Buy Into the Celebrity Enclave You’ve Never Heard Of
The house doesn’t exactly scream "celebrity residence." Originally built in the mid-1700s, with additions in the mid-1800s, the four-bed, 3.5-bath Flemish farmhouse is modestly sized at 2,297 square feet. While it does have a pool, an outdoor kitchen, and a breathtaking view of the glittering Hudson River, there’s no security-manned gate to keep the paparazzi out.
And yet the Ding Dong House, as its known among the illustrious and elite who live nearby (it was once the town library and had a ringing bell), has been home to Uma Thurman and Ethan Hawke, Jerome Robbins, and Margot Kidder. It’s currently on the market for $3.25 million.
One reason for the home’s celebrity pedigree is the neighborhood in which it sits: Snedens Landing, a secluded spot along the Hudson that not only claims many a celebrity home now—Bill Murray, Diane Sawyer, Mikhail Baryshnikov and Al Pacino, to name a few—but was the childhood home of many a now-famous actor. Heard of Angelina Jolie? Or Hayden Panettiere? In 2012, Tom Cruise popped in to take a peak at a 13,500-square-foot home that wasn’t even on the market.
That neighborhood of around 100 homes sits 12 miles north of the George Washington Bridge in the Palisades hamlet of Orangetown, New York. According to Zillow, there are 11 homes on the market right now. They range from a 1,616-square-foot center hall colonial at the very edge of Snedens along the highway (asking $580,000) to a 7,772-square-foot Gothic revival home on 4.29 acres asking $4.8 million. Many of them have been home to famous folk.
The area is named for Robert Sneden, the man who ran the ferry across the river to Dobbs Ferry in the 1700s. It has some Revolutionary War significance, as the site of a blockhouse, ordered by George Washington to serve as a communications center. (The road down to the river is called Washington Springs Road.) It’s possible that Benedict Arnold was skulking around the Snedens woods before committing his treacherous acts.
In the early 19th century, sculptors Mary Lawrence Tonetti and François Tonetti purchased several properties in Snedens and began to lure their artist pals from the city, culminating in a kind of artists’ and actors’ colony. Hollywood and Broadway elites from Laurence Olivier to Ethel Barrymore set up residence here, and celebrities have been coming, and going, ever since. Inveterate New Yorker Woody Allen referred to it disparagingly in Manhattan (“spending another boring weekend with your parents in Snedens Landing”) and used it as the location for Another Woman.
Yet Snedens is less of a celebrity enclave than a retreat for the artistic, says Richard Ellis, the go-to broker when it comes to Snedens real estate, “It’s not glitzy,” he says. “It’s definitely ‘less is more.’”
Full of winding roads and dead-end streets, Snedens is the kind of place where the homes have names (even if one of them is the Ding Dong House.) There is little more in the way of commerce than a library and a post office, and much of the area falls within historic districts, with several homes on the National Register of Historic Places. The draw is the seclusion and natural beauty, and the prize is the Hudson and woodsy land around.
“It’s not all these manicured lawns,” says Ellis. “It’s really kind of a wild landscape and it’s very private.”
The homes range from humble—or humble-ish—to impressive, historic to mid-century. Ellis has nine listings there, including the 2,120-square foot mid-century modern home at 40 Lawrence Lance known as the Cliff House. That home, huddled by the Hudson and abutting state land, has seen many a well-known owner, including Ellen Burstyn, Lorraine Bracco, Harvey Keitel, and current owner Trey Anastasio, a guitarist with the band Phish. He bought the three-bed, 2.5-bath home in 2009 for $2.7 million, according to Zillow, and listed it around 200 days ago; the asking price now is $2.775 million. It sits on two acres with three fireplaces, a wood stove, and show-stopping water views.
Unlike much of nearby New York City real estate, Snedens properties don’t exactly fly off the shelves or, say, make a a big splash like Melanie Griffith and Antonio Banderas’s Los Angeles estate, which sold for nearly $16 million last year. They don't dramatically rise in value, either.
That center hall colonial asking $580,000—admittedly the least impressive of the properties on the market—was bought for $625,000, more than the current asking price, in 2008, and has been on Zillow for upwards of 130 days. The Ding Dong House sold in May 2006 for $3.9 million but is now asking $3.25 million.
Angelina Jolie’s childhood home—known as The Whitney House—is a four-bed, 3.5-bath, 4,088-square-foot mid-century contemporary. It took a $54,000 price cut a few days ago. The asking price now: $1.995 million.
One reason that Snedens remains well under the radar, without the mythos, or prices, of wealthy enclaves like Greenwich, Connecticut, is that, despite its proximity to Manhattan, it is not the most commuter-friendly suburban spots. There are no trains to the city, and residents must rely on the bus or their cars.
But that doesn’t stop them. As Ellis says, “I’ve driven by and seen Aidan Quinn waiting at the bus stop.”