Once Upon A Time

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Nick Churton of Mayfair International Realty discovers an enchanting house in Connecticut.

It sleeps . . .  Deep in the Connecticut woods, and well tucked away where no one can see it, Le Beau Chateau sleeps. Sleeping is what this exceptional French-style house has been doing for over sixty years. It stands empty, yet always well cared for, decorated, and heated.  Only its guardians visit.  Its heiress owner never lived in it.  So it awaits a new owner who will, and who will revel in the extraordinary architecture, proportions, habitat and seclusion.

Now, after the death of its eccentric and philanthropic owner, Huguette Clarke, this magnificent house is finally on the market. The price tag says $19.8 million.  This would have been pocket change to Huguette’s Gilded Age father, one of the 50th richest Americans ever.  When he died in 1925, aged 86, he left the equivalent of $3.6 billion in today’s money.

Huguette Clarke bought Le Beau Chateau in 1952 to go with her 42 room, 15,000 sq ft Fifth Avenue apartment in Manhattan and her 23 acre Santa Barbara estate in California.

The house is near to select New Canaan, home to Harry Connick Jr, Paul Simon, Ralph Lauren and a host of top New York CEOs.  Few have seen it.  I feel most privileged that I am one who has.  The rooms are magnificent.  The main bedroom has to be one of the very greatest I have ever seen.  It is vast with a large fire place and towering double height window overlooking a charming waterfall that gives the hushed house its backing track.  Stairs from this room rise to an upper floor gallery room that overlooks the woods.  When I looked out a party of wild turkeys was striding along the tree line.

The vaulted attic resembles a cathedral. Downstairs the kitchen would almost do justice to a deluxe grand hotel in New York. The original metal cabinetry is highly fashionable retro chic. That is, it went out of fashion through the second half of the 20th century and is now very much back in again. Outside, beyond an apron of rough lawn is woodland in the raw.  The services of a talented landscape designer who understands nature – and is handy with a chain saw – would do wonders.

Whether a single buyer will come along or an investor/developer will take the opportunity to add nine new mansions to the estate’s 52 acres remains to be seen.  Development might seem a shame.  But I think this can be done sympathetically and should keep the original house’s deep sense of seclusion, privacy and drama.

Whatever the future brings Le Beau Chateau will soon, like the heroine in a children’s fairy tale, wake after its sixty-year beauty sleep.  It has had a wonderful repose but I think now it is high time for it to wake up and smell the coffee in that grand kitchen.  All it needs is a princely kiss by someone who loves it as I do.

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