A $13 Million, NYC Townhouse From 1844 With Mid-Century Flair
Helen Mumford Sole and her husband Peter Sole were moving from Greenwich, CT to New York and wanted to buy a house with a past. “Something interesting, with a bit of history,” Mumford Sole, an executive coach, said. “Something a little bit unique.”
After a year of searching, they found what they were looking for in a 20-foot-wide, 4,250 square-foot townhouse at 110 West 13th Street in Manhattan's Greenwich Village. Built in 1844, it had been occupied for the last half-century by the family of Howard Wise, a pioneering gallerist and patron who helped introduce kinetic and light art to America.
After living in it for more than five years, the Soles have now put the house on the market for $12.95 million, listing it with Leslie J. Garfield realty. While the Soles have added their own bits of history, renovating it from top to bottom, it retains what made the house so appealing to them in the first place.
In the early 1960s, Wise, the gallerist, gut-renovated the building, cutting out sections of the parlor floor so that the garden floor below had, in places, a double-height ceiling. After that first renovation, the house remained unchanged for the better part of 50 years.
“So all the bathrooms and kitchens were perfect examples of midcentury modernism, but none of them worked very well,” Mumford Sole said. “The kitchen was very dark, but mainly the issue was that it didn’t work.”
There was an upside to the house’s time capsule-status: Wise’s widow, Barbara, was selling it in order to move in with one of her children, and was willing to part with much of the art and furniture that filled its interior. Thus, as part of the purchase price (which StreetEasy lists as $5.7 million), the Soles were able to purchase what she estimates were seven works of art, including a giant wood elephant by the artist Anne Arnold, and a range of furniture including Eames chairs and Nakashima sofas.
After moving in and remodeling, she “kept the big, open feel,” she said. The house’s open-concept plan “is very flexible ... One minute it’s just for the family and feels cozy, the next minute we can have 80 people in it.”
Upstairs, which was “a warren of small rooms,” Mumford Sole’s intervention was more dramatic. She opened up the halls and rooms, so that now three of the house’s five bedrooms are en-suite. “The master bedroom is huge by Manhattan standards,” she said. “We couldn’t believe it when we saw it for the first time.”
One of the bedrooms opens up to a private terrace (“you can guess which bedroom my kids fought over,” she said), and on the ground floor, there’s a 60-foot-long, south-facing garden filled with plants and benches.
Mumford Sole is selling because her husband has recently retired as CEO of The Research Group, a private think-tank, and they want to spend more time at their homes in Maui and Vermont. (Of the shift to Maui, she noted that “of all the tragedies in my life, that’s certainly not one of them.”)
They also plan to keep an apartment in the city, though Mumford Sole has already run into an issue.
“I say, I want it right here, where our house is, because the location is just so fantastic,” she said. “You can just build a whole life here.”