Friday, June 16, 2017

278 IS FOR SALE!

Houdini's famous New York home at 278 West 113th Street in Harlem is for sale. The 4-story brownstone is being listed by Douglas Elliman Real Estate for $4.6 million. There will be an open house this Sunday, June 18, from 1:00 pm to 3:00 pm.

Curbed New York has a nice article about the sale with some remarkable photos of the inside of the house (below). In one you can see that part of Houdini's original bookcase still stands in what I believe is the second floor parlor. The house itself has been converted into a three-family home, with an owner’s duplex occupying the first two floors, a one-bedroom apartment on the second floor, and a two-bedroom on the third floor. The house still contains the original wood in the foyer and tin ceilings.

Houdini purchased "278" (as he called it) in 1904 for $25,000. Bess sold the house in June 1927 for $20,000 to her neighbors, John and Fillippina Bonanno, whose daughters lived in the house until the late 1970s. This is the first time the house has been on the market in 26 years (interesting number). The last time it sold was in 1991 to Fred Thomas. When Thomas bought the house he was not told it was the former home of Houdini. But today's listing at Douglas Elliman proudly uses it as a selling point.


Of course, my great wish is that someone in the magic world will buy the house and open up at least part of it as a museum. But whomever purchases the house, I hope they honor and preserve the Houdini history that is still left inside. This is a magical place indeed.

Check out the article about the sale at Curbed New York (who nicely linked to WAH). You can view the listing and all the photos at Douglas Elliman Real Estate. Agents are Beverley Draggon and Detria Davu.

Thanks to everyone who altered me to this this morning.

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27 comments:

  1. That's the most I've ever seen of the inside. It's amazing his bookshelves are still there.

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    1. From the famous pic, looks like there were two bookcases side by side (may be more off camera). One case is gone (large mirror now in place), but that second one is definitely still the original.

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  2. I was just about to give you the heads up on this, John. I was hoping maybe you'd let me come visit after you moved in! ;^)

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    1. Ha! I'm teling you, if I had the money, I would buy this, restore it back to what it was in Houdini's day. I would then open the first floor as a museum, second floor would be a research center, and third floor would be living quarters and Wild About Harry Headquarters. :)

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  3. A friend of mine just told me about this. She's going to the Open House as a potential buyer. I told her if she does, I'm moving in!

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    1. I'm so tempted to get on a plane...

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  4. The floor plan gives a really complete picture of the interior. The house has three full bathrooms, one on each floor, and a partial one in the basement. The kitchen is in the rear side of the main floor, facing the back yard.

    The remaining bookcase definitely is original. The trim on top matches with trim in the HH pic.

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    1. That floor plan is amazing. I'm trying to puzzle out where everything was originally.

      I also have a terrific unpublished pic of HH in 278 that I've yet to share. This might be the time!

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  5. Well done. We'll all visit vicariously through your reporting!

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  6. So after the tour if you are interested in burgers, brats, and beer, I'm hosting a gathering in Hell's Kitchen from 2-8.

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    Replies
    1. Yes! That sounds fantastic! Let make sure we have each other's contact info. I'll email or FB.

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  7. Back in 1928, Bess sold the house to John and Fillippina Bonanno for $3000.00. It took till the mid 1970s for Rose to pay the loan off to the Hinsons.
    I own a copy of the bill of sale.
    Jon Oliver

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    1. I also have copies of all the paperwork, and what I see on the mortgage is $20,000. It also shows the date as 1927 (June 15). Yes, you are right, it did take her into the 1970s to pay off.

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  8. ps, has anyone else notice the clawed antique bathtub full
    of dirt in the back yard?
    Jon Oliver

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    Replies
    1. Ha, ha! It makes a great large flower pot! Who knows? Harry cold have used this tub to practice those ice baths for his bridge jumps.

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    2. Both tubs are still there -- one in backyard and the other in front/trash area -- and the realtor says they are both for sale.

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  9. John, I just saw the house in April, as we discussed. I remember asking if you knew of any realtors showing it. Odd that it now goes on the market for the first time in 26 years. Part of a continuing strange coincidence that I've been experiencing regarding Houdini this past year. --Dale from Cleveland.

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  10. The floor plan shows 5 floors: 1. The basement 2. Garden floor 3. Parlor floor 4. 3rd floor 5. 4th floor. Huh?

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  11. Hi John,
    I noticed that on the left end of the original book case there is a mismatched modern cabinet door at the bottom. I believe this is a coverup or filler from when the other case was removed. The molding at the top isn't even close to a match.
    I hope to make it tommorow.
    Barry from Jersey

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  12. The missing bookcase could still be in the area

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    1. How they got one of those bookcases out of the house no one could figure out. There is no way it would fit through any of the doors or hallways. They must have taken it apart.

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    2. BTW, we were able to positively ID that the remaining bookcase IS the case HH is leaning against in the pic. (Thanks Alec!) I think everyone took a pic posing in Houdini's place. However, in Houdini's time, the case was not sitting where it is today. I'll get into all that in my upcoming report.

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  13. Are you sure about 25K for the house?? That sounds like an awful lot of money to me.

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    Replies
    1. 25K-30K is the number that appears in biographies.

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    2. When Houdini tried to sell the house in 1914 he asked $18K. Bess sold in 1927 for 20K.

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