Undisclosed address, Annapolis, MD
For sale: $32 million
With its secret passages and a reputation for hiding gold, guns and liquor, this house doesn’t sound like the kind of place the Catholic Church would turn into a monastery. Yet, in the 1940s, the Church purchased this large estate and transformed its five-part Georgian residence into a friary, complete with a chapel, a dormitory for the monks and a cafeteria with a commercial kitchen.
Built in the 1920s, the home was rumored to be a spot for rum running during Prohibition, says listing agent David DeSantis of Sotheby’s International Realty. The property’s secret passages and hiding spots added to its mystique, but didn’t deter church leaders from building a Capuchin monastery within its walls. The church remained active there for about 30 years but, after the monastery moved, the home fell into disrepair.
When the current owners, third-generation seafood company CEO Steve Phillips and his wife Maxine, bought the home, it had passed through a number of owners.
“No one really lived in it,” said agent DeSantis. “Everyone had grandiose plans but let it go into decay. When the (current) owners bought it, it had holes in the roof (and) raccoons were living in it.”
The owners’ restoration was a multi-year, multi-million dollar project. The transformation was dramatic and, perhaps, most evident in the rear of the house, where the dormitory was razed; a terrace, pool pavilion and infinity pool were constructed within the dorm’s footprint. The chapel was preserved, and a spa and indoor pool were placed below it. Much of the home’s original craftsmanship was preserved and can be seen in its massive teak columns, hand-carved foyer arch, and fireplace surrounds.
While it pays homage to history, the home also is loaded with technology. A central “control room” manages temperatures and lighting levels, the humidity level in the spa, the water temperatures of both indoor and outdoor pools, an elaborate entertainment system, and a network of security cameras.
The 10-bedroom, 12.5-bath home, known as The Friary on the Severn, sits on a 23-acre estate with views of — and dock access to — the Severn River.
Despite its immense size, the home is liveable, says DeSantis. “(The current owners have) got incredibly good taste. They have a great fondness for Asian culture. For example, the billiard room was hand-carved in teak by artisans in Indonesia. It was assembled there and brought back to Annapolis and reassembled.”
Another example of Asian influence on the estate is its tea garden and tea house — just one more feature, says DeSantis, that makes this pricey home a true standout.
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