Inside Katharine Hepburn’s lifelong Connecticut estate

If you had any doubts, Katharine Hepburn’s Connecticut estate demonstrates just how well the star did in Hollywood. As one of the most celebrated stars of the silver screen, her spectacular career spanned over 50 years and included roles in what are often considered the greatest movies of all time, such as The Philadelphia Story, Woman of the Year, and The African Queen. As the Los Angeles Times explained, she eventually became a fierce female icon that paved the way for generations of actresses to come.

Most acting legends of Hepburn’s time lived in La La Land, but Hepburn called Old Saybrook home. Her beloved family estate was Hepburn’s homestead for the majority of her life until her death in 2003.

Although the estate has undergone some changes throughout the years, it’s still possible to see some remnants of the magnificent estate that Hepburn once called home. Here’s an in-depth inside look at Katharine Hepburn’s lifelong Connecticut estate.

Katharine Hepburn's Connecticut estate was once owned by the actress' parents

Katharine Hepburn famously adored her home in Fenwick, a small private community in Old Saybrook, Connecticut. She reportedly once said, “This isn’t a dream, it’s Fenwick — or is it paradise?” (via Open House TV). Hepburn’s estate was owned by the Hepburn family for over a century, until the Old Hollwood star’s death in the early aughts. According to The Observer, Hepburn’s parents bought the property sometime around 1913 to use as a summer retreat. In 2016,The Boston Globe explained how Hepburn had described Fenwick as originally having fewer than 50 houses along with some tennis courts and a golf course. “It’s an accurate enough description today, too,” the publication revealed.

Hepburn grew up spending her summers at the estate in Fenwick, and it’s where she always felt most at home. It was there that she learned how to play tennis and golf, according to The Boston Globe. She also got into the habit of taking a daily swim in the sound while staying at the home. And when Hepburn retired, she took to living in the home full time.

The whitewashed brick exterior of Katharine Hepburn's lifelong Connecticut estate sets the calm, nautical tone

Sadly, the home that stands in Fenwick today is not the same house that Katharine Hepburn’s parents bought in the 1910s. In September 1938, a hurricane destroyed the original home, according to Smithsonian magazine. It, along with nearly 9,000 other homes in New England, had been swept into the ocean.

Hepburn’s father immediately built a stronger home on the same property, which was later renovated (and strengthened further) in 2005. From the moment you first lay eyes on Katharine Hepburn’s Connecticut estate, it’s clear that the home was both designed and restored with relaxation — and longevity — in mind. 

With its classic, soothing whitewashed brick exterior, the home certainly fits well against a backdrop of the Long Island Sound and the green fields that surround it. The structure — which was raised five feet for protection against the water — features sloping roofs, several patios and balconies, along with plenty of large windows. From the very first glance, the white, nautical-inspired exterior design is clearly designed to imitate its beautiful surroundings.

Katharine Hepburn's Connecticut estate boasts an open flow

The interior of the Katharine Hepburn’s estate in Connecticut features a sweeping, open flow. Upon entering the front doors, guests will find themselves in a magnificent, expansive foyer that spans three stories. As Fionna Sciame, the daughter of a former owner of the home, explained to Open House TV, the open flow design is intended to emphasize the Long Island Sound and the Connecticut River that surround either side of the property. With its open concept, it’s possible to see just about every room of the house at once — along with those stunning waterfront views.

From the foyer, the house flows straight into the bright formal living room, complete with a large fireplace, and beautiful views. The space features coffered ceilings, whitewashed walls and floors, and blue accents, to give it a nautical, breezy feel. From the living room, french doors swing open straight onto the back patio with its sweeping ocean views. From the living room, the open plan flows straight into the kitchen.

The kitchen is "the heart" of Katharine Hepburn's Connecticut estate

As Fionna Sciame, daughter of a former owner of Katharine Hepburn’s Connecticut estate, noted to Open House TV, the kitchen pictured above is the “heart of the home.” The large space features custom-built cabinetry, white marble countertops, an Aga stove (a famously luxurious brand), and a luxe Sub-Zero refrigerator.

The large island in the center of the room has more than enough room for three people to sit comfortably. It’s easy to see how this bright and airy room would serve as a natural gathering place for the family.

During Katharine Hepburn’s time at Fenwick, chances are Norah Moore, Hepburn’s longtime friend and cook, would’ve been found in this part of the house. Apparently, Moore always had Hepburn’s favorite brownies on standby for the star. According to Ann Nyberg, author of Remembering Katharine Hepburn, Hepburn also wasn’t opposed to cooking for herself, as she thought eating out was an unnecessary expense (via Country Living). As such, there’s no doubt that Hepburn herself frequently used the kitchen to whip up her own meals while at living at her sprawling estate.

Katharine Hepburn's Connecticut estate features a paradisiac patio

At the back of Katharine Hepburn’s lifelong Connecticut estate sits one of the most spectacular features. Upon opening the french doors off the living room, you are greeted with sweeping, expansive waterfront. As seen on Open House TV, the back patio features a stunning, tranquil outdoor area that can combine with the indoor living room to become the ideal indoor-outdoor entertaining space during the warmer months.

Not only are the views from this patio absolutely to die for, they’re also totally private. According to 6sqft, the back of the house looks out onto 220 feet of private Long Island Sound beachfront. In fact, there’s even more secluded water access at the front of the house, where you’ll find a private pond — this home really is surrounded by water! In this peaceful setting, it’s easy to see why Katharine Hepburn described the area as paradise.

Katharine Hepburn's bedroom has changed a great deal since the actress owned the Connecticut estate

Decades ago, Katharine Hepburn once called the master suite of this estate her bedroom, according to Open House TV. Although the home was renovated in 2005, Fionna Sciame, daughter to a former owner of the home, explained that her family chose to leave some features in the room to showcase how it may have looked when Hepburn was alive.

The room features large windows on almost every wall, giving the space a bright, airy feel and some breathtaking views of the waterfront below. As Sciame explained, they left the brick exposed in order to illustrate how the home once was. The room was, however, updated with a large, plush window seat, a brick fireplace, and a stylish, white beadboard ceiling.

Photographer John Bryson published some pictures of Hepburn’s Connecticut estate in The Private World of Katharine Hepburn, including one of her bedroom. It’s clear that a lot has changed since her time in the house. With fully exposed brick walls, a metal-banded barrel bookcase, carved duck figurines, and a painted wooden chair, it’s evident that Heburn’s style was pretty rustic in comparison to popular contemporary interior design styles.

Katharine Hepburn's Connecticut estate boasts six bedrooms

While Katharine Hepburn’s master suite is undoubtedly gorgeous, the huge estate actually boasts five other stunning bedrooms. According to Ideal Home each of the six bedrooms have their own en-suite bathrooms. One bedroom features pale blue walls, a small gas fireplace, and charming retro wooden furnishings. Another room boasts a long, wall-to-wall window with a panoramic view of the waterfront below.

This home undoubtedly hosted some of Hollywood’s elite back in Hepburn’s time, many of whom likely stayed in these charming nautical rooms. In fact, according to The New York Times, the home had nine bedrooms prior to its 2005 renovation, so it would have been able to welcome plenty of guests. Actor Spencer Tracy allegedly had a long affair with Hepburn (via The New York Times), and is reported to have visited Fenwick. Additionally, Howard Hughes, aviator and one-time admirer of Hepburn, was also a guest at the home.

Katharine Hepburn's lifelong Connecticut estate is all about the outdoor spaces

Katharine Hepburn’s stunning, sun-drenched Connecticut home was bought by the Sciame family after the legendary actor’s death in 2003. The family patriarch, Frank, undertook a major reconstruction of the house to update and improve the building (via Ideal Home). One of the most impressive updates the family made was to incorporate several luxurious porches complete with lavish outdoor furniture. According to Hartford Courant News, some of these porches were completely new additions. Apparently, Sciame even added elegant pillars to the wrap-around ground level patio.

Based on the listing photos, one ground-level porch features a plush, round sofa and television, another has a long wooden dining table for entertaining, and an upstairs porch overlooks the water below. Looking at these stunning outdoor living spaces, it’s clear that the Sciame family did an amazing job of transforming Hepburn’s home into a straight up mansion!

The expansive private beach at the back of this Connecticut estate home was beloved by Katharine Hepburn

One of the best — and most used — parts of Katharine Hepburn’s lifelong Connecticut estate has to be the beach. According to The New York Times, the home “has its own sandy beach, where Hepburn was known to take a daily dip, no matter the month, and clumps of goldenrod she tended personally.” Hepburn was famous for her love of the outdoors, so it’s no wonder she made good use of this space.

Although she loved golfing and playing tennis, she may have loved swimming even more. In fact, she once confessed to swimming in the ocean every day that she was at Fenwick — no matter the season. “I swim all winter, so the season is never closed to me,” Hepburn revealed in her memoir, Me: Stories of My Life. Having access to this stunning sandy beach was clearly one of the perks of living on this estate for Hepburn!

Howard Hughes may have loved Katharine Hepburn, but he did not love her Connecticut estate

One of the main highlights of the beach at the back of Katharine Hepburn’s Connecticut mansion is the long dock that extends into the water. Based on the listing photos of the property, the luxurious dock appears to be decked out with comfortable seating where one might sit in the sun and enjoy the spectacular Long Island Sound views.

As it happens, one of the most exciting stories during Hepburn’s time at Fenwick may have taken place right next to this beautiful dock. Apparently, this stretch of water was the spot where Howard Hughes once landed his seaplane, according to Sotheby’s International Realty.

Back in the day, Hughes, a famous film producer and aviator, was an ardent admirer of Hepburn’s. In fact, as the biography Katharine Hepburn (via Vanity Fair) revealed, Hughes actually proposed to her on his way to visit Fenwick. However, Hughes apparently hated Hepburn’s beloved family home so much that the pair ended up going their separate ways. It seems that any husband of Hepburn’s would have needed to love the Connecticut estate as much as she did for the relationship to work.

Katharine Hepburn's Connecticut estate sits on acres of land

Katharine Hepburn’s exquisite Connecticut estate boasts pretty impressive acreage. As revealed in the real estate listing, the property sits on 3.4 acres. According to the Hartford Courant, Hepburn “stipulated that those acres on Long Island Sound should be given to a federal, state or local organization that would protect the land.” After her death, this is exactly what happened.

The designated land was transferred to the Lynda Point Land Trust, an organization dedicated to maintaining natural land in Fenwick. Ethel Davis, president of the organization, revealed, “The whole Hepburn family loved that land. They spent hours at a time on it.” Hepburn herself even briefly made mention of this green space in her memoir, Me: Stories of My Life. In it, she wrote, “From my bed I see the sun rise. Between the inner and outer lighthouses. Across a field of marsh grass.”

It sounds like the home will maintain its feeling of privacy and seclusion for years to come thanks to Hepburn’s thoughtful stipulation about keeping this parcel of land undeveloped.

Katharine Hepburn fit right into her Connecticut community

Katharine Hepburn’s Connecticut house itself is only part of what made this charming, nautical estate so appealing to Katharine Hepburn and her family. The house sits in the small community of Fenwick in Old Saybrook, Connecticut. Fenwick is a charming, tiny community that features plenty of amenities for its residents. In addition to its two idyllic lighthouses, which create delightful views, the community features outdoor sports like golf and tennis, both of which Hepburn enjoyed throughout her life.

When it came to the people of Fenwick, Hepburn felt right at home with her neighbors. After her death, some of the local people of the community spoke with The New York Times about the actress’ time there. Reportedly, Hepburn frequently visited the small local shops to buy her clothes and groceries, and she even attended performances at the local Ivoryton Playhouse. “She was just one of us; she was just another resident,” Hepburn’s distant cousin explained. We absolutely love how this megastar lived such a quiet, mundane lifestyle in this charming little community!

In their old age, Katharine Hepburn and her brother remained in the Connecticut estate

While Katharine Hepburn lived in her Fenwick mansion on and off throughout her childhood, she became a full-time Connecticut resident in her old age. However, she didn’t live in the house alone. It turns out, she lived with her brother, Richard “Dick” Hepburn, until his death in 2000, according to the Hartford Courant. While Richard wasn’t as famous as his sister, he was apparently well-known by the locals, thanks to his “flair for drama,” as the town’s former First Selectwoman Barbara J. Maynard said. She went on to say, “He was a support for Katharine as she was for him.”

Katharine explained their living situation in her memoir, Me: Stories of My Life (via Hartford Courant)“Dick really, you might say, lives in the kitchen and you might also say that the kitchen looks it,” she mused. When the Hartford Courant reviewed the Hepburn home’s 2005 renovation, the publication explained how the home was arranged back when the two siblings had lived there. “Her brother lived on the second floor and he had his own entrance.” There was certainly room for the two of them.

Katharine Hepburn's lifelong Connecticut estate finally found a new owner

After Katharine Hepburn died in 2003, the home was purchased by Frank Sciame, owner of Sciame Construction, for $6 million in 2004. He went on to completely remodel the home in an extensive 2005 renovation (via Forbes). The home was put on the market in 2011 but even with the stunning renovation, the home did not sell until 2017. 

According to Forbes, the house was initially listed for $18 million. Later, in 2014, the price was lowered to $14.8 million. Then, in 2017, the price was reduced by an additional three million bucks. The beautiful home was finally sold in August 2017 for $11.5 million (via New York Post). Sciame then purchased another Old Saybrook mansion that offers direct views of one of the Long Island Sound lighthouses.

While it’s unclear who bought the breathtaking Connecticut mansion this time around, they’re sure to be enjoying every moment in the breezy, oceanfront estate that Katharine Hepburn once called home.

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