Worthby Jake Dressler
March 10, 2021
With townhouse living making a comeback, Laub’s Versailles townhouse is one of the best and most beautiful buys in Manhattan.
To a non-New Yorker, 64th Street might look like a regular stretch of tightly compacted New York apartment buildings. But the buildings on 64th aren’t apartments, they’re some of New York’s finest townhouse mansions on the Upper East Side. Nestled between two brown and gray mansions on 64th stands the most opulent one—Ken Laub’s Versailles—an inspired Neo-Georgian brick townhouse extending 90 feet in depth. Laub, a semi-retired real estate magnate, has lived in the mansion for 35 years. Now, he’s selling his prized townhouse, downsizing and relocating in the city to focus on creative projects, some of which include his musical compositions.
Laub recently sat down with Worth to discuss the ornate and one-of-a-kind features of the estate, and parts of his life story that serve as a backdrop to understanding the true uniqueness of his home.
“To understand this house,” said Laub. “You need to understand a little bit about my life, because this house is truly a piece of me.”
After touring the house and spending a good portion of the day flipping through Laub’s photo albums, it became clear what Laub meant. His life, influence and creativity are as interlaced with the house as the Stephen Pusey commissioned original woodwork on his bar room floor. The house is more than just a mansion; it’s a work of art drawing influence and creativity, with the help of designer Ronald Bricke, from a variety of sources reflected in his Pusey original woodwork barroom floor to the creation of an atrium with a Lalique glass ceiling of the universe and an extraordinary five-room parlor floor with original pine wood paneling from 1872. The second floor has four 18th and 19th century chandeliers that are French, Venetian and Russian. The music room was created by Laub to introduce replicas of Fragonard artwork from the Frick Museum.
Laub (pictured right) built his career from the ground up. He started at Collins-Tuttle in 1960, following time in the military where he was based at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, Texas. He initially earned a $30 draw against commission, and after two years, he moved on to Tishman Realty, where he spent the next nine years working under the tutelage of Alan and Robert Tishman. Although he eventually became an executive vice president, he elected to leave in 1969 and form his own company which would eventually grow to 70 people in Midtown Manhattan, plus separate offices in lower Manhattan, Chicago, Los Angeles and Rockland County.
According to The New York Daily News, Laub outearned the entire real estate operation at Goldman Sachs in one year alone. When asked if he ever imagined achieving his success, he said “no never.”
“Part of my success was having an ideal working and living environment within my home,” continued the real estate mogul. “It includes a spacious office for myself and secretary and plenty of room for my files and a gym to work out when I had a little spare time.”
The Versailles townhouse is a home with history and a grand list of guests including Bob Hope, Liza Minnelli, Alan Thicke, and visits from the best in real estate, theatre and the arts. Laub has produced or co-produced numerous Broadway and off-Broadway shows from this space and often entertains his friends. He has a superb sound system across the entire second floor, which allows for up to 150 guests, and provides microphones and recording capabilities.
The townhouse’s Neo-Georgian facade was restored by the same craftsman who worked on the restoration of the Cathedral Church of Saint John the Divine, featuring raked limestone and brick. Most houses on the street are built only 50-feet deep, but the Versailles house was built before zoning. It overlooks many houses on both 64th and 65th Street, including David Rockefeller’s. His fourth-floor terrace includes a bluestone and green marble floor with an electric blanket underneath to melt the snow. Laub often enjoys the terrace for outdoor barbecues.
Laub believes the next owner of his townhouse will be a very lucky person who has an appreciation and love for the property’s unique history, noting a resurgence of townhouse living as New Yorkers look for the safest way to live in a post-pandemic economy.
Eddie Shapiro of Nest Seekers, the exclusive agent for the property, agrees, telling Worth: “There are a lot of advantages of townhouse living compared to the tradition high-rise apartments. They include the ability to control your airflow from one room to the other, and with high ceilings, you get more cubic feet of air. They’re also incredibly environmentally friendly, and you don’t have to worry about interference from neighbors or a board to report to for permissions.”
With townhouse living making a comeback, Laub’s Versailles townhouse is one of the best and most beautiful buys in Manhattan. At a $17.5 million price tag, it’s a steal.