Among the architecturally significant homes on the Chain of Lakes is the Clifford House.
Its architect, Ernest Kennedy, is well known for grand estates including the Alfred F. Pillsbury House and the Gale Mansion a few miles away and also in Minneapolis. The English Tudor on Lake of the Isles — published in "Legendary Homes of the Minneapolis Lakes" and listed in the "AIA (American Institute of Architects) Guide to the Twin Cities" — is a sterling example of Kennedy's work.
Built in 1931 for the family of Cream of Wheat co-founder George B. Clifford, the home is on the market for the first time in more than 50 years.
The estate at 26th Street and E. Lake of the Isles Parkway spans almost half an acre and boasts 8,800 square feet, nine bedrooms, six bathrooms and five fireplaces.
Listing agent Bruce Birkeland noted the "irreplaceable details," from the voluminous roof peaks made of "timeless" slate to the towering turret and chimneys. Leaded windows with stained glass, hand-carved wood and Kasota stone accents add to the uniqueness of the home.
"To me, it's the most castle-like house on the lake," Birkeland said.
The interior was also designed in grand fashion, starting with a double-height entrance parlor with hand-carved beams. Another standout is the lake-facing oval dining room, a rarity in its shape.
"We're on a corner lot, and the interesting part about the house is it's V-shaped. The dining room is right where the V meets, and it's in an oval shape next to a pentagon-shaped small hallway," said homeowner Kathryn Abuzzahab. "There's a lot of geometry in the house."
Kathryn's husband, Faruk Abuzzahab Sr., purchased the home in 1968, making them the fourth owners of the property.
The Abuzzahabs have enjoyed sharing the home's rich history and the details that come with it.
A hidden stairwell from the downstairs library leads to an upstairs closet. As the story goes, the original homeowner had the staircase built "because his wife liked to entertain. So if he wanted to tuck in without saying goodbye to anyone, he would go through the passageway to the bedroom," Faruk said.
The home was built during Prohibition, so there's a place in the library to hide liquor. "It's a door that opens. It's pretty wide. So if someone was being raided, you could put everything in there," he said.
Traditions, modern updates
Over the years, the Abuzzahabs have made modern updates while paying homage to the home's historical nature, bringing in architect James McNeal to lead the charge.
In 2009, the kitchen underwent a major remodeling. Walls were knocked down to open the floor plan. Rift white oak flooring was put in — albeit stained a dark color to match the rest of the house. The flooring also was laid out in a way to complement the shape of the room.
"The floors are in an octagon shape to match the elongated octagon shape of the kitchen," Kathryn said. "It was like piecing together a puzzle to get it to fit just right."
New kitchen cabinets were inspired by the original built-ins in the library. The molding was a custom replica based on other parts of the home. Top-end finishes, such as granite countertops from Brazil, completed the kitchen remodel.
Other major updates to the home include electrical, plumbing, heating and air conditioning. An art deco powder room also was given a refresh, while staying true to its style.
The family also brought in stonemasons to make the turret, previously a hallway and stairwell, usable as a room.
Another game-changer was putting up a wrought iron fence, which carried on the fleur-de-lis flair found throughout the house and added privacy. "We wanted a high fence. It was nice when the kids were little and for the dog," Kathryn said.
The next generation
The Abuzzahabs said they feel honored to have been stewards of the architecturally significant home, which they describe as very livable.
"It's a very solid and functional house. It's well laid out in every way," Kathryn said. "The house has a lot more light than one might think. You think a Tudor would be dark, but this house has a lot of windows. I'm going to miss my windows and views of the lake."
The view from the owners' suite is something she will especially miss. "It has high ceilings and lots of windows with views of the lake. It's very airy," Kathryn said.
Now that they have more time on their hands, Faruk (a retired doctor) and Kathryn (a retired lawyer) said they've decided to move closer to their daughter and grandchildren in Elk River.
They'll take with them fond memories of hosting family holidays, ice skating on the lake across the street and more.
"It's been really nice to look after this house and keep up the traditions and maintain it," Kathryn said. "The time has come for another family to enjoy the home."
Bruce Birkeland (612-414-3957; firstname.lastname@example.org) of Bruce Birkeland Group at Coldwell Banker Realty has the $3.7 million listing.