The palatial four-story mansion at 53 Prospect Park West with an expansive garden and two pedestal lions standing guard outside the door has a long and rich history in Park Slope, Brooklyn.
The brick and limestone building, built in 1901 and shortly after the borough was incorporated into New York City, was part of the so-called "Gold Coast" of opulent homes that arose near Prospect Park around the turn of the century.
The house was designed in neo-Jacobean style by William B. Tubby, the architect of the prominent Pratt family, and commissioned by William H. Childs, a financier, supporter of Theodore Roosevelt's Progressive Party, and founder of the Bon Ami cleaning products company . The mansion remained family-owned until 1947 when it was acquired by the nonprofit Brooklyn Society for Ethical Culture, which among other things supports social justice. It has used the building as a meeting place and for various programs.
Over the years, the so-called William H. Childs House also served as a sort of community center that was rented out by the Society for weddings, bar mitzvahs, and concerts.
However, the next iteration is in the works. The 30-foot-wide building overlooking Prospect Park between First and Second Streets is on the market for the first time in 74 years. If it sells for the price of $ 30 million and is used as an apartment again, it could be Brooklyn's most expensive home sale. (The district record was set in January with the closure of a townhouse on 8 Montague Terrace in Brooklyn Heights valued at $ 25.5 million by Vincent Viola, owner of the Florida Panthers hockey team, and wife Teresa Viola , an interior designer.)
The mansion, currently classified as commercial, was included in Park Slope's first historic district designation in 1973. The front of the house has a classic front staircase flanked by concrete lion statues and a monumental arched door. The fenced-in courtyard, almost a quarter acre, is touted in the list as the "largest private garden in Brooklyn" with mature trees, perennial shrubs, a paved terrace and a meditative seating area with stone benches.
The interior is 5,724 square feet and includes a full, finished basement that contains a large commercial kitchen and a former billiard room. Judith Lief, a Corcoran Group broker who lists the property along with colleague Talia Magen, says the offices in the building could easily be converted back into bedrooms. The listing estimates six bedrooms, in addition to the two bathrooms and three powder rooms.
Many of the original architectural details remain – although some T.L.C. and renovation – including six fireplaces, wooden floors, numerous stained and leaded glass windows, carved walnut ceilings, and hand-painted friezes. The curved staircase in the entrance foyer has carved sheaths as balusters.
On the ground floor, next to a meeting room with a large fireplace with a rich marble surround, there is a solarium with windows added in 1907 by the Childs family. There is also a terrace on the fourth level.
"There are spectacular views of Prospect Park and expansive views south of Prospect Park West," said Ms. Lief, adding that from the upstairs terrace you can see the house that Mr. Childs made for his daughter at 61 Prospect Park West. (His daughter, Mary Childs Draper, was an early birth control advocate and helped found the Planned Parenthood Federation of America.) There are high ceilings and oversized windows throughout the house. "It gets brilliant light on every floor," she said.
Ms. Lief sees two types of potential buyers for the villa. "You could be a private homeowner who wants one of the most extraordinary places in New York City," she said. "Another could be a non-profit organization, a private school or a museum."
"The least likely buyer for a variety of reasons," she added, "would be a developer who will subdivide it." That is not our target group. "
While the Brooklyn Society for Ethical Culture refused to comment on why they were selling the mansion, Ms. Lief noted that the group was hoping to move to another location in the area. "They will look for another place that is more manageable," she said. "It's a big, expensive property."
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