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East Hampton’s Own White House

East Hampton’s Own White House


Stepping into the White House, a famous clapboard mansion in East Hampton, N.Y., with porch columns, roof dormers and window boxes sprouting red geraniums, transports you back into a distant age: the early 1990s.

That was when Fred Mengoni, an Italian-born real estate developer, refinished every square foot of the circa-1725 Georgian building that he had bought in 1989. It took him almost four years, but by the time he was done, the house gleamed with imported marble, polished mahogany and gold-plated hardware. The pale yellow kitchen included a matching Viking oven. The basement was outfitted with a tavern with a rosewood bar and a spa with a sauna and jetted tub.

Now the immaculate home, which is 7,600 square feet and sits on 2.99 fantasia-like acres at the corner of Woods Lane and Main Street, is on the market for $12.5 million. Douglas Brown and Paul Brennan of Douglas Elliman Real Estate are the listing agents and represent the executors of Mr. Mengoni’s estate.

Mr. Mengoni, who died last year and had no children, had quite a few houses — his principal residence was a townhouse on East 83rd Street. He rarely stayed at the White House, but was known to drop by at 5 a.m. to collect his bicycle for a morning ride.

At Christmastime he decorated the building and grounds with lights, warming the hearts of the neighbors and calling attention to a property that needed none. The mayor of East Hampton thanked him for beautifying the town.

The White House had known disrupters before.

“It originally faced east, toward Town Pond,” Mr. Brown explained. “And it was originally right on Main Street.” At some point between 1907 and 1909, the house was pulled back from the road and rotated 90 degrees to face south.

Then came the double chimneys, the front portico, the three-story addition tacked onto one end and the sun porch attached to the other.

By the time Mr. Mengoni acquired it, the house was in need of an upgrade. “I gutted it,” he told The New York Times in 1997. “It was a piece of junk.”

And so he rolled out the stone. Marble covers the floors of the entire main level, including the sun porch, with its diamond-pane windows and Chinese porcelain vases filled with geraniums. It skates across the basement, to the threshold of the wine-storage room. It flows up the sides of bathtubs and surrounds the five fireplaces. It is oxblood red in the paneled library, which has a coffered ceiling, and grayish-white in the crème brûlée kitchen, which also has a coffered ceiling.

On the second floor, the floors are parquet, sometimes with ribbonlike borders. When the wood turns into simple, straight boards, you know you’re in the servants’ quarters, Mr. Brown noted. (By that time you’ve passed along a corridor linking different wings. The bedrooms are smaller, and you no longer see carved mahogany fireplace mantels topped with neoclassical broken pediments.)

Not that Mr. Mengoni had any servants there. He left the house, which has seven bedrooms, six full bathrooms and two half-bathrooms, in the hands of a single caretaker.

On the third floor, the ceilings are predictably lower, and the dormers create cozy spaces for reclusive children. Under the gambrel roof of the addition is a playroom with lines of closets built into the stubby walls and a half-moon window overlooking the emerald front lawn.

“He wanted to do a mini-Versailles,” Mr. Brown said of the grounds, which have a swimming pool and gazebo, a cherry-tree allée leading to a fountain, and a tennis court sheltered by 30-year-old pines. Hundreds of boxwoods surround the heated Belgian block driveway. The three-car garage attached to the original barn, which is attached to the pool house, still holds Mr. Mengoni’s red 1988 Ferrari.

“I think there are only 6,000 miles on it,” Mr. Brown said.



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