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New owners to preserve ‘Gottfried Regency’ house

Posted On: 09-02-2015

By Darrell Hofheinz Daily News Staff Writer

New Palm Beach homeowner Eleanor Pao wasn’t planning to buy a house over Mother’s Day weekend. Instead, she and her husband, Frank C. Pao, had come to Palm Beach to look at townhouses and condominiums.

But as she told me last week, their real estate agent, Thor Brown of Fite Shavell & Associates, had a property they needed to see – a house at 301 Chapel Hill Road on an elevated lot immediately south of the Royal Poinciana Chapel. The property hadn’t changed hands in nearly 30 years.

“Thor said, ‘You have to look at this house.’ We did, and we loved it,” said Eleanor Pao, who has homes in Boston, Hong Kong and Switzerland.

Agent Gary Porhrer of K2 Realty had listed the house in February, first at about $6.5 million but later reducing the price by $600,000.

The Paos made an offer shortly after they saw it and closed the deal at a recorded $5.15 million. They used a realty trust to buy the house, according to the deed recorded on Aug. 25.

“The whole thing happened within a week,” said Eleanor Pao.

She and her husband deal in commercial real estate. His resume also includes businesses in the solar-energy industry. Natives of Hong Kong, the Paos also have ties to England, where they both went to school.

On a lot measuring about a third of an acre, the four-bedroom house has about 6,000 square feet of living space, inside and out. It was built in 1986 by the late developer Robert Gottfried in his signature “Gottfried Regency” style.

The house was sold by Elsie M. Baker, who moved in after her 2004 wedding to the late Hollis M. Baker. He had bought the house for $2.1 million in 1996 with his first wife, the late Betsy Baker. Among his accomplishments, he grew his family business, Baker Furniture, into a powerhouse high-end home-furnishings manufacturer.

Elsie Baker once ran the Elizabeth Arden Salon in Madrid, as well as a ballet school in Westport, Conn., she told the Daily News in an article about the house published earlier this year. Baker has a home in Fernandina Beach, according to last week’s deed.

In Boston, the Paos’ philanthropy and cultural leadership includes support for Boston Ballet and the Celebrity Series of Boston, a performing arts program. They are looking forward to getting to know Palm Beach better, Eleanor Pao said.

Although the Paos plan to carry out some updates, the bulk of the house on Chapel Hill will remain as it is — including its expanses of white marble floors and the pediment-topped front entrance with double staircases.

“The house is so elegant. It reminded us of a house in England,” she said.


Source: Darrell Hofheinz, September 2, 2015, Palm Beach Daily News

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