A century-old Turtle Bay town house, known as the Ellen Biddle Shipman House, with 13 rooms, 3 terraces, a roof garden and views of the East River and New York Harbor, was the most expensive residential property sale of the week.
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A century-old Turtle Bay town house on the corner of a cul-de-sac overlooking the East River, with views of the river to the east and New York Harbor to the south from every level, sold for $34.35 million and was the most expensive sale of the week, according to city records.
The sale, at 21 Beekman Place, at 50th Street, set records for a 20-foot-wide Manhattan town house and for square footage for any single-family town house, at $4,754 per square foot. The record in that category had been set in 2005 by Woody Allen’s town house at 118 East 70th Street ($22.62 million and $3,835 a square foot), until a $24 million sale last December of a town house at 14 East 94th Street that worked out to $4,380 per square foot.
“It was a game-changer for a 20-foot-wide house,” Paula Del Nunzio, a senior vice president of Brown Harris Stevens and the listing broker, said of 21 Beekman.
But the house, originally conceived as an elegant brownstone around 1910, was and remains unique for its far-from-the-madding-crowd locale, away from fashionable Fifth and Madison Avenues, its light-filled east-west orientation with 90 feet of south-facing frontage, and the two-story Gothic-style oriel above the front entrance on 50th Street, which is further ornamented by well-established plantings.
The 7,226-square-foot brick residence is also known as the Ellen Biddle Shipman House in honor of the landscape architect who owned it from 1919 to 1946. Ms. Shipman, often called “the dean of women landscape artists,” designed landscapes for 20th-century A-listers who included Vanderbilts, Astors, Rockefellers and du Ponts. And of course she worked her sylvan magic on her own home at 21 Beekman.
The town house was listed at $48.5 million when it entered the market last fall after the death of its most recent owner, the financier Peter Novello, who paid $10.8 million in 2008 and commissioned an exacting renovation to undo years of damage caused by previous owners unappreciative of Ms. Shipman’s vision of an airy, sunlit space enlivened by greenery on all levels. The most recent asking price was $43 million.
Ms. Shipman bought the home because she loved its location, and after her divorce from the playwright Louis Evan Shipman, she hired the architects Butler & Corse and threw herself into reimagining it as her dream sanctuary. Red brick and black shutters replaced the brownstone, and by 1926 the home had been reinvented. Ms. Shipman sold it in 1946, four years before her death.
For the next few decades, the residence went downhill, culminating in the controversial embellishments tacked on by William R. Rupp, a Florida businessman whose bad-neighbor high jinks were epitomized by the four-foot monogram installed on the front gate and the construction of a two-story “spite” wall that blocked neighbors’ views of the river. After Mr. Rupp’s death in 2007, his estate listed the town house for $25 million and Mr. Novello, who at the time lived in an apartment nearby and was drawn to the irreplaceable views inherent in the town house, stepped in. Mr. Novello’s gut renovation undid Mr. Rupp’s changes, restoring peace in the neighborhood.
The buyer of 21 Beekman Place, identified in city records as the State of Qatar, the sovereign Arab emirate on the Persian Gulf that Forbes has named the richest country in the world, thanks to its deposits of oil and natural gas, was so enamored of the period furnishings selected by Mr. Novello and his design team that it bought them for an additional noncommissioned $650,000. The antique oak floors in the chevron pattern that Ms. Shipman favored, along with the sweeping staircase, the library with the wood-burning fireplace, and the riverfront conservatory with three exposures, were all painstakingly replicated by Mr. Novello, as was the attention to landscaping.
Ms. Del Nunzio represented Mr. Novello’s estate; she said the broker for the buyer declined to be identified. The next incarnation of the 13-room house, which has two and a half levels of grand public space designed for entertaining, as well as three terraces and a roof garden, and which is near the United Nations, will probably serve a diplomatic purpose. Ms. Del Nunzio confirmed that this is a second trophy acquisition for Qatar. Its emir owns the former Lycée Français, two elaborate connected mansions at 7-9 East 72nd Street off Fifth Avenue, known as the Jennings and Sloane mansions.
Big Ticket includes closed sales from the previous week, ending Wednesday.