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Paul Rudolph’s modernist Beekman Place townhouse lists for $18.5M

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The Midtown townhouse is where Rudolph lived for much of his life

Photos: Ed Chappell courtesy of the Paul Rudolph Heritage Foundation

One of Manhattan’s modernist gems—Paul Rudolph’s quirky townhouse at 23 Beekman Place—is once again seeking a buyer. The home, which has been on and off the market for the past few years, has listed with Sotheby’s International Real Estate for $18.5 million.

The townhouse is one of a few buildings in New York City designed by Rudolph, including the famed Modulighter building (which now serves as the office for the PRHF) on East 58th Street. But the Beekman Place house is where the architect lived from 1961 until his death in 1997, according to the Paul Rudolph Heritage Foundation.

Its best-known feature is its “steel-framed cage of balconies,” as the AIA Guide to New York City puts it, which cling to the outside of the building and “give[s] a strong, radical presence to the local skyline.” The home was designated a New York City landmark in 2010, with the Landmarks Preservation Commission calling the house “abstract and minimal, open and closed, classical and industrial … [with] a strong sculptural quality – a quality rarely found in Manhattan’s residential streetscape.” (The whole designation report is worth a read, really.)

According to Kelvin Dickinson, an architect who also serves as the president of the PRHF, there have been many changes to the building since Rudolph called it home. An elevator to the penthouse was removed, a new kitchen was added, and one of the building’s most memorable features—a Lucite bathtub that was suspended above the kitchen—was taken out. But, Dickinson says, “the current owner put as much ‘Rudolphian’ character back into the apartment as possible given the amount of material previously removed.”

That owner has listed the home a few times since 2012, first asking $27.5 million, and later dropping the price to around $20 million. The building was carved into separate apartments at one point, and those units have also been on and off the rental market; the penthouse was most recently listed for $14,500/month. Sotheby’s brokers Lena Datwani and Jonathan Hettinger have the newest listing, which hit the market this week.

Dickinson is hopeful that a new buyer will preserve Rudolph’s legacy—and potentially give curious architecture buffs in to see the landmark building. “Paul Rudolph’s architecture is so rich that to experience it in person is really the only way to understand his genius,” he explains. “It is why we open our own Rudolph-designed headquarters to the public—it results in people understanding why his work needs to be preserved. Imagine the impact of visiting his personal home would have on recognizing the need to preserve Rudolph’s architectural legacy.”