Houdini's New York City Home
In 1904, Harry Houdini was successful enough to be able to afford a home in New York City. For $25,000, he purchased a large brownstone at 278 West 113th Street, in what is now called Morningside Heights. At the time, the neighborhood was predominantly occupied by newly-prosperous German Jews, and Houdini fit right in. The house was built in 1895, but for some reason never completely finished an occupied until Houdini purchased it.
The 6008 square foot home gave Houdini a lot of room for both a living space and a huge upstairs office. Reportedly, Houdini had a large sunken bathtub installed so that he could practice his underwater escapes. He also had his initials installed as part of the floor tile design in the bathroom; the tiles are still there today.
The home was lavishly furnished, and stocked with a library of thousands of books. Houdini's library was his pride and joy, eventually, his collection would have an estimated worth of $500,000. (Much of his collection now belongs to the Library of Congress.) Houdini enjoyed his library so much that he operated his office right in the center of it, seated at an ornate carved desk that was fitted with secret compartments.
Houdini lived in this home until his death in 1926. Bess sold the house in 1927, and in the years since then, it has been both a private residence as well as an apartment house for nearby Columbia University students.
Today, the building has been partially restored, and is still rented as apartments. There is a plaque on the building honoring Harry Houdini, but there is also a fence preventing unwanted visitors from bothering the residents. The home is valued at $675,000 as of fall 2011.
Houdini's Los Angeles Home
In 1919, when Houdini was making the two movies for Lasky Pictures, he and Bess rented a cottage at 2435 Laurel Canyon Boulevard. The four-bedroom bungalow was nestled in the lush hills next to a grand mansion owned by their landlord, Ralf Walker. Though Houdini never again lived in the cottage, Bess returned and lived there from 1934 until late 1936.
When a fire burned the mansion to the ground in 1959, local reporters tried to make the story more sensational by naming it the Houdini Mansion, though Houdini had rented the guest cottage, not the mansion. Rumors of Houdini's ghost haunting the burned ruins of the mansion still persist today. In fact, the mansion has been rebuilt, and is now available for special events rental.
The actual site of the home Houdini rented is now a vacant lot. As of fall of 2011, the lot is for sale, priced at $125,000.