Capote House Sells for $12M

March 5, 2012 Brooklyn Eagle Staff
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The Daily News is reporting that the so-called Truman Capote house in Brooklyn Heights has sold for $12 million, making it the biggest single-family home sale in Brooklyn’s history.

Author Truman Capote (Breakfast at Tiffany’s, In Cold Blood) rented the basement apartment of the 18-room mansion at 70 Willow Street in the 1950s-’60s while the house was owned by Oliver Smith, a famed Broadway set designer and co-director of American Ballet Theatre.

Capote later wrote about the house, and his love for Brooklyn Heights in general, in a magazine essay called “A House on the Heights.”

The house has been on the market since 2010. Its initial asking price was $18 million.

Long-time local real estate broker Kevin Carberry shared with the Eagle his recollections of the property at 70 Willow St.:

“In the 1940s and early ’50s the house was used by the Red Cross. To conform to building codes, a brick fireproof staircase was attached to the south side of the building that started on the garden level and  extended to the top floor.

“I believe it was in the late ’50s to mid ’60s that local broker Patricia Patsy Savidge sold the building to Oliver Smith. Oliver was an American scenic designer — some say one of the finest set designers in the world. There were many occasions when if one could look into the Alice Ireys-designed yard you might have seen Jackie Kennedy and friends having lunch on the porch with Oliver.  

“Truman Capote was a tenant who would have large parties in the house when Oliver was traveling as if the house was his. Capote also wrote one of the most inaccurate books on 70 Willow St., guessing at the number of bedrooms and fireplaces.

“Oliver was a kind and generous man and we would discuss real estate from time to time over a 20-year period. He said he would never sell 70 Willow St. but when he died I would get the chance to sell it then. After his death, Oliver’s attorney called and gave me the listing. That Saturday my first buyer came to view the house but did not make an offer. The second showing was Sunday. They took one look and offered the full price. The house did need a full renovation and restoration, which was designed by the architect Ben Baxt

“Mr. Baxt applied to Landmarks to remove the south tower, which allowed for a driveway and parking.  The contractor was Interior Alterations. The project took well over a year but what a fabulous finish for this truly fantastic home. Tragically within a year of the completion one of the owners died in a snow mobile accident in Maine. [The family] called me and said they wanted to sell it. The gentleman that did not buy the house the last time had said to me that he regretted not buying the house when it was offered. When I called him the second time, I told him the house was now renovated. He made an offer that was accepted.

“In the past I had called him with offers to purchase 70 Willow in the $10 million dollar range and he said his sights were set higher.”

 Sotheby’s was the brokerage firm that handled the historic sale this week, according to the Daily News. 

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