Blue Heron Farm, the Chilmark estate that President Obama and his family have rented for three past summer vacations, was sold last week for $21.9 million. The gentleman’s farm will be occupied by a high-profile European couple, Lord Norman and Lady Elena Foster of Thames Bank in Great Britain.
Lord Foster, who designed the new Wembley Stadium and 30 St. Mary Axe, the cylindrical building in downtown London known as the Gherkin, is considered to be one of the world’s most successful architects. Lady Foster is an accomplished academic and the founder of several arts publications. Hers is the only name that appears in connection with the real estate transfer, the bulk of which was handled through a limited liability corporation.
The transaction was complicated and involved two separate deeds in as many days, and designed to preserve anonymity. On Nov. 22, Blue Sky MV LTD, a real estate investment corporation organized in late October, purchased 28.5 acres in Chilmark and 3.7 noncontiguous acres in West Tisbury for a total of $21.925 million. One day later, Lady Foster purchased an accompanying .3-acre Quansoo Beach lot for $475,000 in her maiden name, Maria Elena Pia Fernandez Lopez de Ochoa.
At $22.4 million, the price ranks among the highest paid for a single-family home on the Vineyard.
The sale was handled by Tom Wallace, a principal in Wallace and Co. Realty Sotheby’s International. Mr. Wallace, who also handled the rentals to the Obamas, would not comment on the identity of the Blue Heron Farm buyers. However, the transaction mirrors another Mr. Wallace oversaw in 2005, when Mississippi businessman William Van Devender purchased Blue Heron Farm through a limited liability corporation. Because the Quansoo Beach Association does not allow buyers to organize their sales under blind corporations, Mr. Van Devender purchased the same Quansoo parcel using his and his wife’s full name.
The transfer of ownership marks the latest chapter in Blue Heron Farm’s storied history, made all the more public since the First Family’s stay.
In 1991, the late Vineyard philanthropist M. Anthony Fisher purchased much of the land that comprises Blue Heron Farm for $1.2 million. Over the course of several years, he amassed additional property and hired Vineyard contractors to build and renovate existing structures on the site. Today, the property, which fronts a cove on Tisbury Great Pond, includes two full-sized homes, a boathouse, a 150-year-old barn that was brought in from Pennsylvania and reassembled, a riding ring, tennis and basketball courts, multiple gardens and an apple orchard. A white clapboard farmhouse on the property was inspired by the home in the Kevin Costner movie Field of Dreams.
Then-president Bill Clinton and his wife, Hillary, attended a dinner party on the property in the summer of 1998.
Mr. Fisher and his wife, Anne, were killed in a plane crash in 2003.
Mr. Van Devender, one of the original investors of the Vineyard Golf Club, purchased Blue Heron Farm from the estate of Mr. Fisher in 2005 for $20.35 million.
Wallace & Co. managed Blue Heron Farm for the past three years for the Van Devenders, renting it out on a limited basis. The First Family spent 10 days in the farmhouse this summer.
The Van Devenders put the property on the market in September for an asking price of $23.7 million. In conversation with the Gazette at the time, Mr. Wallace said the Van Devenders decided to sell because they have been spending less time on the Island. “I think their plans include spending more time on the West Coast for a variety of reasons,” he said.
Though Blue Sky MV documents indicate that Wallace & Co. will continue to manage Blue Heron Farm, it is understood that the Fosters will not rent out the estate. Lord and Lady Foster maintain several residences both in North American and abroad, and their respective business interests are headquartered overseas.
Lord Foster is founder and chairman of the 600-person architectural firm Foster + Partners, based in London. A champion in his field, he has been awarded the Pritzker Architecure Prize, Praemium Imperiale Award for Architecture, the American Institute of Architects Gold Medal for Architecture, the Royal Gold Medal for Architecture and the Gold Medal of the French Academy of Architecture. He was granted a knighthood in 1990 and was honored with a life peerage in 1999, becoming Lord Foster of Thames Bank.
Lady Foster is a Fulbright scholar and an academic psychologist with a strong media presence in her native Spain. In 1996, she founded Ivory Press, an arts publishing house with locations in London and Madrid. Lady Foster has launched several upscale arts publications, including C International Photography Magazine, which is published in English, Mandarin, Spanish and Japanese.
The Blue Heron Farm sale gave a significant boost to the Martha’s Vineyard Land Bank, a state-chartered Island organization which collects a two per cent fee on most real estate transactions to buy public open space and other conservation lands. The recent slowdown in the real estate market has caused land bank monies to slow to a trickle. The land bank fee on the Blue Heron and Quansoo beach lot sale was $448,000. “From the perspective of the land bank, this is a welcome receipt of funds,” said executive director James Lengyel this week.