Last November–on what must have surely been a sad day for the kind of New Yorker who obsesses over 17-room Fifth Avenue apartments with ballroom ceilings imported from 17th-century Venetian palaces and marble staircases carved from Michelangelo’s quarry–the Kress family’s famous penthouse duplex at 1020 Fifth Avenue was taken off the market.
At that time, a source told The Observer that the listing, which, oddly, hadn’t been given to any one broker (though certain shiny-shoed brokers from certain brokerages were allowed to advertise the duplex on their Web sites), had come off the market because of “loose ends” that had to be cleared up by the estate. “Nothing scandalous,” the source said.
It was another twist in an oddball history that goes back to Samuel H. Kress, the dime-story chain founder who helped design the place (and its 18th-century master bedroom and library shipped over from Europe). When Kress died in 1955, his brother, Rush, inherited it, but he died the next decade. In April 1990, a broker memo went out announcing that Rush Kress’ widow “may consider putting it on the market.”
Four years ago, after her death, a broker named Judy Kress Auchincloss, who had once been married to Rush Kress’ son, sent out another broker memo: “Not officially on the market at this time, call me for appointments and questions. This is my son’s grandmother’s apartment.”
Nothing happened until last January, when an article in the Sunday Times announced that the duplex was quietly being offered for more than $50 million. A Kress family member’s phone number was listed in the article, but within a few months real brokers like John Burger, Kirk Henckels, and the Corcoran Group’s Leighton Candler had put the apartment (without photographs) on their sites for $50 million. Those quasi-listings were all down by November.
Next month, the penthouse, with its 800-square-foot salon, roof terraces, and five staff rooms, will come back on. Ms. Candler (who also has the bright blue blooded, knee weakening Astor listing) will be the sole broker, and the price will be down to somewhere around $45 million. Duplex penthouse obsessives rejoice!