A spectacular Gloucester home with a storied past and Hollywood ties hits the market-just in time for summer. By, Leslie Martini Eddy
A magnificent and elegant 10-acre waterfront castle situated on Gloucester’s rocky coast, the Cape Ann dwelling known as Seawinds enjoys a harmonious and timeless existence and a rich pedigree. Dating back to the early 1900s, the home has historical ties to the Boston China trade fortune. Today, its lineage links directly to Hollywood through its owner, a film producer whose current project is an upcoming film starring Brad Pitt. But, as often happens in Hollywood stories, the current chapter in Seawind’s history has come to an end; the sprawling home is on the market, its owner’s time completely beholden to the production of a major motion picture.
But then again, drama is part of the effect here at Seawinds. Acres of untouched woodlands-scrub pine, oak, and birch; perennial gardens; a spring-fed pond; and rolling lawns provide seclusion from the rest of the world. Through 12-foot Palladian windows, the panoramic views of Ipswich Bay and Wingaersheek Beach stretch as far north as the Isle of Shoals. If captured on film, the Academy’s nod for visual effects might just be a shoo-in. Yet somehow, with all of its opulence, this historical estate manages to disarm rather than offend.
The illustrious background of this Normandy-style castle began in the early 1920s with a family whose fortune was made in the Boston China trade. For shipping merchants, importing silk, tea, porcelain, and other luxury items from China in return for spices, silver, and seal fur from America proved to be a promising livelihood. Boston and Salem had the fundamentals for successful international trade: active seaports, appropriate ships, and experienced captains.
The highly esteemed Boston architectural firm Adden, Parker, Clinch & Crimp was commissioned to design a home in the grand style of 11th and 12th century Normandy. A slate roof houses 14 dormers and among the home’s most magnificent features is a circular tower that stands tall, designating the front entrance, reminiscent of Normandy period homes built as miniature castles. A dramatic front door’s handle and heavy knocker are shaped into fish made of wrought iron, serving as lasting tributes to the local fisherman and their conquests. A 17-pound brass Navy bell is mounted in a dormer above the door.
Once inside, the lighting is romantic and the space dramatic; 18-foot-high ceilings yield effortlessly to 12-foot Palladian windows. Two decorative oak beams extend the width of the living area. A hand-operated elevator retrieves dry wood from the basement for the nearby fireplace, itself a piece of art, surrounded by antique Moorish tiles. French doors off the living area open to a tree-shaded patio and infinite views. An alcove gives way to three more sets of French doors overlooking meticulously manicured gardens and a large granite patio. The library has been updated with custom nine-panel pegged oak doors, made to match the original doors in the house. This room, too, contains the Bicard of Paris hardware and custom rope molding. A full bath with a marble sink top counts as one of the home’s four full baths, in addition to its three half baths.
The dining room at Seawinds is where the history lesson begins. There is the custom-built bar, set into a cherry countertop with beveled glass cabinets and recessed display lighting. The French doors offer outdoor access, and there is flooring made from 10-inch-wide extra-long oak floorboards. Entrance to the room is via a door accented with hardware from Bicard of Paris. It is the paneling in this room that brings its visitors into the Tudor dynasty. The paneling has the unique distinction of having been carved during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I. The same paneling was once installed in the bedroom of the noted British historian, Arnold Toynbee, and Crowther of Syon Lodge in Richmond, England purchased and installed the paneling in Seawinds in 1987. The paneling is also illustrated in the book, Period Details.
Today, nearly 85 years later, the home’s original beauty, integrity, and functionality remain intact. When the seven-bedroom home was purchased as a summer residence in the mid-90s, intense love for the residence, the town of Gloucester, and the breathtaking scenery turned summer sojourns into year-round living.
“We were drawn to the house initially because of its amazing French Norman architecture, massive granite, and dramatic site,” its owner says. “We knew a bit about Gloucester, but Gloucester slowly revealed itself over time to us as an even more interesting place than we first imagined because of the diversity of its people, its beauty, and the various artists and lovers of art who live there.”
The new owner restored the home, combining modern amenities yet thoughtfully maintaining the original character. The master bedroom boasts a herringbone walnut floor, a working fireplace, and an updated bathroom with handmade tiles from Motawi Tileworks in Ann Arbor, Michigan. “Motawi makes historically inspired hand tiles.Â Each tile is pressed in individual molds, hand-trimmed, fired to bisque quality, hand-glazed, and fired for final finish,” says Dave Browne of Rocky Neck Associates, Inc.
Browne and Rocky Neck Associates, Inc., along with Sheldon Knowles, have been responsible for the renovations and maintenance of the property for the current owners. The master bath floor, according to Browne, is made from local Cape Ann granite taken from a quarry in Bayview-approximately a mile away-specifically for the master bath. “Radiant heat is installed under the floor so the granite is warm-it’s like walking barefoot on the granite ledges that are warmed by the sun,” said Brown.
Seawinds, it seems, from the time of its inception in the early 1920s, has the rare ability to continuously exude a sense of inviting and forbidding promise. “It’s a really special property and I would not be selling it if I even spent a week here every year, which I can’t do now because of our film schedule,” said the producer. “We used to enjoy our “picnic rocks” on the shore–unusually flat granite ledges–where we could have wine and cheese and watch the sunsets. I also used to launch and land a fleet of kayaks there, and swim and snorkel,” the producer said.
For now, however, on this scene in the story of Seawinds, it’s a wrap.Â Contact Lanse Robb, principal, LandVest, 617-357-8996,Â firstname.lastname@example.org.