Monday, August 10, 2015

Washington Social Diary: The Latest on the Mellon Estate

The Brick House was built for Paul Mellon and his first wife, Mary Conover Brown, in the early 1940s, by William Adams Delano.
by Carol Joynt

After a year on the market at $70 million for 2,000 acres of prime Virginia hunt country land, with a Georgian mansion and a jet landing strip, the Upperville estate of Paul and Bunny Mellon has not sold. The property was shown to 8 buyers, including three who returned for second looks, and one for a third, but none made an offer. The Mellons real estate and legal overseers have decided, and confirmed to New York Social Diary exclusively, that they now will break up the property and sell it in a dozen parcels.

“We have made a decision to move now to speak with parties who have expressed an interest in parts of the property, and those include neighbors,” said Tom Anderson of Washington Fine Properties, who announced the listing last August. He said these interested parties, forming something of a wait list, have been in touch directly with him and executor Alex Forger, asking “if there was a time when portions of it would be available would we inform them.”
Back in the day, Mrs. Mellon arriving on her jet at Rokeby.
To head off any groans that Paul and Bunny are rolling in their side-by-side graves, Anderson made clear that this move is part of a “strategic plan” the Mellons helped devise. He said the principal goal is still to sell the whole estate, intact, to a single buyer to “keep Mr. and Mrs. Mellon’s idea of how it would be handled. They were great stewards of the land. Passionate about keeping it intact.” He said that Bunny Mellon left a plan for “how this was done,” and they are “still adhering to her wishes.”
The Mellon family graves, behind Trinity Episcopal, the church Paul and Bunny Mellon built in Upperville, Virginia.
Broken up, though, the Mellon property is no less splendid -- rolling, green and lush land in one of the prettiest regions of the hunt country and with an unparalleled provenance. For example, the Georgian mansion, known as The Brick House, was built for Paul Mellon and his first wife, Mary Conover Brown, in the early 1940s. It was designed by William Adams Delano of New York, with the Hammond-Harwood House of Annapolis as the inspiration.
The Brick House.
The road that runs through the Mellon property.
Mary died in 1946. When Paul remarried, to Rachel “Bunny” Lloyd in 1948, the newlyweds converted the house into a museum quality art gallery. They built a house for themselves next door, Oak Spring, now the home of the Gerard B. Lambert Foundation, named in honor of Bunny’s father, and which is endowed into the eons. That is where Mrs. Mellon died in March 2014 at the age of 103. What she left behind -- rare painting, fine jewelry, antiques, Chinese porcelains -- sold at Sotheby’s, the art bringing $158.7 million, the jewelry and furniture another $59 million.

The Brick House, split off from the bulk of the estate, has a price of $7.25 million. It comes with 285 acres, a collection of outbuildings and close proximity to the Foundation. Across a one-lane hard top road is Rokeby, with 450 acres, including a landing strip that can accommodate the latest and greatest in private jet aircraft, as well as Mrs. Mellon’s famous green houses.
One of Mrs. Mellon’s famous green houses.
Mrs. Mellon with her miniature herb trees in 1982.
Anderson said they have not yet put a price on the Rokeby parcel because it is not among the first parcels they plan to sell. “It has multiple parties interested,” he said, “People who understand the value of the airstrip and the green houses. That will be our easiest sale.”

Presumably, if a buyer steps up for The Brick House and wants Rokeby, also, a deal can be done. That buyer may have felt “the 2000 acres was too much,” but will view buying 735 acres, with an important home and the strip and green houses, as the way to go.
A view of Rokeby from the road.
The Piedmont Hunt, meeting at the Mellon estate on Thanksgiving several years ago.
The Piedmont hounds, on the Mellon estate.
There are 12 parcels altogether, Anderson said, their sizes range from 75 acres to 500 acres. “Four of them have neighbors who are interested,” Anderson said. “There’s another that has multiple interest.” All of the properties are protected with restrictive covenants to ward off developers with visions of McMansion subdivisions. There will be no “Bunny’s Acres” or “Mellon Hills.”
Tom Anderson of Washington Fine Properties says the interior of The Brick House looks similar to the way it appeared in the 1950s ...
Entrance hall staircase.
Swimming pool and paviilion.
Mr. Mellon's study.
There’s “a lot of thought behind” this decision to sell the land in parcels,” said Anderson. “This is not giving up. It is doing the right thing. We will continue to look for that one buyer. You never know.”

Of the potential buyers who did look at the whole package, a few who made use of the landing strip, one was from the local area and two were from outside the U.S. There were rumors of interest from Washington football team owner Dan Snyder and also of a Brazilian billionaire whose pastime is polo.

“One party remains in touch with us about making an offer for the property intact," Anderson said. “But it is what it is, there’s nothing until there’s an offer.”
The recent Blue Moon rising over the Mellon estate in Upperville, VA
Photographs by Carol Joynt

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