The Grand Oasis
With 268 acres, a private lake, and a stunning main house
Photos by Chris Meech
There is something to be said for the seductive power of a 268-acre estate, so large that it spills out of its Pound Ridge address and into Connecticut. Like a temptress, Hillandale lures you with simple introductory pleasures.
Upon arrival, a pair of understated white gates opens to a long gravel drive traversing mature woodlands. An 18th-century French stone chapel is perched atop a two story cliff. Lake Susan, a five-acre private swim spot with a beach and boats nestled along its shore, shimmers to one side. A draped tennis pavilion overlooking the lighted court, and an enormous walled cutting garden flank your final turn.
The main residence is a regal 20,000-square-foot stone manor house constructed in 1990 on the footprint of a 1900s farmhouse. The homeowners, Gilbert and Charlene Haroche, designed their new home to resemble the French and English country estates they had admired during their extensive European travels as co-founders of Liberty Travel. The massive bronze double doors lead directly to an elegant marble reception hall that features a sweeping staircase and an impressive stained-glass window sparkling overhead.
Entertainment spaces filled with European antiques and imported mantels unfold in every direction, from the English pine-paneled dining room to the cozy, deep-sapphire library, opulent living room with gold-leaf millwork, and the window-filled conservatory (including a massive and fully stocked wooden bar). No mere coat closet, the cloak room, about 400 square feet itself, features hand-painted panels, one of which disguises the entrance to a loo—one of many that are decked out with gold-plated faucets and exotic stone counters.
One of the two elevators leads to the indoor pool grotto where a pair of 18th-century stone fountains in the form of mythological tritons herald your arrival with refreshing sprays. The walls and floors are lined with intricately crafted Italian mosaics, and a gymnasium hidden behind two-way mirrors allows fitness buffs to exercise privately with unobstructed views of the pool and rose garden.
A full-service changing room enables guests to steam, shower, and dress before catching the elevator up to, say, the third-floor billiards room, where there are more opportunities for refreshment and recreation and a secret passageway to two guest suites—one featuring an extraordinary lapis stone counter.
Family members enjoy equally luxurious sleeping accommodations on the second floor, just down the hall from the enormous master suite that boasts its own hidden passageway to an office, his-and-her dressing chambers, as well as baths featuring onyx stone counters and floors.
There is an inherent rivalry between the house itself and the property. While standing inside the man-made beauty, one is compelled to throw open her stately doors and step out onto the bluestone terrace where the vistas of natural beauty seem infinite.
A parterre sits above the pool grotto and affords a view of the children’s maze (which includes a peacock alcove). A lovely stone allée provides a shaded walkway from the breakfast room to the outdoor pool and pool house, while simple paths lead throughout the estate to accessory homes, barns, garages, gardens, outdoor art, and other surprises.
Update: When we first published this article in 2007, the estate was on the market for $95 million. After a hiatus, it has since been re-listed for a more affordable $75,000,000.
We regret to report that Mr. Haroche passed away in 2015.