Spike Lee offers Upper East Side landmark at $32 million

Spike Lee is selling his house on Manhattan's Upper East Side, a bona fide public landmark that can be yours for just $32 million.

That's a steal if you believe Zillow's estimate. The real estate giant values the property at $52,369,190 -- allowing a range of $34.6 million to $88.5 million.

Then again, if you believe Zillow rival Trulia, the asking price is sheer robbery. Trulia values the place at $6,868,000.

Movie director Lee and his wife bought the home at 153 East 63rd St. 15 years ago from contemporary artistJasper Johns for $16.6 million.

The New York Post, which first reported the sale, describes the home as a "sprawling 8,292-square-foot, 32-foot-wide home divided in two by a stunning internal courtyard with a fountain." (A more detailed architectural description of the home can be found in a PDF of the successful 1970s filing for landmark status.)

It was designed by architect Frederick Sterner, who renovated part of East 19th Street in Manhattan's Gramercy Park neighborhood into what's now colloquially known as the Block Beautiful.

His "second Cinderella conversion," as the New York Times has called it, was on East 63rd Street between Lexington and Third avenues. For No. 153, he combined two old buildings "into a three-story Spanish renaissance fancy for Barbara Hatch, a society figure," the New York Times wrote. The American Institute of Architects' "Guide to New York City" calls it a "picturesque loner in well-crafted stucco."

One reviewer of the time called Sterner's work on 63rd "as enthralling as gypsy music," the Times said.

Speaking of gypsies: Perhaps the home's most famous resident (other than Spike Lee) was the burlesque star Gypsy Rose Lee. She "operated a salon in [the] 26-room house (it had seven baths and a marble living room floor)," according to a 1970 Times News Service tribute to her after her death.

Trompe l'oeil paintings adorned the walls, and every door displayed the initials GRL in gold, the landmark filing said.

But it's unclear whether that "fanciful and charming decor" has survived.

Photos, alas, are scarce indeed. Eager to see more of what sounds like a truly lovely historic townhouse, Yahoo Homes phoned listing agent Serena Boardman of Sotheby's International Realty to ask whether she could tell us when photos might be posted. Although she did confirm that the home is indeed for sale, she informed us that in order to protect the homeowners' privacy, more information and images would probably not be forthcoming. After all, anyone (credibly) interested in buying the home is likely to hear about it and contact her office, not stumble across it on the MLS.

You can read much more about the history of the home at Curbed N.Y. and in a 2010 post on the blog Daytonian in Manhattan, plus of course in the PDF of the filing for landmark status.