These three townhouses may not look like much to you, but they’ve for decades been making appearances in pop culture, from the penned to motion pictures, including The Prince of Tides, Wall Street, Crossing Delancey, and most recently, Mad Men. Located at 249-253 East 50th Street, this site once housed the world-renowned Lutèce restaurant.
Though today the structures can be described as dilapidated at best, that hasn’t stopped a group of Chinatown investors from scooping up the properties for $17 million from East 50th Development LLC. Now in new hands, what’s up next for this famed locale?
A reproduction of the restaurant on the set of Mad Men. Image © AMC
Back in its heydey, the Lutèce was considered the best restaurant in America. Julia Child lauded it as such, as did Zagat bestowing it that exact title six years in a row through the 1980s. The restaurant shuttered in 2004 when sales started to tank in part due to a revamped menu that turned off loyal restaurant-goers, and a post 9/11 drop in tourists that brought a severe shortage of spenders willing to pay big bucks for an Alsatian onion tart (prices weren’t included on the menu if that’s any indication of how expensive it was).
Today, the three buildings remain just a shell of their former self, but are not without charm. Even in their crumbling state, details such as the moulding and gold leaf wallpaper speak to the greatness once held within.
There are no signs of what’s to come for these three early 1900s buildings, but their unique history and location certainly play into their allure. However, these properties are not landmarked and when previously marketed, they were touted as a “DEVELOPMENT SITE — PRIME LOCATION!! — 51,000 Buildable SF – DELIVERED VACANT.” So anything really goes here.
Nearby, two residential towers are on the rise; a 29-story COOKFOX-designed tower at 301 East 50th Street; and a 32-story tower designed by SLCE Architects located at 305 East 51st Street called the Halcyon. Will this site join in on the residential boom?
Images via Bowery Boogie