Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Rock It Like A Rockefeller

SELLER: Your Mama does not know actually, do you?
PRICE: $27,500,000 ($8,620.88/month maintenance)
LOCATION: 810 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY
SIZE: 2 bedrooms and 3 bathrooms
DESCRIPTION: Originally Nelson Rockefeller's apartment, this property features a 47' living room with remarkable Park views, West and South. Large formal dining room and library with full bath. Currently the apartment is configured as a 2 bedroom master suite with a double staff room and family room. Could be converted back to a 4 bedroom + library.

YOUR MAMAS NOTES: Thanks to a little birdie we'll call The Viking, Your Mama has learned that a little piece of New York real estate history has hit the market with a $27,500,000 price tag for what amounts to a large and well located one bedroom apartment overlooking Central Park in a not quite a-list building on Fifth Avenue. The full floor co-operative apartment on the 12th floor of 810 Fifth Avenue has a storied history, so bear with Your Mama as we educate all the children who don't study historical high society real estate deals in New York City.

From the mid-1930s through the early 1960s, oil heir Nelson Aldrich Rockefeller, who went on to become Governor of New York State and later Vice President of the U-nited States, and his first wifey Mary Todhunter Clark Rockefeller owned and occupied a tremendous triplex penthouse riding atop 810 Fifth Avenue. The young and really rich Rockefellers hired modern architect Wallace Harrison to design their gargantuan aerie and they paid Parisian decorator du jour Jean-Michel Frank to do up the day-core of some of the 30 rooms. The Rockefeller penthouse was reportedly filled to the brim with cutting-edge furniture and fiercely contemporary artworks by folks like Fernand Leger, Henri Matisse, and Hans Arp as well as gilded consoles by Giacometti, loads of Louis XV-style furniture, and acres of candy colored carpets, which certainly sounds, uhm, colorful.

In 1962, after pushing out and raising up 5 children, the couple went splitsville and the Missus took the top two floors and the Mister kept the entire 12th floor for himself. A very short time later, Mister Rockefeller found and married another ladee named Margaretta Fitler Murphy, but everyone just called her Happy. After the big nuptials, Mister Rockefeller and his new wifey purchased another full floor co-op in the neighboring building at 812 Fifth Avenue which they combined with the former triplex's 12th floor of 810 Fifth which provided the couple and the two children they would have with nearly 12,000 square feet of Fifth Avenue fabulosity. The floors of the two units were not at the same height so a half staircase had to be installed to connect the combined units. The stairs were located behind what is now a bookcase in the library at 810 (see plan here.)

Because the first Mrs. Rockefeller lived upstairs, and perhaps to selfishly spare him any unnecessary drama, Mister Rockefeller reconfigured his combined units at 810 and 812 so that he and Happy could enter through 812 Fifth while First Wifey continued to use the entrance at 810, thus eliminating any chance encounters or a possible fracas between the two well married women as they waited for the lift with its white gloved operator.

The fixer upper duples with 17 rooms (some reports say 12 rooms), 6 bedrooms, and a 1,200 square foot wrap terrace was eventually sold to healthcare honcho John Foster who famously sold it on to music mogul David Geffen for $31,500,000 after the fussy co-op board–which at the time included socialite Jan Cowles and philanthropist Elizabeth Rohatyn, wife of financier and former Ambassador to France Felix Rohatyn–dragged their feet but eventually gave the West Coast based billionaire the gilded and difficult to come by stamp of approval.

Then, of course, as anyone who follows New York real estate knows, the fickle and obscenely rich Mister Geffen turned around and quietly put the duplex back on the market without ever moving in or making any alterations to the duplex. Property records (and multiple reports at the time) reveal that the duplex was quickly purchased by the Blackstone Group's Pete Peterson for $37,500,000, a man whose alliterative name Your Mama delights in and approves of highly, natch.

Anyhoo, let's get back to the full floor unit on the 12th floor of 810 Fifth Avenue. At some point, and Your Mama confesses we don't know when, Nelson and Happy sold their combined units which were incorporated back into their respective buildings as single units. It is the lowest floor of the original Rockefeller triplex at 810 that is currently available to purchase by any rich, well connected individual able to finesse, charm and woo their way into the hearts of the co-op board.

Although the full floor units at 810 Fifth were originally configured with 4 bedrooms, 4 bathroms, a library, and 4 itty bitty staff rooms flanking a servant's hall, the current layout of the 12th floor features nearly 48 feet of paneled living room overlooking Central Park with two fireplaces, a wet bar, and some seriously tired and uninspired day-core. To the east sits a good sized but unfortunately Peptol Bismol pink dining room, and to the north, a paneled library with an attached guest bathroom and a kitchen adequately sized for Lucinda the staff gurl to comfortably whip up poached eggs and blinis.

The mammoth master suite consists of two large rooms. Presumably one is meant to be a bedroom and the other a private office, sitting room or a boudoir. Don't y'all just love that word? It's boo-lovely rolling across the lips. Anyhoo, the two rooms are separated by twin walk in closets, dual dressing rooms and a master bath with his and her terlits and bidets. Now how elegant is that that in this co-op the owners need not wash their private parts on the same bidet?

Interestingly, the staff suite is joined to the master bedroom through a walk in closet. Your Mama assumes this back door bizness is so that good ol' Lucinda can discreetly slip into the boo-dwar (or whatever that room is) and leave the ladee of the house her morning mood pills and the man of the house his before bed bourban without disturbing them as they dress, poop, and/or fornicate in other areas of the multi-room master suite.

There is an additional bedroom in the apartment which is really part of the staff suite and not suitable for the sort of high-fallutin' guests that are likely to be dragging in and out of an apartment like this in their Valentino gowns dripping in doo-dads from Van Cleef & Arpels. In addition to a private bath and bedroom, the staff suite also has what is called on the floor plan a laundry slash family room. Now does anyone really see the owner of this apartment settling into a long night of reality television in the same room where Lucinda launders the sheets and hand washes the under garments? No children, Your Mama does not see that happening either.

Clearly, the apartment's day-core is in dire need an update at the least and more likely the new owners will have to give the place a total overhaul directed by one of the better nice gay decorators who ply their trade in the rarefied air and better addresses along Fifth and Park Avenues. This particular brand of high-klass interiors are not Your Mama's forté, however, we're just certain our good pal The Social Butterfly can hook the new owner up with a well preserved and impeccably mannered gentleman decorator who for a large fee would be more than happy to squire the new owner(s) of this apartment around to all the better shops and showrooms in Paris.

Former residents of 810 Fifth include William Randolph Hearst Jr. and the notorious and much maligned Richard Nixon. In addition to the aforementioned Rohatyns and Jan Cowles, other current residents of the building are believed to include board president Eric Sheinberg (former partner at Goldman Sachs), art patron Maureen Cogan, former Archer Daniels CEO Dwayne Andreas, and records indicate the building's newest super rich resident is Lazard Frere's William von Mueffling who forked over $25,000,000 for the 10th floor apartment in July of 2007.

Here's the question for all you New York old money types, arrivistes and also for all the service class that cater to the well to do along Fifth Avenue...who currently owns this place? Unfortunately that is a name we've yet to be able to ferret out. Email Your Mama with your dirt.


Anonymous said...

Mama I'm lovin your words

Anonymous said...

I believe that her name is Countess Mufig Von Gardinenstange.Her friends call her "Musty".

Anonymous said...

Darin and Samantha Stevens would be very happy here.

thank u.

so_chic_darling said...

I don't know who it is but I have never seen such ugly valances EVER.
So much great reporting for the children Mama,thanks so much.

Alessandra said...

Agree that the valances are frightful.

The ceilings also look terribly low, but it's hard to tell if that's an optical illusion from the horrid window "treatments".

Also, for $27.5mm, I want my own damn bathroom in my master suite. I DO NOT WANT to share a bath with any one other than my husband and quite frankly, we'll share a bedroom, thank you. At some point, my dream would be to have his and hers baths, but I would still want to share a bedroom. Unless we were very old and decrepit and on oxygen and needed hospital beds and well, I don't want to imagine those things, thank you.

Parker said...

Very interesting history, makes my life sound so mundane. I wonder if perhaps the staff suite is for a nurse if the owner is a sick/elderly person. I can't imagine not wanting more privacy otherwise.

This place isn't my style but I'm always so interested to see these NY apartments. I'm always in awe of how large and ornate they are b/c in L.A. when you hear "apartment" it's something much smaller and lacking any style, typically inhabited by those who cannot afford the pricey single family homes.

Thanks for the history lesson!

Anonymous said...

The Ramada on Lexington wants the missing dining chairs from Conference Room B. What is UP with the double-decker art on the dining room walls? I am very much a kitchen and dining room sort of guy. This dining room is bilious.

The ceilings in this building don't soar - "Awfully nice." You need a 960, 1040 or 834 5th for the dramatic ceiling heights.

Anonymous said...

For those of you just getting into seeing the NY apts, just check the websites of the big NYC brokerages...great to just see the pics, floor plans, etc.
The best are probably corcoran, brown harris stevens, and stribling for sheer volume of expensive apartments.

Anonymous said...

From Miami Architect:

This is a really crappy apartment. I'm sorry.

The bathroom has NO dividing wall? So, you are taking a crap on one side, happily farting away, and someone else is taking a crap on the other side, also happily farting away. A duet? I don't think so.

To get to the second bedroom, having to go through the first? I don't think so.

Seriously, A very flawed apartment

Anonymous said...

The floor plan here is just awful. Same with the decor. Not worth the money.

Anonymous said...

People who criticize the floorplan don't seem to understand that this is a one-bedroom apartment. The buyers will no doubt change it to their needs. They will be paying for the address and the view, not the current decor or floorplan. Often apartments like this are owned by people who live elsewhere for most of the year.

I know that the twelfth floor does not belong to the Cogans, Lester Pollack or Felix Rohatyn. The Cogans appear to have moved, but there is no record of their apartment being sold.

Eric Sheinberg, by the way, is the Goldman Sachs partner who was involved in the interesting Robert Maxwell scandal.

Anonymous said...

Uptown Gal you're funny, Mufig Gardinenstange translates from German as Musty curtain rod!

Anonymous said...

Given this apartment's storied past and the number of times it's been stripped to the walls to accommodate its ever-changing floorplan, there's no wonder that there's more than one or two "quirky" aspects to it (a walk thru closet that leads from a master to the staff toilet???)

I know a lot of you disagree, but I do not want to trek thru a dressing room to take a leak in the middle of the night; never understood the fad for walk-thru dressing rooms.

We can see by the unforgivably dated decor, with it lack of fine architectural features, that whoever buys this place is looking at a gut rehab. Only the western end of the apartment shows any promise of some axial vistas; the eastern end is a rat's nest of ill-conceived rooms with no graceful flow to them.

BTW, I happen to own the book Mama linked to - pick it up if you can, even though it may be out of print, there's some used copies floating around.

It's worth it just for the pictures of the Grand Old Dames of New York (The Dakota, The Ansonia, The Chatsworth, The Langham, the Wyoming, etc., not to mention the fabulous 54 room Hutton triplex at 1107 Fifth). Now that was really living.

Anonymous said...

Hold on a minute I'm looking for my party shoes.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

"The House That Rockefeller Built" has some great info on this and his other apartments, as well as lots of family dirt on how he maneuvered his family into making Pocantico Hills open to the public after he filled its grounds with his superlative art collection.

Seems the rest of the family didn't want the "unwashed masses" to get a glimpse at how they really lived, although few of them actually occupied the house, living in other homes on the estate and pieds-a-terre in the city.

Anonymous said...

LGB...OKay this will bring out the New Hampshire in me but truly...54 rooms? What does one do with 54 rooms even if it is a triplex?


Anonymous said...

It is interesting that Marjorie Post's 54-room apartment was a rental. That wouldn't happen anymore.

Anonymous said...

Joel, Anon 4:57,

Her mansion occupied the site (at the corner of 91st, I believe); she agreed to sell it to the developer on the condition that the interiors be moved to the triplex penthouse and she be given a lifetime lease; at one point after her death it was broken up into as many as 6 apartments, but was recently restored to much of its original grandeur.

Remember, this was a transitional time in NYC when "good" families simply didn't live in apartments; they (the Dukes, the Fricks, etc.) kept the old family mansions along and around Fifth until the property values skyrocketed to the point where even those who didn't need the money could not resist the offers.

Thus began the era of the pre-war, the classic 6, and other well known apartment configurations.

Anonymous said...

Here's a link to the original floorplan:

But as others have said, so many of these apartments are owned by older couples with no kids at home and likely never have an overnight guests, so they're reconfigured into grand one or two bedroom apartments. This place, of course, is a disaster, and will surely be gutted.

Check out any of the Andrew Alpern books to learn more about the origins of these grand buildings.

Anonymous said...

Anon 8:31,

Thanks for the link; you can see how much more gracious the original layout was.

All of Alpern's books are filled with these little treasures - I try to collect them all.

Anonymous said...

Oh Mama,
Sorry, but I will always envision John Stamos as Uncle Jessie with the bad mullet. I'm sure he's a nice guy, but ...

Anonymous said...

I think Geffen owns the other larger part of the original Nelson Rockefeller apartment (bought in 2006), no idea who the owner is on this one.

Anonymous said...

Hi Diedre,

Read the post again...Geffen sold the duplex last year.