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November 2009


Deeds & Don'ts
By Lily Oliver


ALL DUNNE (click photo for larger view)

Journalist and bon vivant Dominick Dunne, who died in August, is most closely associated with Hollywood and Manhattan. A Vanity Fair contributor, Dunne spent his celebrated career as something of a crusader for justice, covering celebrity trials (Claus Von Bulow, O.J. Simpson) and tribulations (Martha Stewart, Brooke Astor). But Dunne was a Connecticut boy at heart, born in Hartford and the longtime owner of a home in Hadlyme, a tiny, riverside community that exists in the shadows of its more celebrated sister towns of Lyme and coastal Fenwick—where Katharine Hepburn lived and Dunne himself summered as a boy.

On the market since September, Dunne's place looks every inch the writer's retreat. Built in the 1980s to resemble a classic Colonial, it's sited on a graceful curve of a quiet country road, just a short drive from the tiny ferry that links Hadlyme to the (relatively) bustling town of Chester. The home's most impressive space is its double-sized living room with a handsome antique hearth, where Dunne's Court TV segments were often filmed. The vermilion-walled dining room has its own fireplace and the main floor also boasts an all-red library, with views over a stone terrace and the maze of waterways and wetlands beyond. Forgive us if it sounds as if we were snooping, but we also loved the stacks and piles and walls of books throughout the house, as well as the framed photographs of the authors' many celebrity friends and acquaintances: the Beatles, Princess Diana, Elizabeth Taylor and Monica Lewinsky, just to name a few. In all, the home offers three bedrooms, two bathrooms (plus one half bathroom) and guest quarters attached to the garage. The property is listed for $2.1 million with Colette Harron of Sotheby's International Realty in Essex, (860) 767-7488.

STYRON'S SANCTUARY (click photo for larger view)

Another listing linked to a literary luminary made the news this fall, this one in Litchfield County: The Roxbury retreat owned by late William Styron has been priced-reduced from $2.2 million to $1.895 million. The yellow-clapboard, five-bedroom home is still being sold by Styron's widow, Rose, and represented by Stacey Matthews of the Matthews Group, affiliated with William Raveis Realty, in Washington Depot, (860) 868-9066. Its many charms include an Adirondack-style great room, a saltwater pool and a guest cottage with two bedrooms. But the biggest price drop was recorded in Greenwich, when the asking price for Dunellen Hall, the home of the late, great Leona Helmsley, was slashed to a meager $75 million. On the market since the winter of 2008, the 23,000-square-foot, 40-acre estate garnered little interest at $125 million or at its various interim price points: too grand, too formal, but at the same time too much in need of modification, unless your tastes happen to exactly match those tastes of the woman who was once known as the "Queen of Mean."

Dunellen Hall, listed with David Ogilvy Associates, (203) 869-9866, joins Old Mill Farm, owned by Mel Gibson, which is also on the sales rack. Gibson first tried to sell the 76-acre Greenwich estate in the summer of 2007, listing it for $39.5 million. Since then, Gibson's personal life has become increasingly complicated, as he split with his wife and prepares to welcome his eighth child into the world, this one with girlfriend Oksana Grigorieva. Whatever his motivation, the actor is now listing the farm for $29,750,000, offered by Joe Barbieri of Sotheby's International Realty in Greenwich, (203) 618-3112.

Called Laurel Hill, this Greenwich listing offers every opportunity for indoor and outdoor diversion, with its nifty features such as a wine cellar, martini lounge, billiards room, home theater and—for the lawn-sports-inclined—a bocce court, all on its five-plus acres. (On the off chance that you run out of things to do, the Stanwich Club is just down the road.) Built in 2005, the 10,156-square-foot Normandy-style manse also features six bedrooms and six bathrooms, including a first-floor master suite with dressing rooms, an enormous, luxurious spa bath and a private terrace—perfect for kicking back after an afternoon of friendly competition. It's listed for $15,950,000 with Kathryn Clauss of Coldwell Banker in Greenwich, (203) 918-3881).

The fall 2009 selling season will wind down in the next weeks, when the market takes its annual break for the holidays. And while sales have remained flat, traffic has picked up, brokers report, with a handful of spectacular listings drawing crowds. Here, a look inside the most crowd-pleasing of the bunch.

GOLF WAR (click photo for larger view)


Chelsea Piers developer Roland Betts has finally given up. For more than a decade George-Bush-BFF Betts attempted to build a golf resort and community on 780 acres in Norfolk, not far from his New Canaan country home. Indeed the high and open land—remote and rolling with views of the Berkshire Hills—would have made for a spectacular course. But the Norfolk folk wanted nothing to do with it, objecting to environmental impacts and to how the anticipated increased traffic and noise would destroy the tranquil nature of the small town.

"The collapse of America's economy doomed Yale Farm," said Betts when he announced that he was dropping the project. Along with the acreage, the offering includes a nine-bedroom main residence, two farmhouses, multiple barns and a cabin. It's listed with Peter Klemm of Klemm Realty in Washington Depot, (860) 868-7313.

TO THE MANOR BORN (click photo for larger view)


This 18-acre estate is the most impressive equestrian venue we've seen this side of the Kentucky Downs. The stables offer stalls for 39 horses, along with groom's quarters, paddocks, a polo practice field and a track. There are comforts for the farm's two-legged creatures, as well, including a Har-Tru tennis court with a covered viewing terrace; a pool, steam room and hot tub; 11 garage bays, a home theater, a wine cellar and a fitness room. Styled to resemble a French manor, the 20,000-square-foot home offers eight bedrooms and 12 bathrooms. It's listed with Joe Barbieri of Sotheby's International Realty in Greenwich, (203) 618-3112.

GOT YACHTS? (click photo for larger view)


For sea-faring types, this classic gray-shingled Colonial has every kind of waterfront amenity imaginable: expansive views of Southport Harbor; it sits next door to the yacht yard; and it comes with a dock and beach rights. The 3,900-square-foot home was built in 1937 by architect Cameron Clark on almost an acre of land and offers four bedrooms and three bathrooms (plus one half bathroom). It's listed with Andrew Whiteley of William Raveis Real Estate in Southport, (203) 258-1595.