A beautifully restored Upper East Side brownstone with a pleasant private garden has just come on the market with an asking price of $22 million. The five-bedroom, six-bath residence, repped by Josh Doyle at Compass and first reported on at the Wall Street Journal, has been all but rebuilt with top-of-the-line materials and craftsmanship.
And the house needed it. Back in 2012, a headline in the Observer blared, “Badly Decorated UES Townhouse Finally Sells.” The townhouse had been for sale for almost two years, asking $14.5 million., but undaunted by the tacky decor, entrepreneur Wellington Denahan paid $10 million for the rowhouse and then spent about five years (not to mention about $7 million) on renovations and restorations. Now, the 20-foot-wide building, which dates to 1871, has interiors worthy of its status as an upper-class New York grande dame.
Luxurious finishes, including Schumacher wallpaper, high-end stone finishes, and walnut kitchen cabinets befit this grand residence. Rich blues and purples, including an amazing Union Jack rug, make the large rooms and high ceilings cozy, while new black-framed windows frame the exterior views. The basement was excavated for additional head height, and there’s a commercial-grade elevator lined in leather for those not into constantly hiking up and down six flights of stairs.
The master suite, which takes up the entire third floor, with bold black walls, boasts a gorgeous white marble bathroom and a dressing room, which is also adorned with a Union Jack rug. Best of all, the property boasts a beautifully planted back garden with a fire pit as well as an outdoor kitchen. The media room, on the house’s top floor, also opens to a terrace with an outdoor fireplace. Another particularly notable original feature of house is a three-sided, copper-clad bay, which would make the house airier during the warm months. This striking feature is still there, weathered to a verdigris patina.
The house dates back to just after the Civil War. Brothers John and George Ruddell bought up building lots on the Upper East Side and began erecting rowhouses. In 1870 they began construction of a row of seven brownstones, including this one, designed by Frederick S. Barus. However, the house looked different then. The front facade sported one of the tall stone stoops typical of New York brownstones, which lead to the parlor floor. The parlor floor being for the family, while the lower entrance was for servants. (This stoop was removed around 1905, as we shall see.)
The original owners were a New York flour merchant and his wife, who sold the house to a doctor in 1885, who paid $17,500 for it. There was just one little problem. A school opened across the street, and the children’s noise drove the doctor bonkers. In May 1892, The Sun newspaper reported “When Dr. Alexander H. Berghaus bought the house seven years ago, he prepared to settle down to a luxurious life because of the peace and quiet of the neighborhood…Since the establishment of the school the Doctor’s peace and quiet have been things of the past.”
The doctor put up with it for 20 years and then sold to Henry E. Holt in November 1905. Holt, president of the Pope-Hartford Auto Company, which built “Pleasure Cars, Trucks and Fire Apparatus,” hired an architect to update the brownstone, paying $5,000 for renovations, including new walls and stairs and the removal of the stoop. The new entrance was moved to what was originally the servants’ doorway, as it is today.
The Holts leased the house in 1919 to banker Lucien Hamilton Tyng, who then bought the house two weeks later, paying $45,000 for it. The socially prominent Tyngs were noted entertainers, and their summer house in the Hamptons, Four Fountains, is famous to this day.
The next owners were the Otis family. Harold Otis was a lawyer as well as a director of Allied Chemical & Dye Corporation. The family lived there for the next 50 years, which meant that the brownstone escaped the fate of so many others in the 1960s and 1970s being carved up into apartments. The house was sold in 2001 for $6.4 million before it was sold to Wellington in 2012.
While the Ruddell brothers would be astonished at the asking price, they would be happy to see how well the house they built has weathered the past 150 years.