A former monastery in Annapolis takes a vow of extravagance.
This 26,000-square-foot estate on 23 acres was once home to a WWI arms dealer and later became a monastery for Capuchin monks.
Set on a cliff overlooking the Severn River, The Friary, a 26,000-square-foot Annapolis home on 23 acres, features seven bedrooms, 11 fireplaces, a nine-car garage, a wine cellar, a conservatory, a ballroom, tennis courts, a 60-foot infinity-edge pool, and a six-slip private dock. In keeping with its oversize dimensions, the home’s history is larger than life.
Built in 1922 as a sanctuary for a World War I arms dealer (complete with extensive underground passages, purportedly to stash illegal weaponry), the mansion was converted in the 1940s by the Catholic Church into a monastery for 60 Capuchin monks. Its most recent incarnation is perhaps its most fabulous: a luxury home for Phillips Seafood CEO Steve Phillips; his wife, Maxine; and their six children.
In 2002, the Phillips family purchased the then-languishing estate. Collaborating with architect Charles Anthony, the couple restored the parts they liked and transformed what they didn’t. A five-story dormitory for the monks was torn down to make way for a cavernous yet soothing hotel-quality spa. “Steve’s pet project was the spa,” says Anthony. “He had fun deciding the details, down to the type of nozzles used, which came from a spa in Austria that he and Maxine had just visited.”
The monastery chapel was converted into an entertaining hall, which comfortably fits 200 guests.
Further lifestyle-enhancing renovations included a chapel converted into a glassed-in entertaining hall (which has held 200 guests comfortably for weddings, concerts, and holiday parties), the addition of a rooftop garden with limestone pavers imported from India, and teakwood paneling (also from India) lining the walls and ceiling of the billiard room. The infinity pool was also a welcome addition.
Technologically top-notch, the home features a control room located below the center rotunda, where the temperature and lighting can be adjusted, along with the spa humidity levels, pool temperature, entertainment system, and surveillance cameras. (If there’s a problem with any of the systems, the computer itself notifies a mechanic.)
“It clearly was a labor of love,” says David DeSantis, who represents the home for Sotheby’s International. “The owners indeed bought a piece of history, protected it, and brought it back.”
One of the home’s most luxurious features is the sanctuary.
But after only 10 years of living in their dream home, the couple put it on the market. Why? “Kids grow up faster than you think,” says DeSantis. “When your six kids are gone and you’re floating around in a 26,000-square-foot house, it gets to be a lot to take care of.”
There is consolation for the owners, however, in that they paid $2.5 million for the property when it was a diamond in the rough and are now listing it for $28.8 million. A sale at that price “would clearly be a record for Annapolis,” says DeSantis, who emphasizes that in spite of its grand proportions, the home was designed for comfortable family living. “The scale of the rooms is impressive. There are so many different and purposed spaces. As big as it is, it really does feel very livable. Some grand houses are so precious that you don’t want to touch anything. But you can imagine a family living here—a very lucky family. David DeSantis, 5454 Wisconsin Ave., Chevy Chase, 202-438-1542