In the late 1920s, when things were good and jazz still ruled the world, before the darker, colder days of the Great Depression, the Lehmans, the Rothschilds and a couple other moneyed New York families developed a block between Madison and Park Avenues. Stretching from East 70th to East 71st, they created their own private enclave of world-class mansions. The mansion at 41 East 71st, built by Walter and Carla Rothschild in 1928, sold earlier this month for $25 million. She’s been described as a “diamond in the rough” and well does she deserve the title.
At 28 feet wide, 41 East 71st is a massive façade by New York City standards. At a full six stories high, she encompasses nearly 13,000 square feet, if you include the cavernous basement with its high ceilings, windows on three sides and separate entrance from East 70th. The 6th floor’s penthouse terrace adds even more space to an already impressive home. The large rooms and high ceilings inside make it feel and look even larger than it is. The Rothschilds built on the end of the block, so as to allow for natural light on three sides of their mansion, opening it up even more. The towering 6-over-6 lot-line windows do the job admirably. It’s said you can even see the sky from the second floor!
Much of the interior as the Rothschild’s and their neighbors would have known it is gone now, unfortunately, although original architectural features such as the sweeping grand staircase and hand-carved lintels over the fireplaces have been preserved. The mansion was converted into office space in 1958, so except for a few rooms such as the dining room and library, most of the original floorplan has been obliterated. The new owner, steel executive Leroy Schechter, has promised to return it to its former glory as a residence, polishing the diamond till she shines.
As with any gem, the setting pays a large part in showing off its beauty, and the Rothschild mansion is no exception. Located in the heart of the Upper East Side, on a street known as the best townhouse location in the city, the Rothschild is well situated for a lady of her grandeur and pedigree. Look behind her, though, to find the true beauty and strength of her placement. The seven mansions built in the block in those long ago days of jazz and flapper girls shared a bit of civility uncommon even among the upper crusts of New York society. Their owners all agreed to create their own private park – 66 feet wide and 103 feet deep – by opening all their gardens to one another! Today, 41 East 71st only has a portion of that park remaining – 33 feet wide and 28 feet deep – but that is still more than many New Yorkers could only dream of. This bit of green space adds to the potential of this rough gem, giving her a setting worthy of the term “paradise.”
Mr. Schechter is known for his eye for “premiere” properties, currently selling his 35th floor Central Park West condo for $95 million. He has plans to convert the mansion back into a home over the next two years, adding baths, creating bedrooms, expanding the kitchen and removing a second staircase that was put in for the sake of the businesses. No doubt, given his track record, he’ll have this diamond in the rough polished and sparkling in a fashion worthy of her glory days.