The house that William Randolph Hearst built

The door to nowhere is behind the armoire.

No, it wasn’t only San Simeon, that bricks-and-mortar paean to excessive materialism on a hill overlooking the Pacific Ocean in California that the publishing magnate had designed and constructed.

The dwelling in question is an Upper East Side townhouse that, according to the listing broker, William Randolph Hearst built for his mistress, Brooklyn-born Marion Davis.  Cursory Internet research fails to support the broker’s claim, but the apartment that he has been marketing off and on since July of 2008 certainly seems to reflect the long-deceased millionaire’s influence.

The one-bedroom co-op on the first floor of a handsome beaux-arts mansion off Fifth Avenue in the low 80s exudes character.  Encrusted everywhere with carved tiger oak, the living room features a massive wood-burning fireplace with an antique surround stretching from the floor to the 10-foot beamed ceiling, south-facing bay window with an inviting seat, lovely flooring and puzzling door to nowhere.

An entire wall of the nearly 400-sf living room is lined with closets replete with carved oak doors, and entry is into a 120-sf foyer that is a preamble to the impressive living room to the left.  But there the appeal wanes, for the bedroom is hardly bigger than the foyer, the tiny windowless Pullman kitchen obviously is a later modification of existing space, and the bath is not of a size anyone would call commodious or of a style anyone would term harmonious.

When it was first offered, the price of this space was $1.15 million.  Now, it is $835,000 with monthly maintenance of $1,031.  Obviously because it has gone unsold for so long, the unit also is for rent, for $4,000 a month.

You might reasonably ask why the price is so high for such a compromised space, which is stuffed by the current owner with furniture that Hearst himself might have chosen.  The answer, says the broker, is that the living room served as Hearst’s office when he was in New York.

All of which proves that the value of historic significance can be ephemeral and thus easily overstated.

To see what I have to say about a range of properties that I review every two weeks, have a look at the Out and About section of my free e-newsletter, which aims to entertain and enlighten you about the real estate market in Manhattan.

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Malcolm Carter
Licensed Associate Real Estate Broker
Senior Vice President
Charles Rutenberg Realty
127 E. 56th Street
New York, NY 10022

M: 347-886-0248
F: 347-438-3201
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