Photo by Leigh Davis, New York Magazine

Real estate agents across New York had always assumed that the graffiti-covered building at 190 Bowery was either in ruins or completely vacant—not the site of a 72-room palace that a family of three came home to every night.

It’s something New York Magazine is still calling “maybe the greatest real-estate coup of all time,” yet by looking past the chaotic street art, perhaps it may just be the best kept secret. Jay Maisel, a photographer who currently lives at 190 Bowery with his wife and daughter, bought the property 42 years ago for $102,000.

On paper, the six-story, 35,000-square-foot home sounds nothing short of a property owner’s dream, yet when Maisel first moved into the abandoned Germania Bank built at the turn of the twentieth century, the circumstances resembled that of a nightmare. For starters, the main floor was knee-deep in garbage and coated in soot. “I had to shovel shit against the tide,” recalls Maisel, “Every single thing that can come out of a human body has been left on my doorstep. But it was more disgusting than dangerous.”

Today, a bohemian-chic meets creative commune vibe masks much of 190 Bowery’s unpleasant history. With long stretches of hallways, multiple floors used as gallery showrooms for photography and art projects, and plenty of room left-over to house works-in-progress, the spaces scream, in Maisel’s words, “artists live here.”

For more on how the Maisel family makes the most of their six floors of New York real estate, including what people think the property is valued at, read the full New York Magazine article here.

Photo by timkau_nyc