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Secrets From a Murray Hill Side Street Revealed

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One doesn't have to go far in Manhattan to glimpse down a side street into another century of our city. Sniffen Court is a half-street mews off East 36th Street in Murray Hill that was built in 1863-64 as a place to concentrate neighborhood stables, although property records indicate that some of the buildings date back earlier to the 1850s. As cars replaced horses in Manhattan, the 10 two-story brick buildings of Sniffen Court began to acquire an artistic flavor. Nick Carr of Scouting NY did some digging on the history of the hidden street. Sculptor Malvina Hoffman maintained a studio in the rear of the court, where bas reliefs of mounted horsemen flanked the front door.

Right on 36th Street, 1 Sniffen Court has been owned by the Amateur Comedy Club since 1884, and the building is registered as a legitimate theater. Additional research shows that the amateur theater group was a private one, operated strictly by and for the amusement of its own members and social circle with no public performances. The group dramatically broke their private character during World War I, when it became a dramatic theater company for the entertainment and benefit of military service members. Carr captured some nice details of drawings featured in the windows above the theater's entrance.

The Murray Hill Mews still draws performers to its confines. In 2002, Irish comedian, talkshow host, and television presenter Graham Norton purchased 6 Sniffen Court, on the eastern side of the alley with the facade featuring the large slanted skylights above the entranceway. That 2,223 square foot residence currently rents for $7,500 a month fully furnished.

Recently sales activity is fairly sparse, but includes the purchase and conversion of the neighboring 7 and 9 Sniffen Court houses into one large 4,900 square foot single family home. The 2008 purchase price for 9 Sniffen Court was recorded at $4.75 million and the home features an charming-looking private roof deck.

· Sniffin' Around Sniffen Court [ScoutingNY]