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Villa in Potomac, Md., has been financier’s home, convent school

The 1925 Italian Renaissance-style mansion was designed by Wolcott C. Waggaman. (HD Bros)

The Italian villa in Potomac, Md., that was once the centerpiece of a great estate known as Kentsdale has gone on the market for the first time in more than 20 years.

Lyman Kendall, a Wall Street financier, hired Washington architect Wolcott C. Waggaman to design an Italian Renaissance-style mansion near Congressional Country Club.

The young architect, who had just returned from studying in Rome and Paris, was the son of Clarke Waggaman, a prominent architect who, in partnership with George N. Ray, designed many classically inspired residences in Washington and influenced the development of the Woodley Park neighborhood.

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The Washington Post wrote about the construction of Kendall’s house in 1925. “Today a house of early Florentine architecture, imposing yet graceful in design, rises above terraced gardens dominating one of the most splendid vistas of natural scenery in this part of the country.”

No expense was spared in building the house. An iron door, a replica of the one at Badia Fiorentina, a Benedictine abbey, and 18th-century Venetian doors were imported from Italy, as was all the tile used in the house. The house has soaring barrel-vaulted and coffered ceilings, stucco walls, ornate fireplace mantels and wood and stone floors.

Five years after the house was built, Kendall died. His widow sold the 1,000-acre estate in 1931 to the Sisters of Mercy for use as a mother house and a convent school.

The Sisters of Mercy, an order that provides teachers and social workers, built a dormitory wing. The American Academy of Franciscan Scholars bought part of the estate, including the mansion, from the Sisters of Mercy and added a chapel for monks in 1961. It is connected to the main house by a covered colonnade.

Catholic institutions occupied the property for 57 years. Before it became a private residence again, the mansion was the site of the National Symphony Orchestra’s Decorator’s Show House in 1996.

The sellers, who have lived in the house since 1998, updated the bathrooms but preserved many of the original features.

The seven-bedroom, 10-bathroom, 10,062-square-foot house, on 1.7 acres that back onto Buck Branch Stream Valley Park, is listed at just under $4.5 million.

Listing: 9510 Hemswell Pl., Potomac, Md.

Listing agent: Mark McFadden, Compass

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