The imposing and historic Staten Island mansion that once belonged to Gustav A. Mayer — the 19th century inventor who cooked up the recipe for the Nabisco “Nilla” wafer — has been listed for sale for $1.79 million.

Although the estate has been rumored to be haunted, listing broker Jungho Kim of the Level Group confirmed, “This is not a haunted house.”

In fact, the only spirits that have inhabited this mansion are the models and photographers who have used portions of the Gustav Mayer House as a spectacular setting for photo shoots.

The mansion rents out about 3,000 square feet of the 7,700-square-foot home for photo shoots that wind up in the pages of Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, W, Elle and New York Magazine.

But this use of the home’s splendid interiors, exteriors and light is only the most recent chapter in a long story about this special property at 2475 Richmond Rd., Staten Island, NY 10306.

The home is imbued with a sugary and decorative past that continues to attract the intrigue and attention of artists, photographers, historians and architectural scholars.

The Mayer House was built for David R. Ryers in 1855 with a full-width porch, fine details and a cupola.

In the 1890s, Mayer turned the villa into both his home and the place where he manufactured all kinds of items — from confections to decorative metal objects. Those included metal molds that became the template for the Nilla wafers, with intrigue surrounding what was said to be the theft of one of Mayer’s other patents by a large cookie manufacturer.

According to the Staten Island Advance, Mayer also “developed a birch beer, patented a room humidifier and marketed a system of pre-formed letters for use on store signs. He also designed and manufactured sparkling reflectors for use as Christmas tree ornaments.”

Mayer died in the home in 1918 at age 73. According to the Advance, two of the Mayer daughters, Paula and Emilie — both of whom lived to be more than 100 years old — lived on for many years in the family home. It was most recently owned by Robert Troiano and used as his private residence.


Laura Vecsey is a freelance writer for Zillow Blog. Read more from her here.

About the Author

Laura Vecsey is a former sports columnist, news reporter and politics writer and has worked for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Baltimore Sun, Albany (N.Y.) Times-Union and Harrisburg Patriot-News. She was also a regional editor with She is a graduate of Sarah Lawrence College.

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