Friday, April 13, 2012

Let's Talk About Bunny Mellon's Property Portfolio: Part II

Earlier today Your Mama discussed at some length a substantial and very serious Washington, D.C. mansion once owned by the somewhat reclusive heiress and socialite Rachel Lambert Mellon—otherwise known as Bunny Mellon—and now owned by a couple of influential Republican Party power players who recently put it on the market with a sky-high asking price of $20,000,000. The red brick behemoth, securely situated among a dense assortment of well-guarded embassies, sits conveniently close enough to Bill & Hill Clinton's very stately D.C. digs to send out a domestic down to borrow a cup of sugar on even the rainiest of rainy days.

For more than sixty years Bunny Mellon and her banking heir/horseman/philanthropist husband Paul Mellon—who went to meet his maker in 1999 at the ripe old age of 91—did not reside in the massive capital crib themselves but rather used the regal residence to house a portion of their extensive art collection. According to marketing materials Your Mama perused, the prodigiously rich and well-connected Mister and Missus Mellon actually lived in another equally if not more palatial pad directly next door.

Owning enormous side by side mansions in one of the most exclusive (and secure) enclaves in the U.S. may sound strange to anyone who isn't filthy stinking rich but such are the sometimes and almost inexplicably profligate real estate ways of luxuriously cosseted and profoundly wealthy Americans of a certain ilk such as Mister and Missus Mellon. He, dontcha was an heir to what was then one America's greatest banking and industrialist fortunes and she too is an heiress to a pile of money built on razors and Listerine who became a close confidant and unofficial aide de camp to Jackie Kennedy Onassis during and after her years in the White House.

102 year old Miz Mellon's primary residence has long been and by all accounts remains Oak Spring Farms in high-nosed and equine-friendly Upperville, Virginia where she lives—nearly blind but still a swimmer and regular practitioner of Pilates who, according to Vanity Fair (August 2010), occasionally receives visitors like Bette Midler—in low-key and high-minded splendor in a rambling, H. Page Cross-designed cottage-style abode she and her Mister built in 1955 and moved in to after deciding the estate's much more grand William Adams Delano-designed red brick Georgian mansion was, well, too grand.

Before we get further in to Miz Mellon's residential real estate holdings, let's digress into a little background and light dish on Miz Mellon herself, shall we?

No doubt much to her privacy-craving chagrin, Miz Mellon has been much in the news the last few years for her six (or so) million dollar contributions to former Senator and disgraced Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards who's up to his perfectly combed hair in a boiling vat of hot legal water and currently stands accused of siphoning a couple million of Miz Mellon's contributions off to support and clam up his former mistress and baby momma Rielle Hunter. Remember that tangled scandal of deceit and intrigue? Lowerd have mercy.

Anyhoo, if and however Miz Mellon's name may (or may not) be tarnished for her icky (and alleged) sugar momma-like association with the dastardly John Edwards, the almost devilishly discreet grande dame will go down in the (blue-blood) history books as a formidable and accomplished woman of storied elegance and style; Her entire wardrobe—from tennis hats to her servants' uniforms, again according to Vanity Fair—were designed by Cristóbal Balenciaga until he died (in 1972) at which point the making of Madam's habiliments were taken up in a private atelier at Maison Givenchy. Imagine that, a private atelier at Mason Givenchy. Has anyone ever told the children the super rich lead very different lives than even the average multi-millionaire? Well, they do.

Miz Mellon, despite being to the manor born, is and always was more than a well-dressed deb turned hoity-toity high society doyenne. The encyclopedic autodidact is not only respected collector of top flight artworks from Corot to Rothko and an expert in the decorative arts but, most notably, is a celebrated and accomplished gardener and horticulturist. In addition to maintaining a strict and watchful eye over the smallest details of her numerous, vast and exhaustively conceived gardens at Oak Spring Farms (and etc.), in her heyday she also did up a garden or two for fashion icon Hubert de Givenchy, designed and oversaw the installation of the White House Rose Garden (as well as the East Garden), and she was called upon—so the story goes—to organize the flowers for the post-assassination funeral services of President John F. "Jack" Kennedy in 1963.

Miz Mellon may have long ago sold the red brick Georgian mansion in D.C. that once housed part of her and her hubby's probably priceless art collection, but the frequently referenced article in Vanity Fair (August 2010) states the almost-never-seen-on-the-social-scene centenarian (then) owned more than half a dozen apartments, mansions and estates in Washington, D.C., Paris, New York City, Antigua, Nantucket, Cape Cod, and Upperville, Virginia where she holds down the family seat on the impeccable and unquestionably epic 4,000-or-so acre Oak Spring Farm.* Miz Mellon, like so many other multi-millionaires, billionaires and gajillionaires, commutes between her various residences via her private jet which lands on her private, mile long runway at Oak Spring Farms.

*At least one report online called in 2,000 (or so) acres and not 4,000. Make of that what y'all will.

Miz Mellon and her distinguished and beloved gardens at Oak Spring Farmsphotographed in all their springtime glory for the aforementioned Vanity Fair profile and intervieware reported to be attended to by a staff of 120. No, children, Your Mama's weary and boozy fingertips did not erroneously add a one or a zero. Miz Mellon actually—or, at least reportedly—employs 120 (or so) people at Oak Spring Farms, an almost unimaginably high number that does not take into account the extensive staff she no doubt carries on her extensive payroll to take care of her various other posh and punishingly expensive to maintain residences up and down the eastern seaboard.

The publicity-eschewing Miz Mellon reportedly sold off a pair of apartments in Paris a couple years ago but—true confession—Your Mama doesn't know a damn thing about the properties it was reported she owns on Nantucket or in Washington, D.C. What we do know is that over the last few years Miz Mellon has downsized significantly in New York City and recently listed both her 26-acre waterfront compound on Cape Cod with an asking price of $28,740,000 and hoisted her family's 27-acre bay-front spread on the Caribbean island of Antigua on the market with a $14,500,000 price tag.

Although property records indicate Miz Mellon still owns a pair of small condo cribs in New York City's Essex House building on Central Park South (now called Residences at Jumeirah Essex) bought in 2007 or '08, she not-entirely-quietly unloaded a pair of townhouses on East 70th Street several years ago.

Photo: Stribling via New York Observer

In 2005, Miz Mellon put 40-foot wide townhouse on East 70th Street on the market with an asking price of $26,500,000. The 9,400-plus square foot, 5-plus story faux-French Provincial-type townhouse (above) was custom built in 1965 by Mister Mellon and at the time of the sale included two master suites, 3 additional guest/family bedrooms, five staff rooms, and an unusually large and well-tended 1,600 square foot garden. The asking price eventually dropped to $24,500,000 and the pristine townhouse was purchased the following year for $22,500,000 by Irish businessman Tony White who sold his previous townhouse—located directly across the street—to much-lauded filmmaker Woody Allen.

photo: Stribling via Habitually Chic

In August 2009 Miz Mellon sold a second townhouse, also on East 70th Street (above), for $13,500,000 to —so it was reported in the New York Observer—Morgan Stanley executive John J. Mack and his wife Christy. Miz Mellon reportedly used the 30-foot wide and 9,475 square foot limestone mansion, designed as a carriage house by C.P.H. Gilbert just after the turn of the 20th century, as a very posh storage space, car garage and housing for her friend and on-staff interior decorator Bruce Budd who had his private living quarters in the townhouse photographed for an unknown issue of World of Interiors. (Photos and townhouse floor plan here.)


listing photos: Sotheby's International Realty

In early 2012 Miz Mellon (and her team of advisers) put a $28,740,000 asking price on her Cape Cod compound that spans 26.78 waterfront acres with nearly 1,000 feet of shore front on the Seapuit River that looks clear over undeveloped Sampson's Island to the Nantucket Sound. Mister and Miz Mellon purchased the first of the many-parcel property in the 1940s.

Listing information shows the property occupies a private and secured peninsula with a 6,893 square foot Cape Cod-style main house with separate guest and staff quarters. A short walk (or golf cart ride) away from the main house are a detached art studio, several greenhouses, and a beach-front cottage all surrounded by broad lawns, well tended gardens and orchards, a tennis court, bulk-headed shoreline with seasonal dock, and private beach.

Property records indicate Miz Mellon also owns another three-parcel estate just around the bend that the Barnstable County Tax Man indicates spans 7.44 waterfront acres, includes a 5,000-plus square foot main house with 7 bedrooms and 5.5 bathrooms plus an additional 2 bedroom and 2 bathroom residence and a barn. The property does note appear to be on the (open) market and is perhaps (or perhaps not) occupied (or used) by one of her two children or two step-children.

listing photos: JHR Caribbean Real Estate

A couple months after her Cape Cod compound popped up on the (open) market the property gossip gals at The Wall Street Journal revealed the Mellon family's long-time, British-Colonial style waterfront compound on the Caribbean island of Antigua was also put on the market with an asking price of $14,500,000.

Miz and Mister Mellon pieced the mostly au naturally landscaped property together starting in the mid-1950s and it currently, as per listing information includes, a considerable main residence with a double master bedroom, "orchid nursery," and alfresco living and dining options. There's also a separate three-bedroom guesthouse, "music house," staff residence, and multiple outbuildings that include greenhouses and a "substantial" pool house with kitchen and changing rooms.

The breezy but formally arranged day-core is exactly what Your Mama would expect to find in the Antigua getaway of a cultured old money American family; Think lots of sea-salty wicker things, canopied beds with mosquito netting, and comfortably worn painted wood floors.

Located in the exclusive Mill Reef Club, the perfectly private property offers a vegetable garden, citrus orchard and tropically verdant hillside that slopes down towards the the pinks sands of Antigua's famously scenic and fancy-pants Half Moon Bay.

44 comments:

Jayne said...

Another of God's ways to let you know when you have too much money.

Anonymous said...

just another example of the uber-rich and their lavish lifestyles. i mean really.... a frickin garage in the middle of the house????

whatever happened to normal?

Anonymous said...

There are some interesting history and photos of the Upperville runway (and hence the property) on http://www.airfields-freeman.com/VA/Airfields_VA_Faquier.htm. The Upperville property is on Mill Reef Road, named after Paul Mellon's legendary racehorse Mill Reef, who in turn was named after the Mill Reef Club in Antigua of which the Mellon's were founding members.

Anonymous said...

This is definitely the real estate jackpot. Bunny has great taste and knows how to live. Having your own runway (not just a private jet) that a 727 can land on is on a level of it's own. And nothing about her portfolio is vulgar. Everything is well-groomed, organized and verdant. Too bad she was taken in by a fool with good hair.

Only 3 comments? and 2 of them stupid?

Anonymous said...

anon 7:22am.... "nothing about her portfolio is vulgar"?????

having your own runway for your own 727 besides the g5 doesn't sound vulgar at all.

lets see.... boeing 727 unit cost 22,000,000.00

gulfstream g5 unit cost 42-70 million
plus yearly periodic maintenance

yeah your right nothing vulgar here!

ur comment is the only stupid one here.

Candy Spelling said...

If one were able to look up "Old Money" in Webster's, this woman's face would probably be right next to the definition. She's like the High Priestess of the WASPs.

Well, except for that naughty little escapade with young Johnny. Tee hee.

Anonymous said...

anon 8:58 Quit being envious of other people and their money. They have great real estate and have supported the arts and artists. Whining about other people's good fortunes is the only stupid comment here. If you don't like to see it, don't read the blog.

Anonymous said...

Why is she selling off properties now? Or better yet her money managers?

So, this is the lady that John Edwards lied to and took advantage of. Shame on him!

Jeannified said...

Her properties are AMAZING!!! Great reporting, Mama!

Petra's Nosehair Trimmer said...

Her property portfolio is To. Die. For. My fave is the Antigua compound. OMG I would kill for that place. And the price almost seems cheap.

Anonymous said...

Let s not get worked up here. She doesnt have an airstrip big enuf for a 727. She has a falcon 2000 business jet that seats 10-12 people and a private strip big enuf to land that. Yes she is amazingly rich. At least she has superb taste and by the way is a democrat, and her only goal in life is NOT to see the 1% pay less in taxes, and so she supported Edwards, his campaign was focused on poor people when he was running, not exactly terrible. Yes she is downsizing. The woman is 101 Im sure its called estate planning. WIth so many houses and so many servants its a bit much at 101 years of age Im sure.I would bet she is NOT running out of $.

Splenderosa said...

To people like the Mellons this is normal. They do not know anything else. And, they have given away vast sums of money to every cause imaginable.

Anonymous said...

It's all a matter of scale. Mrs Mellon has been exceedingly generous to many causes. Her lifestyle, relative to her wealth, is modest, not like many others we have seen here.
Her house on Nantucket has been looking a bit forlorn these past few summers - although perfectly maintained, the usually closed shutters are begging to be opened and let the sun shine in a place so perfectly sited and understatedly elegant.

The Ancient said...

Years ago, one of Bunny's elderly neighbors was having a few friends to tea. They observed the Mellon jet take off -- only to return a few minutes later.

"Oh, look," the hostess exclaimed. "Do you suppose Mrs. Mellon forgot a scarf?"

Anonymous said...

Yes, all she has is the business jet for personal transport - it probably gives her flexibility and privacy. The Upperville airport link does say a 727 landed there once for a party - perhaps a head of state guest. The air strip is about the length required for a 727 - meant for regional and small airport use.

Anonymous said...

If this was about a rich woman who supported a republican (even if they were not facing trial, as the trial lawyer is) there would be 50 posts minimum by now. They would detail outrage over how disgusting and despicable this womans wealth is. Almost silence...

Eric said...

Anon 1:32 nailed it.

Anonymous said...

Eric,

The despicable person is John Edwards. She's an older woman who got taken in by his looks (yuk - I think he's creepy) and thought she was recreating JFK. She also had a philandering husband - so she turns a blind eye to those things by her own experiences (sad). It's unclear that she really knew where the money was going. She was interviewed by the FBI, but I don't believe she's even been threaten with any wrong doing (Edwards has, hope he's someone's bitch in prison).

But who cares? This blog is about interesting real estate. And she has AMAZING real estate and aesthetic taste. She created beautiful environments. I hate John Edwards, but that doesn't overcome the appreciation of beautiful environments. I think most others recognize the same thing.

Anonymous said...

This woman's real estate portfolio is unreal. Wow.

Eric said...

Anon 8:11

I couldn't agree more! Only point the OP was making was the double standard, and I think s/he made it well.

But that's not the point. The point is the fantastic RE porn our Mamma feeds us each day.

Anonymous said...

1:00. It isn't about envy, dear. It is about the obscene mal distribution of income and wealth in the USA. If you read more widely and more wisely you might find out some things. Such as that the low low tax rates on the rich stimulated the recklessness by Wall Streeters that nearly collapsed the US economy recently, or don't you recall that? That the US is an obscene exception in the world in that the % of income going to the top 1% is double that in Europe. That there should be moral outrage that someone like Bunny can spend her time on trivialities like gardens, and so forth while millions of decent Americans can hardly made do until the next measly pay check. Of apologists for the super rich we have a surfeit. What we need are more people with a healthy sense of outrage. Read your Krugman, your Stiglitz, and other intelligent pundits if you want to wise up. Sadly enough, you probably don't.

Anonymous said...

Re her politics and her wealth one might mention Warren Buffett in the context. He is richer than she but he doesn't have five or six homes (mansions?), lives modestly, and has the guts to suggest that the obscenely rich pay more in taxes. He works to keep an important company going instead of cultivating gardens that only a few people see. He has a private jet since he needs one in his business but feels apologetic about it. And I am not aware of his having a private airstrip. Finally he has already given away more money than Bunny ever had. She may be pleasant personally but she is a prime exhibit for what is deeply wrong with the USA today.

Rosco Mare said...

Retailers such as Pottery Barn and Restoration Hardware have tried for years to rip off the look of the Antigua house.

Anonymous said...

10:23..feeling "apologetic" for what one has is earned is "what is deeply wrong with the USA today".

Anonymous said...

11:01 Earned??!! You mean like the billions that have been syphoned off by hedge fund managers from the money that passes through their hands? Whose greed was what fueled the recent Great Recession. Have you ever been duped by the plutocracy. Not uncommon however. You would do yourself a world of intellectual good if you would read the Calculated Risk blog as well as analyses by Nobel Laureates Krugman and Stiglitz among others. You probably think they don't know as much as you? Pointy heads unworthy of attention?

Anonymous said...

For those who want to defend the obscene rewards going to ("earned by"?) banksters and hedge fund managers, I suggest paying attention to Paul Volker. Re the recent financial disaster brought on by these types he said "the only useful innovation in banking in the last generation has been the ATM machine." In short all the playing around with vast sums of money has done nothing for the economy whatsoever but bring it to the brink of ruin.

Elizabeth said...

Her properties are beautiful. The Caribbean estate especially. I am not much for politics, so I'll try and stay out of that argument haha. The Cape Cod house would be a dream of mine. I have always wanted a waterfront home on the along the mid to upper Atlantic coast. And at 28 Million it's a steal! Ha, I wish! Thanks for sharing.

Candy Spelling said...

Hunnies, are y'all posting here because y'all are interested in real estate and celebrities, or are your lard-bloated booties here to bitch and moan about the "1%" on every single post? We've heard it. Time and time again.

Perhaps instead of constantly whining about the "unfairness", you could be out working? Or perhaps making yourself productive in some way? Then when you earn your own fortunes, you can lead the 1% by example, like Buffett. Until then, enough with the nonsense, and let us enjoy the real estate tastes of the more fortunate in peace.

I'll believe that y'all are truly sincere about equality when you give your future fortunes away to the poor. And I'm willing to bet that will be the day Hell freezes over.

Anonymous said...

Well said, Candy, well said. Hope the bitter ones read it widely and intellectually wise up that this blog, thanks to Your Momma, is for eenjoyment. If your momma serves you a nice meal - slaving over the hot stove to make it - do you just bitch and complain about it? You say thank you.

Anonymous said...

Mama, Mrs. Mellon only has one child still living, in addition to the two stepchildren. Her younger daughter died in 2008 in sad circumstances.

Anonymous said...

Bunny Mellon's Nantucket holdings are considerable; in fact, she's thought to be the island's largest single landowner, and we locals often refer to her as the "Queen of Nantucket." The house itself started out as nothing more than a small seaside dining pavilion -- a simple place to escape for a long lunch and an afternoon swim with her closest friend and confidante Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis (before they'd jet back to the Osterville getaway). Over the years the property became quite the compound, a private and rarified kingdom that only Paul Mellon's limitless wealth could afford. Ostensibly simple but without question luxurious, I'm told, the house was decorated with the help of Mrs. Mellon's longtime friend, the (decades younger) interior designer Bruce Budd. He, too, is no stranger to land of Old World money, we hear. His family's spread in the Berkshires -- one of the last of the great estates there -- was called "Notchview," and his uncle gifted it in the Sixties or Seventies to the high-brow Trustees of the Reservations, a Massachusetts conservation/preservation society founded by the likes of the mighty Cabots and Lodges of Boston's Beacon Hill. (Britain's National Trust modeled itself after the Trustees of Reservations!) Notchview is now open to the likes of you and me -- all 3,000+ acres of it.

james said...

Amazing how simple it can be to communicate with people and have them understand a certain topic, you made my day.

Banquet Halls in Los Angeles

Jackie said...

Best book on Bunny, Autobiography of Billy Baldwin.

Anonymous said...

What this article doesn't state is that Bunny and her late husband were some of the largest philanthropists in the world. Building both the National Gallery of Art and the Yale European Art Gallery.

Not to mention that they bought both the Cape Hatteras National Seashore and the Cap Cod National Seashore and...wait for it, wait for it...DONATED THEM to the United States. So take that all you naysayers. Say what you will but the Mellon's did MORE than their share to take care of the Untied States.

Jack Hackman said...

Great pictures and article. I'd like to add..to the list of great women who shared their wealth. Candy Spellman. I watched her show her huge home before it was sold. Her devotion to helping people with her money was very clear. She is a 1%er that shares with the 99%. That ranks her with Ms Mellon,Onassis and Aster.Thank you

Anonymous said...

http://data.visionappraisal.com/NantucketMA/findpid.asp#closest

See her Nantucket properties via the above link.

Anonymous said...

Since the discussion seems focused on $, I think the one thing people dont realize is the Mellons have been among the richest families in America for like 100 years. This is old old $. Mrs Mellon is not like the Koch brothers. She is 102. In her life women did not work. She is a brillant woman, amazingly gifted in the arts. She couldnt and didnt put those brains to use working. She lived a conventional life but with superb taste and friends and I would bet the family has been incredibly generous philanthropically forever. I would also bet she would advocate the top 2% paying much more in taxes.

rob grom said...
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commercial property uk said...
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Atif Ahmed said...
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Chris Wall said...

Great pictures and article. I'd like to add..to the list of great women who shared their wealth. Candy Spellman. I watched her show her huge home before it was sold. Her devotion to helping people with her money was very clear. She is a 1%er that shares with the 99%. That ranks her with Ms Mellon,Onassis and Aster.Thank you homes for sale in marietta ga

Property in London said...
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Anonymous said...

I live on cape cod and I think I might like to buy that house in Osterville for 28 million.
It could be great fun.

Anonymous said...

The Cape Cod property is SOLD ! sorry !
A note about the Mellons, you may not realize that most of the world would not enjoy aspects of life if it were not for the vision of Andrew Mellon, Banker.
Mellon Bank, bank rolled a great inventions and company's such as Aluminum, Carnegie Steel and Gulf Oil, etc. With great wealth comes greater responsibility, do your homework before you speak ill of someone you know nothing about.
These wealthy individuals have employed hundreds and because of their lifestyles have supported directly and indirectly thousands of individuals and family's like you and I.
Interesting, in a country where anyone has the opportunity to create wealth by starting a business and working hard for the rewards but also suffering the possible failures, once achieved should have the freedom to enjoy the time and finances gained, much like employees enjoy the time and finances they receive for the jobs they agreed to perform for the business owners.
People forget, if there were no businesses, there would be no JOBS. I do not ever remember reading that the original settlers in America came here to " Get a good JOB " they came for the opportunity to enjoy freedom and the pursuit of it. And that goes for the rewards of hard work also.