If Al Hirschfeld’s $5 million Manhattan townhouse was too rich for your blood, then you probably won’t want to hear about Jim Henson’s Manhattan townhouse, at 117 E. 69th St, which is listed for sale at around $28 million. Of course, when Henson purchased the 12,000 square foot space in 1977, he paid only $600,000 for it.
For several years, the building housed “a significant portion of the New York workshop,” according to the book Jim Henson: The Works. The workshop was “installed in a bright, airy basement area that opened onto a sunny courtyard and was illuminated by an enormous skylight projecting from the rear of the main building. It was there that you would find Calista Hendrickson decorating a gown for Miss Piggy with bugle beads. It was there that you would come across Leslee Asch restoring classic Muppet figures for a traveling museum show. It was there that you would encounter Faz Fazakas tinkering with electrodes and transistors.”
The Henson family sold the building in 2005 for $12.4 million. Since then, it’s been owned by wealthy, unimaginative financiers like Brian Brille, a Bank of America executive, and most recently, Edgar Bronfman Jr., CEO of Warner Music Group and Seagram liquor heir. According to the WSJ, Bronfman doesn’t even live in the building and rents an apartment when he’s staying in New York. The paper reports that Bronfman is “preparing to list the townhouse…at a time when sales of elite townhouse properties are showing renewed vigor after falling hard during the downturn.” It’s hard to understand exactly what ‘falling hard’ means considering that the home’s sale price has more than doubled in the past five years.
Below are a couple more photos of the building’s interior circa the Henson years. Sadly, the energy and magic of Manhattan is largely inaccessible nowadays to artists like Henson, and without those artists, the island’s unique vibe is fading away, no doubt to make room for more condos to house the rich and unimaginative. Thankfully, there’s always Brooklyn.