Mrs. Astor’s Prodigal Son Comes Home—To Sell It

On Sept. 17, just as his late mother Brooke Astor’s $46 million duplex co-op was coming back on the market after a summer hiatus, and one day before a court appearance, Anthony D. Marshall slouched in his white living room armchair, one hand resting on his neck. The senatorial 84-year-old, unsmiling and handsome in his gold-buttoned navy blazer, blue-checked white shirt, pressed gray-striped pants and black loafers, said he had regrets. “Oh, yes. But that’s awfully…” He paused. “To be retrospective about anything is being retrospective.

“You can’t change the past.”

Nearly a year after pleading not guilty to a 16-count criminal indictment that accuses him of stealing millions from his mother while she was suffering from Alzheimer’s, American-born but Victorian-voiced Mr. Marshall still makes the Metropolitan Museum’s outgoing director, Philippe de Montebello, sound like a barfly: His “yes” can arrive in two distinct syllables; his “past” rhymes with “lost.” Does he wish things were different at the end of his mother’s life? “Yes,” he said. “But I can’t comment any more than that.”

Mr. Marshall wouldn’t speak about the charges, but he was very gracious about sharing his memories of his mother’s apartment at 778 Park Avenue and its six terraces, five wood-burning fireplaces and one very famous red-lacquered library.

“Do you want to begin or shall I?” he said. Ms. Astor bought the place in 1959, although her only son never slept over. “Sleep there? Never did, no. Well—I was an old man by then.”

There’s just one real bedroom in the whole duplex. Four rooms went to maids; a bedroom upstairs was turned into a second sitting room; two bedrooms downstairs are office and storage space.

 

MR. MARSHALL SAYS the place has been bequeathed to him in every will since 1963, but that it isn’t technically his because disputes over Astor’s estate won’t be settled until after the criminal case. “She’d always tell me, ‘If you want it, it’s here, fine, I’m giving it to you. Do what you want.’”

His wife, Charlene, told The Observer in March that they were thinking about moving in. “Her apartment has that wonderful terrace,” she said, “and little library.” But they haven’t dropped by since around then. “We’ve been in Maine,” Mr. Marshall explained. What’s more, JPMorgan Chase, which has overseen Astor’s financial affairs since a legal dispute over her welfare began in 2006, changed the apartment’s locks and did not give the Marshalls keys.

They don’t go to the co-op unaccompanied. “We can’t,” Ms. Marshall said. “They just won’t let us. It’s true.”

Mr. Marshall nodded. “Anytime,” he said. Chase bankers didn’t return calls for this story.

Still, their own Lexington Avenue duplex, a few blocks up from Astor’s co-op, suits the couple fine. Giving a tour of the place, Mr. Marshall showed off a Maasai spear above the entrance to his living room, and notes from Livingstone and Stanley framed with vintage illustrations (like Livingstone Beset by Hostile Natives). “I’ve got many, many fond memories of luncheons, dinners, teas, just dropping in,” he said about 778 Park. “Christmas, Thanksgiving, whatever. But this is ours. We wouldn’t have wanted to move out of this and into that.”

“Doesn’t this feel homey to you?” said Ms. Marshall, sitting quietly in a nice powder blue sweater on a nearby sofa. “We don’t care about the Astor apartment. That was Tony’s mother and”—a reversing truck beeped in the street—“that’s fine. We’ve made this our home for 20 years. Come on, this is our home.”

They would have kept the Astor co-op, “if it had been an apartment that really suited us,” Mr. Marshall said. “… But, no …” The outside noise threw him off. “Where were we?”

 

THE NEXT DAY, though defense lawyers had argued there hadn’t been enough evidence for the larceny indictment, a State Supreme Court judge ruled that the criminal case against Mr. Marshall could proceed.

That afternoon, listing broker Leighton Candler, a top agent at Corcoran, gave The Observer a rare look inside the Astor apartment. No Chase bankers were there—the first time, she said, she had shown the co-op unaccompanied.

The chandeliered private elevator landing and the 30-foot-long front gallery (which includes a hidden wet bar with scotch, gin, vodka and bourbon; a fridge; six shelves of crystal; plus an opening to the servant’s quarters) barely prepare you for the stupefying perfection of the three main public rooms. “I think I’d have to say it’s more formal than our place,” Mr. Marshall had offered the day before.

Mrs. Astor’s Prodigal Son Comes Home—To Sell It