SOMERS, Conn. (AP) — Just before his 100th birthday, ice cream magnate S. Prestley Blake gave himself a $7.7 million gift — a house built to replicate Monticello, the famed Virginia home of Thomas Jefferson.
Nestled a stone's throw from the Massachusetts line in the small Connecticut town of Somers, the 10, 000-square-foot house on more than 9 acres of land goes on the auction block May 31. It has never been lived in, failed to sell for the original asking price of $6.5 million and didn't get a buyer at the reduced listing of $4.9 million.
Jefferson's Monticello was built over 28 years at a cost of more than $100, 000, according to its official website. Because much of the work was bartered or done by slave labor, it is impossible to figure out an exact cost, The Thomas Jefferson Foundation says.
Blake, the co-founder of the Friendly's ice cream and restaurant chain, lives a few doors down on adjacent property connected by a horse trail. He never meant to live in the replica.
"This is my swan song, " he said in 2014, when the house was built. "This is the last thing I'll leave for posterity. I want this to be an asset to the community."
Other than a three-car garage, the house was built to mimic the original Monticello from the outside. That includes the decorative railings on the roof and the handmade bricks imported from Virginia, laid in the same Flemish bond pattern used by Jefferson.
For its construction, Blake flew his contractor, Bill Laplante, to Virginia to study the original. Laplante said he used photographs and a book with original architectural drawings to help him build the replica.
"I would say, with the exception of the garage and the rear elevation, it's probably 95 to 98 percent accurate, " he said. "The footprint is pretty much the same."
The inside of the house is modern, complete with an elevator, gourmet kitchen and lights and heating that can be controlled from a smartphone app. The chandelier in the foyer also can be lowered electronically to replace light bulbs and a bookcase in the master bedroom opens to reveal a hidden safe.