Aug 29, 2014
Connecticut ‘Castle’ of Writer Pal of Bogie, Paul Newman on the Market
In the 1950s the author, playwright and screenwriter Joseph Hayes was riding high. His book The Desperate Hours, about three escaped convicts who invade the home of a suburban family and take the family members hostage, was a bona fide hit. Partially inspired by true events, it was hailed by New York Times critic Orville Prescott as “an expert study of the agonizing dilemma of a group of sharply delineated and deeply understood characters.”
Hayes (pictured at right) wrote a play based on the book that premiered in 1955 at the Shubert Theatre in New Haven and later that same year on Broadway. It starred a young Paul Newman and helped introduce the future Butch Cassidy to the theater-going public.
In addition, Hayes wrote a screenplay version of the book that also premiered in 1955 and remains a classic of black and white cinema starring Humphrey Bogart and Fredric March. and directed by William Wyler (who would go onto direct Ben-Hur a few years later).
In the 1960s Hayes brought a piece of Broadway-Hollywood glitz and glamour to quiet Brookfield, Connecticut, when he picked the small northern Fairfield County town located just outside of Danbury as the site for his Tudor-castle inspired estate, which he dubbed “Arundel” after the castle of the same name in the South of England.
The space was designed by Hayes and his wife, Merrijane Hayes, and completed in 1966. Though it doesn’t quite fit our modern perception of what a castle should look like, it was and is certainly a dramatic vision of a dramatic couple.
Today it is being listed by William Pitt Sotheby’s International Realty for $1,250,000. The 4,620-square-foot space has five bedrooms and three full and two half baths, with six acres of manicured lawns, two ponds, and a guest cottage with a kitchenette and full bath.
(Above: the great room as seen from the entrance. Below: the house and property.)
The property is located a short distance from Brookfield’s small town center on Obtuse Road. The first feature visitors come upon as they arrive is the grandiose “Arundel” sign, which looks and sounds like something Frodo might stumble upon during his travels through Middle-earth.
Then you approach the house itself and see the pond and idyllic stretch of property it’s situated on. Once you enter the house striking features abound, including a three-inch-thick, iron-studded front door with iron latches and bolts from an Austrian castle, original iron handrails and rare blue-stone flooring in the foyer, a great room (left) that features a conversation pit that dips down in front of a fireplace mantel purchased from a castle in Germany. The place also boasts a cathedral ceiling and antique timbers.
A downstairs parlor area (right) was once adorned with suits of armor representing the Knights of the Round Table, and today the suits of armor have been replaced with less-over-the-top but still unique bar decorations. In addition to the bar, there is also a billiards room that was once an indoor pool and arboretum-like space, with a secret back staircase that led directly to and from the master bedroom (though the pool has been drained and covered, new owners could potentially renovate and refill it).
Joseph Hayes was a fan of medieval theater and there used to be an amphitheater on the property grounds where he would work with actors for new plays and stage performances for friends. Contralto singer Marian Anderson was a regular guest and performer.
In addition to the Brookfield house, Joseph and Merrijane Hayes had a Florida home and that’s where they ultimately retired after selling the Brookfield property. Merrijane Hayes died in 1991 and her husband died in 2006 at a nursing home in St. Augustine, Fla.
But “Arundel” was not the couple’s only creative collaboration. In the 1950s they co-wrote the book Bon Voyage that Disney made into a movie in 1962.
The castle is currently owned by Stephen and Susan Kelley, who purchased it two years ago and have lived in it since then. Susan Kelley says that she and her husband still love the house’s mix of historic and modern features but that buying, fixing up, and then selling homes is something they have done for years.
The property’s listing realtor Debbie Pizzo says the place is rich with history and each room has a story.
“This house has a heartbeat,” she says.
To learn more about the listing, contact Realtor Deborah Pizzo.