“I hear a crane making street repairs, a two-ton child running wild upstairs, steam pipes bang, sirens clang, and what more do I need?” wrote one of Broadway’s most celebrated composers, Stephen Sondheim, about New York City, his lifelong muse. If you happen to have $7 million and want your own stage-happy moment in Sondheim’s very abode, his Turtle Bay townhouse is now on the market, Curbed first reported.

The seven-bedroom property sits among 20 historic Manhattan houses—famously known as the “Turtle Bay Townhouses”—on 48th and 49th Streets, between Second and Third Avenues. Created in 1920 from a collection of 1860s townhouses, the homes share a private communal garden accessible only from one of these homes; their previous owners have included Katharine Hepburn, Garson Kanin, Robert Gottlieb, Mary-Kate Olsen, and Maxwell Perkins. With this history, these storied properties are rarely on the market.

The music studio features a unique solarium with a dramatic wood arch and stained-glass windows, original to the house, that lead onto an expansive 30-foot terrace overlooking the gardens.

Courtesy Compass

Sondheim bought the property in 1960, looking for a full townhouse that wouldn’t bother the neighbors, he told the author of Manhattan’s Turtle Bay. “After a friend gave me an economics lesson in real estate,” he said, “I realized that with the royalties from the recent success of [the 1959 musical] Gypsy, I could afford a down payment.” He then rented out the top three floors of the townhouse to help pay the mortgage.

Of course, even the most private of residences in New York can be too close for comfort. His then-next-door neighbor, Hepburn, often complained about the duration and volume of his piano playing (he eventually invested in an electric piano with headphones). In this house, Sondheim attempted a trial marriage with Mary Rodgers; lived with his next partner, dramatist Peter Jones; and went on to marry digital technologist Jeffrey Scott Romley in 2017, to whom he was happily married (dividing his time between this townhouse and their home in Roxbury, Connecticut) until his death in November 2021.

The five-story house includes a grand-scale living room that stretches to 32 feet and features chevron-patterned parquet floors with mahogany inlay. There’s also a formal dining room with Romanesque beveled windows and French doors that lead directly into the garden. There is a gym, a library, a renovated chef’s kitchen, and a studio apartment with a rain shower on the top floor. The studio on the second floor features a music library and a baby grand piano, where Sondheim wrote many of his celebrated works, including Company, Follies, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, Into the Woods, and Passion. A media room with custom bookshelves displays a wall of framed lobby-card posters of Sondheim’s works.

The building suffered a severe fire in 1995 and got a round of updates and repairs in subsequent years. More recently, additional renovations have been made, including to the kitchen and a few of the bathrooms. The listing is held by Compass’s Michael J. Franco.

Assistant Digital Editor

Rachel Silva, the Assistant Digital Editor at ELLE DECOR, covers design, architecture, trends, and anything to do with haute couture. She has previously written for Time, The Wall Street Journal, and Citywire.

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