Chip Chop, the richly storied waterfront estate built by stage actress Katharine Cornell that has graced the entrance to Lake Tashmoo in Vineyard Haven for nearly 80 years, goes up for sale today. The property has been owned since 1995 by Diane Sawyer, the prominent television journalist, and her late husband, acclaimed film director Mike Nichols.

The property has changed hands just three times in its long history, and this marks the first time it has been placed on the open market for sale.

“We thought about it long and hard . . . we’ve been so lucky to be in this amazing home for 28 years, but as our summers became more about time spent differently, with children in camps and travel, it seemed time to let someone else fall in love with this magic place,” Ms. Sawyer told the Gazette by phone Wednesday.

The asking price is $24 million. Wallace & Co. Sotheby’s International Realty in Edgartown has the exclusive listing, with Mark Jenkins as a principal listing broker.

The cozy living room in the main house remains mostly unchanged since it was completed in 1945. — Bob Gothard/Wallace & Co. Sotheby's International Realty

Nestled in the dunes in the area known as Chappaquonsett, Chip Chop is at once secluded and highly visible, situated on a north-facing promontory that forms the westernmost entrance to Lake Tashmoo. With its signature chimneys, the property has long been a landmark for boaters. The eastern side of the channel is flanked by a town jetty and public beaches owned by the town and the land bank.

The property has extensive frontage on both Lake Tashmoo and Vineyard Sound and includes a main house, a series of cottages, a 60-by-30-foot pool perched above the Sound and a tennis court. An abutting parcel that was purchased later by Mr. Nichols and Ms. Sawyer and has two beach houses that were formerly fishing shacks, now modernized, is included in the sale price. The combined parcels encompass nearly 20 acres and have a total assessed value of $22.2 million. Annual property taxes total approximately $130,000.

It has been known as Chip Chop since it was built, in an apparent play on East and West Chop.

The property spans more than one era of celebrities who have sought quiet refuge on the Vineyard as a summer vacation spot, relishing the Island for its unspoiled natural beauty.

Its history stretches back for more than eight decades and at times reads like an homage to a gilded, bygone era of stage and screen: Sir Laurence Olivier, Vivian Leigh, Rex Harrison, Noel Coward and Helen Keller were among the many guests who visited Ms. Cornell and her husband, the producer Guthrie McClintic, at Chip Chop.

The combined parcels encompass nearly 20 acres. — Graham Smith

“I’d always hoped I’d find the summer place I wanted, a place where I could lead a blue jean kind of life. This is it,” Ms. Cornell told the Boston Sunday Globe in 1954. The famed actress who had been dubbed the First Lady of the Theatre tended gardens and flocks of chickens on her Vineyard property.

Ms. Sawyer said Mr. Nichols had met Ms. Cornell many years before they bought Chip Chop.

“He told me about that day and it never lost its hold on his imagination,” she recalled. “Something about her sense of place and warmth and where you could bring people . . . where the views were beautiful outside and straight into your heart. She had a gift for that and he knew it instantly,” she said.

“It’s hard not to sit in those rooms and think of Noel Coward, of Cole Porter, Laurence Olivier or Helen Keller. You open a drawer — some of the old furniture is still there — and sometimes there’s a clipping that has a picture that’s from those days. It always give you a reverent pause for how much life has passed through those rooms.”

The home was originally designed for Ms. Cornell and her husband by the architect Eric Gugler. Construction began in 1937 but was paused during World War II and completed in 1945.

The main house was connected to a series of guest cottages by courtyards and pergolas built from old timbers and driftwood. And while many updates have been made over the years, Chip Chop remains remarkably unchanged from its original version, including the great room in the main house with its soaring, wood-beamed ceilings, huge fireplaces and doors that open on one side to the pond, on the other side to the sea.

The name Chip Chop is an apparent play on East and West Chop. — Bob Gothard/Wallace & Co. Sotheby's International Realty

In 1968 Ms. Cornell sold the property to Milton Gordon, an investment banker and television producer whose credits include the series Lassie, and his wife Elinor. The Gordons were family friends and had spent summers at Chip Chop. Ms. Cornell remained on the Island, living in Vineyard Haven until her death in 1974. She led the renovation of Association Hall, today the Katharine Cornell Theatre.

When Milton Gordon died in 1990, his daughter Leslie Gordon Glass and her husband Edmund Glass took ownership. In 1995 Leslie Glass sold to Mr. Nichols and Ms. Sawyer for $5.3 million. A private transaction with no broker involved, at the time it was a record sale price for residential real estate on the Vineyard.

A respected journalist and the first female anchor for the CBS news program 60 Minutes, Ms. Sawyer said she and Mr. Nichols, a director known among other things for his movie The Graduate, used Chip Chop exclusively as a family home.

“I think our experience has been much like of a lot of families’ experience — it’s the place grandchildren grow up,” Ms. Sawyer said. “It has been such a family home. As my oldest granddaughter said, you walk into the room for the first time and you’re surprised at its beauty . . . and then you’re surprised every time you return.”

Sir Laurence Olivier, Vivian Leigh, Rex Harrison, Noel Coward and Helen Keller were among the many guests at Chip Chop. — Ray Ewing

She continued: “Every grandchild’s life has been centered here every summer — the Flying Horses, getting to work at Jabberwocky, Island corn and tomatoes . . . and for me, taking my dog George on a walk. Five grandchildren learned how to run and scrape their knees running down the halls of the house. They learned how to swim in the pool, they put on plays in the big living room. We would spend Thanksgivings there — those giant fireplaces with their golden fires inside them carried us into the autumn.

“You know we love Martha’s Vineyard and the memories are engraved, and the time with our friends are engraved with us and that will never end. We will be back in every way when we can find time.”

Now a new era is set to begin for Chip Chop.

Mr. Jenkins said the property has been preserved in a way rarely, if ever, seen on the Island.

“I’ve never been on a property as well taken care of as this one,” he said.

For example, while all the mechanical systems in the homes and cottages such as heating and cooling have been updated, he said: “It really doesn’t look any different. You feel like you’re traveling back in time. You have this extraordinary historic home which feels fresh and usable. There’s no example that I can think of . . . the old concrete pool, the tennis court — you feel like Gregory Peck is going to go walking across it in his whites. It’s old fashioned, but not.”

He concluded: “We’re going to market it to people we hope that have the same respect for the property as the previous owners and the current owner as well.”

Whoever the new owners are, Ms. Sawyer said: “I think I would love to see them walk into the big room with the glass doors that open on one side to Tashmoo and the other side to the sea, and know that they are happy as we were.”