AVENUEinsider June 1, 2012
Founded in 1976, AVENUE is a must-read among the city’s most discerning, stylish and savvy audiences. As Manhattan’s oldest society magazine, and one of the first in the United States, the publication has exclusive access to Manhattan’s elite in a way that is distinct from other magazines.
JUNE 2012 • AVENUE MAGAZINE | 35 salon” for dining and dancing on the 31st of its 36 floors. Above it were apartments occupied by the families of its developers, Harold and Percy Uris, founders of a real estate dynasty. Their timing could not have been worse. As the Great Depression deepened, the St. Moritz went bust a year later, the Pierre declared bankruptcy in 1932, and the Sherry was reorganized in 1936. All three stayed open, though, under various owners, including J. Paul Getty at the Pierre and Serge Obolensky, a Czarist-era Russian nobleman- turned-hotelier, at the Sherry. He hired Cecil Beaton, the British celebrity aesthete and photographer, to redecorate many of its rooms and often let him occupy its tower duplex. Though Club Pierrot had failed along with the Pierre, it too lived on as an event space, redesigned to resemble a sky garden like the one at the St. Moritz, which was itself reinvented as the Quadrille Room ballroom in 1957. Both spaces were eventually shut and abandoned. Meantime, the two Fifth Avenue hotels were sold to their permanent residents and the buildings converted into hybrid cooperative apartment house-hotels with some rooms reserved for transients, and others effectively owned by their tenants. The first was the Sherry in 1954, and Jack Warner, co-head of the eponymous movie studio, bought its tower duplex and spent two years redecorating—adding jarring plate-glass windows on its lower floor years before the designation of the Upper East Side Historic District—but then rarely used the place. His widow eventually sold it to Mick Flick, the Mercedes-Benz heir, who gutted but never finished the place, selling it as a wreck, instead, to the Australian billionaire Richard Pratt. The Pierre’s rooftop was sold for $12 million in 1988 to Lady Mary Fairfax, the Polish-born third wife of Sir Warwick Fairfax, who’d headed Australia’s oldest media group until his death a year earlier. She turned it into a palatial apartment and sold it to Zweig and his wife Barbara 11 years later for $20 million, not the $21.5 million previously reported, but “still a record” at the time, Zweig reports, adding, “I thought it was underpriced.” In the mid-2000s, Zweig listed it for another record sum, $70 million, “because we bought a boat,” he explains. But then he had second thoughts. “I love our apartment and I don’t want to leave,” he says flatly. Which is obviously what attracted Steve Wynn, a latter-day Zeus seeking an Olympus to the finest of the 11 apartments Chris Jeffries developed atop the St. Moritz when he turned it into a Ritz-Carlton in 2002. “I didn’t really want to list it,” he says. “I didn’t really want the attention.” But he liked getting the letters that followed. “I got married in your living room,” one said. You can’t buy—or sell—a story like that. ✦ When Martin and BarBara ZWeig Bought a triplex at the top of the pierre hotel’s toWer, it Was the priciest private residence in aMerica. “i thought it Was underpriced,” ZWeig says. left: Former Quadrille ballroom of the Hotel St. Moritz atop the Ritz-Carlton. above: Floor plan of Christo- pher Jeffries’ renovated duplex. Bottom: Lady Fairfax’s Pierre hotel drawing room. AMiAgA PHotogRAPHeRS