Hoop Dream

The hoop raises and lowers electronically. Photo: Floto + Warner

For a city family with four children under the age of 10, space is, of course, the most-coveted luxury. However, one Upper East Side family not only has generous, everyone-gets-his-own-bedroom space, but it also has rainy-days-are-no-problem space. What it has is a basketball court. “Obviously,” says the mother of the house, “it makes it very easy for us to host playdates.” And one-on-one yoga lessons, aerobic sessions, and tricycle grand prix.

To give a bit more context to the court’s out-of-place-ness, here’s a brief description of the structure that conceals it: The seven-story, 10,000-square-foot house was designed by Stanford White in 1903 for his friend, the artist Charles Dana Gibson—he of the famous “Gibson Girl” drawings that ran in turn-of-the-last-century magazines. Gibson used the airy top floor that is now the court as his studio. The house was later converted into an office building, with dropped ceilings and cubicles.

When Stanford White designed this townhouse in 1903, he probably never suspected that a door would lead to that. Right, a view across the 45-by-23 court to the windows facing the street. Photo: Floto + Warner

In the late nineties, it was bought, and gutted, by a family with five children. The architect, Joe Nahem of Fox-Nahem, came up with the idea for the court and got Landmarks to approve it. (He also put cages on the windows and insulation beneath the floor.) “It’s a great space for parties,” he says. “It’s also a great way to make sure your kids are very popular.”

The new owners fell for the house right away, not least because of the pine-paneled court. “Our 6-year-old son ran in and climbed one of the ropes to the top,” says the mother. “We knew we had to keep it.

“It’s probably the most-used room in the house. It was something we would never have thought of in a zillion years, but now it’s hard to imagine living without a basketball court.”

Hoop Dream