A historically significant house has been brought into the 21st century with artistic flair, thanks to a world-renowned painter.
The neoexpressionist painter Hunt Slonem is selling the stately Woolworth Mansion on Jefferson Avenue in Scranton, PA, for $1.35 million. He bought the property in 2015 for $295,000, and has spent the last five years restoring it.
The home was originally built in 1910 for Charles Sumner Woolworth, the co-founder of the Woolworth retail empire.
Measuring 8,333 square feet, with five bedrooms and 3.5 bathrooms, the mansion had sat all but abandoned for about 18 years.
“I saw this house and my jaw just dropped, and I said ‘What is that?’” Slonem says. “They had done a lot of work on the stonework, but the inside was a train wreck. I was just blown away, but I realized what a huge project it was.”
Slonem has restored and owns several other homes around the country, including the Scranton Armory—an 1897 building he restored and furnished.
“My heart skips beats when I see these great reminiscences of eras gone by, when there was order in the world, and there was a wonderful sense of quality,” he says. “I love old buildings. Modern buildings don’t excite me in the same way.”
This is the first of his homes that Slonem has put up for sale.
“They don’t build them like this anymore,” he explains.
This building was the work of an important architect, using materials that are no longer available, he says, unless they are salvaged from old houses that are being demolished.
The architect, Lansing Holden, designed this property and several others in the Scranton area.
“It truly is a unique property,” says the listing agent, Marion Gatto, praising the historical accuracy of Slonem’s renovations.
Crews stabilized floors eaten away by beetles, replaced roofs, and updated just about everything in the house—with an important exception.
“You can see that I leave the patina in the hallway. I did not repaint the grand, French, heavily plastered motif in the hallway. It looks like a chateau from the 1700s,” Slonem explains.
“You can always repaint. You can’t recreate the way it looks now.”
Slonem based much of his renovation work on old photographs. However, for some of the rooms, there were no vintage images—and that included the kitchen.
“That room was just blank. It had been torn apart,” Slonem says. “There is no documentation of what the original kitchen looked like or where it was. There’s no evidence of it being anywhere in particular.”
Slonem readily admits that he isn’t a kitchen person, and the resulting kitchen is small compared to some of the other rooms. However, it has benefited from the same attention to detail as the rest of the house.
Slonem’s decision to use cues from the past has paid off, according to the agent.
“It’s amazing, just breathtaking,” Gatto says. “When you look at the railings or at the marble staircase or the ceilings, the architecture is just phenomenal.”
Color is key in this house. Some walls are bright and adorned with 19th-century paintings, as well as with many of Slonem’s own pieces. The artist is known for painting birds, bunnies, and butterflies, and his work is featured in museums around the world.
“I try to breathe life into these projects. I’m known as a colorist, you know. I am a painter,” he explains.
As an artist, he says, he considers these homes as “installations.”
“I enter my work, and my work enters them,” he says. “When something has been abandoned for so long, it really needs a lot of love and light poured into it.”
The house has five marble fireplaces and wood floors throughout, as well as a full basement and a two-car garage.
Chandeliers in most rooms, including the bedrooms, elevate the decor.
The home is located in the Hill Section of Scranton, with many older homes surrounding it.
Near the house is a 3,000-square-foot carriage house, basically an open, untouched space.
“You could turn it into whatever you want it to be,” Gatto says.
Slonem was considering using it as an art studio. Gatto has another idea for the entire property.
“I thought that this place could be a fabulous venue, where you have courtyard to the left and stairs that go up to a slight patio,” she says, adding that she can see a bride and groom walking down the staircase for the cocktail hour and dinner outside, and turning the carriage house into a commercial kitchen.
The furnishings aren’t part of the sale, but Gatto says the home will be easy for a buyer to move right in.
“I think you get a warmth from the house,” she says. “Even though it’s so large, each room makes you feel like you belong there.”