On the Market: A home for the art and nature lover

WESTPORT — The antique Italianate manor house at 77 Morningside Drive South stands as a monument to art, architecture, nature and the ability to raise the concept of entertaining to an art form.

This is definitely the home for the art and nature lover, the person who appreciates architecture and history, and those with a desire for entertaining. You can’t just let the stunning and cavernous restored party barn sit idle, nor this impressive reinvented and expanded 19-room house for that matter.

Franton Court was the name given to this Greens Farms estate by one if its owners, Hilla Von Rebay, a German baroness and artist from the Bauhaus period, and a co-founder of the Museum of Non-Objective Art, the precursor to the Guggenheim Museum in New York City. According to material provided by the listing agent the house was so named to honor Von Rebay’s parents, Franz and Toni. That material also said Von Rebay worked with architect William Muschenheim to convert the barn into an art studio and artists’ quarters. Many of her famous friends and collaborators created artwork there.

“Celebrated artists Wassily Kandinsky, Fernand Léger, Marc Chagall and even (architect) Frank Lloyd Wright were frequent visitors, to name-drop just a few. And who can blame them? The remarkable design and cunning craftsmanship give the impression that this is no mere house but, perhaps, a work of art,” according to the agent.

And they were inspired by this house and its attractive grounds, which adjoins a protected eight-acre parcel, managed by the Aspetuck Land Trust. The nature preserve was once part of this estate and served as Von Rebay’s arboretum and bird sanctuary. For the Sherwood family, owners of the property in the mid-1880s, this estate was a working onion farm.

This property also accommodates athletic and recreational pursuits. It features a resurfaced tennis court, Gunite in-ground swimming pool, a pool house with a full bath and its own laundry, and a two-bedroom refurbished guest cottage with an attached carriage barn with four bays.

The party barn features a full kitchen as well as a sleeping loft, bedroom, and two baths. One open “room” in the barn contains a wood floor with a colorful hand-painted pattern; reminiscent of the many renowned artists who spent time there and the colorful gatherings they must have had. There are five doors leading to a wraparound deck.

Inside the main house, which some records claim was built in 1900, there is a seamless mélange of Italianate and Bauhaus styling, creating a unique interior. The dramatic interior begins right from the center hall foyer, which features white and black checkerboard marble tile.

As a unifying element, the same tile pattern is repeated in the kitchen. Among its many features within the 7,135 square feet of living space are the full-length, double leaf casement windows; ten fireplaces - including one with a stand-out mantel in the formal living room, a large terrace off the living room, a wet bar, built-ins, and a wine cellar.


TYPE: Antique Italianate mansion

ADDRESS: 77 Morningside Drive South

PRICE: $5,550,000


AMENITIES: three-acre level property, resurfaced tennis court, Gunite in-ground swimming pool, cabana, party barn/art studio with 18-foot wet bar, carriage house-turned-guest cottage, exterior lighting, professional landscaping, adjoins eight acres of Aspetuck Land Trust property, proximity to Greens Farms train station, wine cellar, bluestone patios, terrace, three covered porches, 10 fireplaces, semi-circular driveway, stone walls, balcony, convenient to Compo Beach and Burying Hill Beach, cable - pre-wired, zoned central air conditioning, skylights, detached five-bay garage, full unfinished walk-out basement, zoned oil heat, attic, shed, workshop, stone foundation, old ice house, septic system, public water connection, eight bedrooms, eight full and two half baths

SCHOOLS: Greens Farms Elementary, Bedford Middle, Staples High

ASSESSMENT: $2,338,300

TAX RATE: 16.71 mills

TAXES: $39,073

The living room has a wall of glass to take in the view the grounds, gardens, and sanctuary next door. Homage to artists continues in the formal dining room, where the walls are textured and purple.

On the second floor the master bedroom suite has one of the ten fireplaces, glass doors to a private balcony, and a luxurious marble bath unlike most baths. This one has a sitting room with a fireplace.

For more information or to set up an appointment to see the house, contact Gabrielle DiBianco of Higgins Group Real Estate at 203-895-6724 or gabrielle@higginsgroup.com.

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