Word on the real estate street in the tony seaside community of Newport, R.I. is that Hollywood is coming to town in the form of prominently chinned comedian Jay Leno who was reported in the Boston Globe to be the $13.5 million buyer of an august and unquestionably grand, nine-acre oceanfront estate known as Seafair on prestigious Ocean Drive.
The dramatically sited and muscularly massed but sensuously semi-circular mansion, built in 1935 and originally called Terre Mare, was designed by architect James Mackenzie Jr. for Denver mining heir, banking bigwig and diplomat Joseph Verner Reed, a Ronald Reagan-appointed ambassador to Morocco for a few years in the early 1980s. The seller of the opulently appointed residence and its manicured gardens, businessman Richard Bready, reportedly purchased the property in 1997 for about $3 million. In 2003, for his 60th birthday, Bready invited 180 guests over to the house for a private concert by Elton John and in 2014 he hosted a glittery fundraiser on the property for then president Barack Obama.
Daringly situated up against the ruggedly scenic coastline on a gated oceanfront peninsula shared with just one other home, the stone-built manor house more than just a little resembles a French château embellished with limestone quoins and a high-pitched slate roof that when it was most recently replaced was reported to have cost about $2.5 million. At 15,851 square feet, the imposing, three-story residence is certainly humongous if well short of a mega-mansion with, by a quick count on the floor plan included with digital marketing materials, ten mostly en suite bedrooms and ten full and three half bathrooms
Baronial entertaining spaces feature palace-worthy architectural detailing and include an elegant, bi-level foyer with his and her powder rooms, a stair gallery with floating staircase that makes a sweeping curve up the second floor and a ballroom-proportioned salon that stretches to more than forty feet long with an elegantly delicate carved marble fireplace and half-circle carved stone friezes above the extraordinarily tall windows and doorways. A trio of soaring arches fitted with French doors lead from the living room to a seaside loggia where a gently curved wall of glass provides panoramic and almost ship-like ocean and coastline views. The formal dining room all by itself measures around 650-square-feet and a fully paneled library offers built-in bookcases and a money green carved marble fireplace. The less formal but no less sumptuous family wing includes a lavishly finished center island kitchen, an adjoining breakfast room that doubles as an informal entrance hall and an immense, 45-foot-long family room with fireplace, built-in entertainment unit and French doors to an ocean-side dining terrace.
An en suite bedroom just off the kitchen on the main floor works well as staff quarters and there are five more en suite guest bedrooms on the second floor along with a sprawling master suite composed of sitting room with bowed window, spacious separate bedroom with fireplace and French door access to an oceanfront terrace shared with another bedroom, two roomy walk-in closets and a marble bathroom with jetted tub and fireplace. There are an additional three bedrooms and three bathrooms plus a billiards room tucked up into the uppermost floor along with a carriage house for staff or long-term guests.
The grounds provide a great sweep of lawn at the front of the house, a tennis court discreetly nestled out of the wind in a small grove of trees, extensive stone terraces and walled gardens and an ocean-facing swimming pool set into a stone terrace next to a spacious pool house with gym, lounge and two bathrooms. The property also provides two elevators, a well disguised central air conditioning system, a service kitchen for large gatherings, an on-demand generator should a particularly torrential Nor’easter barrel in and knock the power out and, surely a bonus for Leno, a voracious car collector, a six-car garage.
The retired chat show host, who hails from Andover, Mass., about two hours north of Newport and currently hosts the classic car-centric “Jay Leno’s Garage,” has long made his home base in the swanky hills above Benedict Canyon in Beverly Hills where he maintains two neighboring properties with two very different homes. One of them, a sleek and low-slung mid-century modern residence of not-quite 2,500-square-feet on almost an acre, he’s owned since 1997 when it was purchased for an unrecorded amount and the other, a field stone accented traditional of nearly 6,400-square-feet plus a two-story detached garage and guesthouse on about three-quarters of an acre, he’s owned since 1987 when it was acquired for $2.45 million.
listing photos: Gustave White Sotheby’s Realty