Listing of the Day
Location: Mount Kisco, New York
Price: $1.999 million
Bennett Cerf is best known as the 20th-century powerhouse publisher who co-founded Modern Library and Random House in New York. His authors included William Faulkner, Eugene O’Neill, John O’Hara, Ayn Rand, James Michener and Truman Capote.
Along with a Manhattan apartment, he and his wife, the actress Phyllis Fraser, maintained a 10-acre estate in suburban Westchester County for many years. Their former home, a classic Colonial Revival in Mount Kisco, is now on the market.
Cerf also wrote humor books and had a starring role as one of four panelists on the CBS weekly show “What’s My Line?” for most of the 1950s and ’60s. Fraser was also a journalist and children’s book publisher. So friends and frequent houseguests were often literary or political luminaries or well-known stars from Hollywood and Broadway.
These house guests included the likes of Frank Sinatra, John F. Kennedy and Theodor Seuss Geisel (better known as Dr. Seuss), according to Jessica Chan of William Pitt Julia B. Fee Sotheby’s International Realty.
Houdini’s 18th-century house is on the market for $4.6M.
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“Because he was married to an actress, the house was a central location for entertaining some really prominent people,” Ms. Chan said. “It was the center of the literary and entertainment worlds.”
There is still an original brass plate on the front door that reads “Cerf.” The house is known as “The Columns” for its two-story columned veranda at the back. Old-timers also know it as the “Cerf-Wagner estate” because his widow married former New York City Mayor Robert F. Wagner Jr. after Cerf’s death in 1971 and they made it their part-time home until Wagner died in 1991.
“The current owners … bought the house from the Cerf family in 1993,” Ms. Chan said.
“It’s such a huge house, almost like a compound,” she said, mentioning that one Thanksgiving, the current owners had 25 overnight houseguests.
“The interior has been renovated throughout, but they kept all of the original period characteristics of the house,” Ms. Chan said. “It’s the best of both worlds.”
Original architectural features of the 1927 house include hardwood floors, high ceilings, a grand center-hall staircase, crown moldings and five working fireplaces.
All of the windows have been replaced, and plumbing and utilities updated, Ms. Chan said. “The bathrooms have all been renovated, but they were done to look like the 1920s.”
“This house is a good balance of modern versus old, but it’s a move-in-ready house,” she said. “Some old houses need so much work–this one doesn’t.”
The 5,789-square-foot house has eight bedrooms, seven full bathrooms and one half bath. It sits on 9.63 acres. There are also two guesthouses.
“Guest House A is around 800 square feet with one bedroom, two bathrooms and a living room with kitchen,” Ms. Chan said. Guest House B is smaller, a studio with a bathroom.
“Both have been beautifully renovated,” she said. “Guest House A is the historical one where people like Frank Sinatra frequently stayed.”
Amenities include a swimming pool, large flagstone patio, tennis court, two-hole golf course, greenhouse, rolling meadows, two ponds and frontage on the scenic Kisco River. There is also detached three-car garage.
“Orchard Road is a dead-end road, filled with beautiful houses–classic Colonials, Tudors–that were built in the 1920s,” Ms. Chan said.
“It’s such a safe and quiet neighborhood,” she said. “This house is set back from the road so no one would even know it’s there.”
It’s just a 10-minute walk to the Metro-North train station in downtown Mount Kisco, she said, which has many restaurants and shops.
The property actually straddles two Westchester communities, with 6.1 acres in the town of New Castle and the rest in Mount Kisco. It is in the Chappaqua school district, one of Westchester’s best.
Agent Name: Jessica Chan, William Pitt Julia B Fee Sotheby’s International Realty
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