Tuesday, April 15, 2008

An insufficient mansion?

A picture is worth a few words.

Col. Raynal Bolling, an architect of American air power in World War I, died of a German bullet in 1918. The aviator's Greenwich mansion, featuring 13 fireplaces and a shooting gallery, survived until 2007.

Hedge-fund manager Spencer Lampert spent $7.6 million to buy the home, designed by the same firm that created the New York Public Library. Then, last year, Mr. Lampert razed it to the ground. Asked to describe what he has in mind for the now-vacant six-acre lot, he said in an e-mail: "Planning on building a house."


In Greenwich, his sprawling estate with five stone chimneys was sometimes open to the public for teas and concerts hosted by his widow, Anna. By the 1960s, the colonel's offspring sold Greyledge, as the estate is known. "It was too big for continued use. There was an entire servants' wing," recalls Trish Twining, the colonel's granddaughter. "In the '60s, people didn't live that way."

In 2001, Greyledge was bought by Mr. Lampert, managing director of Tudor Investment Corp. (The hedge fund was founded by Paul Tudor Jones, who himself stunned many Greenwich residents in the 1990s by tearing down a waterfront home and building a 13,000-square-foot, dome-topped mansion it its place.)

Mr. Lampert -- no relation to hedge-fund manager Edward Lampert, another Greenwich resident -- says he initially wanted to preserve Col. Bolling's manor. "I designed a renovated Greyledge with a well-known architect," says Mr. Lampert, who currently lives down the street. "The cost [of renovating] was materially the same as or insignificantly different from building from scratch."

Last year, Greyledge disappeared.

From the Wall Street Journal Online:

Founded by English colonists in 1640, Greenwich evolved into an exclusive retreat from nearby New York. In 1848, a railroad linked the town to Manhattan. By the 1920s, Greenwich had one of the country's highest per capita incomes.

One of the earlier arrivals from New York was James McCutcheon, who made a fortune in the linen trade. In 1886, a Boston architect built him a house of rough-faced granite blocks and archways. Nils Kerchus, a consultant to the nonprofit Greenwich Historical Society, says he scoured Connecticut for another residential specimen of the style -- Richardsonian-Romanesque, like Boston's landmark Trinity Church -- but found none.

In December, Rene Kern, managing director of the General Atlantic hedge fund, bought the property for $10.2 million. The seller was Arthur Malley, whose family had purchased it from the McCutcheons in 1927. Mr. Malley says his broker told him that Mr. Kern and his wife planned to renovate the house.

In February, according to town records, Mr. Kern applied for a demolition permit.

The city's Historic District Commission imposed a 90-day stay to encourage the new owners to reconsider. "I compare it to someone demolishing the pyramids in Egypt," Mr. Malley says.

Mr. Kern declined to comment. A General Atlantic spokeswoman says Mr. Kern and his wife "continue to evaluate all options for their home."

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