By Robert Simonson
21 May 2003
For theatre enthusiasts, the house is full of history. Walter Kerr was the director and lyricist of such shows as Touch and Go who became a respected drama critic, first for the Herald-Tribune, then for the New York Times. The former Ritz Theatre was named in his honor in 1990. He died in 1996. Jean Kerr was Walter's artistic collaborator and a playwright (Mary, Mary) and author ("Please Don't Eat the Daisies") in her own right.
The house is the one featured in "Daisies." It is replete of oddball features, most provided by automotive pioneer Charles B. King, who in the 1920s bought the carriage house and stables that used to stand on the grounds and transformed them into an elaborate, fanciful dwelling. Five portholes installed in the walls were taken from a Hudson River steamboat, as were ceiling beams and wooden floors. Other maritime ornaments include a stair railing from a Spanish galleon.
The austere, gilded ceiling in the living room came from the Vanderbilt mansion in Manhattan. The house's curious collection of statuary includes six stone angels, three gargoyles, four copper wolf heads and three lions. A button in the kitchen activates a 27-bell carillon which plays an aria from Carmen and was used to call the six Kerr children to dinner each night. Walter Kerr permanently installed 16 theatre seats—saved from the old Martinique Theater—in his study. Hidden bookcases and cabinets were used to store everything from china to first editions.
The house is being sold by the realtor Burbank and Whittemore at (914) 834-1070.