Once home to Eleanor Roosevelt, 211 East 62nd Street is surely one of Manhattan’s most illustrious addresses. The former First Lady lived on the ground floor of this 19th-century brownstone in the 1950s, where she wrote her famous ‘My Day’ newspaper column and entertained luminaries of the day including Indira Gandhi and John F Kennedy.
“What makes this home special is that it was Eleanor’s first as a widow,” says Stribling’s Barbara Evans-Butler. “She had just completed her United Nations role representing the US in drafting the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. While living here she continued to promote the UN, write her newspaper column, give press conferences and entertain many global movers and shakers.”
Today, the 19ft-wide row house is a single five-storey home. In a sought-after Upper East Side location, it sits in one of New York’s oldest historic districts. “Treadwell Farm spans 61st and 62nd Streets between Second and Third Avenues and is protected in perpetuity as a residential area,” says Evans-Butler. “Many famous residents past and present have chosen it for its privacy and charm.”
Few can be as well-known as Roosevelt, though – something that was both thrilling and humbling for interior designer Maria Masi, who is responsible for the impeccable renovation. “My first impression was one of wonder,” she says. “Immediately upon entering, the importance of the home is evident. It shimmers with polished brass and marble, and bespoke architectural details that are so rarely seen. Imagining Eleanor entertaining the most influential people of her time in this home and being entrusted with the responsibility of its restoration was truly an honour.”
Her approach was one of restraint, she says. “The goal is to nurture and protect, not reinvent.” Masi chose mostly reproduction period furniture and lighting, with a curated collection of landscape, still life and abstract art. “I spent a lot of time on the lighting selection, my favourite being the 18th-century French etched-glass sconces in the main floor powder room,” she says. “I wrapped the walls in the reception hall with vintage Italian countryside wall murals, which create a lovely visual connection to the garden.”
The enclosed courtyard garden, complete with stone fountain, is one of Masi’s favourite features. “The red-brick façades, the stained-glass windows and the fountain with its elegant crane sculpture are some of the most stunning features,” agrees Evans-Butler. “Inside, standout architectural details include the mahogany woodwork and Victorian ceiling tracery in the drawing room. I picture Eleanor serving high tea here, and having lovely garden parties in the spring with the floor-to-ceiling doors open and the fountain splashing.”
As well as making a luxurious home, she can imagine the property housing a not-for-profit organisation, or even a girls’ school. “Eleanor was a keen proponent of education for girls,” she says. “The provenance resonates profoundly today as she advocated strongly for human rights, especially for women. This home reverberates with her energy to make the world a better place for all.”