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.
Chris Dixon, a partner who led the charge, says he has a ‘very long-term horizon’
New research tackles the source of financial conflict and what we can do about it
When couples argue over money, the real source of the conflict usually isn’t on their bank statement.
Financial disagreements tend to be stand-ins for deeper issues in our relationships, researchers and couples counsellors said, since the way we use money is a reflection of our values, character and beliefs. Persistent fights over spending and saving often doom romantic partnerships: Even if you fix the money problem, the underlying issues remain.
To understand what the fights are really about, new research from social scientists at Carleton University in Ottawa began with a unique data set: more than 1,000 posts culled from a relationship forum on the social-media platform Reddit. Money was a major thread in the posts, which largely broke down into complaints about one-sided decision-making, uneven contributions, a lack of shared values and perceived unfairness or irresponsibility.
By analysing and categorising the candid messages, then interviewing hundreds of couples, the researchers said they have isolated some of the recurring patterns behind financial conflicts.
The research found that when partners disagree about mundane expenses, such as grocery bills and shop receipts, they tend to have better relationships. Fights about fair contributions to household finances and perceived financial irresponsibility are particularly detrimental, however.
While there is no cure-all to resolve the disputes, the antidote in many cases is to talk about money more, not less, said Johanna Peetz, a professor of psychology at Carleton who co-authored the study.
“You should discuss finances more in relationships, because then small things won’t escalate into bigger problems,” she said.
A partner might insist on taking a vacation the other can’t afford. Another married couple might want to separate their previously combined finances. Couples might also realize they no longer share values they originally brought to the relationship.
Differentiating between your own viewpoint on the money fight from that of your partner is no easy feat, said Thomas Faupl, a marriage and family psychotherapist in San Francisco. Where one person sees an easily solvable problem—overspending on groceries—the other might see an irrevocable rift in the relationship.
Faupl, who specialises in helping couples work through financial difficulties, said many partners succeed in finding common ground that can keep them connected amid heated discussions. Identifying recurring themes in the most frequent conflicts also helps.
“There is something very visceral about money, and for a lot of people, it has to do with security and power,” he said. “There’s permutations on the theme, and that could be around responsibility, it could be around control, it could be around power, it could be around fairness.”
Barbara Krenzer and John Stone first began their relationship more than three decades ago. Early on in their conversations, the Syracuse, N.Y.-based couple opened up about what they both felt to be most important in life: spending quality time with family and investing in lifelong memories.
“We didn’t buy into the big lifestyle,” Krenzer said. “Time is so important and we both valued that.”
For Krenzer and Stone, committing to that shared value meant making sacrifices. Krenzer, a physician, reduced her work hours while raising their three children. Stone trained as an attorney, but once Krenzer went back to full-time work, he looked for a job that let him spend the mornings with the children.
“Compromise: That’s a word they don’t say enough with marriage,” Krenzer said. “You have to get beyond the love and say, ‘Do I want to compromise for them and find that middle ground?’”
Talking about numbers behind a behaviour can help bring a couple out of a fight and back to earth, Faupl said. One partner might rue the other’s tightfistedness, but a discussion of the numbers reveals the supposed tightwad is diligently saving money for the couple’s shared future.
“I get under the hood with people so we can get black-and-white numbers on the table,” he said. “Are these conversations accurate, or are they somehow emotionally based?”
Couples might follow tenets of good financial management and build wealth together, but conflict is bound to arise if one partner feels the other isn’t honouring that shared commitment, Faupl said.
“If your partner helps with your savings goals, then that feels instrumental to your own goals, and that is a powerful drive for feeling close to the partner and valuing that relationship,” he said.
A sense of mission
When it comes to sticking out the hard times, “sharing values is important, even more so than sharing personality traits,” Peetz said. In her own research, Peetz found that romantic partners who disagreed about shared values could one day split up as a result.
“That is the crux of the conflict often: They each have a different definition,” she said of themes such as fairness and responsibility.
And sometimes, it is worth it to really dig into the potentially difficult conversations around big money decisions. When things are working well, coming together to achieve these common goals—such as saving for your own retirement or preparing for your children’s financial future—will create intimacy, not money strife.
“That is a powerful drive for feeling close to the partner and valuing that relationship,” she said.
Chris Dixon, a partner who led the charge, says he has a ‘very long-term horizon’