By Allison Brophy Champion
Jan 11, 2013
This backcountry star on 4.25 acres once housed vaudeville beauty Ina Claire (1893-1985), a Washington, D.C.-born comedienne who made her career on Broadway. The actress lived and loved in the antique farmhouse during the roaring ’20s, though the six-bedroom property at 35 Locust Road in Greenwich, now on the market for $3.45 million, is more than 200 years old.
Classically comfortable on three levels with all the modern luxuries one would expect, the 6,000-square-feet Center Hall home, also known as the Thomas Carpenter House by The Historical Society of the Town of Greenwich, is nothing less than a landmark.
“The home offers all the warmth, charm and antiquity of the period in which it was built, 1802, but has been lovingly and carefully restored,” said listing agent Bonnie Caie with Greenwich Fine Properties. “Oftentimes, low ceilings are assumed, but in this home the majority of the ceilings are 9-plus feet.”
A modern kitchen installed by the current owner has a 12-foot coffered-and-beamed ceiling, she said, featuring stone counters, a radiant heat tile floor and French doors to a covered terrace overlooking level lawns. “The blend of old and new is exquisitely performed between the kitchen opening to the ‘keeping room’ with original working fireplace boasting an old beam over the hearth with ax marks and wide plank floor boards,” Caie said.
The main level provides a formal dining room, library/den with built-ins, two powder rooms, laundry room and a family room next to the country kitchen.
A master suite on the second floor features original 12-over-12 windows of blown glass, a luxury bath and dressing room. Also on the second level at 35 Locust Road are three double bedrooms and two baths while a third level offers another two double bedrooms and one bathroom. Most of the floors throughout the home are the original wide plank flooring.
An additional feature of merit is the property’s two antique cottages which have also been pristinely restored, Caie said. These two dwellings are suitable for an office, guest cottage or grounds care housing and are legally rentable.
Ina Claire, the blond actress best known as the Grand Duchess in MGM’s 1939 “Ninotchka” starring alongside Greta Garbo, lived in the main house at 35 Locust Road starting in 1925, the same year she got a divorce from her first husband, newspaperman James Whittaker. At the time the property spanned more than 60 acres with the home’s proximity to NYC paramount to Claire’s career.
She owned the property until 1937, by which time Claire had married and divorced her second husband, actor John Gilbert (1897-1936), “beau idol of films,” the Associated Press described him in a 1929 article announcing his hasty marriage to Claire in Las Vegas three weeks after they met. Gilbert was a romantic leading man of the silent era known as “the Great Lover.”
Claire, meanwhile, was an intensely private person, according to imdb.com, who successfully shunned the limelight except for her brief marriage to Gilbert, on the rebound from Garbo. Claire died at age 92 in San Francisco and has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Her onetime home at 35 Locust Road is plaqued by the Historical Society of Greenwich, whose “Signs of the Times” report says Thomas Carpenter bought the property in 1800 without a house and was married in 1802 when a house would have been necessary. Noteworthy architectural features include hand ax marks on the basement chimney foundation and beams and attic beams of mortise and tenon joinings and no ridge pole, indicative of the period, according to Signs of the Times.
The storied house retains its past while standing solid in the future.
“The Thomas Carpenter home has all the inviting warmth and charm of the original antique dwelling with the functionality of today’s lifestyle,” listing agent Caie said . “Antiquity without antique obsolescence!”