Jul 20, 2011

The 72-room Bank House

image by Leigh Davis for New York Magazine
Called "the greatest real-estate coup of all time" by New York magazine, photographer Jay Maisel purchased this 72 room abandoned bank at 190 Bowery at Spring Street in 1966 for $102,000.  He renovated it for his family and his photography studio. 

The 1898 Gilded Age structure is measures 35,000 square feet over six floors.  As a residence, the space exudes an artist-commune vibe with creatively-used rooms and unique decor.  Maisel, his wife and daughter, share the space.  That's roughly 11,600 square feet per person.  "I need some space" is unlikely an uttered phrase in the Maisel home.
The dining room with original pressed-tin wallcoverings. 
image by Leigh Davis for New York Magazine

The original oak door frames separate former bank offices, now gallery space.
image by Leigh Davis for New York Magazine

The kitchen is on the site of the bank’s original kitchen, where staff cooked for the bankers.
image by Leigh Davis for New York Magazine

Long corridors are filled with the family's collected treasures.  Plastic sheeting acts as a makeshift ventilation system.
image by Leigh Davis for New York Magazine
The bank's original vault is used for the photographer's files and stored pieces. 
image by Leigh Davis for New York Magazine

image via Fireplace Chats

Upon purchase, this New York City neighborhood had been sinking into a deep sub-depression and the Bowery became an urban wasteland.  In an interview with New York magazine, Maisel described the area as having been “more disgusting than dangerous.”

But, as urban gentrification took over the Lower East Side, and slowly crept to the borders of the Bowery, Maisel found his property value increase exponentially.  John Varvatos opened a boutique nearby.  A Whole Foods megastore went up.  Luxury apartments are taking over derelict buildings.  And now Maisel's Beaux Arts structure and its property are worth between 30 and 70 million dollars, as the corner lot sits in the heart of NYC's latest desirable “new neighborhood” to live, work and play. 

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