Mansions make a magnificent home away from home.
It’s likely that more movie stars and Fortune 50 moguls have slept in our mansions-for- rent than have North Shore natives. Yet these Grand Dames, which can rival European villas, are indeed available as an option to our charming bed and breakfasts, New England style inns and boutique hotels. To drive home the point that we have diamonds in our own backyard, four residents of Gloucester were recruited to experience an overnight stay at Stoneacre, the 16,000 square foot stone mansion with 11 bedrooms and 10 baths on Gloucester’s exclusive Eastern Point.
Each of our local quartet is extremely familiar with the city through either long-term residency, active participation in arts and historical organizations, or high-end real estate sales. Yet the magnifi cence of the property and its location blew them away.
“I’ve lived here 41 years and I feel like I’m seeing a view of the Harbor that I’ve only seen on postcards and paintings,” said Goose Cove resident Bob Myers while scanning Gloucester’s historic downtown and its working harbor to his right and distant views of the Boston skyline to his left.
“Look at this,” Myers said, nodding toward town. “There’s Ten Pound Island, where Winslow Homer lived in 1880.” Gesturing left: “There’s Dog Bar Breakwater and Eastern Point Lighthouse. And here’s Winslow’s painting of this same view of the breakwater!” Myers said, referencing the art book he’s picked up from the coffee table in the North Porch. This air-conditioned and radiantly heated porch is dramatically suspended above the ocean and enclosed by fl oor-to-ceiling bulletproof glass (to provide protection from the occasional storm-tossed stone).
After we meandered into the gymsized Sea Room, another book was perused. “Eastern Point,” written by resident historian and Eastern Point neighbor Joe Garland, shows pictures and tells tales of Stoneacre’s grand beginnings in 1915. Throughout Prohibition, the lively Gatsby-like soirees held at Stoneacre and its Eastern Point counterparts could have inspired F. Scott Fitzgerald.
And so it went. During the first couple of hours after arrival, the guests roamed from room to room and floor to floor attempting to take it all in: the original hand-carved wood details, custom furnishings, the current owner’s sculptures from global excursions, his book and entertainment collections, the “smart house” lighting system that outsmarted them, an exercise room, a hidden library, a media room, and a private deepwater dock with two moorings – all of it available to houseguests.
The first decision was to choose from among the 11 bedrooms. Among the amenities in the sleeping areas are full baths, a sunroom with TV, and private decks with spectacular views.
Next, the members chose their afternoon rest spots. Two enjoyed the view from the North Porch; two made their way downstairs to the stone, tile and brick “playroom.” This duo perched at the authentic hotel mahogany bar for an afternoon cocktail and a look around. A refrigerated keg system, a professional-size icemaker, a temperature-controlled walk-in wine cellar, a billiards area, and separate ladies’ and men’s rooms. Plush robes and towels hang aside the door that opens to the teak Swedish sauna and steam room.
“Look at this,” said Elizabeth Toulan, from Wheeler’s Point, while in the sauna. “Open the shutters and here’s Gloucester Harbor again.”
For some guests, best of all might be the enormous state-of-the-art kitchen. It is a chef’s dream and a gourmet’s delight featuring a Norwegian soapstone hearth housing a pizza oven, sitting area, and drop-down 50 inch TV, three dishwashers, two large gas stoves (with pot fillers, grills, a dedicated oversize wok, a deep fryer, and two warming ovens and warming lights), two double sinks with disposals, two 55-gallon trash receptacles (discreetly hidden), a prep sink, a convection/microwave oven, a steam oven, an oversized side- by-side refrigerator/ freezer, separate full-size beverage refrigerators, and an imported seafoodshucking prep sink.
But who wants to cook on vacation? Enter event creator and caterer Julie Ann Geary of Classic Cooks, who early that morning had gone to the docks to hand-select the lobsters for the evening’s catered upscale boiled lobster dinner. She and her assistant, William (Bill) Hartwell, used the kitchen to create a five-star multicourse meal. Julie was right at home in the mammoth kitchen because she’s catered numerous events at Stoneacre.
The first course was Classic Cooks’ version of New England clam chowder, “made with a little love and some fresh thyme.” Then came a platter of mussels in marinara sauce served with semolina crostini. The hot boiled lobster served next was delicate andÂ sweet. Julie and Bill explained it’s because technically the lobsters were steamed, not boiled – and of course, they were fresh. Accompanying the main dish was a medley of marinated grilled vegetables sprinkled with fresh herbs. The dining event concluded with layered summer berries, Italian pastries, and her signature sandcastle cake.
Adding to the localized fun, Bob conducted a very unscientific taste testing of three of Cape Ann Brewing Company’s Fisherman’s beer selections. “I think it was a mistake to start with the I.P.A.; this Kolsch is much more delicate. Delicious.”
“This was completely, outrageously divine,” said Britishaccented Elizabeth Frere Jones, of Main Street. “This is definitely the best, most elegant dinner, in the most sumptuous surroundings, I have ever had.”
A collective sigh and nodding of heads secondedÂ her sentiments.
Post-dessert: a deliciously long session in the seaside hot tub carved into the native stone and heated to a perfect 102 degrees. The early April evening had a nip in the air, the sky was studded with stars, and across the harbor lights twinkled from Magnolia’s estates.
Turning her head back to take in a sweeping view of Stoneacre’s three stories of granite, Bob’s wife Ellen said, “Just think of the history that this house knows.”
For Your Pleasure
Stoneacre is but one property listed with Atlantic Vacation Homes, which has an inventory of over 200 beach houses, condos, oceanfront estates, and cottages. www.atlanticvacationhomes.com or 866.204.4777. Classic Cooks can cater for two or dozens!
www.classiccooks.com or 978.283.3377.
Classic Cooks’ lobster and mussels went well with the local Fisherman’s beer. The sandcastle cake is Classic Cooks’ signature dessert.