Real Estate Reporting

Samuel Adams once said that each American colonist laid claim to three natural rights: life, liberty and property. And Lord knows everyone loves their property. Condos, homes and mansions capture the imagination of the average citizen, the individual looking to improve their station in life. Regardless of budget, people are constantly searching for the perfect place to call home; and it's a writer's job                  to help them recognize it. 

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Leslie Ovalle / South Florida Sun-Sentinel

Leslie Ovalle / South Florida Sun-Sentinel

Needham Estate, a piece of Fort Lauderdale history, listed at just under $4.3M

If the walls of the historic Needham Estate could talk, they’d have quite the story to tell. Designed by celebrated architect Jose Luis Abreu, the home — among the first five to be constructed along the New River — was built in 1925 and played host to schools and dignitaries.

In the 92 years since, it withstood the devastating hurricane of 1926 and housed both the John Robert Powers Modeling School and Gorton College girls’ finishing school. John Wesley Needham and Sheriff Walter Clark called it home. Visitors such as Winston Churchill and Franklin Roosevelt strolled around the nearly 17,000-square-foot property.

Now, the four bedroom, four-and-a-half bathroom property is listed for sale by DND Associates, commanding a price tag of just under $4.3 million -- unfurnished.

“It’s the premier historical home in the Fort Lauderdale area, bar none,” home owner Drew Romanovitz said.

A trio of wooden gates serve as entry points — embedded in the stone walls that ring the property, protecting an interior courtyard and two-car garage. Stucco finishing covers the exterior walls, and its Mediterranean-styled architecture differentiates it from other Fort Lauderdale homes.

Inside the 6,500-square-foot home, a grand foyer leads to the living and dining rooms. Indicators of its historic past are visible throughout: The ground floor’s Cuban tile flooring, the staircase’s wrought-iron handrails, and the veranda’s beveled glass windows and Pecky Cypress ceilings all date back to the home’s construction.

Connected by yawning doorways and 14-foot ceilings, the first floor’s spacious layout hearkens back to the Gilded Age. A bright veranda room, rounded sun room and modernized kitchen — complete with granite countertops, hardwood cabinetry and separate breakfast room— are all interconnected, allowing homeowners and guests to move about with ease.

It’s quiet, too. Despite being steps away from Las Olas Boulevard, the home is unusually silent, thanks to sturdy walls that are a minimum of one foot thick.

“When you’re in the property, you do not hear anything,” listing agent Jill Johns said. “Yet, you can see a perpetual boat parade through the windows.”

On the second floor, Dade County Pine floors stretch into a pair of cavernous master bedrooms. One, currently utilized as a guest suite, features a private alcove and ensuite bathroom paved in floor-to-ceiling pineapple onyx.

A second, larger bedroom connects to the guest suite, and lays claim to a sitting space, cushioned window sill seating and its own ensuite bathroom.

The opposite wing of the estate speaks to the home’s versatility: Romanovitz and his wife, Sandy, repurposed the space, converting the two remaining bedrooms into a home fitness center and a projection-based home theater. Looking out onto the New River, the sunroom functions as a home office.

Out back, the property sits on 130 feet of the New River, deep enough to accommodate a personal yacht. The river gives boaters easy, fixed-bridge-free access to the Intracoastal Waterway, while the sizeable backyard offers homeowners the opportunity to dig a pool or construct a permanent dock.

The owner considers the home to be his “mini-Vizcaya,” Johns said, referring to the vast World War I era estate built by industrialist James Deering in Miami.

“You wouldn’t know that you’re in the heart of a city, standing here on this property.” Johns said.