LITCHFIELD, Conn.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Built by a retired captain in George Washington’s army — whose marital portrait survives in the living room — “The Rafters” began its current provenance as the summer home of superstar soprano Alma Gluck and violin virtuoso Efrem Zimbalist, who journeyed there beginning in the 1920s from their New York City residence with their young children. It is where Zimbalist continued daily to master his craft and where, long before starring in 77 Sunset Strip and The FBI, a very young Efrem Zimbalist Jr.’s chores included banking the coal burning furnace before bed and where, a bit older, he resided while producing the Pulitzer Prize-winning opera, The Consul, on Broadway.
“What picturesque migrations these must have been,” wrote Efrem Jr. in his memoir, My Dinner of Herbs, of his parents’ frequent processions from Manhattan, “complete with full staff and their trappings, Ladd [the chauffeur] in the Rolls Laundaulet heading the pageantry.”
Life’s pageantry included the musical couple’s illustrious friends — George Gershwin and Rachmaninoff, Willa Cather and Ogden Nash, John D. Rockefeller, Dorothy Parker, Henry and Clare Boothe Luce, Albert Einstein — many of whom visited the rural residence to orbit its central luminary, Gluck, over games of bridge. (Prokofiev was a notoriously sore loser; Harpo Marx infinitely cheerier.) Thomas (“Crowny”) Crowninshield, editor of Vogue and Vanity Fair and a prominent collector of French Impressionism, was a recurring fixture. Edna St. Vincent Millay and Efrem Sr. set three poems to music on one of her numerous visits.
“My father…welcomed The Rafters as a haven from the rigors of this concertizing career,” wrote Zimbalist, Jr., while the “simple rural existence had enormous appeal for Alma Gluck. …My mother…delighted in all the local activities, from the doings at the Grange to the weekly auctions conducted by Fahey and Co, where magnificent early New England pieces could be picked up for a song.”
An outdoor amphitheater built by the previous owner, playwright and Greek scholar Charles Rand Kennedy, where his actress wife, Edith Wynn Matheson, gave performances, can still be located in the property’s 14 acres of woods, as can a long untouched music studio that belonged to Efrem Sr. “There he spent his days,” Efrem Jr. wrote, “practicing, composing and preparing his violin recitals for the coming season.”
A renovation of the house at the close of World War II saw the arrival of the Olmsted brothers, who conceived and built Central Park in New York, to oversee the landscaping, which soon included a new host of towering oak trees, peonies and roses. Later, the Garden Conservancy, an eminent horticultural society, requested permission for its members to visit the European-style garden that rests between the pool and the upper terrace. They continue to visit periodically.
Still, wrote Efrem Jr., “My mother’s favorite spot on our property was the `gorge,’ where she labored contentedly in her rock garden,” a haven that remains to this day, woodland wildflowers, frogs, and all.
The Rafters is listed at $895,000 with William Pitt Sotheby’s International Realty in Litchfield, CT. Contact Stephen Drezen at 860-491-2000 or Laurel Galloway at 860-567-0806. More information at www.theRafters.net.