Upper East Side brokers are tipping their hats to retired Red Hat Inc. co-founder Marc Ewing. The 33-year-old software designer closed early this year on a Carnegie Hill townhouse priced higher per square foot than any property in the neighborhood’s history.
On Jan. 6, Mr. Ewing paid $11.25 million for No. 13 East 94th Street, a five-story, 20-foot-wide limestone mansion off Fifth Avenue. With 7,600 square feet of interior space, that’s $1,480 per square foot.
“He won the race-he wins the prize for highest price per square foot ever paid in Carnegie Hill,” said townhouse specialist Jed Garfield, of Leslie J. Garfield & Co. “But it’s an absolutely beautiful block, and the house was literally move-your-furniture-in quality. You didn’t even need to paint.”
Just for the record, Woody Allen’s $17.7 million purchase of No. 48 East 92nd Street was the highest price ever paid for a Carnegie Hill townhouse. Then again, his 40-foot-wide mansion had upwards of 15,000 square feet, and therefore cost the filmmaker about $1,200 per square foot.
Mr. Ewing, the new recordholder, was unavailable for comment, as was the townhouse’s listing broker, Nikki Field, a senior vice president at Sotheby’s International Realty; Mr. Ewing’s broker, Sally Hallows, also of Sotheby’s, was also unavailable for comment.
Red Hat, Mr. Ewing’s company, emerged in the mid- to late 90’s as the most popular distributor of the Linux computer operating system. The company’s I.P.O. was one of the most successful ever, and in 1999 Fortune magazine estimated his fortune at $775 million. At the end of that year, Mr. Ewing stepped down from his position as Red Hat’s chief technical officer, and by August of 2002, he surfaced in an unlikely position: as publisher of a quarterly rock-climbing journal called Alpinist Magazine , which is based in Jackson Hole, Wyo.
Mr. Ewing bought his East 94th Street home from an investor named James Walsh, who held title with his wife, Mary Anne. City records show that they bought the house from an estate sale in 1998 for $3.5 million. The couple then commenced a gut renovation that was completed in the fall of 2001. Sotheby’s listed the house late last year for $12 million, and it sold in under three weeks.
The 15-room, Romanesque-revival mansion has a brick-over-limestone façade which is itself covered with California stucco. The property includes a terrace, balcony, decked rooftop and landscaped garden. A 1,200-square-foot finished basement-which is not included in the property’s 7,600-square-foot total-contains a 1,200-bottle wine cellar, exercise room and photographic dark room. The 15 rooms on the house’s upper levels range from 10 to 14 feet in height, and there are four working fireplaces with mantelpieces circa 1892. Some of the other features include a custom mosaic floor, a commercial-quality kitchen, bow-front windows on the third and fourth floors, a European-style double master suite, and a fifth-floor media room with an oversized skylight.
Mr. Ewing’s chart-topping purchase of 13 East 94th Street wasn’t the first time he made waves in the seemly world of Upper East Side luxury real estate. In October of 1999, he went into contract on a $7.9 million 12-room co-op at 1120 Fifth Avenue-and then raised eyebrows in the old-fashioned co-op when he flipped it in May of 2000 for a listing price of $9.3 million. Not very proper, Mr. Ewing!
FLORIDA FAMILY BRINGS SUNSHINE TO $17.2 M. MANSION WHERE MANHATTAN SOCIALITE PERISHED
The wife of a wealthy investment banker from Florida is weeks away from signing a $17.2 million contract on an East 67th Street townhouse that she and her husband will use as a temporary residence while their young children attend grade school in Manhattan. According to a source close to the family, the investment banker, Gerhard Andlinger, and his wife, Jeanne, hope to close on No. 10 East 67th Street within a month.
“They intend to maintain their Florida residence,” said the source, “but they’re buying the Manhattan townhouse to secure their children’s education …. Sometimes both parents will be there, and sometimes they’ll leave the kids with the nanny and go skiing by themselves.”
A recent top-to-bottom renovation-and the pitter-patter of little feet-should help undo the house’s creepy mojo. It was the scene of a 1997 fire that claimed the lives of two women-including one of the building’s previous owners, Kitty Meyer, a 58-year-old former stockbroker, art collector and well-known socialite. Meyer, who saved four people from the inferno, died after rushing back into the flames to try to save her friend, a Moroccan actress and socialite. Both women plunged to their deaths from the building’s fiery fifth floor-even as firefighters were arriving on the scene.
Fire Department officials and witnesses at the time recounted the following story: Around 4 a.m. on Dec. 16, a short circuit in the house’s decorative Christmas wreath ignited a fire that quickly engulfed the 122-year-old building. Meyer was the first to wake up, and she quickly began leading the house’s inhabitants to safety. Those who made it out included Meyer’s husband, Alvin, the 80-year-old owner of a mail-order costume-jewelry business, three Guatemalan workers and the teenage daughter of a family friend. Safe outside from the flames, Meyer realized that her Moroccan friend had yet to make it out, so she raced back up to the fifth floor. But at that point, the building’s central staircase was probably acting like a central chimney, forcing the fire upwards with great speed. The heat of the flames was apparently too much to bear, because witnesses next saw both women make fatal leaps from the top floor.
The house was originally built in 1881 and modified in 1899 by the noted architect C.P.H. Gilbert for his client, Jules Bache, the financier who founded what later became Prudential Securities. According to city records, Meyer bought the house in 1981 for $1.26 million. After her death, the executors of Meyer’s estate commenced a complete restoration of the house, and an independent broker listed it in July of 2001 for $23.5 million. In May of 2002, the broker reduced the price to $19.5 million.
The 26-foot-wide house is built 62 feet deep, but it has a 20-by-28-foot extension on all five floors, giving it a total of nearly 12,000 square feet. There is also a full basement, as well as space for a landscaped roof terrace. Brokers who have shown the house gave high marks to its location and façade, but they were all decidedly down on the renovation.
“Plain vanilla comes to mind,” said one broker. “It’s so antiseptic-no personality at all. It feels kind of like a McMansion in the suburbs.”
According to the house’s offering sheet, a large skylight floods every floor with natural light, and the parlor floor has a 24-by-36-foot living room complete with herringbone floor, as well as a double-height dining room. The upper floors contain a master bedroom suite and several other master bedrooms and baths.
The expected new patriarch of the house, Mr. Andlinger, was a longtime executive at I.T.T. before founding his own firm, Andlinger & Co., which specializes in leveraged buyouts.
RECENT TRANSACTIONS IN THE REAL ESTATE MARKET
438 West 44th Street
Five-bedroom, five-and-a-half-bathroom townhouse.
Asking: $3.295 million. Selling: $3 million.
Time on the market: nine months.
DOCTOR IN THE HOUSE In the mid-1800’s, a group of doctors got together to purchase a row of townhouses on this stretch of 44th Street between Ninth and 10th avenues; it became known as “Doctors’ Row.” In the years that followed, the surrounding neighborhood went on to see boom times and bust. Depending on the era and the beholder, it was called Hell’s Kitchen, Clinton, the Theater District or, simply, Midtown West. These days, it looks like the demographics of that slim corridor on West 44th Street are starting to come full circle, now that an oncologist has purchased this townhouse on Doctors’ Row. The single male doctor also owns a country house out of town, so this will be his pied-à-terre . Biggest bragging right? There’s a small in-ground pool out back. “That’s extremely rare; I don’t think I’ve ever seen an exposed outdoor pool in Manhattan,” said one of the brokers on the deal, Joseph Dwyer of the Corcoran Group. Mr. Dwyer was part of a selling team led by Sara Gelbard and Meredith Hatfield, also of Corcoran. The four-story house, which was gut-renovated by the previous owner in 2001, sits right next-door to the landmarked Actors’ Studio.
40 Fifth Avenue
Two-bedroom (plus office), three-bathroom co-op.
Asking: $1.65 million. Selling: $1.7 million.
Maintenance: $2,194; 26 percent tax-deductible.
Time on the market: 18 weeks.
MOBILE HOME The owner of a manufacturing company bought this maisonette-an apartment with its own street entrance-from the estate of Alexander Calder’s widow and then fixed the place up. The 1,500-square-foot spread was decked out with top-of-the-line appliances and oak cabinetry-but Insignia Douglas Elliman broker Ryan Fix, who shared the exclusive with Rob Gross, admitted the $1.65 million asking price was a tad aggressive. “Everyone was telling us that it was overpriced, and that we had to bring the price down,” he said. But some people are willing to go to great lengths to secure a place: Before long, a commercial real-estate executive plunked down $50,000 more than the asking price, vindicating real-estate aggression everywhere. In an economy where celebrities frequently find themselves stuck with a property they can’t sell at the high price they want, celebrated actor F. Murray Abraham, who lives in a maisonette apartment two doors down, may want to take note.
8 Cedar Street
Four-bedroom, two-bathroom house.
Asking: $433,800. Selling: $425,000.
Time on the market: 85 days.
TAKE THE CALZONE The last owner of this two-story farmhouse was a lawyer for the government’s witness-protection program. But his modest cedar-clad house, only three blocks away from the beach, served as his own hideout when city life got too much. Recently, however, he was reassigned to Washington, D.C., to oversee security for the Zacarias Moussaoui terrorist trial; so, at that point, he put the place on the market. His exclusive broker, Simon Harrison of Harbor Cove Realty, once asked him if he’d ever lost anyone whom his office had relocated. “He said that one guy got homesick for a calzone from his old neighborhood, so he had one overnighted to his new address,” Mr. Harrison said. “But the guy ordered it a special way, and someone was able to recognize it. They lost him within a week.” A single mother with a 5-year-old boy bought the house from the lawyer. The 1,900-square-foot house sits on a third of an acre of land; it has a large fireplace and about 15 bird feeders around the front porch and grounds.