Three Historic Upper East Side Buildings Listed at $78.9 Million
The National Academy Museum sent shockwaves through Manhattan’s arts community last spring when the venerable but financially troubled institution listed its palatial Fifth Avenue campus for $120 million. Though the asking price for the three buildings—totaling 52,200 square feet—has recently dropped to $78.9 million, the figure would still constitute the highest sale ever in New York City for a residential-conversion property, if purchased as a single-family home. Plus, the academy is now willing to part with the trio of buildings separately, perhaps a more expedient way for the oldest artists’ society in the country to create its first-ever endowment and accelerate its relocation.
The most famous of the academy’s three buildings is 1083 Fifth Avenue ($29.5 million), a five-bedroom Beaux Arts mansion that was bequeathed to the academy in 1939 by railroad heir Archer Huntington, who had lived there since the early 20th century. In 1914 Huntington tapped design icon Ogden Codman, Jr.—coauthor of The Decoration of Houses with Edith Wharton—to reconfigure and enlarge the structure. Inspired by French Renaissance style, Codman refaced the six-story structure with limestone, generously revamped the interior proportions, and added refined touches like parquet de Versailles floors, Hauteville marble stairs, and intricate floral moldings, all of which have been graciously preserved.
Codman also fashioned a striking spiral staircase to join the main residence with a new 40-foot-wide townhouse at 3 East 89th Street ($29.5 million), now directly across from the Guggenheim Museum. The seven-bedroom dwelling boasts period details and an elegant limestone-and-brick façade to match the original mansion. In the 1950s, after the academy converted the two structures into galleries and offices, it commissioned the architecture firm William & Geoffrey Platt to create an adjacent two-story educational facility at 5–7 East 89th Street ($19.95 million), which is still operational despite the museum’s closure. Though never a residence like the other two buildings, the annex may be converted into a dwelling or used for civic purposes, according to Corcoran, the brokerage handling the sale.
The academy’s entire campus was most recently overhauled in 2011 by the New York architecture firm Bade Stageberg Cox, which installed modern lighting systems and revamped gallery spaces with the addition of movable partitions to make them more flexible. Though largely unoccupied since last June, the museum has served as a compelling Gilded Age backdrop for a number of events and installations, including the debut of a new textile and home furnishing collection from Kvadrat/Raf Simons in March. If there’s concern that an erstwhile museum might be difficult to reclaim as a family home after so many years, seeing those high-octane furnishings inside the academy’s landmark rooms should have helped to allay any such fears.