Published: August 30, 2016
Review by Andrea Valluzzo, Photos Courtesy Iroquois Auctions
CAPE VINCENT, N.Y. — If it is true that great things bring great prices, then it must follow, too, that a grand manor like Beechwood Mansion makes for a great auction.
Such was the case when Iroquois Auctions of Brewerton, N.Y., hosted an onsite auction here August 12–14 in the Thousands Islands area, selling the contents of a 22-room, 5,000-square-foot mansion built in 1854 for Napoleon Bonaparte. His supporters built a compound of houses and were going to bring him here after he was exiled to the island of St Helena, but he died before they could rescue him. Vincent LaRay de Chaumont, founder of the town of Cape Vincent, sold this home to Theophile Peugnet, Napoleon’s personal bodyguard. The home next door, known as the Cup and Saucer House, which was to be Napoleon’s, burned down in 1864.
Barry L. and Mary Mills bought Beechwood in 1974 after a career in real estate in New Jersey, where Barry did business with the Macy’s (department store) family, even managing the Kate Macy Ladd estate in Somerset, N.J., that sold to the king of Morocco, before becoming public parkland. Some of the architectural elements in Beechwood came out of the Somerset home when it was renovated .
The Mills semiretired to Cape Vincent and after 40-some years, a daughter, Adele, is now selling the home to relocate down South to be closer to her children as her father passed a year ago. Adele, who attended the sales and actively participated in the auction preparations, was married at Beechwood.
The 8-acre property, which is listed for sale for $1.35 million, boasts two boathouses, three multiple-car garages, a guest house and a smaller guest cottage. Befitting its location on the St Lawrence River, on the mouth of Lake Ontario, it had several boats. Inside the main house, built in the Colonial style with Greek Revival elements, nearly every rooms was filled with antiques, many of which were collected by Barry Mills during his travels around the world.
Enter auctioneer Gerald Petro, who appraised the estate’s contents two years ago, and was contracted later to auction the thousands of antiques inside. After thousands of hours by him and his staff organizing the sale (his labor costs totaled $22,000), the sale went off on a beautiful summer weekend and drew 150–200 people each day. The mansion is now empty and ready for new owners.
“It went fantastic, everyone had a good time and the owners were very happy. It was such fun,” he said. “It’s the best location we’ve ever had and we’ve had some amazing ones over 45 years. This one was off the charts and you can feel the history of this place.”
The heat wave earlier this summer caused a few near-heat strokes for Petro’s employees, so he noted that his employees went swimming once in a while to beat the heat after moving heavy items around all day. The home sits on 800 feet of shoreline.
The top-selling lot of the three-day auction was a 1956 Chris Craft boat, 26 feet long, at $7,260 to a Pennsylvania couple, who Petro said liked this area so much they have decided to moor the boat locally and look for a summer cottage here.
A rare and large, signed Michael Ringer oil on board painting depicting Bonnie Castle Manor, 46 by 22 inches, fetched $4,950, while a lavishly carved two-part armoire in walnut, 1870s, with four tiger heads, brought $2,420.
All prices reported include the ten percent buyer’s premium.
For further information, 315-668-2346.
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