190 Bowery looks abandoned, forgotten, covered in trash and graffiti on an otherwise well-maintained major street in Manhattan. A hulking six story, 72-room mass built as the Germania Bank Building in 1898, today the structure is a single family home.
It’s the American Dream as a house, a building that went from rags to riches on a street once known for its murders, now known for its centrality. Photographer Jay Maisel broke the bank when he bought the bank in 1966 for $102,000. Back then, the Bowery wasn’t a place you went so much as ended up, and the main floor (now a basketball court) was allegedly knee-deep in garbage and coated in soot, with “every single thing that can come out of a human body” left on the doorstep. Maisel’s parents cried.
Today, the bohemian castle may look deceptively decrepit on the outside, but inside it’s a dream. A home-made ventilation system (to deter the insane expense of what central air would cost in such a space) consists of a network of plastic tubing throughout the building. The original 1898 copper cage elevator still works, the second and third floor are gallery spaces, the fifth floor has various workshops (including a room dedicated to Mylar-window shades), the sixth floor has bedrooms, bathrooms, and the kitchen, and the roof a wowing view of lower Manhattan.
The family occasionally finds new rooms, and take-out is a “riot”, since no right-minded delivery boy believes such a hulk houses just four people.
Today, 190 Bowery is estimated of having a worth anywhere between $30 and $70 million, and is certainly in the running for best property snag of all time.
Care to take a look inside? Maisel teaches private photography classes in his home, but it’ll cost you $5,000.
Update September 2016: This place has been sold to be turned into high-end office space.