Lauder heir offloads landmarked Rockefeller Guest House

Unknown buyer paid $20M in off-market deal

Lauder Heir Offloads Landmarked Rockefeller Guest House
Ronald Lauder and 242 East 52nd Street (Getty, ofhouses)

Cosmetics billionaire Ronald Lauder is parting ways with the iconic Rockefeller Guest House.

The philanthropist sold 242 East 52nd Street to an unknown buyer for just under $20 million — or $10,000 per square foot — in an off-market deal, Crain’s New York first reported. Architect Philip Johnson designed the Turtle Bay townhouse, known for its modernist style, for the Rockefeller family in 1950. 

Lauder bought the 2,100-square-foot home in 1989 before selling it to London gallerist Anthony D’Offay. Lauder later re-purchased the home for $11 million at a Christie’s auction in 2000.  

Blanchette Rockefeller, the former president of the Museum of Modern Art and wife of John D. Rockefeller III, commissioned the three-bedroom home to store her art collection and host visitors. Rockefeller donated the home to MOMA in 1958 to use as extra event space. 

From 1971 to 1979, Johnson and his then-partner, art dealer David Whitney, lived in the home, where they entertained guests like Andy Warhol and Fran Lebowitz. At the time, the townhouse didn’t have a kitchen — one was later installed in the basement — and Johnson instead ate all of his meals at the Four Seasons. 

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The 25-foot-wide townhouse was designated as a landmark in 2001. 

Lauder is the former chairman of Estee Lauder and a prominent art collector. He founded the Neue Galerie on the Upper East Side, and in 2006, he purchased Gustav Klimt’s “Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer” for $135 million — the most ever paid for a painting at the time. 

Lauder was the ambassador to Austria under President Ronald Reagan and is a major donor to Republican candidates. He’s spent more than $35 million over the past few decades, including $11 million to support Rep. Lee Zedlin’s 2022 gubernatorial campaign. 

Johnson’s New York portfolio includes the “Lipstick Building” at 885 Third Avenue, the “Chippendale Building” at 550 Madison Avenue and the David H. Koch Theater at Lincoln Center. He also designed the Glass House in New Canaan, Connecticut. 

Sheridan Wall 

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