UPPER EAST SIDE — A relatively modest townhouse on East 72nd Street is about to become the epicenter of the latest papal visit.
Pope Francis and a flood of security personnel will descend Thursday upon the quiet residential street — sandwiched between Central Park and a Ralph Lauren store — and will likely cause some chaos for those who live there.
Tara Kelly, executive director of the Friends of the Upper East Side Historic Districts, said it makes sense the Vatican would use the residence as a papal pad, knowing the Upper East Side's history of being home to many politicians and leaders.
"This is where many of the city’s most prominent officials and dignitaries came to reside and visit so it's very fitting that the pope would be staying on the Upper East Side," she said.
The neo-Renaissance style home, which is the current abode of Archbishop Bernardito Auza, was designed by Rose & Stone and built in 1894 for R.W. and W.H Tailer and Joseph Agostini, according to Kelly.
The townhouse was one of five Rose & Stone homes built on what was among the last blocks that James Lenox divided out and sold in the late 1800s, she said. These homes were sold to wealthy clients, she added.
Hugh J. Grant — who had served as New York City's youngest mayor for two terms from 1889 to 1892 — and his wife Julia made it their home in the early 20th century.
Devoutly Catholic, Mrs. Grant hired the same Boston architecture firm that worked on the St. Patrick’s Cathedral to build a private chapel in their home, which she named "the Chapel of the Holy Spirit."
The five-story, approximately 10,960-square-foot building is not landmarked but was protected by the city's Landmarks Preservation Commission within the Upper East Side Historic District in 1982, she said.
In 1975, the Grants' son, Hugh J. Grant Jr., donated the single-family residence to the Archdiocese of New York for "10 dollars and other valuable consideration," the deed in city records shows.
The Archbishop transferred its deed to the Holy See, the government of the Catholic Church based in Vatican City, in 2011.
The estimated market value of the property for the 12-month period starting July 1, 2014 is $20.2 million, according to the New York City Department of Finance. It's expected to rise to $24.3 million in the next 12 months.
Regis High School, the tuition-free Catholic high school for boys founded by the Grant family, uploaded a video about the townhome's history on Monday.
Already, blockades have been set out in preparation of Pope Francis's arrival and signs have been posted warning people not to park their cars on the street beginning Tuesday morning through Saturday night.
It's not the first time there has been hooplah outside the home, at 20 E. 72nd St. between Madison and Fifth avenues. The five-story townhome has hosted two popes before Pope Francis.
Both Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI and St. John Paul II crashed there during their visits to the city — St. John Paul II stayed there for the first time in 1979.