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Rooms with A View

This 1933 villa offers Mediterranean styling and views fit for a president.

In 2005, Linda St. Pierre was scouting waterfront property for her company to develop when a yellow villa on a bluff overlooking the Potomac caught her eye. Linda, owner of Ryan-Corcoran, LLC, a residential construction/development company, was looking for lots to build spec homes, and didn’t expect to find a new home for her family, then living in Old Town. But the Mediterranean-style, stone villa at 9326 Old Mansion Road, on lush property adjacent to George Washington’s Mt. Vernon mansion, was too compelling to ignore.

Linda immediately called her husband, Patrick, an orthopedic surgeon, at Virginia Hospital Center. “I told him, ‘You’ve got to see this house!’ I loved the style and instantly knew this was a house I wanted. It’s a special property, one you don’t get again.”

The couple met with the long-time owners of the house, former Washington Redskins football player Sonny Jurgensen, and his wife, Margo. The Jurgensens had purchased the villa and renovated it in 1967-68, Linda said. 

“We saw how much they loved the property,” Linda noted. “And the unobstructed river view is amazing; it’s the same view George Washington had from Mt. Vernon.”

The St. Pierres bought the 7,500 square-foot villa, named Villa Buenos Ayres. The original house was built in 1917 by a female builder, Anna Wickes, a fact that intrigued Linda as a female builder herself. Wickes’ adult son accidently burned the villa to the ground in the early 1930s, Linda said, noting the circumstances remain a mystery. Wickes rebuilt the house in 1933, using concrete instead of wood. “When she rebuilt, she made the walls 12 to 14 inches thick; even the floors are concrete,” said Linda.

Linda, who lived and worked in Paris for several years, speculates on what inspired the distinctive styling of the house. “I always thought that because she traveled all over the world it might have been based on Mrs. Wickes’ favorite European hotels,” Linda suggested, noting the metal awning over the home’s front door is similar to the awning at the Paris Hotel Ritz. “When I walk through the front door, it reminds me of going into a hotel lobby,” Linda added.

That front entry hall, striking because of its black and white tile floor, is open to a formal living room with a two-story high ceiling and tall windows. A spacious, second-floor balcony that separates the master and guest bedroom wings is home to the couple’s grand piano and overlooks the living room, as does a Juliette balcony that connects to the master bedroom suite.

The living room is a gathering place during the holidays, said Linda, who has four adult children. “With 24-foot ceilings, we put a 15- to 18-foot tree in the living room,” Linda said.

Linda decorates the tree with glass ornaments she has collected over the years, as well as dried flowers. “We go searching in the fields … we’ve used dried Mountain Laurel, roses, geraniums, and grape vines. It takes days to decorate the tree.”

Soon after buying the house, Linda and Patrick did some updating, while keeping true to the villa’s original character. One major change was the kitchen.

“We maxed out the kitchen,” said Linda. “Pat and I both love to cook, to get in there and experiment … Pat does a fabulous cheesecake.” The 400 square-foot kitchen has three prep sinks, a commercial quality Imperial stove, a double oven, and a Viking refrigerator. Floors are travertine with chocolate brown marble inlay, and the wood ceiling beams are original to the house. The couple had a granite table custom made to fit the space.

Like the living room, the kitchen and large dining room have been essential elements of the family’s holiday celebrations.  “We always have big gatherings of friends and family, as many as 30 in the dining room,” Linda said. “Pat and I do a turkey cook-off using different recipes. For example, I’ve done a pomegranate turkey and he’s done a smoked one. Our friends and family choose the winner.” Somehow the votes always come out even, Linda said.

The couple created an outdoor entertainment area on the side of the house, beside the in-ground heated pool, adding a cabana, a grill and smoker, and a flat screen TV. The home’s other luxury amenities include an exercise room, a spa room, and a dry sauna in the lower level.

The St. Pierres reconfigured the second floor layout, so that all of the bedrooms now have a river view. They also removed one of the home’s bedrooms to update their master bathroom, which features vanities crafted from bird’s eye maple, and closet doors faux painted to look like bird’s eye maple by Bryan King with Artifice Inc. Decorative Painting Services. They added a steam shower and a whirlpool tub with a waterfall that empties into the tub from the ceiling. “I love that tub!” Linda said, laughing. 

That waterfall tub will soon become just a memory. Since Patrick has joined a medical practice in California, the St. Pierres have put their five-bedroom villa on the market for $2,950,000 through Phyllis Patterson of Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage. 

They are taking their time to find a replacement. “If we could pick up this house and move it to California, we would,” Linda said.

Nina April 20, 2012 at 11:56 PM
Beautiful home! Thank you for sharing, neighbor near the river :8-))
Cheryl Kenny April 24, 2012 at 03:18 PM
I agree! I've had the opportunity to write about many fabulous homes, but this is one of the most unique. An interesting history, too! Cheryl

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