The East Village’s gritty bohemian charm has little in common with coastal New England delights. Except, that is, for a Cape Cod–style shingled cottage atop a red-brick building on the corner of 1st Street and First Avenue, which has just returned to the market for $9.75 million.
The listing at 72 East 1st Street is really a two-for-one; the cottage is a stand-alone studio with a kitchenette and full bathroom, but the sale also includes the top two floors of the building, a duplex with two wood-burning fireplaces (and a third gas fireplace). Together the properties add up to some 3,000 square feet. It’s an unusual real-estate package dreamed up by the late Henry Merwin Shrady III, a sculptor, artist, and “neighborhood improvement activist,” according to the New York Post, which wrote about the place when Shrady’s widow first listed it back in 2017. The downstairs neighbor told the paper that Shrady bought the building in a decrepit and vacant state back in the 1980s, renovated it, and kept the top two floors for himself along with building the Cape Cod–style cottage on the top. The last owner — Shrady’s widow — said her son lived in the cottage through college and it was rented out thereafter.
While penthouse creep is a real phenomenon, with third- and fourth-floor walk-ups being marketed as such, this one lives up to the name. Besides being actually on top of the building, it’s rather grand in its own way — with a double-height living room in the duplex, the cottage, and a landscaped rooftop surrounding it that, at least from the listing photos, resembles something you might find in Martha’s Vineyard. Fixing up old things was something Shrady did often: “He never saw an old wreck of a house or boat or car that he didn’t love,” his wife wrote in his obituary.
The penthouse sold in early 2018. Back then it was asking $3.5 million — a third of its current listing price. The current and former listing broker, Nick Gavin of Compass, said that there were multiple bids at the time and that it went for over ask. He wouldn’t say who bought it, but apparently they did some work. The new listing mentions a gut renovation, and the photos show an apartment with more luxurious features than the original listing had: herringbone floors versus standard hardwood ones, full-on landscaping and brick pavers versus a terrace with potted plants, a kitchen with a Lacanche range and North Star fridge compared to the previous stainless-steel appliances and granite countertop. The listing mentions other things even a seasoned real-estate reporter doesn’t see every day: parquet salvaged from a London theater, walls with a specialty paint finish by Mark Chamberlain.
It’s an artifact of another era altogether. To think that some 40 years ago, a “neighborhood improvement activist” could buy up an entire apartment building, claim the top two floors for himself, and build a cottage on the roof — and now, even buying that assemblage for a mere $3.5 million is, it seems, a dream of the not-so-distant past.