It can’t be helped. When you own an historic house, it comes with history. This Palm Beach oceanfront home, Il Sogno, a 10-bedroom, 10-bath and three-half-bath Mediterranean-style home with 11,627 square feet inside and out that sits on 1.4 acres, is owned by Catherine and Fred Adler. Franklyn Smith commissioned Marion Sims Wyeth to build the home in 1924. “He put in the iron doors in the living room, sun room and elevator door,” Adler says.
“He owned an ironworks company in Chicago.”
Then Heart Mitchell and her daughter Ann Anderson owned it. “They brought over the sculpture of the Greek gods that’s at the north end of the pool. It had been at their home on Via Bellaria, which was later sold to Enid Haupt. Ann and her mother also owned a home in Greenwich, the Castle, which was directly across from Eagle Hill – quite a magnificent place – and they had a home in the south of France. They were well traveled,” Adler says.
After Heart died, Ann and her husband Gordon inherited the house, and then they sold it to the Monks family.
Adler knows all this because Ann was a close friend. “She visited quite frequently until she died a few years ago,” Alder says. “I’ve a photo of her on the piano.”
Following the Monks family, Ralph Levitz bought the house, and, shortly after, he married his decorator, Jackie, Adler recalls. “He had a couple of strokes and didn’t fare well at all and then they sold to us in 1991.
“Jackie vanished after Ralph died. She moved to Mississippi, where they found her red nails and strands of her hair. Thus her disappearance took on deeper meaning. We had a helicopter flying overhead when the news broke. They never found her.”
However colorful the home’s previous history, the time the Alder family has lived there has been happy with many fond memories. “It’s been a wonderful family home,” Adler says.
“The minute I stepped onto the west loggia and saw the levels of gardens, my heart went boom, boom, boom. I was thrilled.
“You could see the ocean and the lake from the living room. I marvel at that.
“It’s a true mar a lago, with sunrises and sunsets and so much light.”
The Adlers’ sons Freddy and Christopher were babies when she and Fred bought the house.
“There’s a service path south of the property, and the kids had a fire truck they could sit in, and they’d roar down the alley way. It was so much fun.
“We had a train set for the boys in the secret garden. You can get lost on this property. There’s a little area outside the sunrooms that has had many incarnations.”
Actually, the Adlers have made lots of changes. They put in three bedrooms, built a back staircase and connected the two wings of the house.
“We gutted the living room and put in a special steel beam to support the new construction upstairs, and we brought over the ceiling from Italy.”
Small rooms to the south of the living room were made into a large library, she says. “We raised the ceiling, bowed the room and put French doors and a terrace out there, where we eat lunch when it’s windy out back.
“We redid everything – the powder rooms, kitchen, laundry and the bowing of the library allowed us to put a terrace above it. We put French doors everywhere. When the doors are open, you feel like you are outside.”
They made lots of changes outside, too. “Prior to us, people didn’t use the yard. We put in the dining terrace, tennis court and a new seawall.”
Its exterior is stucco with a tower and barrel-tile roof. Two sets of stairs lead to the front terrace and the front door, which opens to the foyer and dramatic stairway. Here the floor is marble and the ceiling is vaulted. On the south side of the stair hall is a step down to the sitting room, which has a domed ceiling, built-in display cabinets and French doors with wrought iron grill work.
Off the foyer are an elevator and powder room.
Architectural features in the living room include French doors with wrought iron grills to the east and west, a marble mantel and a decorative ceiling. Off of the living room, a bar connects to the kitchen, breakfast room and the wine cellar. The dining room has decorative crown molding, wainscot, marble floors and French doors to the west and the south that open to the terraces.
Off of the living room, going south is the library and a bedrooms suite.
On the second floor, the master suite features a tray ceiling and the French doors open to balconies that overlook the garden and the ocean. The walls are covered in a silk moray and the floor is hardwood. The master suite includes closets, marble bathrooms, a library and office.
In the north wing are two bedroom suites and a guest apartment with a sun deck. On the south wing are three bedroom suites with terraces.
Outside, behind the dining terrace are the four-car garage, laundry and gym.
On the grounds are a pool, an orchid house, hidden gardens, formal gardens, fountains, a tennis court and putting green.
The tower can be accessed only by way of the elevator. “When my sons were little boys they didn’t know we had an elevator because I kept it locked. They thought that you got to the tower by ‘helivator.’”
This home is offered for sale through the Corcoran Group for $27 million.