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Sylvan Terrace: A 'rural' enclave


amny Credit: Michael Kirby Smith/amNY

St. Nicholas Avenue between 160th and and 161st streets seems like just your run-of-the-mill Washington Heights street, but walk up a small stone staircase on the east side of the street, and you’re transported into a different time.

1882, to be exact.

Sylvan Terrace is a historic cobblestone block that once served as the carriageway to the Morris-Jumel Mansion, Manhattan’s oldest house. Both sides of the street feature a total of 20 nearly identical high-stoop wooden row houses facing one another. These yellow clapboard homes appear much as they would have in 1882, with wooden shutters, ship lap siding, bracketed eves and wooden stoops. In fact, the Landmarks Preservation Commission requires residents paint the exteriors with the nearly original colors — yellow, maroon, green and brown.

The street is a true rarity, said Lucinda Martinez, who’s lived there since 2002. “There’s only one block in New York City like that. The kids can play in the street,” she added, because there’s no parking and little traffic.
And one of these historic houses can be yours — nos. 2 and 11 are on the market.

Here’s a peek inside 2 Sylvan Terrace:

The layout
Located at the end of the block (and closest to St. Nicholas Avenue), Felicia de Chabris’ 1,650-square-foot home is slightly larger than the others (which are around 1,500 square feet). Her house is 25 feet wide, while the others are 19.

The house has three floors. The garden floor features a large eat-in kitchen, bedroom and small outdoor space. Up a narrow and charmingly worn set of stairs is the parlor floor, which has a bathroom, living room and dining room. The top floor has two bedrooms, a small office and another bathroom.

Row house vs. brownstone
De Chabris loved raising her two kids in a real house, which she described as much more managaeable than a five-story brownstone. “You’re not always running up and down so many flights,” she said.

Old and new
This house still has many of its original features, including pocket doors (though de Chabris stripped them) and a coal fireplace. But it also has central air-conditioning and heating.

A little quirk
The houses feature below-stoop, garden-level doors of various sizes. Some are regular-sized doors, and others are reminiscent of Harry Potter’s cupboard under the stairs. De Chabris’ is tiny and requires serious crouching to get through. She calls it her “hobbit door.”

Landmarks rules
The Landmarks Preservation Commission requires that owners keep the exteriors of the house uniform. But de Chabris noted that there’s some flexibility on the shades of paint, and while the LPC prefers shutters, it doesn’t require them. The inside is fair game.

The numbers
De Chabris is asking $875,000 for her house, a significantly lower number than might have been listed a couple of years ago, when the houses were in the $1 million range. Taxes on the house are relatively low (around $2,600/year).

Fun fact: If you’re a “Boardwalk Empire” fan, the street may look familiar: It is the site of Nucky’s mistress’ home on the HBO series.

For more on 2 Sylvan Terrace, contact Felicia de Chabris at Halstead, 212-381-6513.

Also for sale: 11 Sylvan Terrace, which was last renovated in the 1980s The asking price is $950,000. Contact Yvonne Maddox at Prudential Douglas Elliman, 646-812-4347.


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