A Townhouse Where Nancy Reagan and Danish Royalty Partied
Posted May 11, 2018 4:12 p.m. EDT
NEW YORK —Much in John L. Loeb Jr.'s life has changed since he bought a five-story, 20-foot-wide town house with a facade of Connecticut brownstone at 237 East 61st St. in Manhattan for $200,000 in 1961.
At the time of purchase, he was a partner at Loeb, Rhoades & Co., the Wall Street firm founded by his grandfather and father in 1931. Later, he became the U.S. ambassador to Denmark, from 1981 to 1983.
He served as a delegate to the United Nations. He became a leading collector of Danish art. He founded the wine brand Sonoma-Loeb. He created the George Washington Institute for Religious Freedom. He was honored as a Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire by Queen Elizabeth II, and given a coat of arms by Queen Margrethe II of Denmark. And, most recently, he wrote a self-published tome about his experiences: “John L. Loeb Jr.: Reflections, Memories and Confessions.”
One of the few constants through it all, however, was the town house, which was originally built by Alfred and Samuel Bussell in 1875. Over the past half-century, Loeb has used his home to throw parties for notable guests including Nancy Reagan; former President F.W. de Klerk of South Africa; Prince Frederick of Denmark; and Leonard A. Lauder and Judy Glickman Lauder.
Now, however, Loeb and his wife, Sharon Handler Loeb, have finally decided to sell. The asking price is $8.9 million, according to the listing agents Richard Ziegelasch and John Burger of Brown Harris Stevens, and taxes are $87,359 a year.
“I have mixed feelings about it,” Loeb said this month, the day before his 88th birthday. Seated in his living room near floor-to-ceiling French windows that revealed a garden resplendent in spring flowers, he said, “It’s just too much trouble to be managing a five-story house.”
He and Handler Loeb plan to spend more time at Ridgeleigh, Loeb’s 83-acre family estate in Purchase, New York. “I live on the same property where I grew up as a child,” Loeb said.
His 5,640-square-foot Manhattan town house has seven bedrooms, 6 1/2 bathrooms, an elevator, and living spaces with grand proportions. In the early 1960s, Loeb hired revered decorator Sister Parish to design the interior, and most of her touches remain today.
“Sister Parish did my sister Ann’s home, who had married Edgar Bronfman, when they were living at 740 Park Avenue,” said Loeb, who also worked with Parish’s husband at Loeb, Rhoades & Co. “And then she did the White House. So I thought she was all right to do mine.”
Loeb and Handler Loeb refreshed the interior about 10 years ago with help from Dallas-based interior designer Josie McCarthy, but aimed to retain Parish’s design intent by searching out identical or similar fabrics.
“We really intended not to disturb what she had done to the house,” Handler Loeb said. “This house has her spirit in it, all the way through.”
The influence of Parish, who died in 1994, is most apparent on the parlor floor, where the ceilings are nearly 12 feet high. At the front of the house is a library with green glazed walls and curtains and armchairs in matching chintz.
Parquet flooring extends to a large reception hall with a curved staircase, where doors clad in antiqued mirror conceal the elevator and a wet bar. At the back is a large living room, measuring roughly 18-by-29 feet, which is anchored by a wood-burning fireplace — one of six in the home — with a red marble mantel.
The entrance is on the garden level, where an eat-in kitchen renovated with white cabinets, black stone counters and a checkerboard floor is at the front of the house. A restored vintage Garland range, which was in the home when Loeb bought it, remains — Handler Loeb said it is the envy of friends who like to cook, and guests have tried to buy it. At the back of the house, the dining room has three pairs of French doors that open to the garden.
The basement has a laundry room and a temperature-controlled wine cellar. The master bedroom is on the third floor and has its own terrace overlooking the garden. There is an additional bedroom on the third floor, and five more on the fourth and fifth floors.
Handler Loeb said she hoped that the eventual buyers might have a young family. “This is a house where you can create a lot of beautiful memories,” she said, “like we did.”