Formed in 1866, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) moved into its swanky new Manhattan headquarters, at 50 Madison Avenue, in 1896. Designed by the firm of Renwick, Aspinwall & Owen and then a brand-new structure that resembled an aristocratic member’s only club, the five-story limestone structure stood intact for more than 100 years as a distinguished presence at the northeast corner of Madison Square Park. As the park went through declines and gentrifications, numerous (and much larger) buildings would rise around the perimeter of the leafy urban greenspace, some of which have become iconic to the downtown skyline. They include the gilt-crowned New York Life Building and the Metropolitan Life Building, now known as 11 Madison, with its prominent clocktower.
The ASPCA moved out of 50 Madison in 1950 and in 2000, the building was acquired by an imaginative developer who removed the top few floors of the original building and retrofitted it such that eight floors could be added on top. Now, above the elegant and stately rusticated limestone base rises a pared-back contemporary addition faced in smooth concrete panels punctuated by oversized windows. Mostly residential (there are a couple of small shops at the street level, along with the graceful arched entry), the boutique building contains just nine condos.
Eight of the nine residential units are full-floor spreads, each with three bedrooms, 3.5 bathrooms and verdant views over the park. Newly available at almost $10 million via Aaron Seawood and Andrew Prichard of The Agency, the ninth unit is a spacious duplex penthouse that listing photos show is filled with an eclectic array of artwork and furnishings, including some seriously opulent, unapologetically maximalist, and impressively pedigreed Versace-brand furnishings not only designed by the Italian fashion legend but once owned by Gianni Versace himself!
Tax records show the nearly 3,600-square-foot penthouse was purchased in late 2005 for a smidgen over $5 million by Martin Lewis and Diane Brandt. Both dedicated philanthropists (she was on the board of The Glaucoma Foundation and he a Chairman’s Council Member of the New-York Historical Society), both resided in the exotically appointedly penthouse until their respective deaths, Lewis in 2016 and Brandt in 2020. The penthouse and all its cultured contents and flamboyant designer furniture passed to Brandt’s brother.
As the story was relayed to Pritchard by her brother, Mrs. Brandt had a thing for all things Versace and purchased the wildly upholstered silk velvet suite in the living room at auction from Sotheby’s in the years after the Italian fashion designer was killed in 1997 on the front steps of his Miami Beach mansion. Several other Versace-brand items are included within Mrs. Brandt’s collection, including a couple foot stools also believed to have been owned by Versace, all of which is available for purchase outside of escrow. (No matter whether one’s personal taste bends toward fringed, tasseled and cheetah-printed outré or not, vintage Versace furniture is collectable and expensive, even more so when it carries such a fashionable provenance; a similar suite, but without the ottomans or the provenance, will run an interested collector perusing 1st Dibs more than $37,000!)
While the penthouse could use a bit of spit and polish to bring it fully up to date — marketing material includes virtually renovated and staged imagery — it certainly has plenty of features that lend itself to a successful transformation into a sophisticated, family-sized aerie in a busy, popular section of Manhattan. There are four bedrooms and 3.5 bathrooms across the penthouse’s nearly 3,600 square feet.
In addition to direct elevator entry, a dozen closets and two terraces, one on each floor, there are herringbone-pattern oak floorboards and a roomy eat-in kitchen filled with morning light thanks to east-facing floor-to-ceiling windows. At almost 80-feet long, the upper terrace runs the full length of the building along Madison Avenue, while the lower terrace hovers above the treetops of the park with southern views that skitter over the treetops toward the Flatiron Building at the opposite corner of the park.
Two en-suite secondary bedrooms are located at the rear of the apartment’s lower floor, while the substantial primary suite looks out over the park on the upper floor. A fourth bedroom upstairs is easily absorbed into the primary suite and converted to a private sitting room, study or dressing room.
Residents are treated to full-time doorman service, a package room, a bike room, and additional storage. Monthly taxes and common charges for the penthouse unit total nearly $12,000, according to marketing material. And yes, the building does accept pets.