The Osterville Harbors estate of style icon and esteemed horticulturist Rachel “Bunny” Lambert Mellon is up for sale at an asking price of $19.8 million.
The property, called Scallop Path, is one of the few places that still has thriving gardens designed by Mellon,a self-taught horticulturist who died in 2014 at age 103.
Perhaps Mellon’s most well-known garden design was her 1962 creation of the White House Rose Garden, where President John F. Kennedy Jr. — and presidents after him — hosted significant events for world leaders and school children.
“Vanity Fair” reported at the time that Mellon’s close friend, Jacqueline Kennedy, asked her to design a garden outside President Kennedy’s office along the lines of ones he had seen while visiting European leaders.
“I didn’t really understand, until I was an adult, how important her work was,” said Thomas Lloyd, Mellon’s grandson and owner of the Osterville estate.
Lloyd said he started coming to the Oyster Harbors home when he was 4 or 5 years old, in the early 1980s. He and the other children called Mellon “Grand Bunny” (instead of grandma) and enjoyed the flower and vegetable gardens she designed and maintained daily with the help of a gardening crew.
“I do remember growing up in those younger years that the gardens had lilacs and sunflowers. There was a vegetable garden that we used and I remember the sugar snap peas, as well as an herb garden with basil and rosemary,” Lloyd said Tuesday during a telephone interview from Cape Cod Inflatable Park in West Yarmouth, where he was taking his own children on a summer excursion.
Lloyd said the gardens at Scallop Path had a border of trees that put out a sweet blanket of scent as the fruit grew. Mixed with the fragrance of lilacs, Lloyd recalled, it is one of his strongest memories.
“As a child, I just loved exploring on my own; the smells and hidden places were so special to a kid,” he said.
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Those borders of fragrant trees are evident in the Rose Garden design as well. According to “Vanity Fair,” Mellon said at the time, when she sent watercolor renderings to President Kennedy, that she envisioned the expansive Rose Garden lawn as a picture (that could hold 1,000 people) and wanted it to be framed by trees and shrubs.
Mellon spent the full season, Memorial Day to Labor Day, at the Cape estate. Even before marrying philanthropist Paul Mellon, her family had a home on Wianno Avenue in Osterville where she summered, Lloyd said.
“I remember her going off with her driver, Ray, in her gray Toyota Corolla to wander along Route 6A stopping at antique shops,” he said.
She enjoyed watching the grandkids learn to swim and play on inflatable rafts on the Seapuit River, one of four bodies of water — including North, Cotuit and West bays — surrounding Grand Island, where the gated community of Oyster Harbors is located.
Although she was a member of the Wianno and Oyster Harbors social clubs, Lloyd said Mellon spent most of her summers on the estate. The Mellons lived full-time in their own home, now owned by billionaire Bill Koch, but still connected by a sandy path to the estate now for sale.
Mellon had designed a guest house, known as the children’s barn, specifically for her children and grandchildren. Lloyd said he uses it as a guest house, especially for friends who are visiting with children.
In addition to the gardens, Mellon undertook, in 1978, a renovation of the house that is believed to have been built as early as 1680 in Marstons Mills, said Zenas Crocker, a seventh-generation Cape Codder and a realtor with Robert Paul Properties in Osterville.
“There are stories that it was either floated over or pulled over the ice by horse teams,” Crocker said, noting that the colonial-style saltbox was most likely one of the first Crocker homes. (The first is now in Cotuit and houses the Cahoon Museum.)
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The Mellon house, including the guesthouse, encompasses nearly 6,000 square feet of living space with nine bedrooms, nine bathrooms, eight working fireplaces (including one big enough to hide in during treacherous historical times) and accouterments such as a cooking hearth. There are exposed beams and wide pine flooring throughout.
“Clearly, it’s been added on to,” Crocker said. “it’s a meandering house, that’s for sure.”
Among the charming oddities: The staircase to the children’s puppet theater on the third floor was built through the main chimney so you pass through a brick archway to get to it and one bedroom is only accessible from the outside of the house.
But, Crocker said, it’s also the 7.5 acres in three buildable parcels, with a 270-degree ocean view, that is likely to appeal to buyers.
Lloyd said that view and the sea breeze that goes with it as you sit on the docks at night is what he will miss most. The Washington, D.C.-based wealth manager said he put Scallop Path on the market a few weeks ago because he is at a point in his life where he doesn’t want to manage such a big enterprise.
“I hope to find someone (a buyer) who will be a custodian for what my grandmother has done over the years — someone who will honor my grandmother’s legacy.”
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