This charming, quirky landmarked "Italianate villa," which just went on the market for $2.5 million, has a checkered past. Officially named the James and Lucy S. Elwell House by the LPC in its 2006 designation report, it was built in 1854, housing 19th-century philanthropist James Elwell and his family for about 100 years. The 13-bedroom Clinton Hill abode was headed for the wrecking ball before it became a landmark, but things spiraled in recent years. The former owners of 70 Lefferts Place ended up turning the sprawling, three-story Civil War-era relic into an illegal hostel, and a cheap one at that?only $25/night for a bunk bed. But then the DOB caught wind of the activity and shut it down.
So, now someone can go in there, buy up this rare freestanding house, and set things right. It appears that the house has, in the past, been subdivided into at least two parts to make it a multifamily home, but we think it's time for a whole-hog redemption.
Put your kids in the bedrooms, Cheaper by the Dozen-style. Enjoy the gardens and all that glorious space for parking. For heaven's sake, please reclaim the intricate moldings and wainscoting, the delicate chandeliers, the arched entrance ways, the rooftop cupola, the fireplaces, and the very grand central staircase. The Corcoran listing says to bring your architect, so you know there's work to be done. At the very, very least, repainting will be part of the job, since the previous owners have left rooms plastered with garish shades (our eyes, they're burning) of bright yellow and lime green. Freestanding landmarks don't come to market every day, so get to it.