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Gibson Island estate on the market for $13.8 million

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In Anne Arundel County, Maryland, signs to Gibson Island are posted at point 100 East until it merges with Route 177 and terminates 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 bay. It is known to the islanders as Villa dei Fiori.

Inspired by country estates in Italy, the home was built in 1929 for Robert Garrett, winner of six Olympic medals – including golds in shot put and discus – at the first modern games in Athens in 1896. The Baltimore activist was largely responsible for launching the Boy Scouts of America to the region, and ran city recreation and parks departments in the 1940s and 1950s until he was asked to resign from the Board of Park Commissioners over his opposition to racial integration.

The Garretts were a wealthy and prominent Maryland family. Robert was an investment banker and philanthropist, and an Olympic athlete. An aunt founded the Baltimore Museum of Art, a grandfather ran the country’s first passenger rail line, and an older brother worked as a diplomat at the State Department.

The house on Gibson Island was Garrett’s summer home. Purchased in 1921 for $165,000, the private island was developed as a summer community, attracting among others Baltimore’s celebrities who were dissatisfied with the quality of the city’s golf courses. Today, Forbes ranks it as the 24th most expensive ZIP code in the country.

The Gibson Island Corp. owns the island’s public areas, and the island has a private police force. The Gibson Island Club (invitation-only membership) features a 9-hole golf course designed by noted 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 bought Villa dei Fiori in 2005.

Elizabeth Rogers said she fell in love with the home, which had been undergoing a three-year renovation, as she entered the open great room with its seven-foot 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 onto a porticoed terrace overlooking the water.

“We’re looking right over the Magothy River as it empties into the Chesapeake Bay,” Rogers said. “On evenings when there are fireworks, you can see the fireworks coming from Annapolis and sometimes all the way down to Washington on the waterfront. Very very pretty.”

The ground floor includes a library with custom cabinetry and marble framing a wood burning fireplace; a family room; a sun-drenched breakfast nook with large windows; and a kitchen with a cathedral ceiling where Rogers said her grandchildren enjoy cooking with ingredients from the garden. There is also a bedroom suite with cherry wood floors and an ensuite bathroom that could be used as the primary bedroom suite. The Rogers family calls it the “VIP room”.

The primary bedroom suite is accessed via a spiral staircase with wrought iron balustrades designed by Patrick Cardine, a celebrated blacksmith and designer whose work can be seen at Washington National Cathedral. The journey to the accessible lower level can also be done with an elevator with inlaid wood carvings.

The master bedroom suite has Venetian stucco walls, multiple cedar walk-in closets and a bathroom with shower, free-standing bath and double vanity. This floor has three more bedrooms (although one is outfitted as a home gym), each with an ensuite bathroom. There is a mahogany wine cellar, a sauna and a sun-drenched hallway overlooking the water.

In addition to the main residence, the property has a detached carriage house with a home cinema on the first floor and a studio apartment on the second floor. Rogers said the coach house was occupied by the captain of her sailboat over the summer.

A rear pool and hot tub are flanked by two vine-clad pergolas. One side of the house has a sculpture garden. A gated path in front of the house leads to a cobblestone patio at the end of the driveway and to a secluded two car garage.

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 property’s name, which means “house of flowers” in Italian.

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

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

744 Skywater Rd., Gibson Island, Md.

  • Bedroom bathroom: 5/9
  • Approximate square footage: The main house is 12,987 square feet; The coach house is 1,760 square meters.
  • lot size: 3.5 hectares
  • Features: This property, inspired by the Italian countryside and set on private Gibson Island, is for sale for the first time since 2005. Most of the five bedrooms overlook where the Magothy River meets the Chesapeake Bay and each has an ensuite bath. Notable features include a sauna, jacuzzi, pool, garden and vineyard. There is space for two vehicles in the garage and for several more on the paved patio at the end of the driveway.
  • Listing agent: Sarah Kanne, Gibson Island Corp. property

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