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July 23, 2005

Dream Homes for Sale

The Daily Local News -- July, 2005 | (excerpt)

Marketing these homes takes a certain cachet. No ‘for sale signs’, no open houses, and a fair amount of hand-holding takes place to put a trophy property in the hands of a sophisticated, high net worth buyer.

Such is the marketing strategy of Steve DiFrancesco, who handles the greater Philadelphia area for Hunter, Reed and Company Inc., with offices in Philadelphia and Nantucket, MA.

DiFrancesco recently sold the historic Sidney Logan Estate, on East Boot Road in East Goshen Township, for $2.25 million, about a quarter of a million dollars above the asking price of $1.995 million.

Hunter Reed’s niche is marketing luxury homes, estates, and landholdings with a minimum value of $1 million, using specialized marketing and private brokerage services.

“There are people who specifically seek trophy-calibre historic properties”, DiFrancesco said, “and there are specific things that drive value for these high net worth buyers : the calibre of a property, its condition, setting, architectural integrity, location, and its ownership history.”

Affluent buyers in the market for historic properties are a different type of buyer than those interested in the new million-dollar plus homes with luxury kitchens, central air conditioning, a central vacuum system, and a master bathrom with a whirlpool tub.

Such high net worth buyers, DiFrancesco says, seek and appreciate living in a signature historic property. It is appealing to them to live in a manor house, to live in the way a person of means would have lived in, for example, the 19th century.

Hunter Reed keeps a database of over 70,000 such well-heeled individuals. The company does not use ‘for sale’ signs, it does not hold open houses, and it protects the privacy of its clients, DiFrancesco said.

To buyers, a property such as the Sydney Logan Estate, with its rich woodwork, imported 19th century Italian marble, and rare antique wallcoverings “sells itself like a fine painting”, DiFrancesco says.

DiFrancesco had the property sold within two months. The buyer, who is paying cash, is a financial executive who curently lives out of state, the broker said.

While DiFrancesco may be inclined to take a modest step back for his marketing efforts, the home’s current owners, William C. and Janice K. Archbold, acknowledge that selling the estate came with difficulty.

The estate was originally on the market with another real estate company. After a year of fruitless efforts, the Archbolds took the property off the market. After another year went by, they decided to try again, but this time with Hunter Reed.

For the right buyer, the lack of air conditioning and the lack of a modern kitchen is not enough to dissuade them from purchasing the property, said William Archbold, a trial lawyer with Kassab Archbold & O’Brien of Media, and a past president of the Pennsylvania Trial Lawyers Association.

Janice Archbold said the first real estate company went to great expense to market the property traditionally, but did not generate much interest, except from developers who wanted to tear down the house, split up the property, and build something new.

Razing the manor house (circa 1835) was an option neither she nor her husband would ever consider, Janice Archbold said, “There is simply too much history”.

The Sydney Logan Estate gets its name from its owner from 1895 to 1925. During that time, Logan undertook a massive building effort.

Logan was a descendant of Philadelphia’s James Logan, a signer of the Declaration of Independence, for whom the city’s Logan Square is named.

Sidney Logan divided his time between his residence in Philadelphia, a summer house in Spring Lake, NJ, and the 226-acre property in East Goshen, which he renamed ‘Restalrig’.

Logan dabbled in clock making. He erected a machine shop equipped with lathes, gas engines, milling machines, and other requisite tools for clock making at his East Goshen estate.

During World War I, Logan completed a large tower clock as a gift for the City of Philadelphia, which was building City Hall at the time. The city, however, turned him down.

So he constructed his own 65-foot tower using granite quarried on the estate. He completed the project in 1922. In time, the clock tower became known as Goshenville’s Big Ben and the property as Clock Tower Farm.

The chronology of ownership of the property begins with Rowland Ellis, who received the 341-acre property in 1703 from William Penn’s holdings.

Many owners followed. A stone house was built in 1720. The house was enlarged in 1768, but in 1835, the oldest part of the structure was torn down.

It was Logan who added the neo-classic dining room on the first floor, created a master suite on the second floor, and is thought to have connected the manor house with the historic portion.

From 1958 to 1967, afamily with seven sons and one daughter who owned the property treated the manor house like a year-round camp.

Some of the “naughty” children would ride their horses through the front door, down the main hall, and out the back door, said William Archbold, who appeared to enjoy telling the story as he was giving a tour of the home.

The Archbolds purchased the eight-bedroom, 10-fireplace property in 1968 and began restorations. By that time, the property had dwindled to seven acres.

More than 30 years later and with their two daughters grown and out of the house, the Archbolds decided to sell. They will be moving to a smaller home in Westtown.

The couple agree they will miss the house where they greeted neighbors on Chester County Day, where they entertained in style for more than three decades, and where both daughters held their wedding receptions.

“Everything happened here”, William Archbold said. “