Innisfree, grand estate, sells for $8.2 million

Innisfree, the West Mountain estate that has views extending to the Hudson River Valley, is centered around a 10-bedroom brick manor house.

Innisfree, an 1895 Georgian Revival mansion with views from West Mountain to the Hudson Valley that is among the last of Ridgefield’s grand old estates, sold for $8.2 million on the last day of 2012.

The 88 acres includes the 10-bedroom brick mansion, pool, tennis court, and such outbuildings as barns, kennels, a chauffeur’s house, cottage, garages,   greenhouse, gatehouse, and an 1800s schoolhouse —the West Mountain School —  converted to staff quarters

The property at 153 West Mountain Road had been owned for decades by Dr. Patrick and Vera Neligan. The buyer — who bought the property without a mortgage — is identified only as a limited liability corporation, 153 West Mountain Road LLC.

“I never met the buyer. He didn’t come to the closing,” said Patrick Crehan, the Main Street attorney who represented the Neligans.

He said the buyer was represented by attorney Neil Marcus of Cohen and Wolf’s Danbury office.

“Money was wired into his account. I went over to his office gave him the deed,” Mr. Crehan said. “The transaction was all done within two weeks.”

Both Mr. Crehan and Mr. Marcus said it appeared that the property had been purchased as a residence, not for its development potential.

“Just in chit-chatting, I have the impression the people behind the LLC who bought it will use it as a weekend house for a time, and then plan to move in. There was no indication of any kind of development,” Mr. Crehan said. “There’s no talk of development, there are no contingencies. It was a rather straight-forward, simple transaction — other than the amount of money.”

Mr. Marcus said he was not at liberty to reveal the buyer’s identity.

“To allay any fears, I’ve had no indication that there are any current plans to develop this property, no immediate plans to develop this property — more, indication that it will be used much as it has been,” Mr. Marcus said.

“The anxiety level is always there: ‘What’s going to happen?’ And at the moment I’m not sure there’s any reason for much anxiety.”

Mr. Crehan said the buyer had given the Neligans some time to organize their departure from the home where they’ve lived for years.

Dr. Neligan retired as Ridgefield’s director of health in 2004, eight years after retiring as a physician at Norwalk Hospital, where he was chief of staff from 1975 to 1981. In 1996 he started a community health center in Norwalk to serve the poor.

“They’re staying on the property for about 30 days. This was a very quick sale and the buyer was very cooperative,” Mr. Crehan said.

“They’re very pleased with the sale,” he said. “That’s a very substantial piece of property to manage — it’s 80-some acres with multiple houses on it…

“They expect to stay in the area,” Mr. Crehan added.

Although the real estate listing dated the 10-bedroom brick Georgian mansion to 1939, the Ridgefield Inventory of Historic and Architectural Resources says of the main house was built in 1895, with a note adding “the building was vacant a number of years … A major restoration-cum renovation occurred in 1939…”

A nine-page, illustrated entry in the town’s architectural resources inventory was written by the late Madeline Corbin, who documented many of the town’s significant properties for the survey originally undertaken by the Ridgefield Preservation Trust.

“This is the earliest Georgian Revival in town,” she wrote. “It’s plan, with the east wing angled wide, is a McKim Mead White feature … The entire property retains its integrity and must be considered one of Ridgefield’s major architectural treasures.”

The architecture survey dates the property’s “schoolhouse” building — the old West Mountain School — to circa 1825, and says it was converted into a house in 1969. “The west protions of this building were the living quarters of the school mistress. East poritoin was the schoolroom … School census of 1849 shows 48 children at this schoolhouse.”

Listings from David Everson Group at William Raveis Real Estate describe the property vividly.

“Sitting on an 88 acre plateau on one of the highest elevations between Boston and Washington, D. C, ‘Innisfree’ offers spectacular views and acres of fields surrounding a beautiful 1939 Georgian Revival residence with pool, his and hers cabana, guesthouse and room for 10 cars. The entrance starts with a gatehouse, six-stall barn, greenhouse and historic 1856 schoolhouse converted to staff quarters. A quarter mile driveway brings you to the main house privately tucked away in a corner of Connecticut Magazine’s number one town, Ridgefield, and only an hour from midtown Manhattan. ‘Innisfree’ is a breathtaking gem like no other…”

Another description on the Raveis website offers detail:

“Innisfree  … takes advantage of breathtaking 50-mile views of the Hudson Valley. With sweeping lawns, rock outcroppings, forests, creek and three miles of trails, there is no other property like this within an hour of NYC.

“The main house with 10 bedrooms, nine baths is of grand detail and scale. First floor features: grand staircase with sweeping curve; double-tier crystal chandelier; wide-board floors; front-to-back gallery; French doors…”

The master bedroom suit on second floor has “two offices, two baths with dressing rooms” and the master bedroom “has a marble fireplace flanked by French doors leading to a terraced balcony with views of pool, lawn and Lake Waccabuc. There is also a private hallway and sitting area offering a secret view of incoming visitors.”

Another feature is a secret stairway connecting the third floor to the wine cellar.

“This property is completely private, but within five minutes of historic Ridgefield. The property was named for the poem by William Butler Yeats called ‘Lake Isle of Innisfree’ which talks about a wonderful place far from urban life…”

The property was listed for $11,750,000 at the time of the sale for $8,200,000, but the initial price in the summer of 2011 was $18 million.

David Everson with Raveis said, “For the size, it didn’t take that long to sell, with the market the way is it,” he said.

Buyers were sought around the world, Mr. Everson said.

“It was marketed in Europe and Asia and marketed in China, but the main marketing was in New York City,” he said.

“It was a good sale,” he said. “It was the largest sale in Ridgefield for the year.”

The next largest sale in town was for $2.8 million.

The largest-ever residential sale in Ridgefield was Arigadeen, the former McKeon farm, which is also about 88 acres. The property on Ridgebury and Old Stagecoach Roads sold in 2005 to E. Hunter and Jeannie Harrison for $12 million. Mr. Harrison is currently president and CEO of the Canadian Pacific Railway, and had been head of the Canadian National Railway when he moved here.

Mr. Everson would not say who bought Innisfree.

“You’re not going to get much information on the owners. I’m not at liberty to say who the owners are,” Mr. Everson said.

The buyer was represented by Becky Munro of Halstead Properties in Darien. She declined to discuss the deal.

The limited liability corporation which is listed as the buyer lists as its principal another corporate entity, Ridgefield CT, LLC, care of a New Haven law office, Withers Bergman.

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