Live Where They Lived

Charles Mingus
Where: 5 Great Jones Street.
What: A 2,400-square-foot two-bedroom, two-bath.
Monthly rent: $8,750.
Agents: Emma Hamilton Malina and Dorothy Zeidman, the Corcoran Group.

There’s a scene in Mingus: Charlie Mingus 1968, a documentary about the life and times of jazz musician Charles Mingus, where he’s shown in a loft—this loft—in 1966 with his papers, lamps, and sheet music in languorous disarray. He shoots his rifle at the ceiling and, later, sits at his piano, pipe perched on his lips; he’s in no hurry. But soon the cops will be coming down his Noho street to cart his possessions away. Later, when he’s shown in front of the building, his belongings curbside, a reporter asks what he thinks of being evicted (allegedly for not paying the rent). Mingus, distraught, tells him, “I think America is beautiful.” If that’s not enough provenance for you: Sometime after Mingus left, puppeteer Kermit Love set up his studio here, where he and his crew constructed the first prototypes of Big Bird and Snuffleapagus in what’s now the master bedroom. The current owners are away for six months and have put it up for a short-term rental.

Barack Obama
Where: 142 West 109th Street.
What: A two-bedroom apartment in a walk-up rental building.
Monthly rent: $2,495.
Agent: Dalila Bella, Citi-Habitats.

The future president lived in the smaller of the two bedrooms in this third-floor, $360-a-month walk-up back in 1981, when he was attending Columbia. It’s said that he smoked cigarettes on the fire escape, cooked chicken curry in the kitchen, and listened to reggae with his roommate, Phil Boerner, in the living room. But the apartment was a lemon; the doorbell didn’t work and the heating situation was miserable—the two had to wrap themselves in sleeping bags while they studied. They moved out that spring. Now, though, the rent has gone up to $2,495, the floors have been restained and the exposed brick buffed—and the heat works just fine.

John Mayer
Where: 205 East 16th Street.
What: A 2,026-square-foot two-bedroom, two-and-a-half-bath in a full-service condo building.
Asking price: $2.65 million.
Agent: Kathi Jacob, Halstead Property.

For those who’ve been patiently waiting to live in an apartment once occupied by John Mayer, your chance is now. Mayer moved into the fifth-floor duplex back in 2005, around the time he collected his first Grammy. He decamped two years later. (In 2009, Jessica Simpson, who dated Mayer back in 2006 and may well have spent some time in the apartment with him, was spotted staying in the building’s ground-floor maisonette with her sister, Ashlee, who was then playing Roxie Hart on Broadway.) Mayer’s former digs in the converted parish house have views of the Empire State Building from the second bedroom, which he apparently used as a music room.

Tommy Tune
Where: 50 East 89th Street.
What: A three-bedroom, three-and-a-half-bath in a co-op with a fitness center, roof deck, and valet parking.
Asking price: $12.89 million.
Agent: Kianna Choi, Bond New York.

When the current owners first toured this apartment, they didn’t think much of the fact that the countertops were custom-built for a very tall person or that the lower level was set up like a dance studio. It wasn’t until closing that they learned the seller was Tommy Tune, the six-foot-six-inch Broadway director, choreographer, and performer who won nine Tonys and lived here for two decades before moving to another penthouse on East 52nd Street. The sellers say the neighbors still speak of Tune’s legendary parties, which drew the likes of Lauren Bacall and Twiggy. Every Halloween, he handed out balloons to the building’s trick-or-treaters.

The Real World House
Where: 632 Hudson Street.
What: An 8,000-square-foot two-family residence with a triplex plus a floor-through apartment and a ground-floor space available for commercial use.
Asking price: $22 million.
Agents: Jan Hashey, Abigail Agranat, and Steve Halprin, Douglas Elliman.

This West Village behemoth housed fifteen video cameras, 142 studio lights, a mile of cable, and seven strangers, picked to live here when The Real World returned to New York for its tenth season in 2001. The circa-1847 townhouse turned general store turned sausage factory was painstakingly renovated by actress Karen Lashinsky in the mid-nineties, and it’s easy to see why the building appealed to the scouters at MTV: This light-filled atrium has three stories, a grand staircase with ornate railings salvaged from an old hotel, and a fireplace tall enough to walk into. Post-MTV, the building, which includes a Prohibition-style speakeasy in the basement, was restored to its pre–Real World state—the pool table is long gone—and is being rented out as a space for photo shoots, weddings, and private parties until 2016. (So if you choose to buy it, you’ll have to wait a little to move in.)

Isamu Noguchi
Where: 52 West 10th Street.
What: A four-bedroom, two-bath circa-1830 brick house with a terrace and a garden.
Asking price: $13.45 million.
Agents: Matthew Pravda, Christopher L. Riccio, and Jed Garfield, Leslie J. Garfield Real Estate.

This Federal-style carriage house was converted to artist studios in 1923, most likely to lure the creative types descending upon Greenwich Village at the time. (The Tenth Street Studios across the street housed Winslow Homer and William Merritt Chase.) Beaux Arts sculptor and painter Frederick McMonnies lived here; Concetta Scaravaglione, also a sculptor, followed. Then came another sculptor, Isamu Noguchi, who set up shop between 1939 and 1940. Not much is known about the time he spent here, save for a few letters addressed to him that are now archived at the Noguchi Museum in Long Island City. Vanina Goodman Pinney, who grew up in the building with her sister, says their parents, Barbara and Norman, were artists themselves and bought the house in the late forties. Goodman Pinney recalls that her mother, who recently passed away, didn’t know of the Noguchi stint until about a decade ago. “They were thrilled to be a part of what the Village was back then in some way,” she says.

Ada Louise Huxtable
Where: 969 Park Avenue.
What: A two-bedroom, two-bath co-op in a prewar doorman building with a health club and rooftop terrace.
Asking price: $2 million.
Agent: Elizabeth Fuller, Sotheby’s International Realty.

For about 50 years, the New York Times’ formidable, Pulitzer Prize–winning architecture critic, who died in January, lived in this apartment, where she penned countless critiques of structures that dared to join the cityscape. The second bedroom off the foyer was her office, where a copy of a 1968 New Yorker cartoon drawn in tribute to her hung on the wall. It depicted three construction workers erecting a single steel beam, with a caption that read: “Ada Louise Huxtable already doesn’t like it.” By all accounts, she loved her apartment and its genteel, prewar lines. (The building’s architect was Emory Roth, who was responsible for many of the city’s exclusive prewar co-ops.) She most definitely adored the communal rooftop garden, where a memorial plaque bears her words: “What a joy, this garden.”

Hope Hampton
Where: 1145 Park Avenue.
What: A 5,200-square-foot, four-bedroom, four-and-a-half bath with an atrium and a terrace.
Asking price: $18.9 million.
Agent: Dan Danielli, Halstead Property.

Following the advent of the talkies, silent-film star Hope Hampton remade herself as an opera singer, and when that, too, ran its course, she became the grande dame of New York high society in the fifties and sixties, earning the nickname “the Duchess of Park Avenue.” (She reportedly inspired the character of Susan Alexander in the movie Citizen Kane.) The Duke and Duchess of Windsor, Aristotle Onassis, and J. D. Salinger, who lived half a block away, all frequented her parties, and through the years, the gossip columnists chronicled her many exploits—Hampton’s many “first-nighters” (and the gowns she wore to them); her glamorous sailing trips to Europe (in 1935 and again a year later); and the infamous 1951 burglary of her Park Avenue mansion, wherein the robbers made off with a silver-blue mink, $15,000 in cash, and $300,000 worth of uninsured jewels. They entered through a neighbor’s house, crossed the rooftops, and jimmied a trapdoor to find their way in.

Charles Webster Hawthorne
Where: 280 West 4th Street.
What: A townhouse with three one-bedroom apartments plus a triplex with a greenhouse and rooftop terrace.
Asking price: $9.995 million.
Agent: Paul Kolbusz and Sara Gelbard, the Corcoran Group.

This building’s new owners will land not only a stately townhome but potentially the painting hanging above the fireplace of a brown-haired girl in a white-lapeled blue smock, dubbed “Girl in Blue.” The sellers, who searched a year for the painting, say it belongs to the house. (The painting is not included in the price, but the owners are willing to negotiate.) Portraitist Charles Webster Hawthorne, who founded the Cape Cod School of Art and mentored Norman Rockwell, called this building home from 1919 to 1930 and might have painted “Girl in Blue” in the top-floor studio. While the room has been renovated, sheets of light still pour from the large windows and skylight. Painter Albert Pinkham Ryder was a former resident, too.

Live Where They Lived