An old clapboard house, widely considered to be the oldest single-family home still occupied in Harlem, has been sold for $3.6 million to a new owner who plans to turn it into a home and practice facility for struggling young musicians, our source has learned.
The famed wooden property, at 17 E. 128th St., dates back to 1864 and is one of the few surviving frame houses in the neighborhood. It was landmarked by the city in 1982.
The new owner, San Francisco-based e-commerce executive Jack Stephenson, told the Daily News that he plans to lease the property to his friend, famed opera singer Lauren Flanagan. Flanagan will turn the house into a new location for Music & Mentoring House, a not-for-profit organization providing upscale affordable housing and mentoring to students studying in the arts.
“She takes music students in a gives them room and board, feeds them, makes their beds and gives them instruction in music,” Stephenson said. “There are boot camps and classes on how to get by in the business and she invites many famous friends like Stephen Schwartz, who wrote the musical ‘Wicked’ to come talk to them.”
It seems appropriate that the house, now one of the most expensive ever sold in Harlem, should be inhabited by musicians, Stephenson said. After all, the neighborhood has long been known for its musical history – it’s considered a hotbed of jazz – and the Richard Rodgers Amphitheatre at Marcus Garvey Park is just a few blocks away.
It’s just the third time the house has traded since it was first constructed, said listing broker Juliet Silfvast of Rutenberg Realty. The former owner, Angelita Ortega, bought it in 1987.
“She’s 73, so climbing up all the stairs to go to bed every night is one of the reasons,” Silfvast said of her client’s rationale for selling. “It was only her in this big house.”
The stunning French Second Empire-style home has five bedrooms, four bathrooms, six working marble fireplaces and a country kitchen that leads outside into a garden.
The house has remained the same, even as the neighborhood has grown and evolved around it and still has its original veranda, a pair of doudle-leaf Itlaianate doors, wood-framed windows and a sloping mansard roof.
“We walked into the house and just thought, ‘This is it,'” said Jane Wilson of the Corcoran Group, who represented Stephenson in the sale. “It’s a clapboard house in the middle of a block of townhouses. There’s nothing else like it.”
There goes the neighborhood.