Rothschild Mansion finally finds buyer

UES townhouse, home to the Century Foundation, was listed for $30 million
By Leigh Kamping-Carder | March 05, 2012 05:30PM

After languishing on the market for almost five years, the Rothschild Mansion has found a buyer. The 11,110-square-foot home at 41 East 70th Street, most recently listed for $30 million, went into contract last Wednesday, according to the listing, although the identity of the buyer is unknown since the sale has not yet closed.

The 28-foot-wide townhouse, located between Park and Madison avenues, was built in 1929 for the retail magnate Walter Rothschild and his wife, Carola Warburg-Rothschild. It currently houses offices for the Century Foundation, a public policy think tank that bought the six-story house in 1958. (The purchase price was not immediately available, since property records from the 1950s are not readily accessible.)

“Given the value of the building, we made a determination that it was no longer prudent to lock up this portion of our assets in our office space,” Christy DeBoe Hicks, Century’s vice president of public affairs, told The Real Deal.

The residence has had a long history on the market. Century listed the property in July 2007 for $35 million — a 40 percent increase over the $25 million asking price in 2005, when it was listed for close to two years before being taken off the market, according to listings website

Over the ensuring years, the price yo-yoed, dropping to a low of $25.5 million in November 2009, before climbing to $30 million in December 2010, shows.

DeBoe Hicks said the foundation had started marketing the property in earnest when its new president, Janice Nittoli, came on board in August 2011.

Century is planning to move to rental digs in late spring, and is close to signing a lease “downtown,” DeBoe Hicks said. The foundation plans to devote the proceeds of the townhouse sale to the foundation’s endowment, which currently stands at about $40 million, she said.

DeBoe Hicks said she could not discuss the terms of the deal, including the closing price and the buyer’s identity, due to confidentiality provisions in the contract.

Paula Del Nunzio, a senior vice president with Brown Harris Stevens who had the listing, declined to speak about the property, citing a confidentiality agreement.

Though the listing pitched the townhouse to buyers seeking “the irreplaceable impact of an extremely wide mansion on a garden enclave that will never be duplicated,” prospective purchasers may have been scared off by the renovations necessary to convert the building from offices to a single-family home.

In 2004, for example, the New York Post reported that Woody Allen and his wife were close to signing a deal for the house, but the sale never materialized, reportedly because the director wasn’t keen on renovating the building.

The mansion is outfitted with offices, including a boardroom on the second floor, although a first-floor kitchen and second-floor library are still intact, DeBoe Hicks said.

The property is one of three townhouses on that block of East 70th Street and the parallel block on East 71st Street that back onto rows of private gardens, known as the Lehman Gardens, separated by low fences, according to the listing.

Rothschild, co-founder of the Federated Department Stores, a New York retail chain that later became Macy’s, counted several notable neighbors on East 70th Street. The industrial magnate Henry Clay Frick built a home at No. 1 in 1906 that now houses the Frick Collection. At No. 45, Arthur Lehman, the son of one of the founders of Lehman Brothers, and his wife, Adele, had a residence.

Federated itself was created through a merger of four department store chains, including Rothschild’s Abraham & Straus and Filene’s Basement, whose founder, Edward Filene, first bankrolled the Century Foundation.