The Harlem townhouse where illusionist Harry Houdini lived with his wife, Bess, for the 22 years leading up to his death in 1926 has entered contract. The 19th-century townhouse came to market in June for the first time in 30 years, seeking $4.6 million, a substantial amount more than the $24,000—or $639,584, adjusted for inflation—the Houdinis paid for the house in 1904. It was most recently seeking $3.6 million. Harlem Bespoke first reported that the property entered contract.
According to the Houdini fansite Wild About Houdini, the illusionist kitted the place out with all manner of tricks and illusions during his residency:
Inside, Houdini had a gigantic sunken bathtub and a large mirror installed to practice his underwater effects. The bathroom tiles were engraved with an “H,” while Bess’s bathroom sported a “B.” Houdini also had the entire house wired for sound -- including an early “wireless” radio in the carpets -- so he could amaze visitors with mind reading effects. Even the front door was an illusion. It looked normal, but when you turned the knob, it opened from the hinge side.
Sadly, those fantastical home improvements are no longer in place. The house’s current owner divided the splendid townhouse into a three-family home, with an owner’s duplex on the first two floors, a one-bedroom apartment on the second floor, and a two-bedroom on the third floor.
Whoever comes to own the house, however, should expect to witness the time-honored New York City tradition of house paparazzi-ing. “People are always outside talking pictures of the house,” it’s current owner, Fred Thomas, told the New York Daily News in 2013. “I’ve developed a callousness.”
- DWELL: THE HOUDINI HOUSE IN CONTRACT [Harlem+Bespoke]
- Listing: 278 West 113rd Street [Elliman]
- Harry Houdini’s former Harlem townhouse seeks $4.6M [Curbed]