Bay Ridge

Drone deployed for Gingerbread House sales pitch

Eye on Real Estate

February 17, 2016 By Lore Croghan Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Welcome to the Gingerbread House in Bay Ridge. Eagle photos by Lore Croghan
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How do you show a big property like the Gingerbread House to full advantage? Deploy a drone, Marion Fiore says.

The landmarked Bay Ridge mansion, which looks like a super-sized stone cottage from a fairy tale, is for sale for an asking price of $10.999 million.

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The century-old home is hugely photogenic and has been on the market on several previous occasions in the past six-plus years. So photos are all over the Internet. Google “Gingerbread House Brooklyn” and you’ll find 234,000 results.

“What’s never been done before is to show the scope of the property,” Fiore, a licensed real estate salesperson at Douglas Elliman’s Carroll Gardens office, told the Brooklyn Eagle in a recent interview.

For that, a drone was needed to shoot a video.

The house at 8220 Narrows Ave. is situated on one of the largest residential lots in New York City, she said. It’s 20,000 square feet in size.

There are several thousand square feet of outdoor living space in the form of stone-paved terraces and a courtyard — plus a lawn the size of a pocket park.

The house itself is 5,746 square feet in size. From its second floor, there are views of New York Harbor.

The video, which can be viewed on Douglas Elliman’s Facebook page, starts high above tall trees that surround the Gingerbread House and includes a view of the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge.

When the drone drops down to the front door and heads indoors, it hovers for a moment near eye-catching artwork on a ceiling. Then it moves outdoors and sweeps across the big lawn before heading to the nearby waterfront for a glimpse of the Shore Road Promenade at sunset.

Symbolic ginkgo trees

Other marketing efforts include national and international public relations outreach. As a result, a German TV production company filmed the house. And Fiore is in talks with art magazines and websites about having them write some stories.

Douglas Elliman has an exclusive partnership with global real estate firm Knight Frank, which advertises the Gingerbread House internationally.

Fiore has had the listing since last summer.

“It’s a high-profile house. We’ve had high-profile lookers,” she said. Some are from overseas. As a matter of professional etiquette, she didn’t elaborate beyond that.

What’s challenging about marketing the Gingerbread House is that many potential buyers aren’t familiar with Bay Ridge.

“It’s a lack of understanding of the neighborhood, and of the craftsmanship that went into the construction of the house,” she said.

This is an Arts and Crafts house — an architectural rarity within New York City. The fanciful rustic style championed by Victorian philosopher and art critic John Ruskin is seen in the overall design of the house — and details like doorknockers inspired by fairy tales and ginkgo trees planted on the property’s perimeter.

The ginkgo symbolizes hope and healing in the Arts and Crafts movement.  


Sellers have owned the house for three decades

As has been widely reported, the sellers of the Gingerbread House are Jerry and Diane Fishman. The couple paid less than $1 million for it in 1985, according the Wall Street Journal.

Jerry had been obsessed with the property since his teens, when he flunked English at neighboring Fort Hamilton High School because he spent too much time staring out the window at the house.

The couple first put their home up for sale more than six years ago. But they took it off the market for extended periods of time to do interior renovation. The length of time it has been available for sale is approximately two years, Fiore said.

Bay Ridge brokers have told the Eagle that buyers won’t cross the $10 million threshold to purchase a house in the neighborhood, not even the Gingerbread House.

“I think brokers who think that way are selling Bay Ridge short,” Fiore said. “Where else do you have all that waterfront, with those parks? It’s really beautiful.”

She added: “I think the person who buys the house will have a very good eye for craftsmanship, art and value.” 

A wedding gift for a shipping tycoon’s son

We’ve written about this famous house. A lot. Everybody who covers Brooklyn real estate has written about this house. A lot.

For a fresh perspective, we asked Fiore to list the coolest things about the Gingerbread House.

#1: “More than anything for me, the house is an experience,” she said. “When you see the house for the first time, it’s just mesmerizing.”

It was designed to conform to the topography of the land. It’s nestled in a rolling hill with towering trees, in a setting like a “primordial forest,” she said.

One day when Fiore was walking through the backyard, she saw a huge caterpillar the size of her hand.

“We see things like that all the time,” Diane Fishman told her.

#2: “It looks like it’s straight out of the Hobbit because it’s built almost entirely out of uncut stone with a massive chimney that’s meant to symbolize the hearth as the center of the house,” Fiore said.

#3: “The nature-meets-art aspect of the house” is interesting, she said. Hand-carved wood moldings and coffered ceilings give it “a very woodsy feel,” which is combined with fine-art touches like hand-painted stained glass and ceilings.

#4: The history of the house is fascinating, she said. It was built as a wedding gift for a shipping tycoon’s son.

#5: Though he designed it a century ago, architect James Sarsfield Kennedy used an open floor plan, which is more common in modern houses. It lets in so much sunlight, she said.

#6: It’s only a 15-to-20-minute drive to Manhattan from the house. And there’s actually someplace for residents to keep their vehicles, which isn’t the case with homes in many Brooklyn neighborhoods.

The Gingerbread House has a three-car garage.   

“That’s worth the whole $11 million asking price,” Fiore said, only half-jokingly.

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