House of the Week | Gibson Island chateau for $1.985M

Touted as the “Newport of the South” in its early days, Gibson Island was once a summer retreat for well-to-do families in the Washington-Baltimore area. Although modest dwellings such as Cape Cods and bungalows are present, the island is known for its grand manors such as this French Normandy chateau.

Gibson Island is not actually an island but a peninsula connected o the eastern end of Anne Arundel County by a gated causeway. Sandwiched between the Chesapeake Bay and the Magothy River, it spans nearly 1,000 acres with seven miles of shoreline.

The recreational community was the brainchild of W. Stuart Symington Jr., a Baltimore judge and father of former senator Stuart Symington (D-Mo.). After buying the land, Symington hired Olmsted Brothers to design the community.

From the beginning, a strong emphasis was placed on the natural surroundings. Two-thirds of the land is devoted to woodlands and a wildlife sanctuary. Otter Pond, the largest freshwater lake on the Chesapeake Bay, is a popular spot for canoeing and kayaking. In an effort to protect the picturesque environs, all non-privately held land is owned by the Gibson Island Corp., in which the homeowners receive shares.

With a speed limit of 25 mph, most residents drive golf carts or ride bikes. Outdoor pursuits include boating, swimming, golf, tennis and skeet.

“It’s kind of like going back in time,” said Ellie Shorb of Coldwell Banker. She and Lorin Culver are the co-listing agents. “It’s very nice and relaxing.”

Built in 1926, this 4,623-square-foot home with fieldstone walls and a cedar shake roof was one of the first constructed on the island. Designed by the architectural firm Palmer, Willis and Lamdin, it has had only three owners.

The entrance is impressive. The front door opens to a 35-foot-by-25-foot great room with a stunning fireplace and soaring wood beam ceiling. French doors lead to a solarium that overlooks the heated in-ground pool.

The great room divides the home, with the private rooms on the right and the public rooms on the left. The private rooms include a first-floor master suite and additional bedrooms on the second floor accessed by a spiral staircase in the stone turret. The third-floor tower room has a 360-degree view of the bay and the river. The public rooms feature a formal dining room, a kitchen, a library and a conservatory with a heated floor.

“It has a lot of amenities you’d want in a brand-new house even though it was built in the ’20s,” Shorb said.

Situated on a hill on one of the largest lots on the island, the four-bedroom, four-bathroom home is listed at $1.985 million.

Listing: 803 Rackham Rd., Gibson Island

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Kathy Orton is a reporter and Web editor for the Real Estate section. She covers the Washington metropolitan area housing market.
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