While the rest of the country wallows in a gruesome housing slump (“He could only nod, tears welling up, when asked if it was hard to make new friends,” The Times wrote this week about a boy, in actual tattered socks, who’s had to move with his mother from rental to rental in Flint, Mich.), the tip-top of New York City’s high-end real estate keeps booming.
Rich realty gets richer and strange people—bespectacled hedge-fund evil geniuses, oil barons and, yes, sometimes the descendants of major Nazis—benefit.
According to city records, the 11,626-square-foot, six-story mansion at 18 East 80th Street sold this month for $37.5 million, one of the largest townhouse deals ever in New York, even though its owners bought the place in 2001, when the asking price was just $8.9 million.
According to old renovation filings, the house belonged to Patricia Halterman, the daughter of German magnate Harald Quandt, whose mother married Joseph Goebbels, the Nazi minister for public enlightenment and propaganda. (Hitler was the best man at their wedding.) Goebbels and his wife killed themselves after poisoning their children, though Mr. Quandt wasn’t there.
After his death in 1967, his heirs founded Harald Quandt Holding, creating a financial group that now manages assets of over $14 billion, according to their Web site. The extended Quandt family, which owns a major stake in BMW, had to deal last year with a German documentary about the family’s use of wartime slave labor.
Ms. Halterman died in 2005, so it’s not clear where the money from the $37.5 million sale will go, though two names connected to the family’s private equity/hedge fund/real estate group, called Auda, are written on the deed. The buyer is listed anonymously as a limited liability corporation.
The house was never officially put on the market, although one broker said Paula Del Nunzio was involved with the deal. Ms. Del Nunzio did not return an e-mail asking for comment.
“Everything, practically, was removed; it was basically a shell,” the architect Zack McKown, who is listed on those renovation filings, said about his work for Ms. Halterman, though he wouldn’t discuss the client. “There was practically nothing left except the front and back walls.
“But what was interesting for us in designing the house—the owner was someone who had a very sophisticated modern sensibility; she had a wonderful art collection including Rothko, Calder, Sol LeWitt. And so we designed the house with the modern sensibility, but respecting its roots.”
Mr. McKown said the stairwell built for the house was draped with safety netting made from a very fine variety of nylon fishnet—a sculptural device to keep children from falling down. There was a rope ladder in a child’s bedroom, a personal gym, and “the most gracious entrance to any house that I’ve seen,” he said, with a fireplace carved into pale limestone.