It’s a rags-to-riches story: Frank W. Woolworth, who rose from unpaid stock-boy clerk to finding his fortune as founder of a chain of five-and-dime stores — “F.W. Woolworth” — would be perhaps astounded to see one of his grand Upper East Side mansions in Manhattan for sale for a staggering $90 million.

But it is. The Woolworth mansion on 4 E 80th just hit the market, making it the priciest Manhattan listing right now. The previous high-water mark for Manhattan real estate so far this year is this Madison Avenue townhouse owned by rare-maps dealer W. Graham Arader III. It is listed for $72 million.

As the home’s listing description so vividly describes:

“By the late 1890s, the retail chain of Frank Woolworth was expanding so rapidly that he was able to engage Charles Pierpont Henry Gilbert, the famed architect of mansions in the French Gothic style who had just completed a prime example at Fifth Avenue and East 79th Street known today as the Ukrainian Institute, to design one for him at 80th and Fifth Avenue.

“In 1910, Woolworth went downtown to build his own skyscraper 792 feet high at Broadway and Park Place. At the same time, from 1911 – 1915, he engaged C.P.H. Gilbert again to design houses back uptown on East 80 Street for his daughters: 2 East 80 for Edna (Mrs. Franklyn) Hutton; 4 East 80 for Helena (Mrs. Charles) McCann and 6 East 80 for Jessie (Mrs. James) Donahue. All three townhouses remain today. Flanked by two 25-foot wide sister buildings, the middle mansion, 4 East 80 Street, is an astounding 35-feet wide.”

It looks like Woolworth’s daughter, Helena, scored the biggest, widest home among the three, although other reports indicate Edna owned the home and later, her daughter, Barbara Hutton owned it. Nevertheless, the neo-French Renaissance mansion was completed in 1916 and features a limestone facade. Other details:

  • 18,000 sq ft
  • 7 floors
  • 10 bedrooms
  • 11.5 bathrooms
  • 3 kitchens
  • Paneled library
  • Elevator
  • 14-foot ceilings
  • Formal dining room with seating for 50
  • Gym

The home is being sold by the estate of Lucille Roberts, a fitness entrepreneur, who bought the home in 1995 for $6 million. She died in 2003. According to the NY Observer, Roberts purchased the home from Hutton, Woolworth’s granddaughter, who was dubbed the “Poor Little Rich Girl” by the media for her troubled life. Hutton was once married to actor Cary Grant. Not to be forgotten is this Glen Cove, NY home that Mr. Woolworth also commissioned to be built. It sits on 16.5 acres.

Lastly and sadly, those connected to the Woolworth mansion died young and under odd circumstances: F.W. Woolworth died at age 66 of a dental infection (he feared dentists); Edna committed suicide at age 35 at the Plaza Hotel (depressed over her husband’s philandering); Barbara Hutton died at age 66 from a heart attack (she squandered her tens of millions and had little more than $3,000 at the time of her death); and Lucille Roberts — the fitness guru — died at age 59 from lung cancer.

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