part of the problem.”
It may not be Lily Pond Lane, but the Steinbergs’ former neighbors include Talk magazine editor Tina Brown and designer Arnold Scassi. A few months ago, the estate of Gwen Verdon, the Broadway dancer and ex-wife of Bob Fosse who died last fall, sold her home in Quogue for $2.5 million.
One broker said the Steinbergs have owned the house for about 15 years, and last year the deed was transferred to Gayfryd Steinberg. According to Allan M. Schneider’s Web site, the four-acre, 17,000-square-foot estate with bay views features seven bedrooms, 10 bathrooms and three staff rooms, plus separate children’s and guest wings. The gated grounds include a pool, a tennis court with pavilion, extensive English gardens and 250 feet of ocean frontage.
“It’s gorgeous,” said one East End broker who has shown the house. “It’s over the top.”
The lavish estate was the site of what many people called the “party of the decade”–Mr. Steinberg’s surprise 50th-birthday party on Aug. 5, 1989. Mrs. Steinberg planned the event, inviting 250 of their closest friends, including former Commerce Secretary Robert Mosbacher and his then wife Georgette, Barbara Walters, Steve and Courtney Ross, leveraged-buyout giant Henry Kravis and his then wife, socialite Carolyn Roehm, Robert and Blaine Trump, Ms. Brown and her husband Harry Evans, and former Senator Alfonse D’Amato. The decor made the party emblematic of 1980’s gluttony at its height: Identical twins dressed as mermaids floated in the pool, Oriental rugs were thrown over the grass and there were 10 huge tableaux vivants of Old Masters paintings–one actress posed naked for a living re-creation of Rembrandt’s Danae . Treasure chests spilling over with pearls were the centerpieces, and guests dined on kilos of Beluga caviar and gallons of Louis Roederer Cristal champagne. The five-tiered gold-and-silver-leaf cake was rolled out on a platform, flanked by two children dressed as cherubs.
Though the Steinbergs’ collectibles have been dispersed or auctioned off and the East End’s Great Gatsby -esque parties are over, a little bit of nostalgia may help sell an estate in Sands Point, Long Island–where F. Scott Fitzgerald is said to have written parts of the book, and which was also the inspiration for the fictional home of Daisy Buchanan–which went on the market on July 20 for $50 million.
The estate, called Lands End, is being sold by racehorse owner Virginia Kraft Payson. The 25-room white-shingled Colonial Revival mansion was built in 1902 on Long Island’s northwestern shore, in a town that was founded in 1695 by brothers James, Samuel and John Sands and then divided among 50 of the nation’s wealthiest families by 1900. Other Sands Point homeowners have included publishers Condé Nast and William Randolph Hearst, former Governor Averill Harriman and Newsday founders Alicia Patterson and Harry Guggenheim.
Mr. Fitzgerald called the community “East Egg” and described it as a place of “white palaces glittering on the water.” Now some of the glitter has faded–a few of those palaces can be rented out for benefit parties or weddings–but the price has risen to $50 million.
UPPER EAST SIDE
A HELL OF A WAY TO WAIT OUT A TOWNHOUSE Apparently, Howard Lutnick is a guy with a big heart–or at least a big bank account.
Mr. Lutnick, the president and chief executive of Cantor Fitzgerald, a wholesale securities seller and the chairman and chief executive of eSpeed Inc., which develops technology for trading online, bought a Beaux Arts house at 11 East 71st Street for $7.6 million in 1998. At the time, it was divided into 10 apartments. But not until January 2001 did he obtain a permit to renovate the place into a single-family home.
“I think he’s bought a complete shell, basically,” said Suria Clarke, a spokeswoman for the businessman, who was working from his London offices last week. In fact, Mr. Lutnick told The New York Times ‘ Christopher Gray that “nothing original remained inside” the Beaux Arts-style 1892 Carrere & Hastings-designed home down the block from the Frick, which Mr. Gray called “a radically new piece of architecture” for its time.
In the meantime, Mr. Lutnick recently signed a four-month lease on the 6,300-square-foot triplex maisonette at 817 Fifth Avenue that belonged to the late pediatrician and philanthropist Anne Dyson. The rent is a mere $45,000 a month.
The apartment has four bedrooms, six bathrooms, a double maid’s room, a library, an office, a sitting room, a large living room and two fireplaces. There is a small terrace and two floors with about 50 feet of frontage each on Central Park. “It’s like having your own townhouse,” said Scott Durkin, chief operating officer of the Corcoran Group. And apartments as little as half the size have rented for $30,000 a month, according to one broker familiar with the building, which is home to Steve Wynn and Richard Gere.
The lease may or may not tide Mr. Lutnick over until his house is ready, which won’t be until November at the earliest. But it will certainly buy some time for Dyson’s husband, Michael Kramer, a managing editor at the Daily News , to try to find a buyer for the apartment, which has been on the market since last October.
JONATHAN AND CAROLINE SACK TAKE THE LONG WAY TO PARK AVENUE In early June, the full-floor apartment at 640 Park Avenue that had been on the market for more than a year finally sold to Jonathan Sack and his wife, Caroline Sassower Sack. The couple–he’s a lawyer, and she’s the daughter of banker Philip Sassower and the granddaughter of the late Max Oppenheimer–agreed to pay $11.7 million for the apartment, between 66th and 67th streets, last October.
“It’s an enormous, beautiful apartment,” said one broker of the 18-room home with four bedrooms, six bathrooms, maid’s quarters and four fireplaces. “It’s in very nice condition.” (Maintenance is $6,890.)
According to brokers, the apartment went on the market last March but was almost immediately taken off by the sellers, an elderly couple represented by Neil Gallagher of Brown Harris Stevens. Last June, a contract was signed for the apartment, but the deal fell through. One broker said the co-op’s board had turned down a prospective buyer. In October, the Sacks signed a contract to buy the apartment for $300,000 less than its asking price. They passed the board in December.
But the delay must have been smoothed over by Nancy Elias of Brown Harris Stevens, whose daughter, Wendy, is married to Mrs. Sack’s brother, Edward. Ms. Elias and Eleanor Heyman, also of Brown Harris, represented the Sacks.
STEVE WITKOFF LANDS IN HIS VERY OWN AERIE While his company, the Witkoff Group, has been trying to unload a bunch of properties–the Daily News building on East 42nd Street, London’s Shell Max House and an Art Deco building on the north bank of the Thames–Steve Witkoff bought a 25th-floor apartment at 188 East 78th Street, near Lexington Avenue, for $6.6 million in mid-June.
The real-estate lawyer turned developer’s new apartment takes up 5,400 square feet–the whole 25th floor–and has five bedrooms, six and a half baths and a maid’s room. A broker who has worked in the building said the developer had gotten a good deal, considering that a similar apartment on the 29th floor went for $9 million last May, and apartments on the 24th and 26th floors have sold for more than $7 million.
However, the broker said, Mr. Witkoff’s new apartment “doesn’t have helicopter views.”
20 East 35th Street
One-bedroom, 1 1/2 bathroom, 800-square-foot co-op.
Asking: $479,000. Selling: $479,000.
Charges: $1,202; 50 percent tax deductible.
Time on the market: one day.
BROKER KNOWS BEST “They thought they wanted Upper East Side, they wound up buying in midtown,” said Bellmarc Realty broker Steve Mandresh of the pair who bought this duplex apartment on July 10. “They thought they wanted postwar, but as I started working with them I realized they loved the charm of a prewar.” They knew for sure that they wanted a large place with views, good light and some perks. Two months later, this duplex apartment with a terrace and a fireplace, on the top floor of a prewar building, popped onto the market. “I called them immediately and said, ‘Drop what you are doing, I have found the apartment for you,'” said Mr. Mandresh. His clients made an offer as soon as they saw it.
40 Leroy Street
Four-story, 3,800-square-foot townhouse.
Asking: $3.995 million. Selling: $3.75 million.
Time on the market: eight months.
THE PARTY’S OVER–FOR NOW Party planner Andy King moved out of his penthouse apartment on Prince Street two and a half years ago and bought this 1835 townhouse from the estate of antiques dealer James Ray for $1.4 million. He spent a year renovating the house “top to bottom” with the help of the architect Malcolm Kaye of Aston Associates. When everything was finally done, Mr. King moved himself into the top floor and commenced throwing parties. Over the next year, the elegant townhouse was the backdrop for several weddings, receptions, meetings and birthday parties. Mr. King, who is also a chef, catered the events. But then Mr. King had had it. “The idea was that his living quarters would be separate, but the house was so great that everyone wanted to go to every room and pick up every picture, and his space wasn’t that private,” said broker Leslie Mason of Douglas Elliman. Mr. King put the place up for sale last year, and a family showed up recently to buy it. Mr. King has not yet decided where he and his parties will go next, but it will probably be a loft space downtown.