Billionaire Ronald Lauder sells architect Philip Johnson’s only NYC…


Legendary modern architect Philip Johnson’s first and only residential home in New York City has sold for $19.99 million, according to property records.

Known as the Rockefeller Guest House, it’s located at 242 E. 52nd St. The seller was billionaire philanthropist Ronald Lauder, who declined to comment on the off-market trade.

The news first appeared on Curbed.

Lauder owned the home twice, first buying it at auction in 1989 and then, after selling it to London gallerist Anthony d’Offay, bought it back at auction in 2000 for $11.16 million.

The landmarked home — an elegant, two-story brick-and-glass structure in Turtle Bay — remains remarkably intact and out of place in the middle of midtown Manhattan.

It was built to showcase the art collection of Blanchette Rockefeller, the wife of John D. Rockefeller III, as the area was then known for attracting artists and their patrons, from Max Ernst to Peggy Guggenheim.

Architect Philip Johnson. Bettmann Archive
The Turtle Bay building was the first piece of real estate in the world auctioned by Sotheby’s. Olga Ginzburg for The New York Post

By 1958, Rockefeller donated the home to the Museum of Modern Art. It then had a succession of private owners. By 1964, Robert C. Leonhardt, a Manhattan business consultant, bought the home for $100,000. In 1971, his widow, Lee Sherrod, invited Johnson and his partner, art dealer/exhibition designer David C. Whitney to lease the house. They lived there from 1971 to 1979.

One of the first buildings to reflect the modern movement in architecture, the Rockefeller Guest House stood in stark contrast to surrounding 19th-century structures, according to the Landmarks Preservation Commission.

The first floor was originally designed as a single space with a large fireplace-sporting living area and a compact kitchen hidden by folding doors, with a bedroom, a bath and a dressing room in the rear, according to the LPC.

Billionaire philanthropist Ronald Lauder. dpa/picture alliance via Getty Images

An interior court with a pool that extends the width of the building divided the rooms, with floor-to-ceiling windows facing the courtyard. White brick walls extended from the living area through the courtyard to showcase art.

Two additional unheated bedrooms were on the second floor for guests.

Johnson once said he designed the second floor merely to “give the facade height” because a one-story house “would look all wrong.”  

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