The woman behind the “I Love New York” campaign is leaving New York — for now.
Mary Wells Lawrence, who became one of the most successful women in advertising during a long and storied career, has relocated to London and is now selling her main residence on the Upper East Side. Her ubiquitous New York slogan (stylized with a heart designed by Milton Glaser) helped burnish the city’s tarnished image in the financial crisis of the 1970s.
The asking price for the 4,920-square-foot duplex on the 38th and 39th floors of 515 Park Avenue is $27.95 million, according to the listing brokers, Steven Cohen of Douglas Elliman Real Estate and Paddy Dring of Knight Frank. The sale includes a storage unit, as well as a 717-square-foot two-bedroom apartment and a 270-square-foot studio on the third floor, both of which were used as staff quarters. (Monthly carrying costs for the three units are $25,292.)
Ms. Lawrence, 92, who was born in Ohio but spent many of her years in Manhattan, says she will always love New York, which she considers her adopted city, and won’t rule out an eventual return. “When I created the ‘I Love New York’ campaign, it wasn’t just advertising,” she said, “it was for real. I’ll be back.”
For now, though, she said she was long overdue for a change of scenery. “I’m an older person who wants to have different experiences,” Ms. Lawrence, who is currently working on a second book, said from her new “theatrical modern” duplex apartment on the north side of Hyde Park. “I’ve done a lot of different things in my life, but never for fun.”
Ms. Wells co-founded the Wells Rich Greene advertising agency in the mid-1960s, becoming the first woman chief executive of a company listed on the New York Stock Exchange. There, she oversaw some of the most memorable ads of the 20th century. In addition to the New York City campaign, they included the “Plop plop, fizz fizz” jingle for Alka-Seltzer and the “Trust the Midas Touch” and “Flick Your Bic” slogans. Last month she received the prestigious Cannes Lions lifetime achievement award for her creativity, becoming the first female recipient.
Ms. Lawrence, who has had numerous homes around the world over the years, bought the Park Avenue apartments for nearly $18.8 million in 2005, about three years after the death of her husband, Harding L. Lawrence, who was chairman and chief executive of Braniff International Airways and once an advertising client. By then, her ad agency had long been shuttered, having ceased operations in 1998 after a sale to Boulet Dru Dupuy Petit.
It was at the New York duplex, she said, where she felt a special connection to the city, surrounded by sweeping views of Park Avenue, Central Park and Midtown Manhattan. “It was so New York, that apartment,” she said, and because of its loft-like layout, was “very easy to have friends there and entertain.” Ms. Lawrence hosted parties there with “presidents, corporate heads, people in the theater and Hollywood” in attendance, though she declined to name any of them.
The home’s lower level, which includes the entertaining space, is entered through a private elevator bank that leads to a spacious central gallery. A double-height floating staircase of steel, glass and wood — “a piece of art onto itself,” Mr. Cohen said — separates the formal dining area from the large corner living room, which measures 30 by 20 feet and is anchored by a wood-burning fireplace. The uncluttered open space comfortably fits a Yamaha grand piano (no, Ms. Lawrence doesn’t play), along with contemporary furnishings by the late Billy Baldwin, a favorite interior designer.
Off the dining area is a windowed eat-in kitchen outfitted with a center island, stainless-steel countertops and appliances, custom walnut cabinets and a butler’s pantry. And beyond the living room is a library with floor-to-ceiling, rift-sawn white oak bookshelves. There is also a powder room off the gallery.
There are four bedrooms upstairs, each with an en suite bath. The 23-by-14-foot master suite features a roomy walk-in closet and a spa-like bathroom of honed granite and marble with a separate soaking tub.
Throughout the apartment are high ceilings, wide-plank oak floors and numerous oversize windows. “You have light coming in from all directions,” Mr. Cohen said.
The 43-story, limestone tower on the corner of 515 Park Avenue and 60th Street contains 35 apartments. The building, developed by Zeckendorf Development and completed in 2000, offers numerous amenities including a catering kitchen, fitness center and wine cellar storage.
Notable building residents have included the Broadway producer-director Hal Prince (who bought his unit from L.A. Reid, the record producer and former judge on “The X Factor” TV show); Jon S. Corzine, the former governor of New Jersey; and Christopher H. Browne, the former managing director of the mutual fund company Tweedy, Browne (whose estate reportedly sold his home to Alice Walton, an heir to the Walmart fortune).
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