Real Estate

Owner of Chelsea Piers Lists His Upper West Side Townhouse

In the summer of 1972, the townhouse at 313 West 102nd Street, where Eleanor Roosevelt’s father once lived, had lingered on the market for a year despite its historical lineage, when the developer Roland W. Betts agreed to pay the $150,000 asking price.

At the time, the four-story structure, built in 1892, was divided into six apartments, and Mr. Betts and his wife, Lois, both former teachers, lived in one of them. They eventually converted the building back to a single-family residence after a yearlong gut renovation, and raised their two daughters there.

Through the years, the house, situated in a historic district between Riverside Drive and West End Avenue, not only became a cherished home but a showcase for entertaining dignitaries. They included Mr. Betts’s Yale classmate and best friend, President George W. Bush, with whom he once shared ownership of the Texas Rangers baseball team through an investor group.

Roland W. Betts, an investor, film producer and developer, is the owner of the Chelsea Piers sports complex in New York City.Credit…Fred R. Conrad/The New York Times

“I’ll miss all the memories there,” said Mr. Betts, 77, the founder and chairman of Chelsea Piers in New York and a force behind the rebuilding of Lower Manhattan after 9/11. “I got married in that house.” He and Ms. Betts, empty nesters for many years, now find it too big for just them and with too many stairs (and no elevator), and so they are placing the house back on the market for the first time in more than half a century.

The primary bedroom suite takes up most of the third floor and has a fireplace and a large walk-in closet.Credit…Evan Joseph

The asking price is $9.5 million, according to Marion Magnuson of Douglas Elliman Real Estate, who is listing the property with her colleague Noble Black. Annual property taxes are $69,129.

The townhouse — 20 feet wide, with a classic front stoop — is clad in rock-faced limestone with elaborate detailing. Above the front door is a scallop shell tympanum and intricate foliate carvings, and on the fourth level, a French gargoyle. The architect Clarence F. True, known for his French Gothic and Flemish Renaissance influences, designed the building, along with many others on the Upper West Side and in Harlem.

Soon after its completion, Elliott B. Roosevelt, the father of Mrs. Roosevelt and also the brother of President Theodore Roosevelt Jr., rented the house for a couple of years; he died there at age 34, less than two years after the death of his wife, Anna Hall Roosevelt.

The dining room was often opened to the garden when the Bettses had dinner parties.Credit…Evan Joseph

The interior has around 5,100 square feet, with four bedrooms, four full bathrooms and a powder room. And it comes with a lot of outdoor space, 1,337 square feet in total, featuring a 211-square-foot deck off the living room and a 951-square-foot English-style garden beyond the dining room that the couple carefully tended.

“I initially planted grass that I used to mow,” Mr. Betts said, “but it was on the north side of the house and didn’t get much sunlight, so I had to learn about plants and what plants like to be in the shade.”

Over time, the garden evolved into a botanical work of art, with ferns, flowers, vines and other plantings dispersed among the elaborate brickwork and fountain. These included Boston ivy, hosta, hydrangea, boxwoods and angel wing begonias.

Inside renovations were executed with equal care. The home’s three wood-burning fireplaces were refurbished, and hardwood floors installed, along with distinctive architectural features, like the coffered ceilings in the living room and den.

“We tried to keep everything in the tradition of a New York brownstone,” Mr. Betts said. “We didn’t want to make a contemporary house.”

The backyard was turned into a lush English-style garden.Credit…Evan Joseph

At the main entrance, on the parlor floor, a foyer leads to an expansive area that includes a gallery and the living room, which is anchored by a fireplace and has tall glass doors that open to the deck. Near the entrance is a library/den with a wet bar.

On the garden level, facing the street, is a large, eat-in kitchen equipped with a breakfast bar; nearby is a powder room. Another spacious gallery opens to the dining room, which has herringbone wood floors, a fireplace and floor-to-ceiling folding glass doors that lead out to the garden.

The Bettses would often open up the dining room to the garden when they hosted dinner parties and other events. “We would have cocktails in the back,” Mr. Betts said. “It’s a beautiful place. People really liked it.”

Each of the top two floors contains two en suite bedrooms. The primary suite, with garden views, takes up most of the third floor and features a fireplace and a large walk-in closet. And at the top, are the two remaining bedrooms, plus a home office.

The 20-foot-wide townhouse, built in 1892, is clad in rock-faced limestone.Credit…Evan Joseph

The couple, who also have homes in Jackson Hole, Wyo., Connecticut, and the British Virgin Islands, are relocating to an apartment not far from the townhouse. But they’ll still miss their close-knit block, known for its well-attended annual Halloween parties. Their daughters, Jessica Betts Dreyfuss, who works at Chelsea Piers, and Maggie Betts, a movie director, had lots of neighborhood friends, Mr. Betts said, and would often play in nearby Riverside Park.

“When we told the girls we were going to sell, both of them started crying,” he said. “This is a bittersweet moment for us.”

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