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 Farms—photographed in all their springtime glory for the aforementioned Vanity Fair profile and interview—are 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.
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.
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.