Staten Island's 7,700-square-foot Italianate mansion has garnered quite the reputation since 1855. It was briefly on the market last year for $1.74M, and now, it's back for $2.3M and buyer beware, the ghost experts at the Daily Mail seem to believe it's "haunted." If what's been called "Staten Island's very own Grey Gardens" looks like the interior of an Antrologie catalog, that's because it actually kind of is one. Used by Harper's Bazaar, W, and Elle as the kind of shabby-chic backdrop that's so popular these days, it's become something of a ruin-porn photoshoot standby.
Gustav Mayer, an inventor whose body of work includes the recipe for what would eventually be known is Nilla Wafers, bought the genteel manor in 1889, but his daughters, who lived there until they were 100, were the home's true proprietors. Paula and Emilie Mayer, who lived the turn-of-the-century spinster dream hard, went everywhere together; which was easier than one might think, considering they never left the house, and instead lowered "baskets from the window to collect groceries, mail and laundry," according to the Times. It's to them we owe the home's perfect isolation and bankable decay; the claw-footed tubs, crumbling floral wallpapers, an airy cupola with unfinished floorboards.
That decay is curated by Bob Troiano, the son of a Staten Island carpenter who first discovered the house on Richmond Road by trying to break into it's rusted gate as a nineteen-year-olds. According to Troiano, "You knew it was a forbidden place, but also unforgettable." Two decades later, with the deed in hand, Trioiano quickly finished the first floor and moved in with his family, but before he could continue, a location scout paid him a visit, making note of the old medicine bottles left behind by the sisters, the attic's exposed brick, chandeliers dangling precariously from the ceiling; things that, in a sane world governed by building codes, are either liabilities or nuisances.
In the upper levels, collapsing walls were removed, but walls that merely looked like they were on the brink of collapse were kept. One fashion photographer told the Times, "I've shot at the Astor Mansion, on Park Avenue, inside old factories, and this one is probably my favorite place in New York—it has a spirit unlike anywhere else." Whether to keep that fashionably decrepit spirit or fully renovate will be a question for the next owner.
· All Haunted Houses Coverage [Curbed National]
· A House Fit for Murder, Madmen and Fashion Models [New York Times]