For a closer look at the house, launch the photo gallery.
List Price: $17.5 million
The Property: Arriving at this secluded North Shore estate, you’re welcomed by a gracious courtyard, with a gravel carpet surrounding a large stone fountain. It’s a refined space that gives a real feeling of welcome. Some others who welcomed me on a rainy recent day were chickens, a turkey, alpacas, horses, and Harry Oppenheimer.
Oppenheimer has lived for more than 40 years on this 25-acre parcel. You’d expect to find such a bucolic estate another hour out from the city, but in fact it’s in suburban Highland Park. Oppenheimer explains in today’s video that the property started out as a gentleman’s farm at the then-rural western edge of the suburb in the 1920s. It was still a farm in 1971 when Oppenheimer bought it, “and we’ve enjoyed it ever since with our kids and grandkids,” he says.
You can see how they would, because they have not only a very nice house, but several outbuildings, horses, paddocks, a pond—there are all sorts of things to do. The suburban life of Highland Park is very close by, but the family has all this expanse.
“It’s great coming in the driveway,” Oppenheimer says. “I remind myself how lucky we are that we have 25 acres in the middle of suburbia.” Thanks in part to a winding driveway that ducks behind a bank of trees, the home feels far removed from suburban life, although all of that is actually right outside the gate. “Not only is the Edens highway less than a mile from here,” Oppenheimer says, “but we have a Starbucks and a Dunkin’ Donuts on the corner.”
The interesting thing about the 6,000-square-foot home’s interior is that you could convince yourself that it’s looked this way since the 1920s, with its rusticated beams overhead and windows all around that bring in daylight and views of all the grounds. It feels like an elegant farmhouse from the 1920s. However, some of the major living spaces weren’t built until the 1980s. When Martin Insull started the farm in the 1920s, he lived a few miles east on the lakefront in Highland Park and only his workers lived on the farm. When the Oppenheimers got it in the 1970s, the only buildings there were to live in were a pair of coach houses facing one another. In the 1980s, they built a connecting wing between the two that contains a large, gracious living room, the foyer and a handsome dining room. The old first-floor spaces became music room, office, family room, and a large kitchen. There was so much space available upstairs in the combined homes that in the master suite they took up a few original rooms just for the walk-in closet.
After combining two smaller houses into one large one, the owners still had several other buildings to put to use. The outbuildings on the grounds include a couple of guest houses, a charming original stable building off the gravel courtyard (in all, the various stables can accommodate 20 horses), and clear across the property, another house. It started life as a party pavilion surrounded by orchards and is so far away that you could easily put in there a member of the family you don’t really want to see.
Oppenheimer said that life is really lived outdoors here, and there are many options for doing so: a stocked fishing pond, paddocks and pastures for horses, lots of room to ride, a swimming pool, and tennis and squash courts.
There’s a lot to do on the property, and if you work up a big appetite from all that activity, there’s a working henhouse where the hens are laying breakfast.
Price Points: This is the highest-priced of a group of big-ticket homes that have come on the market in recent months, several of which I’ve rounded up in the November issue of the magazine, which comes out next week. A week from today, I’ll post a tour of a 30-room Gold Coast house that is in that story.