Chuluota comes to market

It took two years to build "Chuluota," which translates to "beautiful view" in some Native American languages, according to Julia Rathkey, who owns the property at 87 Sill Lane in Old Lyme. She and her husband recently listed their beloved home of 13 years for sale, with an asking price set at $2.25 million.

It was the home of artist Harry Leslie Hoffman and his wife Beatrice Cope. Hoffman first came to Old Lyme just after the Turn of the Century to be among the fellow artists who'd "colonized" the area.

Beatrice Cope was the daughter of a wealthy New York City family that owned real estate around Times Square. The Old Lyme property, sited high up on Harding Hill, was a wedding gift to the couple, who honeymooned in Spain while the house was being built by Boston-based Magee & Rowe.

They named their new home Chuluota because of the view. The land around them remained fertile farmland at the time, with fewer trees, allowing them to see all the way to Long Island Sound. Today, the mature trees impede that view, but create a serene setting, instead. The site produced the fieldstone used for the foundation, exterior walls and one of the four fireplaces.

While in Spain, the newlyweds collected wrought-iron fixtures they incorporated into the interiors. For example, there are sconces at the front entrance shaped as bulls' heads with rings in their noses, and in the living room, dragon sconces.

Hoffman claimed the space now used as a family room for his studio back then. It has a high, beamed ceiling, a veritable wall of windows and a fieldstone fireplace at one end. The iron figures that buttress the fireplace are two of the treasures the couple brought home from Spain.

Hoffman also created some "permanent art installations" in the house, which have been preserved over the course of the three owners since. Rathkey is the home's fourth owner – though she considers her role as more than a mere resident — as a "steward" and "docent" for the distinctive home.

One of Hoffman's paintings remains in the living room, just above the fireplace.

Cope was an artist in her own right. She worked in textiles, and the space now used as a piano room was once her studio, where she worked a loom, Rathkey noted.

Though she can't say for sure if it's true, she's heard local lore that Albert Einstein was a frequent guest at Chuluota. He and others were entertained by plays that the homeowners had staged. Hoffman himself was quite the performer. He played the banjo and flute, knew how to tap dance and dazzled his guests with sleight-of-hand trickery. The wall that now separates Cope's former studio from her husband's was added later, so it was an open space back then, where the actors could perform from Cope's studio, engaging the audience who was comfortably seated in Hoffman's creative space.

The home has remarkable formal entertaining spaces inside and outside. The deep wraparound porch provides plenty of space for shaded soirees. Rathkey pointed to some of the wicker seating on the porch, acquired by the original owners and used inside the home, when tuberculosis was top of mind for the nation and air flow was believed beneficial.

When they acquired the home more than a decade ago, the Rathkeys began to transform the interior décor. The previous owner had a preference for white walls, so they brought color back to the rooms, including in the kitchen, where they matched a designer color for the cabinetry, Oval Room Blue. They chose hardware, hand-hammered cabinet pulls and lighting fixtures that were in keeping with the Hoffman's original Spanish fixtures. They sourced marble tile for the backsplash from Tile America in New London, and chose honed quartz for the surfaces and Thermador appliances, including a steam oven.

They also opened up the space, taking down and reconfiguring walls to create a larger kitchen and a complementary mudroom and half-bath.

As a Realtor, Rathkey is cognizant of how important home office space is to buyers today, and there are a few options here, including an office or personal desk space incorporated into the second-floor landing. It has a great view of the grounds. On the main level, the music room could double as a home office, and the third-level bedrooms could also multitask as office space. Separate from the main house, the carriage house has an apartment above its four garage bays, which could also be a private office.

Avid gardeners will appreciate the greenhouse on the grounds, as well.

When the Rathkeys moved in, the grounds and gardens had run amok, so they labored at clearing the overgrowth and re-sculpted the land. They added boxwoods around the koi pond at the front of the house, and later discovered there had been boxwoods there when Hoffman and Cope created the original landscaping. "It was so interesting to learn that we were bringing back elements that were original, without knowing it," she said.  The setting is especially private and tranquil thanks to the surrounding conservation land.

Property: 87 Sill Lane, Old Lyme

Bedrooms: 5

Baths: 4

Square Footage: 5,368

Acreage: 5.10

Asking Price: $2.25 million

Seller's Agent: Julia Rathkey, Coldwell Banker Realty, Old Lyme office; Office: (860) 434-8600; Mobile: (860) 876-6836;


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