Once the playground of the rich and famously wild, a magnificent ocean-to-harborfront estate on Paradise Island in The Bahamas is set to hit the auction block January 14. Known as Kilkee House, its storied history as titillating as a Jackie Collins novel, past owners include a dashing playboy who was heir to the A&P fortune and later, the esteemed Irish actor Richard Harris. Starting bid: $10 million.
The 11,000-square-foot, four-bedroom, home was built more than 70 years ago by Huntington Hartford II, a handsome sophisticate better known for his attention to stunning women than business. Rarely seen without a beauty on his arm (unless there was one on each), Hartford was a visionary who dreamed of transforming a spit of land a short boat ride away from bustling Nassau into a hideaway for the wealthy who wanted nothing more than sunshine and privacy in cold winter months.
In 1962 he built the Ocean Club (now One & Only Ocean Club) largely as a place for his polo-playing buddies to stay. (Four bedroom villas now go for upwards of $11,000 a night.) And he persuaded the government to let him change the name from Hog Island to Paradise Island. It’s a move considered as astute in Bahamian history as one by a former tourism chief who boldly pegged the Bahamian dollar to the greenback when the country gained independence from the UK in 1973, thus aligning itself with the growing tourist market from the U.S.
Today the island may be more well-known for the mass-market Atlantis resort, which has metastasized just over a bridge in the middle, and its exclusive enclave of A-list of sports and entertainment celebs situated around a golf course on the eastern end. But when Hartford built the stately colonial style beach house, Paradise was little more than three and a half miles of overgrown bush with a north facing beach on the ocean side and a harbor on the other. The best thing that could be said for it was that it acted as a natural barrier, protecting the city of Nassau, which by that time was the capital of The Bahamas and enjoying its own heyday of long-staying visitors who arrived with steamer trunks for the winter and wined and dined with abandon.
The only way to reach the little island across the harbor was by boat—and that’s still the case today for the 2.5-acre estate. The quiet western end of P.I. has no road servicing it, so it’s as private, secluded and protected from the glare of spying eyes and paparazzi as it was 70 years ago.
With water on both sides and a home designed for parties, life here was well-suited to second owner Sir Richard Harris, an actor whose oeuvre spanned King Arthur in 1967’s Camelot to Clint Eastwood’s Unforgiven and Professor Dumbledore in the first three Harry Potter movies. He bought the house in and named the estate Kilkee, after the little town in Ireland where he was born. Like Hartford, entertaining was serious business with serious names over 30 years: Frank Sinatra, Clark Gable, Errol Flynn, the Beatles, Peter O’Toole, Pierce Brosnan. After his death in 2002, a key was found that unlocked a secret compartment, a treasure trove of mind- and personality-altering contraband hidden inside.
Even if there had never been a party, the property was—and is to this day—breathtaking and ideal, with great lawns and lush gardens, a stone bridge over a winding rock grotto pool, 200 feet of waterfront on the harbor facing Nassau, a private dock long enough to handle today’s megayachts, a dining room that seats 18, a guest house, waterfall, gym, and more. His children and later grandchildren romped on the private beach out front and rode horses kept at the Ocean Club’s stable.
“It was a great life, a very fast life and a lot of fun,” said Melissa Maura, an artist who still lives in Nassau and remembers her childhood friendships there with fondness. “Richard Harris and whatever wife he had at the time would sashay onto the scene, and despite the drinking or whatever, you always felt protected.”
Harris’s children sold the sun-baked retreat in 2005 to real estate developer David Kosoy (Sterling Financial Group) and his wife, who then spent millions reviving the historic estate. Following an acrimonious split, it’s now up for sale with Concierge Auctions.
In Good Company
“What makes this property so attractive is that it is in pristine condition, turnkey,” says Mario Carey, a broker who has sold well over a billion dollars of prime real estate, much of it on Paradise Island. “It has the history to it, it’s far enough away from the cruise ships so that you don’t have the noise, and it has beach which not all properties at that end of Paradise Island have. By far, [it’s] the most attractive of all the properties there.”
Carey points to nearby offerings as comparison. The property next door is on the market for $15 million, following a blaze that destroyed the main house, leaving a cottage and valuable vacant land. (Expansion-minded billionaires, take note.) A stone’s throw away (for someone with a John Elway arm) is actor Nicholas Cage’s home, now in receivership and ripe for an HGTV makeover, on the market for $6 million. Other appealing properties are five new, ultra-private beachside-to-harbor villas with private boat to run owners back and forth to the mainland. Much smaller than the Kilkee House property but brand new, one just sold for $8.9 million.
And at the opposite end of Paradise Island inside Ocean Club Estates, where basketball legend Michael Jordan owns land, Beyonce and Jay Z’s manager Steve Stoute built a home, and tennis great Jim Courier and baseball star Gary Sheffield are neighbors, prices range from mid-seven digits to mega- multimillions. Carey sold two adjacent lots in Ocean Club Estates for $21 million a few years ago.
Waving away concerns that a 10-bedroom, 12-bath lavish estate on nearly four acres has been on the market for years (with a one-time wish list asking price of $24 million), Concierge sales agent Danny Prell is confident Kilkee House will sell.
“It is one of the best-priced properties we’ve ever had, and there is a lot of interest, even from as far away as China,” he says, noting that two pre-auction offers to buy have already been submitted. “That rarely happens in this business, but this house has everything. Before they separated, the owners poured years of love, sweat and money into the restoration.”
“Plus,” he adds, “people love a bargain.”
Prell is referring to an original asking price of nearly $19 million. Reserve for the auction is $10 million. Ghosts of parties past may be hovering to see how the estate they treasured fares.