French-Style Estate Overlooking Connecticut River That's Hosted Glitterati

Location: Deep River, Connecticut

Price: $4.895 million

This French-style house was built in 1948 by Jerome Zerbe, one of the first of the celebrity paparazzi who traveled the world photographing the rich and famous at play and on the town.

According to the 1951 cocktail recipe book “Bottoms Up,” Zerbe is credited with inventing the vodka martini and he is also remembered as one of high society’s first men to lead an openly gay lifestyle.

Known as Windsong, this waterfront estate sits at the end of a private cul de sac with 260 feet of elevated frontage along the scenic Connecticut River.

“This is one of four or five really beautiful homes within this exclusive enclave along the river,” said listing agent Tim Boyd.

“It’s on a big sweeping bend of the Connecticut River with westerly facing sunsets and a dock,” he said.

More: Private Island off of Connecticut Returns to the Market Asking $8.7M

Zerbe, the longtime society editor of “Town & Country” who died in 1988 at the age of 85, was a Francophile, and built this property with the French countryside in mind. As he told “The New Yorker” in a 1973 profile, “Little by little, I turned my untutored patch of Connecticut woodland into a small French park, with allées, and pleasing weather-worn statues to close the vistas.”  

After buying the property in 1998, the current owners undertook a major renovation and restoration that took nearly three years, Mr. Boyd said.

“They added the whole second floor, with balconies and the beautiful interiors,” he said. “It’s a very formal kind of French inspiration for the interiors.”

Architectural and design details include parquet floors, palladian windows, moldings, built-in cabinets, high ceilings, columns, many sets of French doors, antique brasserie fixtures, hand-wrought cast-iron railings, arches and a cobblestone parking area.

“All of the upstairs bedrooms have en-suite bathrooms, and two of the three have balconies,” Mr. Boyd said.

As many as 11 replicas of Windsong have been built around the world, he said, many by Zerbe’s friends and admirers.

More: At $12 Million, Connecticut Mansion Gets a Price Bump But Remains a Steal

The Stats

The 5,791-square-foot house has three bedrooms and four full bathrooms. There is also a 2,200-square-foot carriage house with two bedrooms and one full bath.

It sits on a 3.72-acre lot.

Amenities

Amenities include an attached two-car garage, heated swimming pool, deep-water dock, security and irrigation systems, a generator and five fireplaces.

Celebrity cachet

Some of Zerbe’s best known photos were of Greta Garbo at lunch, Cary Grant helping columnist Hedda Hopper move into her new home, bodybuilder/actor Steve Reeves shaving, playwright Moss Hart climbing a tree, Ginger Rogers flying first-class, and Howard Hughes having lunch at “21” with Janet Gaynor.

A collection of Zerbe’s memorabilia, including more than 50,000 photos and invitations, was donated to the Yale University Library by the philanthropist and collector Frederick R. Koch in 2013, Mr. Boyd said.

At Windsong, he became famous for his brunches, entertaining as many as 50 guests at a time, according to the “New Yorker” profile. The list included Joan Crawford, Basil Rathbone, Joan Fontaine, Katharine Hepburn, the Maharani of Kapurthala, Hedda Hopper, Richard Widmark and Barbara Stanwyck.

“They came from miles around, and sometimes, it seemed, they came all the way from Europe, just to have brunch at Windsong,” he told the New Yorker.

More: Historic Connecticut Estate Dating to 18th Century to Be Auctioned

Neighborhood notes

“The town is aptly named Deep River,” Mr. Boyd said. “The water level is as much as 44 feet deep where they are on the river. It was a shipping channel for many years.”

Deep River is “adjacent to the town of Essex, which is better known and a lot of tourists go there,” he said. “It has a charming old-fashioned Main Street. It also has a sailing legacy.”

Agent: Tim Boyd, William Pitt • Julia B. Fee Sotheby’s International Realty

View the original listing.

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