The Real Deal New York

Bobby Short and Leonard Bernstein home on the market

May 11, 2009 02:27PM
By Candace Taylor

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Leonard Bernstein (left) and Bobby Short (right) were residents in Apartment 4B at the Osborne

The sprawling, eight-room apartment at the Osborne that was home to cabaret singer Bobby Short and composer Leonard Bernstein is on the market for the first time in two decades, according to the listing broker, Katie Rosenberg of Warburg Realty.

Apartment 4B is a four-bedroom, 3.5-bath co-op in the century-old Osborne at 205 West 57th Street, uniquely designed with 11 stories on the front and 15 on the back. The sellers, whom Rosenberg declined to name, are asking $3.495 million, or $1,165 per square foot for the home, which underwent 14 months of meticulous restoration before going on the market in late April, said Rosenberg, who escorted The Real Deal on an exclusive tour of the apartment. The monthly maintenance is $4,662.

Located across the street from Carnegie Hall, the landmarked Osborne — crafted from brownstone by stone contractor Thomas Osborne in 1885 — has long been home to artists, writers and musicians, including Lynn Redgrave and writer Ira Levin, for whom the Osborne’s cavernous hallways supposedly inspired the setting for the suspense novel “Rosemary’s Baby.” The building’s impossibly ornate lobby, a Byzantine-inspired frenzy of mother-of-pearl, mosaics and gold leaf, was restored in the 1980s through fundraising efforts by the building’s residents, according to Davida Deutsch, a longtime resident and the building’s unofficial historian.

Rosenberg said Bernstein, at the time music director of the New York Philharmonic, lived in Apartment 4B when he wrote “West Side Story.”  

However, it’s unlikely he wrote the musical in the apartment itself, since he rented two apartments in the building, a large one where the family lived, and a studio, where Bernstein worked and famously collaborated with “West Side Story” lyricist Stephen Sondheim, according to published reports.

The Bernsteins moved in in 1961, the year Osborne residents banded together to buy the building and turn it into a co-op in the face of a proposal to replace it with a 17-story apartment building. Apartment 4B was purchased by actor Larry Storch, Rosenberg said. Then, in the 1970s, Bobby Short, the cabaret singer and pianist known for his longtime gig at the Carlyle, moved in, staying for 14 years before selling to the current owners in 1986, according to Rosenberg.

During that time, residents were often treated to strains of piano music from Short’s practice sessions traveling through the chimneys. “I used to hear him play all the time,” said Deutsch, who lives in Apartment 5B, just above Short’s. “That part was fantastic.”

But Short’s taste in home décor may not have lived up to his musical talent.

When the current owners moved in, Rosenberg said, the apartment’s elaborately carved mahogany paneling was covered in 30 layers of paint. With the help of Françoise Bollack, the architect who oversaw the renovation of the Osborne’s lobby, many of the apartment’s original details have now been uncovered, she said. Those include a Lalique glass pane on the library door and the original seashell-patterned tile in a ground-floor bathroom.

The 3,000-square-foot apartment has a bevy of Victorian touches, including servants’ call buttons and a secret passageway leading from the front hall to the kitchen, but the owners also expanded the kitchen and added contemporary touches like rain head showers and deep-soaking tubs.

The apartment also has the original tiger oak floors with elaborate parquet work designs, and stained glass in the parlor windows overlooking Carnegie Hall.

The sellers are moving to be closer to their child’s school, Rosenberg said, and the apartment is “priced to sell.”  

By comparison, a six-bedroom spread on the floor below is asking $7.9 million. A 10-room, five-bedroom spread on the eighth floor formerly owned by late fashion designer Fernando Sanchez closed in December for $4.875 million, or $1,218 per square foot, down from its original asking price of $6.5 million.

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