Hell’s Kitchen has gone through remarkable changes over the past few decades, transitioning from a slummy collection of tenements to Midtown West. But some things never change, like the carriage house at 451 West 54th Street, which despite a recent sale, will remain devoted to the photographic arts.
The former Rockefeller stable was bought by Timothy White LLC (who could not be reached for comment) from the ornately-named and very continental-sounding Bénédicte de Vleeschauwer for $3.2 million in 2003. Mr. White used the 6,352-square foot carriage house as a living space, studio and garage (for vehicles of the motive, rather than equine, variety—seven, to be exact, held up by “a steel-supported oak floor garage,” quoth the listing). Until, that is, the celebrity photographer, whose subjects range from the Fresh Prince to Queen Latifah, put the arch-windowed beauty on the market last year, asking $7.2 million.
One price reduction later, Corcoran brokers Tony Oakley and Timothy Rothman struck a deal for the 25-foot property at $6.85 million—exactly its asking price, and more than double what Mr. White’s LLC paid for the building ten years earlier. City records show that the buyer is a fellow photographer—or at least, the ghost of one: the Richard Avedon Foundation.
The foundation, which currently calls the MoMA bookstore on West 53rd Street home, was tight-lipped about its intentions for the property—multiple requests for comment went unanswered—but the space is currently outfitted as a studio with a 2-bedroom, 2-bath accessory apartment, and comes with a prize perhaps as valuable as its blindingly white bones: more than 8,400 square feet of additional development rights. This gives the Avedon Foundation the ability to more than double the size of the existing structure, should the foundation’s collection of the late Richard Avedon’s Marilyn Monroe, Brigitte Bardot, Beatles and Eisenhower photos spill over the bounds of the early 19th century structure.
In the meantime, we’d say that the carriage house is definitely ready for a celebratory close-up—preferably one that, unlike the Corcoran listing shot, draws the eye without blurring out the building’s neighbors.