Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Behold the $90,000,000 Woolworth Mansion

SELLER: Estate of Lucille Roberts
PRICE: $90,000,000
SIZE: 18,000 (ish) square feet

YOUR MAMAS NOTES: This morning while Your Mama swilled coffee in a perfectly futile attempt to shake last night's booze intake from our brain we tap danced around the internets where we came across a wee cache of photographs of the monumental New York City townhouse mansion that recently came up for sale amid much fanfare and publicity with an asking price of $90,000,000.

And, children, the photographs are mag-nih-fih-cent. Like candy for the eyes.

In 1911 five-and-dime store bazillionaire Frank Winfield Woolworth commissioned high-society architect C.P.H. Gilbert to design a 35-foot wide Neo-French Renaissance style pile for Helena Woolworth McCann, one of his three lucky lucky lucky daughters. Mister Woolworth's other two daughter's–Edna and Jessie–were also gifted slightly smaller but still tremendous 25-foot wide townhouse mansions, one one either side of their sister Helena's humongaloid house. They too were designed by C.P.H. Gilbert.

The titanic townhouse is now owned by the estate of fitness tycoon Lucille Roberts who went to meet her Great Trainer in the Sky in 2003 at the too-young age of 59. She died from lung cancer, even though she reportedly never smoked a day in her life. The fine folks at Streeteasy show that the townhouse was last sold–presumably this is the transaction related to the exercise queen–for $6,000,000 in September of 1995.

A person would have to be a boll weevil to mistake this townhouse for the home of anyone but a wildly wealthy person to whom size matters when it comes to real estate. None the less, the meticulously articulated, somber and slightly sinister limestone façade belies nothing of the explosion of joyous jewel toned day-core on the inside. The approximately 18,000 square foot townhouse opens into a vast entrance hall with massive carved stone fireplace, three coat closets and a powder pooper. If the term 'architectural grandiosity' were to appear in the dictionary, it would show a picture of this room as a perfect example and Your Mama could happily spend an entire afternoon looking at and writhing around on the mosaic tile floor in there. It is just beyond, bunny-hunnies, be-yond.

One floor up on the palatial parlor floor the heavily gilded ceilings soar to fourteen feet. The ballroom-sized stair landing on the parlor floor separates the opulent living room that stretches the full 35-foot width of the townhouse and the baronial dining room large enough to feed fifty people at a sit-down dinner.

Listing information for the magnificent mansion shows it contains 7 floors–all accessible by an elevator, 8 fireplaces, at least 5 principal bedrooms and at least 7 full and 2 half bathrooms plus a two-bedroom staff on the top floor with an additional two bathrooms and a full kitchen. The full-floor master suite on the fourth floor, no doubt larger than Your Mama and the Dr. Cooter's entire home, includes a behemoth bedrooms, not one but two sitting rooms, two dressing rooms and two bathrooms.

If anyone might want to test drive this puppy before plunking down ninety million bucks it's available for lease at–get yerself a nerve pill, darlins–$210,000 per month. Lord have mercy children, fewer than 2% of the people in this great U-nited States of America earn $210,000 in a whole damn year so how many folks can there really be who can cough up nearly a quarter million clams every month in rent?

As an architectural aside: At one time, Helena Woolworth McCann (and her attorney husband Charles E.F. McCann also owned the Sunken Orchard estate in Oyster Bay Cove that included a sprawling 29-room Georgian-style mansion with 11 bedrooms, at least 9 bathrooms–plus a powder room or two) and substantial staff quarters with 10 surprisingly large bedrooms and 2 bathrooms. And that, kiddaroos, does not include the three staff apartments attached to the detached 6-car garage or the 5-room caretakers apartment. More juicy information on the property can be found on the always fascinating and informative Old Long Island website.

listing photos: Brown Harris Stevens


Anonymous said...

Mama, just one comment immediately. I adore your neologism, humongoloid. It is the word I have been looking for all my life.

Anonymous said...

One little caveat, Mama. Woolworth wasn't exactly a "bazillionaire" if you mean by that he had unimaginable millions or billions of dollars. He was super super rich because dollars were worth a lot more then. He built the whole Woolworth Building, at the time the largest in the world, for 13.5 million dollars, hardly a middling year's income on Wall Street these days. And his granddaughter, Barbara, was the richest or close to the richest young woman in the US at the beginning of her slide down the economic ladder with 50 million to her name. Inflation, inflation. People forget.

Zach L. said...

Here's a link to the brochure from when 'Sunken Orchard' was for sale:


An Aesthete's Lament said...

The McCanns also owned, for several years, Beauport, the residence of Henry Davis Sleeper, in Gloucester, Massachusetts. They preserved its amazing interiors and donated it to create a museum in 1942. http://www.historicnewengland.org/historic-properties/homes/Beauport/beauport-sleeper-mccann-house-history/?searchterm=beauport

angie said...

Thank you for the followup article and gorgeous pictures Mama. Older, larger homes like this are another reason I bumped my 'good taste' square footage quotient up to 20k - so as not to discount and dismiss classic gems such as the Helena Woolworth mansion. I'd be looking at and writhing around on the mosaic tile floor right with you.

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry, but this place is just creepy to me.

Anonymous said...

so i don't know much about computers but if you could make links to open in a new window instead of redirecting me away, there'd be way more traffic snooping on here... other than that this is one of my faves sites 100% :)

Jeannified said...

Just go-jus!!! (Gorgeous.) Love it! :-)

angie said...

anon 1:16, if you're looking for a way to open a photo or link in a separate window, right click on them, and choose "Open in new tab" or "Open link in new tab" (depending on your browser type).

Anonymous said...

Shades of Richie Rich, Arthur and Thurston Howell III! It's like we never left the gilded age. "Lovey, put another thousand on the fire, it's going to be chilly tonight."

lil' gay boy said...

Oh Mama, once again I could cry with pride! Your excellent peeking & poking around the interweb has brought us some more juicy real estate porn ––– and porn with a pedigreed provenance at that, too! Unreproducible at any price; I would be surprised if it undergoes any drastic cuts before changing hands.

Oh the Woolworths & all those around them make for fascinating rainy day reading; for example, the "playhouse" at Sunken Orchard was parceled out & remodeled as a residence in the early '50s; the courtyard of what was subsequently called the Woodward Playhouse was paved with cobblestones that legend says Marie Antoinette trod upon on the way to her execution by guillotine. It is also the site of the (in)famous murder of Billy Woodward, playboy bon vivant & owner of famed thoroughbred Nashua, from the family's Belair Stud farm. Billy was (accidentally, natch) shotgunned by his social-climbing wife Ann in October '55; she was acquitted after a sensational trial.

If the details ring a bell its because the story was told (thinly veiled) in Dominick Dunne's book The Two Mrs. Grenvilles and Ann offed herself shortly after its publication. A sad tale all around that purportedly started when a recent rash of robberies was discussed at a dinner at Peacock Point attended by those perennial diners-out-on-another's-dime leeches, the Duke & Duchess of Windsor.

Other tidbits: Helena McCann was also the first wife of Winston Guest, whose second wife was the notable CZ, mother of Conrnelia (I swear the Social Register is like a blue blood stud book, and just as interesting). Winston's mama was Amy Phipps, an extremely wealthy family of prodigious mansion builders on Long Island that number amongst their endeavors such homes as Westbury House, Erchless, Spring Hill, Knole (via marriage into the Bradley family) and countless others (sadly, I'm not even remotely related, although there was that stable boy at Orchard Hill...)


As for Winfield Hall, when Daddy Woolworth died it found its way into the hands of the Reynolds family, and the ubiquitous Reynolds Wrap is said to have been invented in the garage there.

The Devoted Classicist said...

The townhouse doesn't do that much for me, thanks to the awful furnishings. There are many other townhouses in Manhattan much more fabulous. Sunken Orchard is another story, however, especially the incredible Playhouse.

Anonymous said...

Regarding the negative comments about décor/furnishing, I think the place has been cleverly furnished and decorated for the sale.

There are two types of likely purchaser of such a grand and opulent property - and one with such a price tag.

1. A Middle-Eastern billionaire
2. A Russian billionaire

The décor is perfectly composed to capture the imaginations of these two types. The aesthetic is perfect as both sets tend to appreciate the kind of decorative excess displayed. You only have to see the recent pictures of 'Putin's Palace' and go on one of the YouTube video tours of a Middle-Eastern palace hotel like the Burj to know this.

Old-money-types - or those looking to appear old-money - will probably find the satin azure chairs, colour-saturated bourgeois carpets and Louis XV antique furniture hideous but everyone knows they wouldn't be interested in such a property, and not just because of a lack of 'liquid.'

English moneyed people are particularly outspoken on such issues and would dismiss the interiors as garish, nouveau riche and tasteless but no one cares what they think because they're not going to buy this monster.

Anonymous said...

This property, while probably built with no expense spared, is too over the top for even the typical obscenely rich 5th and Park ave buyer. The majority of people that can afford and want to be in that area like grand but understated, this is borderline tacky. Maybe it is just the furniture and colors used, who knows. I can really see this as the new Russian embassy though.

Anonymous said...

Pleased that today's (3-16) Old Long Island homepage leads with an article on Cocks. Nyuck, nyuck, nyuck!

Anonymous said...

It was sold in 1995 for just $6MM?? What am I missing?

Anonymous said...

I would just love to stay there like a vacation and see how the others live...must be nice.

Anonymous said...

F W's wife, Jennie, had married him when he was a humble $10-a-week clerk and was unprepared for the new lifestyle his millions would afford them. Shunned by established society and ignored by her workaholic husband, she reportedly roamed the cold, marble rooms of the overly-opulent Winfield Hall in Glen Cove a broken woman. Hopefully her daughters, certified by society as a generation removed from the money-maker and making socially advantageous marriages, fared better in a world in which poor Jennie was lost.