Harper Lee Had a Crazy-Cheap Hideout on the Upper East Side for 50 Years

Posted On Mon, February 22, 2016 By

Posted On Mon, February 22, 2016 By In Celebrities, Upper East Side

Famed author Harper Lee, who passed away at age 89 on Friday in her hometown of Monroeville, Alabama, was known for being extremely private and somewhat reclusive. So it’s not entirely surprising that for the past 49 years, the “To Kill a Mockingbird” novelist has maintained a secret Upper East Side apartment. What is surprising is that after all that time, her rent was less than $1,000 a month.

Lee moved to New York City in 1949 when working as an airline reservation agent and writing in her spare time. When the building that housed her cold-water flat was demolished in 1967, she moved to apartment 1E across the street at 433 East 82nd Street (between 1st and York Avenues), reports the Post, using it as a kind of hideout when not in Alabama (even the tenant directly below her had no idea she was a resident). Though she hadn’t spent time there since having a stroke in 2007, she renewed her lease for two more years just a couple months ago. Property manager Steven Austern said she was up to date on her rent, and even though he could’ve terminated the lease since she was living elsewhere, he chose not to, stating “She was a personal friend of mine.”

Harper Lee apartment, Harper Lee NYC, 433 East 82nd Street, NYC celebrity real estate
The lobby of 433 East 82nd Street; the table where Lee put her crosswords is on the left. Photo is from an old listing in the building.

Austern also filled the Post in on what day-to-day life in Manhattan was like for Lee. “She was a very Southern and hospitable type of person,” he said, noting that she was friendly with her neighbors. She was a big Mets fan, but never watched games because she didn’t have a television. She did, however, finish the New York Times crossword puzzle every Sunday by 9am (“There was never an empty box”) and then left it on a table in the lobby. Ottomanelli Bros. butcher shop, next door on York Avenue, was a favorite spot. She went there each morning at 7:30am for a cup of black coffee and a raisin scone, said the store’s co-owner. She then went back in the late afternoon for a chicken, a trimmed lamb chop, or the first cut of Delmonico steak.

[Via NYP]

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Neighborhoods : Upper East Side

  • Sydney McMahon

    RIP Miss Lee!! You will always be, a Legend!!

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