(COHASSET, MASS., BY BOB SALSBERG, AP) - For decades, "The Oaks" was the oceanside playground of the Barrons and the Bancrofts, heirs to the Dow Jones and Wall Street Journal fortunes. On Wednesday, the 20,000-square-foot mansion with 45 rooms and surrounding properties will go on sale with an asking price of $55 million.
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The listing, which includes a marina, restaurant and the Cohasset Harbor Inn, is hardly intended for the casual buyer.
"People move here and don't move away too quickly," said agent Jonathan Radford of Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage.
For more than a century and a half, only three families have called the 9.4-acre property about 20 miles south of Boston home. The first was Lawrence Barrett, a 19th-century actor who played Othello opposite Edwin Booth's Iago and served as a captain in the Civil War.
The second owner was Clarence Barron, a Bostonian who purchased Dow Jones & Co. for $130,000 in 1902 and is credited with transforming The Wall Street Journal into the financial journalism powerhouse it has remained through present-day. He later founded Barron's magazine and was its first editor.
Barron's stepdaughter married into another prominent Boston family, the Bancrofts, who became heirs to Dow Jones and the publishing empire. Two years after Barron's death in 1928, the original estate was razed and replaced by the current ivy-covered Georgian Revival mansion.
Frank Sinatra, Bob Hope and other entertainers visited the estate when they played at the nearby South Shore Music Circus in the venue's heyday.
Barron's granddaughter, Jessie Bancroft Cox, lived in the home until her death in 1982. Yankee Oil & Gas briefly owned the estate before it was purchased by the current owner, Peter Roy, in 1989.
Roy, a private man who describes himself as a former energy company owner and retired investor, is selling the estate to move to Toronto with his Canadian-born wife and three children. (Roy also has three children from a previous marriage.)
"There are many individual properties that are attractive on the East Coast, but I have not found anything that combines four properties that essentially make up an entire harbor," said Radford, who has brokered sales of vineyards and chateaux in the south of France and now specializes in super high-end real estate in the U.S. Among his recent sales was an $11 million home in Manchester-by-the-Sea on Boston's North Shore.
The mansion accounts for about half the $55 million asking price, Radford said, which alone would put it in good standing next to other recent blockbuster home sales in Massachusetts, including Boston Red Sox owner John Henry's $16 million purchase of a 7-acre Brookline estate in 2007.
The Oaks offers plenty of amenities to a buyer willing to negotiate the steep price -- and navigate through the seemingly endless maze of construction and traffic detours on the roads leading from Boston to the estate.
The 45 rooms include eight bedrooms, a library, a gallery and an English-style pub in the basement.
Outside is a skating pond in the winter and a private beach in the summer. Visitors can play chess poolside, as long as they don't mind moving the heavy, 2-foot-tall stone pieces around the lawn chessboard. Six built-in grilling stations allow ample space to cook burgers. One of the stations is on a rooftop deck that offers a panoramic view of the harbor.
A wooden footbridge leads from the main property to a sheltered deep-water dock, where Roy parks his 77-foot yacht. Other boats are kept at the marina, which is made up of several buildings including one that appeared prominently in the 1987 film, "The Witches of Eastwick."
Radford said he has no idea how long The Oaks will stay on the market; he can't even guess if the property will be there for one day or two years.
"We don't know if the buyer will come from Cohasset or Singapore," he said, adding that Roy, as a practical businessman, would consider selling pieces of the property separately or to multiple buyers.