Historic Brick Farm 30 Minutes from NYC Is Up for $10.5 Million
In 1988, Peter Simon, then a managing director at Kidder Peabody, was approached about a “development opportunity” in New Vernon, N.J., which happened to be the town his parents had lived in for decades. When he arrived at the 44-acre property, he found an ivy-covered brick mansion, peony gardens, a barn, and caretakers’ cottages. “What are you going to do with the house?” he asked his potential business partner. When the answer came as “tear it down,” Simon’s response was firm: “This is a home; this is not a development,” he recently recalled saying, and then promptly arranged to buy it for what he said was $2.9 million. Thirty days later, he and his wife moved in.
Now Simon, co-chairman at the charitable foundation and family office named after his father, former Treasury Secretary William E. Simon, is selling the house for $10.5 million. Whoever buys the property will be one of just three owners in its history.
“We were the second family to own that home,” Simon said. “We bought it from the estate of the man whose father built the place.” The builder in question was Thomas M. Debevoise, personal counsel to John D. Rockefeller Jr. and an established member of America's unofficial East Coast aristocracy. Adding to the house’s provenance is its architect, William Delano, who was a cousin of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt (and, to tie it up nicely, Debevoise's schoolmate at Yale).
The property, which is called Hidden Pond Farm, was initially 100 acres. Despite its reduced size, it’s still very much a working farm: Much of the land is leased out to a professional farmer who raises pumpkins and corn. For many years, Simon and his wife Janet, an interior designer, raised turkeys and chickens and converted a storage room into a heated kennel, where they bred both Labradors and Beagles. There’s also the barn, which “is fully functional,” said Simon. “You can house horses, cows, and a bull in there, but I didn’t,” he added. “And I won’t.”
The house, which was built in 1927, has eight bedrooms, six full baths, and three half-baths spread across approximately 10,300 square feet. Its grand entertaining rooms include a formal dining room; in total, the house has 10 fireplaces.
Simon says he and his wife made only a few modifications to the interior layout. When they bought it, “the kitchen hadn’t been touched in 60 years, the bathrooms hadn’t been touched in 60 years, and the electrical systems hadn’t been touched in 60 years,” he said. All those elements were duly renovated, and the warren of servants’ quarters in the back of the house were enlarged and repurposed into family living space.
A three-car garage is connected to the house, and there’s a four-car garage on the property. The landscaping was designed by New York firm Deborah Nevins Associates and includes gardens, an allée of trees, bluestone patios, and a pool. The property also includes a three-bedroom guest cottage attached to the barn, and a four-bedroom house Simon calls a “cottage,” which is used by a caretaker.
The house is relatively close to New York. Simon says that the commute can be as fast as 30 minutes, but he usually budgets an hour to get into the city.
Simon is moving to a townhouse he built for himself in Morristown, N.J. “We can’t wait to move in,” he said. “But we’ve got to sell this place first.”