Old Lefty Haunt Sells for $3.05 M.; Village Townhouse Had ‘A Lot of Scandal Going On’

A creaky 138-year-old brownstone in Greenwich Village, which for half its life had been home to the neighborhood’s most delectably artsy couple, has been sold to a kingpin of Manhattan realty.

Robert DeLeonardis, president of the Manhattan Association of Realtors (and managing partner of Fenwick Keats Goodstein), paid $3.05 million this month for the townhouse at 279 West Fourth Street. The place had belonged to Dr. Lillian Milgram Schapiro, who died last year at 104.

“It was really in ill repair,” Mr. DeLeonardis said.

But the place is hallowed: Dr. Schapiro’s husband was the late Columbia University art historian Meyer Schapiro. “He was the one person in the Village,” Saul Bellow once said, “against whom no one had anything terrible to say.” Robert Motherwell said he came to New York simply to learn from him.

According to a Times obituary, the Schapiro family moved into the townhouse in 1934, and it became a hub for radical lefty intellectuals. Those were more Marxist and much boozier days for petite West Fourth Street: According to Mr. DeLeonardis, the English basement had a full-fledged speakeasy. “I’m sure that there was a lot of scandal going on back then,” he said.

There’s a mirror atop the scandalous bar, plus a dumbwaiter and tin ceilings.

The brownstone was never on the market, and naturally this broker didn’t need any agents. “Having been around in the city for 18 years, it came to me through a friend of mine.” How did his negotiations with the couple’s daughter go? “She gave me the keys before we closed.”

He said the interior is about 3,000 square feet—which means his price per square foot is blissfully just over $1,000. But what will he and his wife do with the townhouse’s five bedrooms? “We’ll make one of them into an exercise room. But first things first—we’re going to start restoring.”

Old Lefty Haunt Sells for $3.05 M.; Village Townhouse Had ‘A Lot of Scandal Going On’