Alexandra York has been wrestling with a seemingly insurmountable problem for a bit – downsizing on a grand scale.
The woman of many careers – novelist, nonfiction writer and poet, a television writer and host, and talk show guest – has been trying to figure out how to squeeze the contents of her 8,500-square-foot, 23-room mansion in Upper Bucks into a 3,000-square-foot, two-bedroom house in Vermont. The contents of a 7,000-square-foot barn is another thing to consider.
After 20 years at their gated estate, Dellhaven, in Springfield Township, York and her husband, Barrett Randall, have sold their home, listed for $1.350 million.
Some of Alexandra’s problem was resolved last weekend as she and Barrett, a New York businessman and collector of Rolls Royce automobiles, offered many of their antiques, and pieces of art and sculpture for sale, opening their historic home to the public to paw through and pay to cart away the couple’s treasures of a lifetime collected all over the world.
Many of their possessions have already been shipped to Vermont and some have been put in storage, just in case an addition is in the offing up there. They spend the winter in New England, Alexandra said, “because we love winter sports.”
Does she feel sad to leave the estate? “No,” she said simply. “It’s time.” She now focuses on fiction and writing and lecturing on arts and culture. Her latest book is “Soul Celebrations and Spiritual Snacks.” She is the founding president of American Renaissance for the Twenty-first Century (ART), a nonprofit educational foundation devoted to a rebirth of beauty and life-affirming values in all of the fine arts.
Barrett has already sold all but one of his Rolls Royce collection. One of the prized ones was a 1927 Piccadilly roadster, one of only 20 made that year.
The couple have an apartment on Manhattan’s Upper East Side and have spent weekends at Dellhaven, where Alexandra said, “We’ve entertained lavishly – and the people before us did, too. This house has always been full of people who really enjoyed life.”
Among the occupants have been the Pickens sisters, famous 1930s radio songbirds and “precursors to the Andrews sisters,” she said. One of the sisters, Jane, who went on to Broadway and early television appearances, was the wife of Walter Hoving, chairman of Tiffany & Co.
Known for their fabulous weekends at Dellhaven were a pair of French balloonists who partied in tents, with champagne and caviar, and launched hot-air balloons.
“People swore Malcolm Forbes, also a balloonist, lived here because he was here so often,” Alexandra said, adding, “There’s a balloon port on the estate and a room where they charted their flights.”
Twenty years ago, Alexandra and her husband bought the estate from the African princess who lived in it then. She was one of the daughters of Haile Selassie, emperor of Ethiopia. Other previous owners included a prominent U.S. attorney general and a former Pennsylvania governor, she said.
The property, once measuring 1,200 acres deeded by the sons of William Penn, now totals a bit more than 14 acres and includes an additional smaller parcel. A gated driveway lined with lamp posts curves toward the house and circles the reflecting pool and fountains at the front entrance.
On Saturday morning about 50 vehicles, mainly from New York and Philadelphia’s Main Line, lined up at the gate on Funks Mill Road, waiting for the two-day sale run by Gunning and Co., Bryn Mawr estate sale specialists, to begin.
Waiting inside was a seemingly endless array of oddities and collectibles: such amazing things as a 1930s slot machine, a 1947 Wurlitzer juke box in playing condition, a player piano with rolls, a 9-foot billiards table, bronze statues,a brass cash register, an antique weathervane/lightning rod, vintage flapper dresses and a vest made of cultured pearls, vintage beaded evening bags, furs, furniture, china, pottery, jewelry, antique signs and posters, old typewriters, Oriental rugs and much more.
The pre-Revolution manor house, with its spacious rooms and unusually tall 9½-foot ceilings, obviously was built for a person of wealth. Successive owners have added to it and the residence now has five bedrooms, six full baths, three half-baths, a Honduran mahogany library, large living and dining rooms and a chef’s kitchen with a breakfast room.
Added luxuries include the saloon, a large entertainment area with a French 19th-century hand-carved 24-foot long bar and matching 14-foot tall fireplace, an Art Déco home theater, a gym with an indoor wave pool and a solarium with hot tub and terrace.
Outdoors, there’s an in-ground swimming pool with a tiled water wall and dining patio, a handsome tennis court and a huge 19th-century barn with lots of storage space, a garage for up to eight vehicles and a two-bedroom, two-bath apartment.