Real estate listing for American Irish Historical Society draws U.S. and Irish ire

Real estate listing draws U.S. and Irish ire

Wednesday, March 17, 2021

Regulatory hurdles are forewarned before any new owner can take possession of the 120-year-old Beaux-Arts mansion housing the American Irish Historical Society. New York State Attorney General Letitia James chose St. Patrick’s Day to remind the current proprietor of the landmark site that she is empowered to intervene when not-for-profit organizations attempt to sell property.

“I want to reassure Irish communities here and abroad that any potential transaction would not move forward without consent from my office or consent from the courts,” she reiterated in a statement released today. “I take the recent concerns regarding the future of the building seriously. We are vigilantly monitoring the situation.”

The prominent Fifth Avenue address, located on the edge of Central Park, was listed for sale with an asking price of USD $52 million (CAD $64.5 million) earlier this winter — generating protest within the United States and from the Irish government. The six-storey heritage building has housed the American Irish Historical Society’s cultural centre, library, archives and museum since 1939. The Society itself was established in 1897 and counts former U.S. president Theodore Roosevelt among its historic slate of notable members.

To date, just four successive owners have held title to the property, beginning with the widowed heiress Mary Augustus King. Subsequent owners include the banker David Crawford Clark and William Ellis Corey, an early 20th century president of Carnegie Steel Corporation. Meanwhile, initial neighbouring mansions, including one inhabited by the Woolworth family, were demolished more than 95 years ago.

“Buying a house located directly on Fifth Avenue is like acquiring the Holy Grail because such a limited number remain,” states the real estate listing from Brown Harris Stevens. “Simply put, this opportunity to acquire a building of this caliber directly on Fifth Avenue is one that may never occur again.”

James reports that her office is yet to receive a formal request to enable any such acquisition, and notes that the sale of New York property owned by not-for-profit organizations is contingent on approval from either the Office of the Attorney General or the State Supreme Court.

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