Things That Are Out of Your Reach: The Fisk-Harkness House is for Sale

Just imagine what this would be like, if you could afford to buy this place.

The Fisk-Harkness House, on East 53rd Street in New York City.

It is a historic family home with a rich past, a total area of 24,689 square feet, and six floors.

It’s for sale for the first time since 1963, by the current owner, LIM College, which has converted it to academic and administrative space.

It’s probably going for over $100 million, so you can’t afford it, but you can stand on the street and dream about moving your couch into the living room, putting your microwave into the kitchen. You can imagine how that would feel. If you were a billionaire, it’s the kind of thing you would do. If you had seven billion dollars, you could spend a few hundred million on a mansion in New York City. Boy, that would be fun!

A Historic Mansion Rose from a Humble Rowhouse

The Fisk-Harkness House is a testament to the Gilded Age architectural splendor of New York City. Built in 1871, this historic mansion was commissioned by Harvey Fisk, a prominent financier in the banking firm Fisk & Hatch, to stand on the former site of a humble rowhouse, in a neighborhood that had changed considerably over the prior decade.

Designed by architect James Renwick Jr., whose works include St. Patrick’s Cathedral, the house reflected the opulent tastes of its era, and boasted a grandiose facade adorned with intricate detailing and elegant French Second Empire-style features.

In 1880, the mansion changed hands and underwent significant renovations under its new owner, Edward Stephen Harkness, scion of the Harkness oil family. Harkness transformed the residence into a hub of cultural and social gatherings; Mark Twain and members of high society were his guests. The interior contained fine furnishings and artworks, making it a beacon of refinement in the burgeoning metropolis.

What is it Like Inside Today?

From the pictures on the website offering the house for sale, the once lavish mansion, apparently, houses a sterile and drab college environment, indifferent furniture fluorescently lit.

But if you owned it, you would change all that! You would bring it back to its glory days.

The ornate entrance of your Fisk-Harkness House would be a portal to another era. The interior would exude an air of timeless elegance and refinement, each room curated to showcase the mansion’s rich history and opulent design.

Your guests would see a majestic foyer adorned with intricate moldings, a sweeping staircase, a dazzling chandelier suspended from the soaring ceiling, a sense of awe and reverence for the craftsmanship of yesteryear, all leading to a series of lavishly appointed rooms, each with its own distinct character and charm, a drawing room with towering windows framed with draperies of the era, a library lined with floor-to-ceiling bookshelves and with mahogany paneling, a dining room where your guests would eat on 19th century china.

One Can Dream

Over the decades, the Fisk-Harkness House has witnessed the evolution of New York City. It survived economic downturns, urban development, and shifting societal trends. That it is still standing today, next to office buildings, is sort of a miracle, a reminder of a bygone era of wealth, influence, and architectural excellence, a glimpse into the glamorous world of the late 19th century elite in the modern cityscape.

It won’t be yours, but it will belong to someone, and it will be here tomorrow.

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