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June 29, 2012

A First, Two Houses on a Family Compound For Sale

Philadelphia Business Journal -- June 29, 2012 | Natalie Kostelni

WILLISTOWN —  In the late 1970’s, a local entrepreneur had an idea to buy more than 50 pristine acres in the heart of the Radnor Hunt Club area here and decided it would become a family compound of sorts.

The patriarch would go on to construct a 7,000-square-foot home that he and his wife would move into around 1980 and raise their four children. Once the kids were grown,he offered each a spot on the property to construct their own homes, creating a private enclave for the family. In all, five manor homes sit at various locations down a nondescript private lane not far from Grubbs Mill Road and near other noted, local celebrity homes including filmmaker M. Night Shyamalan and pro baseball players Roy Halladay, Ryan Madson, and Cole Hamels.

For the first time, two of the homes are up for sale as private offerings and will be sold to people outside of the family, which requested to remain anonymous because they are protective of their privacy. Both properties have come on the market because the family needs of each have changed and they no longer need such large homes.

Just one of the houses, owned by the patriarch’s daughter and her filmmaker husband, was made available for a tour and offered a rare glimpse inside an architectural gem designed by architect Peter Zimmerman, who runs a firm in Berwyn. It was built by C. Raymond Davis and Sons of Kimberton and the interior designer was Vincent Smith-Durham of Philadelphia. It won “Best Residence in America” by Custom Home Magazine shortly after it was completed.

“The house is one of a kind,” said Steve DiFrancesco of Hunter Reed and Company Inc. of Haverford, who has the two listings. “It’s a piece of artwork.”

The 7,200-square-foot property was constructed on 10.5 acres between 1992 and 1993. It has no living room or dining room, and, even though the house is sprawling, it is not grandiose and has a coziness to it.

“What they didn’t want here is any unused space,” DiFrancesco said. “Every single space is used on a daily basis”.

Materials from three different barns were used to build the house. Though it has rustic touches, it also has modern hues throughout that give it a “New York loft meets Chester County farmhouse” feel, DiFrancesco said.

The kitchen flows into a great room, which opens to the outside on both sides. On Friday ‘movie nights’ a copper roof on one side of the courtyard would serve as a screen to show the movie, which was being projected from a second-story office.

The master bedroom suite is on the first floor and, as with the three children’s bedrooms, is bi-level. The children’s rooms are on the second floor with views of the rolling hills of Chester County and, as with the entire compound, the views are protected in perpetuity by conservation easements.

On the market for just six weeks, the house is under contract. DiFrancesco declined to disclose how much the prospective buyer is paying. It cost $305 a square foot, or more than $2 million, to construct nearly two decades ago.

Other properties near this Willistown house are up for sale and range in prices from $5 million to $10 million and vary depending on location, acreage and other factors, according to real estate records.

Check out more photos of the house at

— Natalie Kostelni