Carnegie's Golden Age

The ultra-private Carnegie Abbey celebrates its 10th anniversary in Portsmouth on July 31.

During the Gilded Age, the uber-wealthy escaped the pressures and heat of the city for their luxuriously large and ornate "summer cottages" in Newport. In 2010, the rich and famous escape to the exclusive summer enclave at Portsmouth's Carnegie Abbey Club.

The 220-foot-tall Tower at Carnegie Abbey soars above the Aquidneck Island landscape. The 22nd-floor penthouse's private rooftop deck offers the most dramatic land and sea views on the New England coastline, says O'Neill Properties Sales Director James Santora.

Carnegie Abbey's beautifully-landscaped 400-acre property is a sight to behold. Looking directly down below one finds the pool area, featuring 26 private cabanas.  Look out and enjoy the rolling hills of the 290-acre, newly-renovated, Scottish-style golf course. To the right, one can spy construction of the Club's newest addition, an Equestrian Center (set to open in August), and Carnegie Abbey's private yacht club.

In the near future, Carnegie Abbey's Beach Club, featuring the only natural sand beach facing west on the island, will house 156 new residences. There are also several exclusive neighborhoods dotting the property, including the Royal Cottages and Carnegie Harbor Drive, where two homes are currently on the market – for $4.3 million and $7.8 million, respectively.

Opened last November, The Tower is Philadelphia-based O'Neill Properties' latest addition to Carnegie Abbey, which Brian O'Neill purchased in 1996. The original portion of the club opened on July 31, 2000. In 2004, O'Neill acquired the abutting property, which already housed an old cable steel tower. "The tower was here so we got air rights," Santora says. So began the six-year construction process. "We took no shortcuts," he says.

There are 79 units in the Tower, with nine different models, ranging in price from $1.4-$1.6 million on average. The first 10 percent of the units are currently occupied, with 30 percent occupancy projected by the end of 2010.

Carnegie Abbey's residents and members include several celebrities and notable people, who enjoy a variety of recreational opportunities, including golf, equestrian activities, tennis, yachting, and swimming. There are also a wide variety of activities and summer camps for their children.

But don't expect to see the roster of residents and members. While "a handful of celebrities" own homes here, the only name Santora would reveal was baseball Hall of Famer Mike Schmidt. "These are very hard-working, very successful people in life looking for a place to get away," Santora says. "We protect our members."

In general, he says, they may drive into Portsmouth for a weekend getaway from places like Boston, New York, or the ritzy suburban town of Greenwich, Conn.  The club chauffer may pick them up as they fly in from far-off places like California, London, or Paris. A full-membership in the club, required for anyone that wants to purchase a residence there, costs $150,000 a year.

Even in the troubled economy, Santora says, "The interest in real estate has been there. Savvy investors want to know they're getting a good deal. We've adjusted for the market."


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