It Was a Three-Bedroom Colonial. Now, This Rural Massachusetts Property Feels Like ‘Disneyland.’ | Kanebridge News
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It Was a Three-Bedroom Colonial. Now, This Rural Massachusetts Property Feels Like ‘Disneyland.’

By E.B. SOLOMONT
Thu, Sep 1, 2022 8:41amGrey Clock 4 min
Built by the late founder of Yankee Candle Co., a 60-acre portion of the estate—with an indoor water park, an arcade and two car barns—is hitting the market for $23 million

As a baby, Michael “Mick” Kittredge III lived in what he recalls as a traditional house in western Central Massachusetts: a three-bedroom Colonial that his parents bought for $144,000 in 1984.

But by the time he was 10, Mr. Kittredge said his father—Michael J. Kittredge II, the founder of Yankee Candle Co., who died in 2019—had converted the inconspicuous property into a veritable Magic Kingdom in the small rural town of Leverett, population under 2,000. In the span of several years, the elder Mr. Kittredge had scooped up enough neighbouring properties to create an estate of more than 100 acres, some spilling over the border into Amherst. Today, the property features, among other outsized amenities, a water park, an arcade, tennis courts, a concert hall and places for guests to stay.

“It was like having Disneyland in the backyard,” said Mick Kittredge, now 32, who co-founded Kringle Candle Co. with his father in 2009. “When I was young, it was pretty much just a regular house.”

Now, a nearly 60-acre portion of the estate is coming onto the market for $23 million, said listing agent Johnny Hatem Jr. of Douglas Elliman. The gated property has a roughly 25,000-square-foot main house, two 4,000-square-foot guesthouses, two car barns, a clubhouse, an outdoor pool and a pool cabana with a full kitchen and bar. The arcade and water park are inside a separate 55,000-square-foot, two-story building, Mr. Hatem said.

A roughly 10-acre parcel with an 8,500-square-foot home and a guesthouse is listed separately for $3.99 million. An additional parcel, with an apple orchard, is also being sold separately. “This place is just too big for one,” said Mr. Kittredge.

On a recent August afternoon, Mick Kittredge navigated an Indian motorcycle around the property’s winding paths and gardens, which connect the main house to the outbuildings.

The late Mr. Kittredge founded Yankee Candle as a teenager in the 1960s after making his mother a candle out of melted crayons because he was too poor to buy her a gift. He parlayed the hobby into a business and sold 90% of Yankee Candle in 1998 for about $500 million.

By then, the estate was well under way.

Located about 90 miles from Boston, Leverett is a middle-class town known for its proximity to Amherst and nearby colleges, including Smith College and Mount Holyoke College, as well as Deerfield Academy. The median list price for a single-family home was $650,000 in July 2022, according to Realtor.com. (News Corp, owner of The Wall Street Journal, also operates Realtor.com under license from the National Association of Realtors.)

Mick Kittredge said the location was a natural choice for his dad, who grew up about 15 miles away in South Hadley. Leverett is also about 12 miles from Yankee Candle’s main factory and original retail store in South Deerfield.

After purchasing the original home on 1.84 acres, Mr. Kittredge snapped up adjacent land as it became available, records show. Mick Kittredge estimated his father invested $50 million in both the land acquisitions and the multiple renovations over the years.

“It was like a never-ending construction site,” he said, adding that his father didn’t have a master plan but designed the property for entertaining and enjoyment. “He was a dreamer and visionary, and built it along the way.”

The renovated main residence, completed in 2010, has six bedrooms, 11 fireplaces and a three-story great room. There is a huge kitchen with five islands for food prep and seven sinks, as well as a separate commercial kitchen on a lower level. There are also four dining rooms, a 10-seat theatre and two wine cellars.

The outbuildings reflect the late Mr. Kittredge’s passion for cars, tennis and music. He built two car barns that can hold a combined 80 vehicles. One also has a mechanic’s bay with a lift and space for washing and detailing, as well as a pool table and bar. The property has four tennis courts—two clay courts, an artificial-grass court and an indoor court. The late Mr. Kittredge, who played guitar, drums and piano, also had a large guitar collection and built a recording studio in his main home.

In the late 1990s, he commissioned what he called a spa building: a 55,000-square-foot structure centred on various activities. It has a 4,000-square-foot gym and massage treatment rooms, a three-lane bowling alley, the indoor tennis court, an arcade, a billiard room and the indoor water park.

The building’s large flex space can be converted into a concert hall with a 4,000-square-foot stage and a 25-foot oak bar. “The dance floor goes out, the tables go down and the lights go up,” Mick Kittredge said. “It’s a wild transformation.”

Mick Kittredge said his father gave the builder 12 months to complete the project so that it would be done in time for his third wedding, which took place at the estate in 1999. (Mr. Kittredge’s three marriages ended in divorce.)

Mick Kittredge said his dad had a flair for theatrics, and happily indulged his son’s interests on holidays and birthdays. He had a Santa—often a Yankee Candle store employee—pretend to slide down the chimney at Christmastime, and when Mick Kittredge was going through a Batman phase, his father built him an underground batcave. “He just tried hard to keep that childhood wonder alive for me,” he said.

For a birthday party, the elder Mr. Kittredge had a family friend dress up as Batman and perform choreographed fight scenes. Batman showed up in a batmobile that Mr. Kittredge owned that had been used in one of the Warner Bros. movies, Mr. Kittredge recalled. “I thought Batman was as real as Santa was to any other kid,” he said.

Christmas dinners regularly included 400 guests, he added, and there were numerous fundraisers, galas and live-music performances by the Doobie Brothers, KC and the Sunshine Band and others.

The estate was always busy, but his father designed for his family a private space in the main house with a primary bedroom, sitting area, kitchenette and two additional bedrooms. It was a retreat Mr. Kittredge said his father shared with his third wife and their two daughters.

“My dad built this place for his family, because he was very poor growing up,” he added. “He really wanted to be able to give his kids and his family a lifestyle he never dreamed of having.”

He said his father kept adding and renovating until 2012, when he suffered a stroke that impaired his speech and mobility.

A few years ago, Mr. Kittredge said, his father sold off a parcel where he had a small farm and grew his own vegetables and raised pigs, chickens and cows.

Mr. Hatem said the price of the main estate on the market reflects its location in a remote part of the state. He said he could see the property appealing to a car enthusiast or business executive, or even used for corporate retreats. “It’s an estate for hosting,” he said.

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