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50 West 12th Street, #TH (Brown Harris Stevens) 50 West 12th Street, #TH (Brown Harris Stevens)
In addition to the condos and co-ops that ranked among Manhattan's top apartment sales of the week ending February 9, public records show that the townhouse at 50 West 12th Street sold for an even $14,000,000 during that time. Talking Heads musician David Byrne once owned the house dating back to the mid-19th century, but it is best known for the changes that its most recent seller, artist Melinda Hackett, made to the property shortly after buying it in 2005: She commissioned carpenters Nick Cohen and Ashley Koral to build a treehouse for her three young daughters in the London Plane tree in the backyard.
When the treehouse was still in the works, an anonymous complaint charged Ms. Hackett with building a "suspicious structure" without a permit, and a stop work order from the Department of Buildings was issued. The Environmental Control Board was stymied, possibly because there was no precedent for a private treehouse in Manhattan, and Ms. Hackett also appealed to the Landmarks Preservation Commission ("Landmarks") owing to its address in the Greenwich Village Historic District. Local architect Robert Strong was at her side through it all; he told the Associated Press that he helped her cause because "I thought it was a beautiful structure and it didn't deserve being torn down."
Reception room with view of treehouse
The treehouse as seen through a window
Garden with glimpse of treehouse
In October 2010, Ms. Hackett prevailed. Landmarks issued a certificate of no effect that would allow the treehouse to stay, and over the next several years, Ms. Hackett's daughters used "the little treehouse that could" as a place to "plot, gossip, and scheme."

The house was listed for $17 million in July 2022, but went off the market a few months later. It was relisted for $15.5 million in spring 2023 and entered contract at that price in November 2023. While the final figure represents a nearly 10% reduction from the last ask, Ms. Hackett nevertheless made a profit, having bought it from Mr. Byrne for $5.8 million.
Buyer's broker Louise Phillips Forbes of Brown Harris Stevens confirmed the sale to Downtown News and noted that some renovations are in order. After all, the kitchen has not been updated in years, and the carpet lining the staircase with exposed plaster walls is looking a little worn. However, the treehouse will have to stay, at least for the moment: Owing to the Landmarks certification, it cannot be torn down without approval. It can certainly still work as a children's playhouse, but the listing also raised the possibility of a meditation retreat.
Kitchen
Staircase

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