The saga of Bed-Stuy’s $6 million mansion

Eye On Real Estate: An artist is interested in buying 247 Hancock St.

May 18, 2016 By Lore Croghan Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Welcome to the John C. Kelley Mansion, AKA 247 Hancock St., which is for sale for a $6 million asking price. Photos courtesy of Halstead
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The Queen of Hancock Street was thisclose to being sold to a Russian couple who traveled with a translator and a bodyguard.

But nyet — it was not to be.

At the last minute, their deal to purchase Bedford-Stuyvesant’s John C. Kelley Mansion, AKA 247 Hancock St., fell through.

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“They didn’t speak a word of English,” Halstead’s Ban Leow, the exclusive listing agent for the freestanding brownstone house, told the Brooklyn Eagle.

The husband and wife came from Russia with the intention of buying one home in Manhattan and one in Brooklyn, Leow said. They closed on a property purchase in Manhattan — and had a $6 million contract drawn up for the Hancock Street mansion, which they ultimately didn’t sign.

The 1887-vintage Bed-Stuy house, which is often referred to as the Queen of Hancock Street, has been on the sale market since April 2015.

The asking price is $6 million, which makes it the most expensive house for sale in the neighborhood.

Now there’s a prospective buyer, “a very interested party,” Leow said. She’s an artist from overseas who would like to live in the house and have her studio there.

Michelle Williams looked but bought elsewhere

A “celebrity” Leow described as “an actress who was selling her Boerum Hill home” took a look at 247 Hancock St. before buying in another neighborhood, he revealed.

That description fits Michelle Williams.

The Golden Globe winner sold her townhouse at 126 Hoyt St. for $8.8 million in 2014 and last year purchased a mansion at 1440 Albemarle Road in Victorian Flatbush for $2,500,001, city Finance Department records indicate.

The seller of the John C. Kelley Mansion — who is identified in Finance Department records as Claudia Moran — turned down offers from two different developers who both wanted to tear it down and construct condos.  

One offered $7 million for the house, Leow said; the other offered $7.2 million.

But the mansion’s owner “wants to sell it to someone who will love and care for the house like she has,” Leow said.

Those two offers were made before the area where 247 Hancock St. is located was landmarked.

Since the city Landmarks Preservation Commission designated the area as the Bedford Historic District (which was this past December), Leow has stopped getting calls from investors who’d like to tear the place down and build something bigger.

The seller also got an offer from a foreign buyer who wanted to turn the mansion into a bed and breakfast. But she withdrew her offer because the certificate of occupancy for the property issued in 1985 is for a four-family building.

New York State’s statutory definition of a bed and breakfast is an owner-occupied residence converted from a single-family home into guest lodgings.

The seller has always used the house as a single-family residence, Leow said. Recently, she filed a plan with the city Buildings Department that would get the certificate of occupancy changed to that of a single-family home.  

Montrose Morris was the architect

According to the Landmarks Preservation Commission’s designation report for the area, the John C. Kelley Mansion is the only freestanding Renaissance Revival-style house in the Bedford Historic District.

There are 824 buildings in this newly landmarked section of Bed-Stuy.

One of Brooklyn’s most celebrated architects, Montrose Morris, designed 247 Hancock St. The inspiration for its design was a Manhattan mansion that belonged to William Henry Vanderbilt — and which has been demolished, the designation report says.

According to Halstead’s listing, the John C. Kelley Mansion has 10 bedrooms and a billiard room inside — and a rose garden and koi pond outside.

Leow is a Bed-Stuy resident. He first moved to the neighborhood in 2003, then briefly lived in another Brooklyn neighborhood, and later returned.

“Bed-Stuy draws you back,” he said.

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