Here is a recipe for turning cravings into poetry.
When renowned British poet James Fenton — his partner, award-winning writer Daryl Pinkney — left home in Manhattan a decade ago, the pair found enough space to fit into a library of 10,000 books.
He bought the 10,000-square-foot, five-storey Harlem townhouse in 2010 for $ 1.85 million — but he took the opportunity to restore the collapsed shell of the former grand residence.
“Once we found the place, the motivation to preserve it in some way became very important to us,” said Fenton, 72 – known for his association with former Oxford poetry professors, Christopher Hitchens and Martin Amis
Built in 1890 for John Dwight, co-inventor of Arm and Hammer baking soda, the house at 1 W. 123rd St. later gave way to art school; Then a black synagogue; A single room dwelling; And finally a hideout for gossipers, graffiti destroyers and drug dealers who sold PCP. Now, the property – which the couple and their helping hands have spent 11 years renovating exactly – is ready for a new chapter.
Located in the Mount Morris Park Historic District, the 25-foot-wide stretch was recently listed for sale, asking $ 8.5 million — the highest ask for a townhouse in Harlem.
With other tastefully restored amenities – including eight fireplaces and a magnificent wooden staircase – the house is far from how Fenton and Pinkney found it, when they purchased it from developers who failed to add it to condominiums. The basement was under 3 inches of water. The dining room, and the three oval-shaped bedrooms on the upper levels, are cut into odd spaces with toilets tied to the sides. Someone closed the magnificent wooden staircase. Fortunately this is not beyond repair, and thanks to access to the original photos and blueprints, they had a full understanding of the look behind it.
“In some ways it is better preserved because no one has ever gone to the cost of dismantling the interior,” Fenton said. “There’s still plenty of stuff, but like everything else in the house, it needs renovation.”
Fenton declined to reveal how much it has ever cost to make everything, but said it was “millions” and the new owner would have to carry the rest of the work to the finish line. For example, plans for a lift and central air conditioning that have not yet been installed are in effect. Some of the projects already completed require heavy lift. One of them is cleaning the mahogany and oak paneling of the house – a special job that took about a year. All 52 windows require the approval of the Landmarks Conservation Commission.
The couple is the founder of PBDW Architects Samuel G. White tapped 74, the architect of the record to help with governance processes and design, and this was not a random hire. A Boston painter named Franklin Hill Smith designed the house for Dwight, who designed the Washington Square Arch, a renowned gilded age architecture firm co-founded by McKim, Mead and Stanford White, a White-Golden Age architecture firm.
By the late 1800s, McKim, Mead & White left their mark in Boston, partly on the design of Tony homes along Commonwealth Avenue, one of which was a US Rep. John F. Andrew and – similar to the Harlem townhouse with its protruding shaped protrusions.
“[It also] White, the youngest of this Boston home, said: “There was elaborate woodwork … there were elements made of oak and they were more finished.” “You get the sense that Smith should have seen the house and that it influenced him, because McKim, Mead and White did nothing at the time. Smith had very few models to replicate.
Overall, the breadth of work has “cleaned up the block,” said Compass Associate Broker Bruce Robertson, who shares the list with Compass’ Nick Raffaello. “[The home] It was disorienting and a real eye pain. They cleaned that corner, and this is still a positive step in the Harlem Renaissance, in my opinion. ”
This is the same sentiment that others share with Fenton.
“I think a lot of people do this,” he said.