The last great Newport ‘cottage’ heads into its second year on the market
Standing on a “monumental seaside plot of land” and hailing from what was termed “the gilded age era”, Seafair (originally known as “Terre Mare”) is undoubtedly one of Newport, Rhode Island’s most iconic residences. It has been for sale for $19 million (£12.2 million) since 2013 whilst a further $3 million (£1.96 million) is asked for a wing attached to the main residence.
Designed in the Louis XVI style by the British architect William Mackenzie (1858 – 1932) – who was also engaged in the 1949 improvements to the Statue of Liberty – and completed in 1935, Seafair is of brick, limestone and slate construction and was “built to compliment the curve of the coast”.
Situated at 254 Ocean Avenue, Seafair has widely been attributed to have been originally the home of President Reagan’s Ambassador to Morocco from 1981 to 1985, Joseph Verner Reed, Jr., but given that he was born in 1937, that is frankly impossible. On this basis, we presume it was actually built for his mining heir father, Joseph Verner Reed (1902 – 1973), the son of Verner Zevola Reed (1863 – 1919).
After being battered by a hurricane in 1938, Seafair became known locally as “The Hurricane Hut” and was sold to the family of William Van Alen, the architect who designed New York’s iconic Chrysler Building. It is reported that when Hurricane Carol hit in 1954, the family “looked death in the face” and:
“Van Alen hastily filled two cars [said to be Rolls-Royces] with family and servants, hoping to escape to the higher more protected grounds of nearby Avalon, his brother’s home. But the storm surged suddenly, separating the two cars. The one carrying the servants vanished. Van Alen and his butler survived but ended up in the water fighting for their lives. The butler proved his mettle by cooly asking his employer if he happened to have a dry cigarette and a light. If they were facing death, they might as well enjoy one last smoke, he said. Fortunately, they were rescued”.
After being sold again several times, developers began “carving Seafair into six condominiums” in 1986 but ran out of money before they could complete the project. A local firm, Northeast Collaborative Architects, came to the rescue and turned four of the units into a single residence.
Marketed in 1997 for $2.7 million (£1.8 million), Seafair was sold to Dr Richard L. Bready, the then chairman and CEO of Nortek, Inc., a Providence, Rhode Island building products company, for $2.95 million (£1.9 million). During his residence, Bready and his partner, Betty Easton, have used the Atlantic-side house to entertain on a grand scale and in 2014, for example, 60 guests paid between $15,000 (£9,790) and $32,400 (£21,140) to attend a fundraising event at the house for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee with President Obama and Democratic House Leader Nancy Pelosi.
Standing on a 9-acre plot and comprising of 15,851 square foot of accommodation, the main residence at Seafair now features vast entertaining spaces including a salon, a formal dining room, panelled library, 8 bedrooms, 11 “full bathrooms” and “3 half bathrooms”. There is a “chef’s kitchen”, two elevators, central air conditioning, a carriage house and a 6-car garage. The adjoining, separately available 3-bedroomed wing, provides a further 2,518 square foot of accommodation.
Both properties remain available through Melanie Delman and Robin Nicholson of Lila Delman Real Estate, an affiliate of Christie’s International Real Estate.
Watch a video tour of Seafair here:
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