Wednesday, May 14, 2008

operation castle rescue

Any guesses as to the location of this lovely piece of real estate? The Loire Valley? Nottinghamshire, England? Try Yonkers, NY (although the ceiling of the ballroom did originate in Nottinghamshire). The 1883 Greystone Court, as it was named by its owner, Kohle Yohannan, is a veritable treasure trove of 19th century goodness.

Mr. Yohannan (who's a graduate of my program--how cool is that?) and his castle appear in the most recent issue of New York Magazine, its annual home design edition. I also dug up a 2004 article from the New York Times and took some images from there. He passed the castle in the late 90s while driving through Yonkers and fell in love.

For months, he knocked on the door and left notes. Finally, one day, “the creaky door opens and the cats are flying and a little old lady comes out. I told her some of the history I knew, but it still took me a long time to get in.” He ended up offering the owner slightly under half a million dollars. “She told me that she sold it to me because I was stupid enough to think I could fix it!” Yohannan says, laughing.

Mr. Yohannan labored hard for 3 years on the Court (it was decaying and rodent-infested when he bought it), doing much of the work himself. He recruited local help and called in a stained glass expert to restore the original Tiffany windows. The part that I love is the effort he made to preserve and restore the history of this magnificent place. Here are some of my favourite bits:

The Ballroom. There's that Nottinghamshire ceiling, weighing in at two tons and built around 1690 for a manor house.

The powder room features a window found (astonishingly) in the attic--it's "Allegory of Music," and was designed by John LaFarge for the Fifth Avenue mansion of Mrs. Cornelius Vanderbilt II (now Bergdorf Goodman). Which is pretty much the greatest thing anyone's ever found in an attic, ever.

The "Marie Antoinette Room" or the "Boudoir." A previous owner had painted the walls hot pink.

The Turkish Room, formerly the library. That's silk on the walls, y'all.

The Observatory, inspired by Around the World in Eighty Days. Dig that ceiling.

Everyday I pass historic houses for sale accompanied by "Build to Suit" signs, and they just make me want to cry, or hit someone. Hard. Stories like this one give me hope.


Taddie Tales said...

FABULOUS post - makes me want to go digging up everything possible on this house.

Kelly Anne said...

Haha, which is pretty much exactly what I did after reading the New York Magazine article. It's just the sort of place that whets your imagination.