Tuesday, April 14, 2009

The only free-standing single-family mansion in Manhattan can be yours (for $30 million)

Seems reasonable to me! Considering what you get at 351 Riverside Drive at the northeast corner of 107th Street, the home known as the Schinasi Mansion. According to New York Architecture, the Schinasi mansion was built in 1909 for Morris Schinasi, an immigrant from Turkey who made his fortune introducing Turkish tobacco to the United States. There's plenty of fascinating history about this space.

This is info on the place from Brown Harris Stevens, who featured the pad in their spring-summer 2009 "Important Residential Properties" catalog:

This magnificent mansion, built in 1909 by William Tuthill, the architect who designed Carnegie Hall, is presently the only free-standing single-family mansion in Manhattan. It is an exquisite French Renaissance jewel box executed in pristine white marble, boasting deep green roof tiles and bronze grills on the balconies and at the main entrance. The building is 41' wide and 73' deep, surrounded by private grounds, and located on a corner lot overlooking the Hudson River. The Interior is approximately 12,000 square feet, comprised of four stories plus an English basement. An extraordinary amount of unique original detail has been retained and the mansion has superb views, with luminescent sunlight glass windows. Exterior space is approximately 3,400 square feet. There are numerous fireplaces, a library, and other grand public rooms. Truly a European palazzo.

Among other features (like FIVE kitchens!), the mansion had a tunnel down to the Hudson River for bringing in tobacco. Unfortunately, this has been sealed up. (Or so they claim!)

According to a May 1997 article in the Times:

In 1979, Hans Smit, a law professor at Columbia University, bought the building, and has been working on the restoration for almost two decades. In an interview last month, he said he was now "just a couple of inside doors" short of a complete interior restoration. The new exterior iron doors are among the final touches on the exterior restoration. The outside is presentable, but not pristine. "If I really fix up the outside, the undesirable elements will pay attention" Smit says. "When I bought it, most people said, 'You're a raving maniac.'

But it's the best investment I ever made."

I'll say! After Morris Schinasi died in 1930, the place became a finishing school for girls. According to an April 2007 article in the Times: "By the 1960s, the mansion had been bought by Columbia University as part of a larger land purchase. At different times, its tenants were an Episcopal private school, a publication called the Digest of Soviet Press and a day care center.

"Then in 1979, Dr. Smit noticed the house while biking and bought it from Columbia for $325,000. He has been working on its restoration for nearly three decades."

Also, as the article points out, Smit "has never lived in the house but rents it out for movie shoots, including the Woody Allen film 'Bullets Over Broadway,' and holds pizza parties for his students there. His son, Robert, also a lawyer, has lived in the home since the early 1980s after he graduated from college, sharing it with his two daughters in a much more relaxed style than the original owner."

The New York Sun reported in September 2006 that Smit lived in the house when he wasn't at "his home in upstate New York, or his Chateau in Burgundy, France." By the way, his son is Robert Smit, a partner at Simpson Thacher & Bartlett.

Anyway, as far as I can tell, the house, er, mansion, was put on the market for $31 million in 2006. The price was lowered to $20 million. Now, it's back up to $30 million. In 2007, there was reportedly interest in the property by a foundation seeking a headquarters and a British men’s club.

Oh, and there's a video tour here. As your hostess, Felise Gross of Brown Harris Stevens, says in the video, it will be another 100 years before another property like this hits the market. So hurry!

For further reading:
Morris Schinasi and the Manisa Children's Hospital (Turk of America)

People who viewed 351 Riverside Drive also viewed...former William Randolph Hearst mansion in Beverly Hills for $165 million (Yahoo!)


Melanie said...

Looks amazing--It is a limestone I am assuming--I grew up in a Victorian limestone house in Park Slope--when you fixed one side of the house the it was time to fix the other and so on as my Mom used to say!!These places could keep you very busy..if you like that kind of thing.

EV Grieve said...

Hi Melanie,

Thanks for the comment... This place has kept Hans busy for three decades!

Andrew Fine said...

Hey, what were you doing way up there!

ShatteredMonocle said...

But are there good shops and bars in the area?

EV Grieve said...

Ha! Good point, Andrew -- I'm out of my jurisdiction....

EV Grieve said...

The Ding Dong Lounge is at 106th and Columbus!

Anonymous said...

Not exactly "the only freestanding mansion in Manhattan". There are several freestanding houses in Inwood around 217th St that might qualify, depending on your definition of "mansion". But certainly a wonderful and impressive property.

An.Empty.Suit said...

The only free standing single family mansion? Isn't Gracie Mansion on Manhattan? I've never been but from the photos I believe it is free standing and a single family residence.

Also isn't Rice Mansion free standing?

Anonymous said...

The Bailey House at 150th Street and St. Nicholas Place is a single family free standing house, completed in 1888. Perhaps there are other free standing houses/mansions in Manhattan but the Schinasi and the Bailey houses are the only two I know of.