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A blog from CityRealty (Links below will take you to the 6sqft site)

Carter's View

The red-brick mansion on the southeast corner of Fifth Avenue and 82nd Street directly across from the entrance to the Metropolitan Museum has been put on the market for $50 million by Tamir Sapir, who acquired it in 2006 for $40 million.

The robust, Beaux-Arts style mansion was originally built in 1901 on speculation by W. W. & T. Hall and designed by Alexander Welch of Welch, Smith & Provot. It first owner was Benjamin N. Duke.

It has more visibility perhaps than any other townhouse in the city because it is directly opposite the large stairs at the entrance of the Metropolitan Museum.

A confection of facade details, this building has large curved bays on its avenue and side-street frontages topped by balustraded balconies, a very handsome, rusticated, limestone one-story base, limestone quoins, a handsome fenced moat, and a delightful mansard roof capped with finials that were replaced in 1985 when the building was renovated and subdivided into apartments.

In his excellent book: "Streetscapes, Tales of Manhattan's Significant Buildings and Landmarks," (Harry N. Abrams, 2003), Christopher Gray devotes a chapter to this building and notes that "it was actually one of a group of four houses, 1006-1009 Fifth," adding that "In late 1901, the critic Montgomery Schuyler ridiculed this building and others in an article in the magazine Architectural Record entitled "The Architecture of the Billionaire District.' Schuyler conceded some competent touches in the house but generally dismissed 1009 Fifth Avenue (and other mansions on Fifth), singling out the sheet-metal cornice painted to imitate stone."

Mr. Gray also wrote that it is not clear why Benjamin Duke "bought 1009 Fifth Avenue instead of building a house of his own design. In addition, census, city directories , and other sources list no occupant of the house until 1907, when Benjamin Duke moved in from the old Hoffman House Hotel. He moved to the Plaza Hotel in 1909, and his brother replaced him at 1009 Fifth. In 1912, James built his own mansion at 1 East 78th Street, now owned by New York University, and Benjamin built one on the southeast corner of 89th Street and Fifth Avenue that was demolished years later for the Guggenhim Museum. Other family members moved into 1009 Fifth; they were followed in 1922 by Anthony J. Drexel Biddle Jr., and his wife, Mary, Benjamin's daughter. Mrs. Biddle died in 1960, and her daughter, Mary Biddle Semans, took over the home."

According to an article by Jennifer Gould Keil and Lukas I. Alpert in the January 9, 2010 edition of The New York Post the building had had a $50 million price when Mr. Sapir bought it in 2006 for $40 million. "At the time, it was a spectacular jewel in Sapir's decades-long climb from being a cab driver to one of the world's 500 richest men," the article noted, adding that Mr. Sapir planned to use the building to house his collection of ivory carvings but never moved in. The article added that Mr. Sapir fell to 785th place among the world's richest men according to the most recent survey by Forbes magazine with a fortune valued at $1.5 billion. His other properties include 11 Madison Avenue and 2 Broadway.

According to the listing with Paula Del Nunzio and Shirley A. Mueller of Brown Harris Stevens, the landmark building has a 27-foot frontage on Fifth Avenue and 19,500 square feet of space.

The building has a penthouse duplex apartment, a doctor's office in the basement, and 11 wood-burning fireplaces and three elevators.
Architecture Critic Carter Horsley Since 1997, Carter B. Horsley has been the editorial director of CityRealty. He began his journalistic career at The New York Times in 1961 where he spent 26 years as a reporter specializing in real estate & architectural news. In 1987, he became the architecture critic and real estate editor of The New York Post.
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