After Olivier Sarkozy bought a combined townhouse at 226-228 East 49th Street in the Turtle Bay neighborhood of Manhattan in April 2014 and shortly before he married Mary-Kate Olsen in November 2015, the couple embarked on a supposedly ambitious renovation from scratch.
But things didn't go according to plan. Renovation work stalled, the couple divorced earlier this year, and now Mr. Sarkozy, a banker who is half-brother of former French President Nicolas Sarkozy, is selling.
"They never lived there," said Michael Bolla, an agent at Sotheby’s International Realty who lists the property. He said Ms. Olsen, the former actress and fashion designer who started The Row with her twin sister Ashley, is not an owner.
Credit…Kevin Mazur / Getty Images for The Apollo
"It's his house," said Mr Bolla. "He was the buyer and he is the seller."
But in the beginning, the couple relied on Ms. Olsen's design contacts for the renovation. According to city records, the architect was Montalba Architects, the same firm that designed The Row's first flagship store in Los Angeles.
Mr Sarkozy bought the five-story townhouse from artist David Deutsch for $ 13.5 million through a limited company. He's now asking for $ 11.5 million, Mr. Bolla said, a discount that reflects the unfinished state of the interior. (Annual property tax is $ 101,870.)
"It is being sold as it is," he said.
Much has been torn out, although some of the house's distinctive features have been preserved, including a living room with two fireplaces beneath an ornate 22-meter-high coffered ceiling. A rooftop pool and elevator have been removed, Mr Bolla said.
The townhouse, which has a troubled past, is adjacent to Turtle Bay Gardens, a private, shared oasis surrounded by townhouses on East 48th and East 49th Streets between Second and Third Avenues that together make up the historic Turtle Bay Gardens neighborhood form.
Mr Sarkozy's townhouse was once the home of Charlotte Hunnewell Sorchan (who changed her surname to Martin after she remarried in 1921) who owned the gardens after purchasing a group of 21 townhouses in 1919 with a vision of a lavish, shared In the backyard.
"While having tea with some of her wealthy friends at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel, she came up with the idea of putting together a group to work together to renovate and renovate the townhouses and create a community," said Andrew S. Dolkart, Professor of Historic Preservation from Columbia University Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation. "That didn't really work out, so she decided to do it herself."
After buying the townhouses, she commissioned architects Edward C. Dean and William Lawrence Bottomley to renovate them all. Everyone was different, but along East 48th Street the architects designed new Georgian-style facades; along East 49th Street the facades were more Flemish in style.
Behind the houses, the last six meters of each courtyard was used to create a common 12 meter wide walk for the gardens with fountains and lush plants. Low walls were built to demarcate private gardens without blocking lines of sight.
Ms. Martin kept 226-228 East 49th Street as her own home and sold most of the other houses after construction was completed in 1921. "She sold the houses at cost," said Pamela Hanlon, author of "Manhattan & # 39; s Turtle Bay: Story of a Midtown Neighborhood, ”with the exception of four units that she originally rented.
"They immediately attracted very artistic people," said Ms. Hanlon. "Writers, theater personalities and some top lawyers."
Over the years the residents have named the author E.B. White, actress Katharine Hepburn, composer Stephen Sondheim, journalist Dorothy Thompson, playwright and director Garson Kanin, and book editor Maxwell Perkins, who worked with F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway.
A willow tree that had long grown in Turtle Bay Gardens was immortalized by Mr. White at the end of his 1949 book "Here Is New York", in which he spoke of "a battered tree, long suffering and a lot of climbing, held together by strands of wire" , symbolizing the resilience of the city.
This tree was felled in 2009, but the restrictions Ms. Martin originally placed on the plots to create the gardens largely remain in place, having been renewed by the townhouse owners each time they expire.
These restrictions keep the 12 foot wide walkway upright, prevent high walls and fences, prohibit kitchens with garden views, require vents to be placed through the roof or front of each building, and prohibit drying clothes or storage Garbage cans behind the houses.
The owners share the cost of maintaining the walk and gardens. The fee for 226-228 East 49th Street is $ 3,200 a year, Mr. Bolla said, and is paid quarterly.
Although the town house is not yet ready to move into, it could be converted into a breathtaking one or two family house, emphasized Mr Bolla: "It is looking for its next matriarch."
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