It's been called "the greatest real estate coup of all time," and as of a sale announced earlier this week, it looks charted toward the fate of seemingly every old building in New York City: conversion into high-end condos. That, or offices, or an art gallery, all with ground-floor retail, is what RFR Realty has planned for 190 Bowery, after purchasing it from photographer Jay Maisel for an undisclosed amount. Maisel bought the building for $102K in 1966; fast-forward nearly half a century and the former bank is valued around the $50M mark, though even a fraction of that amount would have made the place a pretty sound investment.
"The building is in terrible shape," developer Aby Rosen of RFR told the Times. "There's no heat, Jay lives in just a small area of the building, another winter is coming, and it was time." But despite the challenges of keeping up a 72-room, approximately 35,000-square-foot building dating back to 1890, a 2008 article in New York Magazine shows Maisel and his family carving out a cozy-looking existence in this "72-room Bohemian dream house."
New York design editor Wendy Goodman's reported that as of 2008, there had been no major changes to the interior, leaving it "essentially unchanged from the Germania Bank" days:
"The house now feels like a dream world, or a benign version of the vast hotel in The Shining. Hallways go on forever. Rooms are filled with projects in various phases of completion. The renovations, mostly done by Maisel, are very 'artists live here.'" The sixth-floor kitchen (↑) was once where Germania staff cooked meals for the bankers. The dining room (↑ ↑), where said bankers took their meals, now sits at one end of the Maisels' living room, and still has an original pressed-tin wall.
Linda Maisel describes a typical day of constant upkeep: "first we might have to clean the sidewalks.. Or the fire department comes for a walk-through, or the meters need fixing, or the boiler. Or the graffiti police come by." The above shot of a fifth-floor hallway, lined with "Maisel's collection of curiosities," shows the plastic tubing that provided the building's air conditioning.
New York Magazine has more photos, plus the full story, which is really worth a read.
· The 72-Room Bohemian Dream House [New York Magazine]
· Mysterious Bower Home Sells, Will Probably Become Condos [Curbed NY]