Explosion at a luxury UES townhouse

7 Online - October 13, 2006

(New York - WABC, Oct. 12, 2006) - A third alarm fire tore through an multi-million dollar townhouse under renovation on the Upper East Side this morning, sending residents of nearby buildings fleeing their home.

Eyewitness News has learned the fire ripped through the six-story building at 115 East 70th Street near Park Avenue just after 2:30 a.m. . Flames lit up the night sky, shooting through the roof and the entire structure.

Residents were evacuated from several neighboring buildings on East 70th Street, which was closed to traffic. They reported hearing a loud explosion before the building erupted in flames.

The residents were treated on a waiting MTA bus as firefighters battled the blaze. It took three hours to get the ferocious flames under control.

Officials say the fire was labeled suspicious, pending further investigation, because of the large amount of fire firefighters encountered upon arrival. About 140 firefighters were dispatched to the scene.

Several firefighters were treated for minor injuries.

Sources say the building, a six-story Neo-Georgian townhouse that dates to the 1920s, was under renovation for a new owner. In early 2005, the townhouse was bought by real-estate developer Dominion Management last year for $11.4 million.

The 17,000-square-foot property was being converted into a luxurious, single-residence mansion. Neighbors said the home was recently purchased by a fashion designer, who was planning to soon move in.

The home was originally built for I.Townsend Burden, the cousin of iron and steel magnate James Burden, and features high ceilings, original moldings, hardwood floors and intricate iron work.

"It's one of the most beautiful houses in New York," said Richard Steinberg, managing director of Warburg Realty.

For restoration guidance, Dan Kingsford of Dominion said he looked back to the original floor plans, obtained for him by The New York Times' "Streetscapes" columnist and architecture expert, Christopher Gray.

Kingsford, apparently, planned to restore the staircase that was removed in the 1930's when the building was converted into separate apartments. Dominion will also gut the house, removing barriers that were erected to compartmentalize the townhouse for several different occupants.

Kingsford said the project was expected to take about nine months.