Price it right and buyers will come is an old adage of real estate professionals. This property, in the tiny hamlet of Water Mill in the town of Southampton, N.Y., was listed two weeks ago at $13.95 million; it looks as though the price was right, because the place is already in contract. Repped by agents Patricia Petrillo and Dawn Petrillo at Sotheby’s International Realty, the elegant estate is in the extremely tony Fordune neighborhood (think Fords, Hiltons, and so on), with 2.2 acres of rolling green lawns and mature gardens. The private grounds overlook open space, farm fields, and the ocean, and boast large shade trees and sunken gardens. There’s also deeded access to a pristine stretch of private beach exclusively for Fordune residents. (Being able to swim without the hoi polloi around is a very sought after, not to mention expensive feature in the Hamptons.)
The house itself, built in 1999, looks fresh and not at all dated. There’s about 8,000 square feet of space, with five bedrooms and six baths. The kitchen is especially appealing, with a giant island and huge hutch for displaying prized china, as well as a huge pantry right next door. Other rooms include a living room with multiple seating spaces and an antique stone fireplace, a good-sized dining room, a paneled library, and a primary suite with two dressing areas.
Out back is a 72-foot screen porch that runs the full length of the house and is perfect for buggy summer nights. The lower level, otherwise known as the basement, contains a media room, a staff bedroom and bath, a laundry room, a massage room, and lots of storage. There’s also a 2.5-car garage that accommodates a golf cart for effortless trips to the beach and, surrounded by plush expanses of lawn, a 50-foot gunite pool placed in full sun.
The property was owned by Irving Rousso, who made his money in the rag trade, as New Yorkers say, and who died in 2017 at the age of 92. He purchased the Water Mill parcel in 1999 for $850,000 and built himself a sprawling, tastefully appointed traditional home, which is still owned by his heirs. Leaving school after the eighth grade, Mr. Rousso, was a Navy hero in World War II, having survived the German V2 bombing of the Rex Theater in Antwerp, which killed more than 560 troops. After the war, he and his older brother, Eli, founded Russ Togs, a clothing manufacturer. They started in childrenswear, but branched into women’s sportswear, where they were enormously successful in producing affordable garments under such brand names as Russ, Villager and Crazy Horse. After Eli’s death in 1990, Rousso sold the concern to Liz Claiborne.
Fordune, as you might guess, takes its name from the Ford family. In 1940, Henry Ford II, son of Edsel Ford and eldest grandson of Henry Ford, married society heiress Anne McDonnell in Southampton. The Fords’ main home was in Grosse Point, Michigan, but their summer houses were in Southampton. In the late 1950s, the Fords began planning a grand new Hamptons estate. Henry Ford II spent many years buying contiguous parcels of land to create the property he eventually named Fordune.
Unfortunately, it didn’t last, neither the marriage nor the estate. When Ford and Anne divorced in 1964, she was awarded the now 235-acre Fordune property. In 1975, Anne sold the estate to Italian financier Carlo Traglio, who paid the bargain price of $1.8 million, $500,000 less than Ford had spent to build just the main house. Traglio then subdivided the property, keeping 44 acres of oceanfront for himself. The other acres were divided into a gated enclave of 40 homes that even today is known as Fordune.