The Saddest House In New York City

This is the story of a little house in Queens that broke my heart.


A few years ago, I was working on a movie that sent me to Richmond Hill, Queens, to find a beautiful, one-of-a-kind house.  If you’ve never visited, Richmond Hill has a number of gorgeous turn-of-the-century Victorians…


…and in fact, chances are you’ve seen at least one or two Richmond Hill houses before in a film or TV show. Productions are always in the neighborhood for this rare look that’s tough to find:


For this particular film, we were looking for something a bit smaller, and it didn’t take long before I stumbled on this gem, built in 1905.


The exterior was gorgeous, and looked to be in pristine condition…


…and I especially loved the two upper floors, with their wonderful ornamentation and two oval windows. It turned out the house was for sale, and I quickly made an appointment for a tour.


As we were walking around the interior, I was equally impressed by the quality and personal touch in each room. It was clear that whoever used to live here cherished this house.


Out of curiosity, I asked what the house’s background was, and was told that its former owner, Nancy Cataldi, a local preservationist, had recently passed away. And suddenly, it all made sense.

Nancy was a major advocate for historical preservation in Richmond Hill, and had worked tirelessly to preserve the neighborhood she called home. She served as the president of the Richmond Hill Historical Society for nearly a decade, and is a major reason why so much beauty can still be found in Richmond Hill today. In fact, the street we were on was given the co-name “Nancy Cataldi Way” following her death.

201 To Backyard

As we were walking around looking at what remained of her possessions, I suddenly got a very sad feeling in the pit of my stomach. Nancy was gone, but her soul was all around us – in the worn floorboards, the antique furniture, the intricate wallpaper…But it was like I could feel that soul fading.

202 Backyard

Ultimately, we didn’t film in the house due to rewrites moving the characters into a Manhattan apartment. Still, I never forgot the place, and when I was asked to find a house a few weeks ago, I immediately headed out to Richmond Hill to see if it might still be an option.

But as I drove by, something was wrong…


Maybe I didn’t have the correct address? I pulled over and double-checked my notes.


And then I realized:


I was at the right address.


Despite all her efforts and the endless amounts of preservation work she did in Richmond Hill, Nancy was never able to get her own street protected; the Landmarks Preservation Commission rejected her proposal in 2001.

201 To Backyard


According to this 2010 Daily News article, the new homeowners claim they were forced to renovate due to an invasion of carpenter ants.



You know what? Words are kind of failing me, so I’ll just let my pictures speak for themselves.







We ALL benefit from people like Nancy Cataldi long after they pass, and while it’s cute to name streets after preservationists, it’s a lot more important to carry on their legacy. Hopefully, this is a reminder of that.

Rest in peace, Nancy.


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  1. Russian bukharian owners destroying another neighborhood

  2. Sergio Del Pino

    I have seen these types of abortions in my time, this is just one of them. This is just a typical example of bad ethnic taste gone mad. I have read the various ethnicities that this mess has been attributed to, but in reality, I have seen plenty of Italians, Greek, Puerto Rican, Arabs, low class Americans, etc. etc., doing the same thing to these once magnificent homes. Why can’t these tasteless wonders just leave well enough alone? Why do they think they can go into any neighborhood and destroy the historical feel of the home and neighborhood, simply because they own it. Is there no sense of pride, dignity or taste left in these neighborhoods, that will allow tasteless low life’s to come in, buy any home in their neighborhood, destroy it’s character and put up this abortion and no one says anything? These people should have been sued by this town and ran out of town!

  3. Sergio Del Pino

    Oh yeah, I forgot all those Russians immigrants coming over here and destroying yet another old American neighborhood, putting up what they think is tasteful homes. someone should inform them they no longer live under Communism.

  4. I couldnt agree more with Sergio. All the nouveau rich from other countries who destroy homes with plastic and vinyl and think thats an improvement.
    But I have to lay it on the dilletanttes at the Historical Commission (the ones with the important sounding hyphenated last names that I lock horns with all the time).
    They easily named the street after Nancy Cataldi, but failed to designate her neighborhood, thus leaving it to the wealthy classless boors to come and destroy the character of her home.
    These ninny,bow tied, ivy league ,salad eaters who dont have the balls and foresight to see how the whole city is being transformed by tasteless johnny come latelies who know nothing about NYC History nor care for it.
    I , regretably, as an architect and preservationist, have seen so much destruction because of their feeble policies and weak pronouncements.
    I can see Nancy Cataldi making her case in front of them , and they refusing to step to the plate and make strong resolutions to avoid that type of person from taking over the neighborhood.
    Believe me, if the neighborhood had been protected, then that house would have been avoided by anyone who wanted to add tan brick and siding , and would have been bought by someone who appreciated the designation and who would have preserved it the right way.
    Really stinks.

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