The apartment where one of the country’s most celebrated authors lived for nearly half a century is available for rent, according to the New York Post.
Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird is one of the most loved novels of all time. It was an instant classic when it was released in 1960 and was the 1961 Pulitzer Prize Winner in Fiction. Its principled North Star, Atticus Finch, is a model of why many idealistic future lawyers flock to law school to this day.
The rural setting of the book and subsequent film – the fictional city of Maycomb, Alabama – is a world away from the Upper East Side. But it would be hard to argue that Lee’s time in the neighborhood didn’t influence this great work.
Lee, a native of Monroeville, Alabama, lived in the southern part of the country until she was 23 years old. While studying law at the University of Alabama, the future bestselling novelist realized that writing was her true calling and she moved to New York City in 1949 to pursue that dream.
She took a job as an airline reservation agent and lived in a building on 82nd and York Avenue until it was demolished. She then moved across the street to apartment 1E at 433 East 82nd Street in 1967. It’s a safe bet that this block is where Lee wrote To Kill a Mockingbird.
According to Biography, “Lee befriended Broadway composer and lyricist Michael Martin Brown and his wife Joy. In 1956, the Browns gave Lee an impressive Christmas present—to support her for a year so that she could write full time. She quit her job and devoted herself to her craft.”
“Go Set a Watchman was submitted to a publisher in 1957. When the book wasn’t accepted, Lee’s editor asked her to revise the story and make her main character Scout a child. The author worked on the story for two years and it eventually became To Kill a Mockingbird.” The book was released on July 11, 1960.
Lee lived at 433 East 82nd Street until 2007. She suffered a stroke that year and left the city. Though she never returned to Manhattan, she kept her lease on East 82nd Street until she died. Her Upper East Side residency was an open secret until her death in 2016. Though to some New Yorkers the more shocking reveal was her monthly rent.
She paid just under $1,000 a month for the 600 square foot one bedroom apartment, according to the Post. The property manager explained that he did not increase the rent because Lee was a friend. “The building’s super, Carlos Nieves, revealed that Lee made him promise not to tell any details of her life after she died.”
The author’s secret was safe for nearly 50 years. The building’s apartment door buzzer simply read “Lee – H.” Some of Lee’s own neighbors did not know she lived there until early 2016, when a radiator leak in her apartment caused a hole in the ceiling below.
Lee – famously known for being a recluse – seemed to fully embrace her life as a New Yorker. She reportedly left the New York Times Magazine on a lobby table every Sunday morning after finishing the crossword puzzle. One neighbor remembered her as a big Mets fan though she could not watch the games on TV because she didn’t have one. She was also a regular at Ottomanelli Bros butcher shop at 1549 York Avenue (at East 82nd Street), according to Gothamist.
Harper Lee passed away in her sleep at the age of 89 on February 19, 2016. Your opportunity to rent a little piece of history is available here.
she wrote a friend of mine back a while ago: https://www.al.com/news/2015/03/harper_lee_appears_to_be_fully.html
My family lived in that building at the same time and I don’t remember Ottomanelli’s being there then.