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NYC’s first modernist home, designed by William Lescaze, is for sale

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The modern icon, built in 1934, is on the market for the first time in more than 30 years

Photos courtesy Leslie J. Garfield

Fans of modern architecture, rejoice: The William Lescaze house, considered the first modernist home built in New York City, is on the market. The bad news: You’d need a significant amount of cash to call it your own.

The home at 211 East 48th Street, designed by Swiss-American architect Lescaze as both an office and residential space, is part of a portfolio of three buildings being sold by the William Kaufman Organization, which is repped by Leslie J. Garfield’s Matthew Lesser for the transaction. The other two are located at 210 East 49th Street (currently home to office space) and 209 East 48th Street, Lescaze’s next-door neighbor.

The Lescaze house is, for our purposes, the most interesting of the three, thanks to its modernist bona fides. Its facade is all smooth stucco and glass blocks, a material that hadn’t been used in New York previously, and it was a startling addition to the block—between Second and Third avenues, and at the time lined with pre-Civil War houses—when it was built in 1934.

“It is the result of the sophisticated analysis of proportional relationships—the precise balancing of solids and voids—and the avoidance of any non-functional, superfluous detail,” as the Landmarks Preservation Commission put it when it made the home a NYC landmark in 1976.

Kaufman bought the property more than 30 years ago, and it’s been in use as an office ever since. In its current iteration, it’s split up into several different smaller rooms (including a sunken conference room that leads into a rear yard), with a great room on the top floor, where an entire wall of glass bricks lets plenty of light in. “The entire property is free-flowing in its form and ripe for interpretation by a new owner,” according to the listing.

The asking price: a cool $4.95 million, but when you consider that it’s to own a piece of New York (and architectural!) history, it doesn’t seem so bad. (Another of his townhouses on the Upper East Side has been searching for a buyer for years, most recently listing for $20 million.)

The townhouse next door on East 48th Street is asking $3.95 million, and is slightly more staid than the Lescaze house (though its facade is still more modern than many of the surrounding townhouses). It’s split between a ground-floor apartment and a upper-level triplex, and there’s also a backyard. The 49th Street building, dedicated to office space, is listed for $8 million, and “is the ideal investment for a corporate headquarters or consulate building,” according to the listing.

Here’s the Lescaze floorplan:

And its next-door neighbor: