The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation has purchased the Lenox Hill townhouse of longtime composer, lyricist, and humorist Christopher Cerf for $7.8 million.
Headquartered on the same block, the Mellon Foundation awards grants to institutions that promote the arts, humanities, higher education, and cultural heritage. It reported more than $6 billion in assets in its latest public tax filing.
“This will allow them to complete a courtyard they’ve been trying to build for several years,” said Cerf, who has the option to remain in the house, which according to public property records he purchased in 1968 for just under $250,000. “I’m happy that my home now has a good home [with the Mellon Foundation].”
Cerf is a multiple Grammy- and Emmy-winning artist whose work can be heard on educational children’s shows including “Between the Lions” and “Lomax: The Hound of Music” which aired on PBS.
He also wrote and composed more than 200 songs for Sesame Street, which would keep The Count busy for a while. Among them were derivations of popular tunes such as the Beatles’ “Let It Be” (which inspired “Letter B”) and “Hey Jude” (which Cookie Monster delivered as “Hey Food”).
“Barn in the U.S.A.”, which takes from Bruce Springsteen’s critique of the Vietnam War, tells of farm animals who live together harmoniously despite their differences.
Cerf bought the townhouse a year before Sesame Street debuted. He said he picked it in part because he could install built-in bookshelves, reflecting a passion for reading that ran in the family. His father, Bennett Cerf, co-founded Random House book publishers, and his mother, Phyllis, co-founded the children’s book publisher Beginner Books with Ted Geisel, known better as Dr. Seuss.
“The Mellon Foundation has expressed interest in buying my home for years,” said Cerf. “With the uncertainty of coronavirus, it seemed like a good time to sell. Plus, the offer was very good.”
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