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Built in 1885, This $11M Atherton Victorian Has One Heck of a History

Built in 1885, This M Atherton Victorian Has One Heck of a History

Aerial View of Atherton Estate

Driving up to this 1885 Victorian, you’re excused if you expected to be welcomed by Carson the Butler.

While many of the older homes in the tony town have been torn down to make room for modern McMansions, the stately Fennwood Estate is, well, Atherton, CA’s own “Downton Abbey.”

This well-preserved property, one of the town’s oldest, has a heck of a history. It survived both the 1906 and 1989 earthquakes. It was taken over by the military during World War II and used as an Army hospital. And for the past 40 or so years, it’s been the home of William Grindley and his family.

On a business trip four decades ago, he fell for the sunny town south of San Francisco, and purchased the estate for a mere $ 60,000 in 1971. The 73-year-old and his wife have decided it’s time to downsize. They’re offering the property for $ 11,388,000; it is, according to our (very rough) calculations, about a gazillion percent return on investment.

“It seemed to be a great place to live,” Grindley recalls. The business consultant was trained as an architect, and he knew to leave most of the home’s historic elements as is. He spoke of redwood beams, the intricate moldings, and the tiled bathrooms, which he restored but didn’t change.

The ballroom

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Ballroom of Fennwood Estate

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The ballroom

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“The ballroom is nothing less than spectacular,” he says. The living room “is gorgeous. The dining room is clearly my favorite part—to entertain your closest friends for an intimate meal in that room,” he says. He hopes “someone else will share that joy in the future.”

The dining room

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Dining Room of Atherton Estate

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The dining room

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The 8,300-square-foot main house includes seven bedrooms, an attached two-bedroom guest tower, and a “classic billiards/smoking room.” We guess game night and vices haven’t changed all that much in the past 130 years.

The open kitchen and family room

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Open Kitchen and Family Space

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The open kitchen and family room

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The kitchen is Grindley’s only concession to modern convenience. In the ’70s, he created an open plan with a family room that flows into the kitchen. He says the change was “radical” then.

The roof was recently redone, and the exterior of the house got a new coat of paint. “They haven’t necessarily done modernization, but meticulously maintained what is there,” listing agent Jakki Harlan says.

Harlan notes that the house, for all its history, isn’t officially labeled historic. “A buyer can come in and upgrade to whatever level they want. They can make it what they want for today’s living.”

The estate has another unusual feature for the area: land—almost 2 acres of it in one of the country’s most expensive ZIP codes.

The Victorian home sits on nearly 2 acres of prime land.

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Almost Two Acres of Lush Land

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The Victorian home sits on nearly 2 acres of prime land.

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“It is my park in the middle of the city,” Grindley says, noting the surrounding grounds abloom with trees, delphiniums, and snapdragons.

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“It’s my project. It’s been my love. I’m its steward. I’m proud to be the steward for 40 years, and I hope to find a steward for the next 40 years,” he says.

What the future holds for this home is unclear. It depends on the big dreams of the next owners, who may want to do a full-on renovation. Our 2 cents: We’re rooting for a steward.

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