Katharine Hepburn's 'paradise' hits the market

KENNETH R. GOSSELIN
Last updated 06:15 06/06/2014

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It appears even paradise has limits when it comes to asking price.

Katharine Hepburn's storied, seaside home in Old Saybrook - which the Oscar-winning actress once described as "paradise" - is back on the market at a reduced asking price of $US14.8 million ($NZ17.5 million).

The price is for Hepburn's home and a third of the 3.5-acre estate purchased by owner Frank J Sciame Jr. and his wife, Barbara, for $US6 million in 2004, a year after the actress's death.

The Sciames subdivided the estate into three lots and pursued an extensive top-to-bottom renovation of Hepburn's house. The renovations included raising the structure 5 1/2 feet to guard against flooding.

Most recently, the entire, three-lot estate, in the borough of Fenwick, had been on the market for $US30 million. But Sciame had pulled the shoreline property off the market last year, after two years and no offers to match the asking price.

Sciame said that the lot with Hepburn's 8,500-square-foot house was now "priced to sell." Even though marketing in recent years had been focused on the entire property, the main house was available for $US18 million.

"After 10 years, it's time to move on," Sciame, a Manhattan-based developer, said. "We always bought it as an investment property, and we decided the best return on investment would be selling as three lots."

The Sciames originally had planned to sell the renovated estate as soon as the work was done, but they kept it as a summer house for several years because it became a family favorite.

Sciame is nearing completion on the construction of a 3,000-square-foot beach house on the lot to the east of the main house. The Sciames intend to keep that house, at least for now, and they are pursuing approvals to build on the third lot.

Sciame said he believes the three lots - at one time marketed as having potential for a "family compound" - will eventually fetch the $US30 million he had been asking, or even more, if they are sold separately.

The sale of the property has run into a slow market for expensive homes that followed the most recent recession. Recently, however, sales have picked up in exclusive markets in Fairfield County, most notably in Greenwich.

The Hepburn House came on the market last Friday, according to Colette Harron, a real estate agent at William Pitt Sotheby's International Realty in Essex.

"I've already had some calls from Los Angeles," said Harron, who has the listing.

Sciame's ownership of the property has not been without controversy. He battled with the borough over the height of granite posts marking the entrance to the driveway. Sciame also won a $US2.2 million jury award against a title insurance company over access to the property.

The Hepburn house that stands today replaced a smaller one that was razed in the devastating hurricane of 1938.

Hepburn and her family spent summers in Fenwick ever since she was 5. The property is 45 miles from Hartford, where Hepburn was born and her father practiced as a well-regarded urologist. Her mother was a leader in the state's suffragist movement.

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Hepburn, who won the Best Actress Oscar four times, the last for "On Golden Pond" in 1981, spent weekends in Fenwick for decades and finally retired there until her death in 2003 at the age of 96.

- The Hartford Courant

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