If you want proof that the wealthy aren’t like the rest of us, consider the saga of 828 Fifth Avenue. The stately townhouse was originally built in 1896 for coal magnate Edward Berwind, who lived in the palatial home until his death in 1942.
After brief stints as a home for the American Heart Association and a nine-apartment co-op, it once again caught the eye of a wealthy businessman: Howard Ronson, the developer responsible for buildings like 380 Madison Avenue. More than a decade ago, he start snapping up apartments for sale in the home, and after his death in 2007, his family continued purchasing property with the goal of returning the home to its single-family, over-the-top glory.
Eventually they acquired 15,080 square feet of extremely fancy real estate that included a duplex, a maisonette, a full-floor co-op, and a penthouse. Alas, the building had two residents who were hold-outs, and the Ronsons abandoned the mansion plan. That’s when Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich swooped in: When the Ronsons listed a triplex for $72 million in 2013, Abramovich was the rumored buyer, but the deal eventually fell through. (And now he has his own Upper East Side megamansion to play with anyway.)
The saga could have ended there, but it looks like one of the old hold-outs—designer Adolfo Sardiña, who owned a first-floor apartments—gave up the ghost and sold to the Ronson clan. The Observer reports that his apartment changed hands for $4 million, according to city records, indicating that the mansion plans could be back on.
But if the Ronsons truly want to restore the home to its former glory, they’ll have some work to do—here’s what it once looked like, per a 1999 Times piece:
The Berwind house was nothing less than a palace. There were ceremonial areas for receptions on the first two floors, with the family quarters safely sequestered on the third floor. A formal staircase greeted visitors as they entered from 64th Street. Off the landings, which played the role of grand foyers, were east and west wings stretching along the side street. The ground floor had three major rooms: a library and dining room in the east end and, overlooking Fifth Avenue from the building's bowed front, a formal reception room or picture gallery. The second floor essentially had only two rooms: a ballroom and a sitting room overlooking the park.
Like we said, the rich sure aren’t like the rest of us.