HOME OF THE WEEK - Private paradise

HOME OF THE WEEK - Private paradise

'Waterfall house' comes on the market

CUMBERLAND - Known locally as "the house over the waterfall," this property at 18 Rawson Road has long been a curiosity for passersby who slow down to catch a glimpse of the stream and falls that seem to be running through the house. Some say there once was a glass floor in the room that's perched above the water, but if there was, it no longer exists - yet rumors of the feature persist, acknowledge the current owners. They are only the second to own this magnificent, 54-acre estate, purchasing it a dozen years ago; they'll be leaving it to move on to southern Florida, albeit bittersweetly. It was builder Gerald Riley's own home; he developed the residential Riley's Plat along Newell Drive and surrounding area in the late 1950s and 1960s. In another era, it was the site of a grist mill, a large granite stone wheel from which is now used as an outdoor table set on a lovely, sunken brick terrace by the falls. A partial foundation of the old mill still stands at water's edge.

Two streams ramble through this property, and three waterfalls, and the main body of water, the 30-acre Rawson Pond. There are two islands - little Pepper Island accessed by a wooden footbridge, and Skye Island in the middle of the pond accessible only by rowboat or canoe. On this larger of the two islands, birds nest. There are herons, eagles, swans, geese, hawks, and more, along with several species of ducks. And this privately-owned 54 acres abuts the Audubon Society's 30 or so acres to the north.

This is an extraordinary property. There are multiple walking paths - some along the water, some through the serene woods - and stone walls, and granite benches set beneath graceful old trees, and sunken patios by the water. Perennial gardens and bridges for crossing the streams, little sitting areas and terraces tucked here and there, grand old pines and maples lined up like sentinels along the water's edge and up and down the sides of paths. One hundred hemlocks out front, and magnificent black walnut and birch trees.

Toward the back of the property - most efficiently reached by riding a golf cart, as these homeowners do - is an expansive driving range and grassy fields large enough for football games.

It's back here, too, that the tennis and basketball courts are located, and a 3,600-square-foot, three-story guest chalet that overlooks the pond.

The main house, partially visible from Rawson Road, offers nearly 8,000 square feet of living space on three levels, and a 20-by-40-foot indoor heated swimming pool. It's here that the famous waterfall room offers the sights and sounds of cascading water, but it's not the only room with a delightful view. The living room, dining room, kitchen, bedrooms, and finished lower level all have stunning views of the water and the grounds.

From Rawson Road, the driveway leads to one of four spacious and spotless garages, and into a circular courtyard that's ringed with gardens and sitting areas. Here, what appears from the road to be a ranch-style house with weathered shingles, is styled like a modern colonial with full dormers, painted a sunny yellow with white trim. The modern style blends with traditional inside, where an open floor plan and tall ceilings, lots of windows and French doors combine for a bright and airy space that is an entertainer's dream. The main level has an open foyer, large, open living room, the waterfall room, formal dining and a top-of-the-line kitchen. Nearby is a laundry room and bathroom.

In a separate wing is the master bedroom suite. French doors here open to a deck that hangs out over a stream and lets in the sounds of the falls. There's a gas fireplace and a room-size closet, a lovely bathroom with an oval whirlpool tub, walk-in steam shower, two vanities, a chandelier, and golden faucets carved like swans.

Beyond the master suite is a vestibule that acts as both an interior passage and a separate entrance to the pool area, with its own bathroom, shower, laundry and closets. And from here, a glass door leads into the pool room. Custom water fountains in each corner, a skylight the entire length of the room, walls of sliding doors all work together to bring in the feel of the outdoors.

On the second floor of the main house are two bedrooms and a bathroom. The larger bedroom has glass doors that open to a little balcony that has the feel of a treehouse, and overlooks the stream.

In the lower level are windows overlooking the water, the stream so close it seems you could just reach out and touch it. Glass doors opens to private brick patios by the water. On this level is a fully equipped summer kitchen, a fireplaced family room, recreation room, wine cellar, full bath and lots of storage rooms.

It was a landscape architect from the Rhode Island School of Design who was brought in to design the original grounds in 1954, according to the homeowner. The location of the mature trees is not random, he said, but rather placed by design. Along one pathway stand straight rows of three pines followed by three maples, followed by three pines, with the pattern repeating; deciduous trees were planted closest to the house to keep it cool in the summer and let the sun through in the winter, while evergreens were strategically placed to the north for shelter from the weather. But all practicality aside, it's the resulting ambience that is striking, like being in a far-off place surrounded by peace and quiet and natural beauty.

It's a one-of-a-kind property, a family compound, a place that's hard to imagine giving up once you've lived here, but it is for sale now, for only the second time. All you need is $2,995,000 and pre-approval from your bank, and you could own this magnificent estate. Only qualified buyers are asked to call for a private viewing. For further details, visit www.18rawsonrd.com .

Home of the Week

18 Rawson Road, Cumberland

By appointment only