Gibson Island estate on the market for $13.8 million

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In Maryland’s Anne Arundel County, signs for Gibson Island dot 100 East until it bleeds into Route 177 and dead-ends at a security kiosk. It’s less than 50 miles from downtown Washington, but this narrow stretch of road — with the Magothy River to the west and the Chesapeake Bay to the east — looks like a different world. And after the boom gate lifts, after the manicured residential streets pass, a house appears on a hill, framed by the river and the bay. It is known to island residents as Villa dei Fiori.

The house, inspired by estates in the Italian countryside, was built in 1929 for Robert Garrett, winner of six Olympic medals — including gold medals in the shot put and the discus throw — at the first modern Games, in Athens, in 1896. The Baltimore activist was largely responsible for bringing the Boy Scouts of America to the region, and he headed city recreation and parks agencies in the 1940s and 1950s until he was asked to resign from the Board of Park Commissioners because of his opposition to racial integration.

The Garretts were a prosperous and prominent Maryland family. Robert was an investment banker and philanthropist as well as an Olympic athlete. An aunt founded the Baltimore Museum of Art, a grandfather led the nation’s first passenger railroad line and an elder brother worked in the State Department as a diplomat.

The house on Gibson Island was Garrett’s summer home. The private island, purchased for $165,000 in 1921, was developed as a summer community, and it attracted, among others, Baltimore socialites dissatisfied with the quality of the city’s golf courses. Today it is ranked by Forbes as the 24th most expensive Zip code in the country.

The Gibson Island Corp. owns the island’s public spaces, and the island has a private police force. The Gibson Island Club (membership by invitation only) has, among its other amenities, a nine-hole golf course designed by prominent course architect Charles B. Macdonald, tennis courts and a clubhouse. There are also private marinas on Gibson Island, which has become known for its sailing culture — one of the main reasons Elizabeth and Mark Rogers purchased Villa dei Fiori in 2005.

Elizabeth Rogers said she fell in love with the house — which had been through a three-year renovation — when she walked into the open-concept great room, with its six-foot-wide fireplace, original ceiling and custom Murano chandeliers. The room also has a wet bar with cherry wood folding doors and a Miele dishwasher. Multiple French doors open to a porticoed terrace overlooking the water.

“We look directly over the Magothy River as it enters the Chesapeake Bay,” Rogers said. “On evenings when there are fireworks, you can see the fireworks that come out of Annapolis, and sometimes all the way down to Washington, along the water. Very, very pretty.”

The main floor includes a library with custom cabinetry and marble framing a wood-burning fireplace; a family room; a sunlit breakfast nook with large windows; and a kitchen with a cathedral ceiling, where Rogers said her grandchildren like to cook using ingredients from the garden. There is also a bedroom suite, with cherry wood floors and an en suite bathroom, that could be used as a primary bedroom suite. The Rogers family calls it the “VIP room.”

The primary bedroom suite can be reached by going down a spiral staircase with wrought-iron balusters created by Patrick Cardine, an acclaimed blacksmith and designer, some of whose work can be seen at Washington National Cathedral. The trip to the walk-out lower level can also be made using an elevator with inlaid wood carvings.

The primary bedroom suite has Venetian stucco walls, several walk-in cedar closets and a bathroom with a shower, a free-standing tub and two vanities. This floor has three more bedrooms (although one is equipped as a home gym), each with an en suite bathroom. There is a mahogany wine cellar, a sauna and a sunlit hallway with waterfront views.

Beside the main residence, the estate has a detached coach house with a home theater on the first floor and a studio apartment on the second. Rogers said the coach house was occupied by her sailboat’s captain in the summertime.

A pool and hot tub behind the house are flanked by two pergolas wrapped in vines. One side of the house has a sculpture garden. A gated path in the front of the house leads to a cobblestone patio at the end of the driveway and to a two-car garage, hidden from view.

Behind the house, the property slopes down to the water, and the landscape includes a vineyard, rows of berries, and fig and apple trees. There are more than 25,000 perennial flowers — perhaps the inspiration for the estate’s name, which translates from the Italian to “House of Flowers.”

Rogers describes living on the island as almost like a trip to Italy’s Lake Como, but much closer to her family in Maryland.

“Every morning, we wake up and enjoy the house, loving Gibson Island, the quiet pleasantness,” Rogers said. “We sit down for breakfast, and we look at the view and say, ‘It’s just wonderful to be here.’ “

744 Skywater Rd., Gibson Island, Md.

  • Bedrooms/bathrooms: 5/9
  • Approximate square footage: The main house is 12,987 square feet; the coach house is 1,760 square feet.
  • Lot size: 3.5 acres
  • Features: This estate, inspired by the Italian countryside and on the private Gibson Island, is for sale for the first time since 2005. Most of the five bedrooms look out on the place where the Magothy River meets the Chesapeake Bay, and each has an en suite bathroom. Notable features include a sauna, hot tub, pool, garden and vineyard. There is room for two vehicles in the garage and for several more on the cobblestone patio at the end of the driveway.
  • Listing agent: Sarah Kanne, Gibson Island Corp. Real Estate

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