SELLER: Estate of Leona Helmsley
LOCATION: Close Road, Greenwich, CT
SIZE: 23,000 square feet (approx.), 7 bedrooms, 14 bathrooms
YOUR MAMAS NOTES: Dead billionairess Leona Helmsley may have been widely and infamously known as the “Queen of Mean” who epitomized 1980s consumerist greed, but the lurid lipped and bug eyed bee-hawtcha sure knew how to choose, buy and hang on to a prime piece of real estate.
At the time of her death in 2007, not only did the once convicted and imprisoned tax evader possess a gigantic and sumptuous suite at the eponymous Helmsley Park Lane Hotel on Central Park South, which she also owned, natch, she had a majority interest in the Empire State Building, and she owned Dunnellen Hall, one of the crowning jewels among the many large and lavish back country estates in uber swank Greenwich, Connecticut. Some of the children may recall that it was in fact Dunnellen Hall that became the focus of Miz Helmsley’s 1989 tax evasion trial wherein she was accused of illegally billing millions of dollars in renovations to the estate back to her company…apparently a real no-no as far as the federal government is concerned.
Since the often snarling and notoriously prickly Miz Helmsley kicked the proverbial bucket and left her dog Trouble a stunning $12,000,000 and two of her four grandchildren nothing, there has been much speculation about when the 40 acre Connecticut estate on Close Road would hit the market, and for how much. Now we know.
Thanks to the eager B.S. Beaverman, Your Mama was directed to a recent Wall Street Journal article by the always well informed Christina S.N. Lewis who reports Dunnellen Hall will be listed with an affiliate of Christie’s Great Estates with a blistering $125,000,000 price tag (now reduced to $95,000,000). The princely price tag not only puts it among the most expensive homes available for purchase in all of the U-nited States, it guarantees heaps of publicity from all the real estate gossips like Your Mama who get light headed and drool with delight over the unseemly spectacle of such gargantuan asking prices.
The estate of Miz Helmsley can certainly ask what they want for the approximately 23,000 square foot neo-Jacobean brick behemoth, but keep in mind children that the highest price ever paid for a Greenwich property to date is somewhere around $50,000,000. Finding a ridiculously rich house hunter willing to fork over the obscenely big bucks asking price is most assuredly easier imagined than done, even with all the disturbingly rich hedge fund heavies who call Greenwich home.
Madam Mean and her hotelier huzband Harry Helmsley (who died in 1997) purchased Dunnellen Hall in 1983 for $9,000,000. The couple paid an additional $2,000,000 for the furniture and at the time, the combined purchase price was the second highest price ever paid for a single residential property. When the big spending Helmsleys purchased the estate it included just 26 acres. The couple later added 14 acres to bring it’s total size to an impressive 40 acres.
Built in 1916-8 as a wedding gift for filthy rich financier Daniel Grey Reid’s only daughter (see this article for some excellent background on the property), the monstrous mansion includes a decadent marble stair case, a 47 foot long reception hall and an 86-foot long gallery that crosses the entrance hall. The 1,125 square foot living room features dee-luxe and gor-gee-us teak floors, a massive carved limestone fireplace, and a spectacular molded plaster ceiling. The oak-paneled library sports more of the jaw dropping molded plaster ceiling patterns that are seen throughout the house and the carved stone fireplace mantel is almost as old as our saucy pal Fiona Trambeau and dates back to the 15th century. The kitchen and dining room complex includes a walk in silver vault, an extravagence rarely seen in modern houses. Upstairs are seven bedroom suites including an entire wing devoted to a master suite with his and her bathrooms (or his and his or her and her as the case might be for the new owner), two dressing rooms, and a sitting room. Somewhere in the big pile there is a marble floored ballroom the Mister and Missus Helmsley added after they purchased the already mammoth mansion.
Naturally a house of this magnitude includes a staff wing, and Dunnellen Hall proudly features 8 staff rooms with an attached sewing room in the main house. Now children, why rich people prefer to have staff living up in the main house is just beyond Your Mama’s ability to comprehend. If you’ve got 40 damn acres to work with, why not build an entirely separate residence for the staff? Who needs or wants these people, or any other people for that matter, privy to your morning gas release, fornication rituals and knock down and drag ’em out arguments? If we’ve said it once, we’ve said it a thousand times to all the enormously rich people out there with live in staff who launder their designer duds, vacuum the heirloom Aubussons and scrub the damn terlits: If you think your live is staff does not pay attention to what you’re doing, who you’re doing it with and how, you’re simply being naïve. And if you don’t know that when you’re away they all set around drinking your booze, wearing your furs and snickering about your every misdeed and misdemeanor, well, you’re just being stoopid.
Anyhoo, back to Dunnellen Hall…The extensive and manicured grounds feature a monumental motor court, sculptured gardens, a koi pond, reflecting pools, acres and acres of rolling lawns, a tennis court that Your Mama can’t imagine Miss Leona ever used, an outdoor pool that appears to be full of algae, an indoor pool, and up on the third floor of the main house there was once a concrete floored handball court, although it’s unclear to Your Mama whether this particular piece of unusual exercise equipment is still functional.
Also on the grounds appear to be a small shack for a security guard to monitor coming and going guests, a large potting shed that Your Mama hopes houses an impressive fleet of rider mowers, and a detached garage complex that appears to include more staff quarters or office space. Anyone know?
As for the interiors, well, it all looks like the sort of 1980s left over hotel furniture we would expect to find in the haughty hotelier’s house. But children, don’t look at the dee-pressing furniture, look at the architecture, because like it or not, they don’t build many houses like this anymore. Your Mama is breathless trying to calculate the yearly taxes and seriously high maintenance bills, not to mention the cost of heating this brobdingnagian pile of bricks.
When the estate does finally sell to some Croesus rich family in need of 23,000 square feet of opulence that will require a dozen or more full time staff to run smoothly, the proceeds will not be directed into the pockets of any of Miz Helmsley’s (few) heirs, but rather into a charitable trust. Who knew that the not known for being generous ladee infamous for hissing, “Only the little people pay taxes” would care to actually help the little people with her vast and wealthy billion dollar estate. Hmm, we may all have to rethink our not so nice impressions of Miz Helmsley after all.
Check out all the real estate porn pix here.