For a while there we were worried that living in Gilded Age splendor had gone the way of horse-drawn carriages and corsets, with everyone all agog over penthouse sky-mansions in shiny new buildings like One57. But it seems that some buyers can still appreciate a Fifth Avenue manse opening out onto the Park. After all, why have a floor-through when you can have seven floors?
The Observer has learned, through sources familiar with the deal, that the sprawling Gilded Age townhouse at 973 Fifth Avenue has closed for $42 million, setting the year’s townhouse record. (The all-time record still belongs to the $53 million Harkness Mansion, though Larry Gagosian bought it for a mere $36.5 million last year. The largest townhouse sale since was the $48 million deal for the Vanderbilt Mansion last May.)
It has been a spring of stratospheric sales, with the record-setting sale of a $52.5 million co-op at 740 Park and Steve Wynn’s $70 million condo buy at the Ritz-Carlton and now it looks like the summer will follow suit, in defiance of all seasonal norms.
The 15,225-square-foot house had been listed for $49 million with Brown Harris Stevens broker Paula Del Nunzio since last June. It was the townhouse’s first time on the market since 1977, when it sold for $660,000 to Victor Shafferman, a businessman who died in 2009.
Ms. Del Nunzio would not talk about the deal, other than to say that the mansion was “one of the most extraordinary houses to ever sell in Manhattan.”
The house was designed by the architect of the Gilded Age at the end of a long career spent perfecting the art of opulence (White was shot and killed by the husband of a former lover just a year after it was completed). It retains all of the original Stanford White details and floorplan (including a full service floor with a kitchen) unlike Mayor Bloomberg’s Stanford White mansion and others that have been remodeled since. Leaden glass windows, mirrors rimmed in gold leaf, a wall of windows along the magnificent staircase, you get the idea.
Alas, it seems that the house may be a little too old-fashioned for modern tastes. It is said to need an extensive renovation—people are so attached to modern conveniences these days.
Still, there are certain undeniable advantages to living at such an established address. The home’s original owner Henry Cook, a banker and a railroad tycoon, also owned all the land between Fifth and Madison avenues, 78th and 79th streets, when the house was built. He limited the height of all buildings on the surrounding blocks with deed restrictions that persist to this day, so the owner will never have to worry about pesky apartment buildings blocking the light.