Probably the most upscale residential neighborhood in New York city, the Upper East Side is also one of the few that has been able to keep its essence throughout the years. Combining tradition with elegance and charm, it is a haven for families. As it spreads from the East River to Central Park, its residents will never run out of peaceful places to retreat from their upbeat routine.
But keeping up with traditions comes at a cost, and many developers have learnt it the hard way. Backed up by the Preservation Commission, numerous projects have been turned down by residents for being too modern. Indeed, as in any refined society, fitting in is always seen as better than standing out. New buildings thus try to have limestone facades and insert traditional elements such as street-level window grilles in order to make Upper East Siders feel at home and not that their neighborhood is being changed.
A great illustration of a renovated mega-mansion that preserves the Upper East Side’s style is the one on 72nd street, 7-9 East. Sold by the Lycée Français for $26 million to an insanely wealthy emir of Qatar, the renovations are nearing completion. The 45,000 square-foot complex is being turned into a single-family home and shows how to make tradition and luxury agree with the fanciest and ready-to-party mansion. Actually, this impressive piece of architecture would not even be used as a permanent residence - whaaaaat?! - but the entire compound would really be designed to receive parties. Among others, what is to be the largest residence in all NYC will feature 2 floors of bedroom and an indoor swimming pool - the least it could do for a luxury mansion, we’re sure the emir has kept the best parts a secret.
Now, after the mega-mansion, here is a tiny one which is currently for sale at only $8.25 million - a trifling sum compared to the former Lycée Français. This mansion is perhaps much smaller, but it stands out as one of the oldest house in Manhattan, and one of the five remaining wood frame houses on the UES.
128 East and 93rd street was built in 1866, featuring 4 floors with a pre-victorian style, no one could resist its charm. As if it wasn’t enough, the little haven features turned baluster, crown mouldings and most important, it has its own garden, with a treehouse in it!
This tiny house, stuck in between two higher buildings, embodies the family-feeling of its neighborhood. Unlike other high-scale condos, like One57, the modern and glass facade residential condo buildings that mostly host foreign buyers that have purchased a piece of real estate in New York only as a pied-à-terre, Upper East Siders are seeking primary houses and are looking forward to start a family life, sending their kids to the best schools in Manhattan. That is also one of the reason why the Landmarks Preservation Commission often battles and thwarts modernist developers: prices for glass framed condos have decreased in this neighborhood, when more classical buildings have held up their prices, if not increased them - modernity just does not attract Upper East Siders.
You can take a walking tour and wander around its street, you’ll bump into the numerous homes that host the elite, such as the Gracie Mansion that is specially designed as the official residence for the Mayor of the city of New York.
Among the famous ones that have been lured by a sense of history and by old-fashioned tastes are Jackie Onassis, Benjamin Duke, Cornelius Vanderbilt, Woody Allen, Michael J. Fox, Rupert Murdoch; as well as the designers Ralph Lauren or Donna Karan who probably have been inspired by their own hood. So pay attention to your surroundings, perhaps it is the UES’s unique charm that has rocketed these celebrities to the top!
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