The home changed owners numerous times over the years, at one point belonging to the Red Cross. It sat vacant for a few years in the 1940s until it became the property of Broadway stage designer Oliver Smith in 1953. Smith was a Tony Award-winning designer, who designed the sets for Guys and Dolls and West Side Story, among other acclaimed productions.
According to Capote, who was not above embellishing a story, he got his friend Smith drunk and convinced him that he didn't he didn't need the entire home to himself. Smith agreed and rented out the basement to Capote. He lived in the basement apartment from 1955 to 1965 and hosted some of his infamous parties there, occasionally telling his guests that he was the owner of the home and had decorated it himself. According to Capote lore, one of the guests at least temporarily duped by the author's performance was Jacqueline Onassis.
It was in the Willow Street house that Capote finished Breakfast at Tiffany's, his acclaimed novel. And it was there that Capote picked up a copy of the New York Times and read about the murder of a family in Holcomb, Kansas. Capote decided to write about the murders the next day, eventually completing In Cold Blood on Willow Street. The book, which introduced a new literary form known as the nonfiction novel, is considered a twentieth century masterpiece.
In the years since Capote was a tenant in the house, the home has changed owners a few times. At one point, Dan Houser, the video game creator behind Grand Theft Auto, owned the home. More recently, the home has been restored and no longer has the well-known yellow facade it had when Capote lived there. The home currently has a red brick facade, as it did when constructed.