Infamous Greenwich Village Townhouse with an Explosive Past (and Funny Facade) to be Reconstructed by New Owner

June 9, 2014

At a glance, the quirky notched and jutting façade of the townhouse at 18 West 11th Street in Greenwich Village seems to be the only remarkable thing about the building. But dig a little deeper and the address’s rich history tells the tale of a city brimming with wealth and culture – and once even something a bit sinister.

Justin Korsant of Long Light Capital recently purchased the home for $9.25 million and has plans to reconstruct it. But will the renovation of this building wipe out its incredible past?

18 West 11th Street

The original structure dated back to the mid-1800’s, when it was home to Charles E. Merrill, a founder of the Merrill Lynch and Company. In the 1930s it was the scene of lavish parties right out of the Great Gatsby, as one would expect of its Broadway lyricist and movie publicist owner, Howard Dietz – perhaps most famous for coming up with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer’s roaring lion. When advertising executive James Wilkerson purchased it in 1963 he couldn’t have possibly imagined that seven years later his daughter’s involvement with an anti-Vietnam radical group known as the Weatherman would lead to an accidental explosion claiming three lives and leaving his home in ruins.

But the property’s story didn’t stop there. Architect Hugh Hardy and an associate secured the lot and planned the curiously angle-fronted townhouse that exists today. Ultimately, it was built by a well-to-do Philadelphia couple, David and Norma Langworthy, who agreed to employ the distinct design (which was narrowly approved by the Landmarks Preservation Commission) after purchasing the by then empty parcel in 1978. Upon Mrs. Langworthy’s death in 2012, the home was put up for sale.

New owner Korsant wasn’t even born at the time of the tragic event in the home’s history, one still marked by flowers and other tributes that quietly appear on the doorstep every March 6th. While he plans to keep the unusual exterior, the rest of the house will see extensive reconstruction. Although the home is listed as five stories, another interesting design feature is that it was built split, meaning the front and the rear of the home are actually on different levels – that makes ten in all if you’re counting. Apparently this is not part of the charm for Mr. Korsant, who plans to create flat floors that will feature six bedrooms and seven baths for accommodating the family the currently single owner hopes to one day have.

It remains to be seen if previous owner Norma Langworthy’s neighborhood mascot, a carefully-outfitted-for-the-changing-seasons Paddington Bear, will continue to grace his perch in the angled picture window post renovation. For the time being the bear remains, still attired in a Santa suit and waiting like everyone else to see what’s next in store for 18 West 11th Street.

See more images of the home in its current state in our gallery.

[Via New York Times]

Images via Corcoran Group


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