By JANICE PODSADA | Special To The Courant Michael Konover hoped one day to design a house. But the home he envisioned needed the right setting -- a woodland enclave, with a pond, perhaps, and territorial views of Connecticut's Litchfield hills, the foothills of the Berkshire Mountains. In 1987, Konover and his family, who were living on Deercliff Road in Avon, learned that a 115-acre spread atop Talcott Mountain, the highest point in Avon, was for sale. Known as Montevideo, the sprawling estate spanned two towns: nearly 87 acres in Avon and 28 acres in Bloomfield. Built for arts patron Daniel Wadsworth, the compound included three cottages, two of which date from the 19th century, three Victorian-era horse barns and a 12-acre lake. Montevideo can't be glimpsed from Route 44, but its ridgelines and forests can be seen in several 19th-century paintings by Thomas Cole and John Trumbull, two of the Hudson River Valley School's most famous artists. Cole, a frequent visitor to Wadsworth's estate, described the many happy hours he spent there enjoying Montevideo's sunsets and "shaded rambles," in his journals and correspondence. By the time Konover set eyes on the original house in 1987, designed by Wadsworth and Trumbull in 1809, it had been severely altered. During the second half of the 20th century, the main house had served as a women's retreat and "the top floor and had been removed and several wings removed," said Konover, founder of Konover Construction. But the distressed house was not the selling point. Konover was smitten by the setting, the views of Litchfield County, the Farmington Valley and the private spring-fed lake, which according to historians was one of Mark Twain's favorite swimming holes, said Bif Carrington, the a property's listing agent. Carrington's sources include the 1983 book, "The Correspondence of Thomas Cole and Daniel Wadsworth," and the Connecticut Historical Society. "There's also a story that Teddy Roosevelt stopped at Montevideo on his trip to the Hublein tower," said Carrington, a real estate agent with Litchfield Hills Sotheby's International Realty in Washington Depot. "I never knew such a property existed," Konover said. "To find 100-some acres together with this kind of beauty and privacy...and still be only 15 minutes from Avon and West Hartford was amazing. It was love at first sight," said Konover, who purchased Montevideo for $6 million in 1987. Before he and his family could move in, Konover needed to design a new main home. It took two years to design and two years to build that home. In 1991, Konover and his family moved into the 7,000 square-foot brick home, whose architecture is a blend of Arts and Crafts Movement and Gothic Revival. The home's steel frame construction support steel casement doors and window, vaulted ceilings that force the eyes upward and a plethora of glass. "People don't build with steel anymore because of the cost," Carrington said. The home's interior is intended to echo its forested setting. Each room is sheathed in a different species of wood. Chocolate-colored Brazilian mahogany encases the first-floor executive study. The living room, first-floor master bedroom and second-floor hallways are paneled in bleached maple, adding a golden glow throughout. Soaring arched windows on either side of the house overlook the Litchfield hills, the Farmington Valley or the 12-acre lake. "The idea was to use as much glass in the house as we could," Konover said. The second floor features three bedrooms, two full bathrooms and a walk-in cedar closet. A 1,000 square foot studio with a 20-foot ceiling sits atop the home's three-car garage. A floor to ceiling window provides a northern exposure, a light source coveted by artists. And the entire home is topped off by a slate roof, guaranteed to last at least 100 years, Carrington said. "A developer would see this property as a whole -- the views, the lake and turn it into something of their own," Carrington said. "This land has opportunity written all over it." On the other hand, the individual buyer would likely be attracted to a "living arrangement where you feel like you are vacationing in your very own home. Usually to find a home like this you would have to go way out in the country. Motevideo is located 15 minutes from Connecticut's capital," Carrington said. Like many couples whose children have grown, the Konovers are downsizing. "We are empty-nesters," said Konover. "It's a lot of property for two people. "We have a lot of memories here. We raised our kids here. "Marley [the couple's gregarious Labradoodle] and I go down to the lake every day and swim." It is the woods and lake and serenity that Konover says he will miss the most. The couple plans to look for a house in West Hartford. As for Montevideo, "I think it's time for someone else to enjoy it," Konover said.
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