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The “Grand Dames” of New York’s Hotel Residences Combine Grandeur and Provenance

Long before the invention of the modern skyscraper, privileged New Yorkers have enjoyed an exclusive group of luxury hotels where they could own hotel residences – combining classic designs, cherished locations and superlative five-star hotel services. Located on the Upper East Side, The Pierre, The Sherry-Netherland and The Carlyle are the “Grand Dames” of the city’s original hotel residential buildings, and remain some of its most desirable.

Dating from the so-called “prewar” period (pre-World War II), each of the buildings offer unique architectural features. The Pierre’s 41-story tower is capped by a replica of the Royal Chapel at Versailles, The Sherry Netherland celebrates French Gothic architecture complete with gargoyles and a pointed copper roof, while The Carlyle offers an Art Deco design dating from 1930. Given their locations along Fifth and Madison Avenues, they are each fixtures on the East Side skyline, especially from Central Park.

Inside, these residences are just as enticing. According to Cornelia Zagat Eland, Senior Vice President for Sales at Stribling & Associates, prewar homes are very attractive to potential buyers as their classical design creates a sort of timeless elegance – balancing the right scale, room volumes and gracious layouts with high ceilings. Distinct from modern construction methods, these older buildings possess a level of grandeur that is unmatched in the city.

While all three properties opened as hotels between 1927 and 1930, The Pierre and Sherry Netherland converted some of the hotel rooms to residential cooperatives for sale in the 1950s, with The Carlyle following suit around 1970. Given this heritage, these hotel homes come with an impressive provenance of bold-faced names. According to Eland, residents at The Pierre are “quietly sophisticated,” and notable names have included Cary Grant, Elizabeth Taylor, Valentino, and Martin Zweig, whose triplex penthouse is currently on the market for $125 million. At The Carlyle, its best known resident was perhaps American President John F. Kennedy, and stories abound of Marilyn Monroe’s secret entrances and exits through the hotel’s service tunnels.

So who is buying these apartments today? Eland notes that “Buyers for hotel apartments are usually people who visit New York for business or pleasure and do not wish to waste time with housekeeping or cooking.” Typically, they are accustomed to luxury services in both their primary and secondary residences and appreciate having a full staff of concierges, porters, housekeepers and on-call room service. Yet, each of these properties combines the luxury hotel services with all the feelings of a personal home.

The list of luxury services and amenities is quite impressive, with The Pierre serving as the American flagship of Taj Hotels & Resorts, and The Carlyle managed by Rosewood Hotels. Naturally, dining options are also among some of the best in the city, with Sirio Maccioni – the master restauranteur behind Le Cirque – recently opening Sirio Ristorante at The Pierre, while residents of the Sherry Netherland enjoy a Harry Cipriani restaurant (a near replica of Harry’s Bar in Venice), and The Carlyle boasts the infamous Café Carlyle, where Woody Allen shows up to jam regularly with a New Orleans jazz band. Tailored services in the buildings can include twice-daily housekeeping, elevator operators, and on-premises beauty salons.

So, what’s on the market? At The Pierre, Eland represents a 28th floor two-bedroom residence with 10-foot ceilings and views of Central Park for $8.5 million. Two blocks south at the Sherry Netherland, the entire 18th floor with 7 bedrooms and three terraces is on the market for $95 million. At the Carlyle, a one-bedroom apartment asks $749,000, although its monthly maintenance bill is nearly $7,000 per month.

Of course, these Grand Dames require more than just a big bank account. All three are cooperatives, meaning that potential buyers will have to submit applications with complete financial statements to a board who will consider if the purchaser is suitable to join the building. Buyers at The Pierre and The Sherry Netherland are prohibited from obtaining mortgage financing, so only all-cash buyers are able to purchase, and naturally they must have substantial liquid assets even after they close to secure the financial integrity of the cooperative.

For certain buyers, The Pierre, The Carlyle and The Sherry Netherland are irresistible and no modern glass skyscraper can match their appeal. They offer that magical combination of traditional architecture, luxury services, top locations and remarkable pedigrees.