On the Market: Rafael Viñoly-designed mansion in Fort Washington for $13,950,000
On the Market profiles homes for sale in the Philadelphia region.
For many, the 70-acre estate in Fort Washington located at 7111 Sheaff Lane that includes four separate buildings, indoor and outdoor tennis courts, a pond, and a pool, would be the ultimate dream.
But for Dennis Alter, the current owner, the home is very much a reality; one that he built and designed – with the help of an internationally renowned architect and a prestigious interior design team – over a three-year time period. Only the name of the estate, Arbor Hill, came to Alter in his dreams.
Alter, the former president and CEO of Advanta Corp, has put the main house, which is the largest building at the estate, on the market for $13,950,000. The home stretches 40,000 square feet and resides on 29 acres.
Completed in 1999, the property, referred to by realtors as “one of the most prominent estates in the region,” is where Alter and his ex-wife, Gisela, raised their four kids, displayed their world-class art collections, held numerous fundraisers and events, and even welcomed a production crew to film the 2013 movie “Paranoia,” starring Liam Hemsworth.
Building and designing the home was a unique experience in itself. After consulting with several architects about constructing the property, Alter felt that his friend and world-renowned architect Rafael Viñoly would be the perfect fit. Viñoly is locally known for designing the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts.
“I thought Rafael would be a good person to work with for a variety of reasons,” Alter said during an interview at his home. “I knew him on a personal level, and I admired his work; he is a genius.”
The process of building Arbor Hill began in 1996 when Alter was still working at his former credit-card company in Montgomery County. He would drive by the property after work, and said he was inspired by the “beauty, seclusion and the general area” to take on this large project. The property is adjacent to a horse farm, state park, and the Highlands mansion and gardens.
All that existed on the property at the time was an 80-year-old modest-sized home. But Alter, who had been living in Horsham for the past 17 years, had a vision to transform it into something much greater.
The first step consisted of aggregating six parcels, which took one year; everything else followed soon after and the estate was born.
“The house was everything I had hoped it would be,” Alter said.
The main house is built of stone, wood, glass, and Venetian glazed plaster. The home is shaped like a U around a courtyard, which Alter says is one of the most beautiful features of the house.
The home, which has 10 bedrooms and 15 bathrooms, was designed in this shape so that wherever one is standing in the home, the fields and courtyard are visible. The house is divided into three wings; one for the family, one for two dining rooms, and one that features a heroic scale living room, grand foyer and media room.
The living room was the location for many fundraisers benefitting the Opera Company, the Art Museum, Temple University (which Alter attended), and the Children’s Hospital. The room is adjacent to an indoor basketball court, which was added four years ago.
Although this main house is only one part of the property, two other parts of the estate are also being sold separately; a 20,000-square-foot converted bank barn with two stone guest houses and 18 acres of land for $9.95 million, and a separate 22-acre parcel for $4 million. The full estate was originally listed in October 2011 for $30 million.
In the past four years, Alter and his wife have gotten divorced, and his two daughters graduated college and moved out of the home. He still has two teenage sons who live at home, but he is looking to move to a smaller residence.
"It’s too much house for a relatively small family,” Alter said.
Listing agent Janet Rubino of Long and Foster says she has seen many inquiries about the home, but only few qualified buyers have been able to take a tour.
“We have had some local interest as well as some from other parts of the world,” she said.
Alter, who has lived in Montgomery County his whole life, says he plans to stay in the Philadelphia region once this estate is sold.
“I have enjoyed the property’s beauty and peacefulness,” he said.