After spending a short seven months on the market, the New York City townhouse once owned by the late disgraced financier and convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein has sold for $51 million. Although that’s down a significant amount from the original asking price of $88 million, it’s still among the highest-priced closings in Manhattan this year and one of the most expensive townhouse sales the city has ever seen.
The Upper East Side building was purchased in early March by retired Goldman Sachs executive Michael D. Daffey and his wife Blake, who, according to the New York Times, plan to undertake “a complete makeover — both physically and spiritually” — before moving into the residence.
Situated on East 71st Street in the prestigious Lenox Hill neighborhood — between Madison and Fifth avenues, near The Frick Collection museum and Central Park — the French Neoclassical mansion was designed by noted architect Horace Trumbauer for Herbert N. Straus in the 1930s. The Macy’s heir died before it was completed, however, and the property went on to become an extension of St. Clare Hospital for nearly 20 years and then housed the private Birch Wathen School.
In 1989, the property was bought by retail billionaire and Epstein associate Leslie Wexner for $13.2 million in what was said to have been the highest recorded price for a townhouse at the time, and then transformed into a private residence following extensive renovations by architect Thierry W. Despont and interior designer John Stefanidis.
Wexner never moved into the building. But Epstein did, with the title to the property reportedly transferred to a Virgin Islands-based company owned by the financier in 2011. The 10-bedroom, 15-bathroom residence — oft referred to as the “House of Horrors” — is fronted by a striking limestone façade spanning 50 feet wide and seven stories tall, along with a heated sidewalk to melt the snow during the winter months. Inside the 15-foot-tall oak entry door lies 28,000 square feet of living space rife with imported French limestone bedecked with carvings, sculpture figures and ornamental ironwork.
As the tale goes, Epstein invited a reporter from Vanity Fair to the home in 2003, where she found a “high-walled, eclectic, imperious fantasy that seems to have no boundaries.” Among the odd décor the reporter ran across while there: “row upon row of individually framed eyeballs” in the entrance hallway (reportedly made for injured soldiers and imported from England), along with a giant sculpture of a naked African warrior and a stuffed black poodle resting atop a piano.
Now for the widely publicized rest of the story: In 2019, Epstein was charged in a sex trafficking operation that coaxed scores of girls as young as 14 years old to the mansion — as well as his palatial waterfront compound in Palm Beach, Fla., which was sold to a Florida developer for $21.9 million this month. Before Epstein could go on trial, the billionaire apparently committed suicide by hanging himself in a Manhattan jail cell in August 2019.
The mansion went up for sale a year later in July 2020 with a whopping $88 million price tag, and was reduced to $65 million in January 2021. Epstein’s real estate portfolio also included a Paris apartment, New Mexico ranch and private island in the U.S. Virgin Islands. According to The Wall Street Journal, the proceeds from all of his home sales will go to his estate, which has established a compensation fund for his alleged victims.
According to The New York Times, the Daffeys are planning to relocate back to New York from London, where they have lived since 2005. The couple also owns a four-bedroom, 4.5-bathroom penthouse on Bond House in NoHo that they are now placing on the market. They have hired interior designers Timothy Haynes and Kevin Roberts to renovate their new townhouse, and we hope that one of the first courses of business will be to permanently remove any possible traces of Epstein that might have been left behind.
Adam D. Modlin of the Modlin Group served as listing broker for the property and also represented the Daffeys in the transaction.