The Chelsea Firehouse at 323 West 21st Street would be an historic icon based on its origins alone, beginning in the late 19th century as an actual firehouse, built to accommodate a shiny new horse-drawn steam pumper engine (h/t Daytonian in Manhattan). The mid-Victorian era structure not only survived the ensuing decades, but in 1999, Architectural Digest featured the duplex shown here, by then one of three luxury apartments, calling it “indisputably one of a kind.” In the years between, the building was home to free-spirited performers and artists, including Andy Warhol and Philip Pearlstein who sought refuge here from seedy lodgings in the East Village. The designer-renovated, uniquely-configured 4,000 square-foot duplex in this storied building is now on the rental market for $33,000.
This extraordinary West Side dwelling offers the leaseholder four bedrooms, two offices (including a secret hidden office), a solarium, a library and a private garage with arched red firehouse doors.
Enter the home along a path laid with original cobblestone floors, past a decorative fireplace. The open layout on the main floor features large, elegant dining room with walls of dark navy blue, a gleaming chef’s kitchen trimmed with black granite and restored etched glass, and a large modern living space that opens onto a heated landscaped solarium with a double-height ceiling. Radiant heated floors warm the entire main floor.
Off of the living space is the aforementioned secret room: a “concealed” private office.
Up a grand carved staircase is a library and main home office. A skylight brings in daylight.
The master suite with floor-to-ceiling windows offers a walk-in closet and a lounge area and opens onto the solarium. Three more bedrooms and a laundry room are on this floor as well. In addition to the laundry, conveniences like central A/C and the building’s garage add yet another unique dimension to the building’s historic significance.
As early as 1908 the former firehouse became a residence, with a bus service garage and parts company downstairs and rooms upstairs being leased to a series of artists and other creatives. In the 1930s the home became a studio and performance space for dancer Franziska Marie Boas who established her “Boas School” on the second floor and lived here with her friend Jan Gray and their big, shaggy sheepdog, staging avant garde performances and inviting artists to sketch the improvisational dancers.
Then-struggling young artists and recent arrivals Andy Warhol and Philip Pearlstein took up residence in 1949, across the building from Boas and her school. The party ended when all were evicted in 1950 for non-payment of rent.
As the Chelsea neighborhood changed, the firehouse kept in step with the times. In 1998 it was converted to three luxury apartments with a single-car garage, with interiors of the duplex apartment now for rent featured in a 1999 issue of Architectural Digest.
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Images courtesy of Douglas Elliman.
Neighborhoods : Chelsea