A Fifth Avenue mansion with a long, and unusual, history is about to hit the market for a whopping $50 million. According to the New York Post, the townhouse at 854 Fifth Avenue, which currently serves as the office for Serbia’s Permanent Mission to the United Nations, is gearing up for a turn as a single-family mansion, with several high-profile buyers already waiting in the wings.
Update, 4/25/17: The listing, via Douglas Elliman, is now online—and with it come myriad photos of the opulent space, along with a floorplan.
So back to the history of the place: It was originally built in 1905 by the firm Warren & Wetmore, best known for their work on Grand Central Terminal and some of the surrounding buildings. According to the Landmarks Preservation Commission, which designated the home as a New York City landmark back in 1966, the house is notable for its “palatial scale” and “elegant grandeur,” which “reflects the influence of the Eighteenth Century classic period of Louis XV.”
The interiors of the home reflect that influence: It’s quite literally gilded, with many of its decorative elements (including cherubs) covered in gold leaf. There’s also a huge marble staircase that was based on one that sits in Versailles.
Though it cost just $60,000 to build, it sold a few years later for the eye-popping (at the time) price of $725,000—allegedly the most expensive property sold in Manhattan in that period. It changes hands a couple more times after that, but post-World War II, it sold to the then-Yugoslavia (which is now the successor states of Serbia, Croatia, Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia, and Kosovo) for just $300,000.
During its time as a government building, the building hosted world leaders, and became home to one very unusual element: “a secret top-floor, metal-padded room known as a Faraday Cage that allowed officials of the Soviet ally to converse or make calls without the risk of being wiretapped,” according to the Post.
So why sell the home now? The former Yugoslavian states are selling many of its properties, including buildings in Japan and Switzerland, according to the Post. (Another Manhattan property, a duplex at 730 Park Avenue, is also due to hit the market for $20 million later this week.) But whoever ends up buying the Fifth Avenue mansion will have to be approved by five of the successor states, which may or may not be as difficult as passing the tests of some Manhattan co-op boards.
- Listing: 854 Fifth Avenue [Douglas Elliman]
- For $50M, you can own the last of Manhattan’s Gilded Age mansions [NYP]