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A century-old mansion in Brooklyn Heights — once a communal home for monks and prostitutes (at different times, of course) — could become a single-family home again if the right buyer comes along.

The Herman Behr Mansion, which has lorded over the corner of Pierrepont and Henry streets since 1888, but was converted into 26 rental units three decades ago, can be yours for just $12 million.

“I would love for someone to make this their home again,” said broker Sandra Dowling, whose real-estate group has the listing on the ornate, red stone building, which is adorned with gargoyles and baroque carvings.

Though now a glorified apartment building, the six-story mansion started out as the home base of one rich family.

Behr made his fortune in mining when making a fortune in mining was what men did. His son, Karl, a banker, lawyer and world-class tennis player, went to Yale and Columbia universities before he survived the sinking of the Titanic in 1912.

Eventually, the Behr clan moved upstate and the house was sold. It later became the Franciscan House of Studies, a cloister for friars.

After that, it was officially known as the Palm Hotel, but neighbors knew it as a brothel. And, finally, the 20,000-square-foot building was cut up into those rental units — which range in size from small one-bedrooms to relatively small two-bedroom duplexes.

“It’s a magnificent, one-of-a-kind building that stands out in Brooklyn Heights,” said Judy Stanton, executive director of the Brooklyn Heights Association.

“It’s in all the architectural guides, and I always see tourists stopping to take pictures. I hope the person who buys it appreciates it as the treasure it is and keeps it in good condition.”

So what do you get for $12 million nowadays? The building — at 82 Pierrepont St. — has retained much of its original character on the inside, including a wine cellar, stained glass and leather ceilings in the lobby. The lobby also features a small library and an intricately carved fireplace mantelpiece.

To restore it to its original grandeur, those cookie-cutter apartments will have to go. The good news? If one person does end up buying it, he or she will have a somewhat easy time getting rid of all the tenants; Dowling said all the leases are all set to expire within a year.

Updated 4:00 pm, November 10, 2010
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