Traveling up a long, gently winding driveway past mountain laurel and rock outcroppings shaded by tall evergreens, visitors begin to feel they are a world away as they approach Joanne and Clay Bassett's deceptively large Cape on Pilfershire Lane in West Simsbury.
"Far View," as they call it, is Simsbury's highest residential property.
Chances are, Joanne will be outside to greet you, standing amid the colorful blossoms of her flower garden. She knows someone is on the way up because a security system with intercoms in each room alerts the Bassetts to visitors. At night, motion sensors set off lights along the way.
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Walk in the front door, and the first thing you notice is the aroma of freshly baked chocolate chip cookies, a hint of Joanne's hospitality. But your gaze is immediately drawn past the cherry wood library to huge kitchen windows in the back of the house.
That's where a 180-degree view of the Farmington Valley, the Heublein Tower and Talcott Mountain opens in front of you. The Hartford skyline appears through a notch in the ridge. Sunrises and rainbows are breathtaking. The Bassetts can spot a storm approaching an hour before it hits.
"You can see the line of rain or the snow coming across," Joanne said.
Listing agent Katie French of Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage in Simsbury calls the view "mesmerizing."
"It's one of the few houses that gives you the whole view of Hartford," French said.
Joanne and Clay can also see Bradley International Airport and the lights from Buckland Hills in Manchester.
But the view from their perch in the Crow's Nest neighborhood of West Simsbury wasn't always accessible. When the Bassetts first visited the house in the 1980s, it was owned by friends and surrounded by woods. The house had no windows facing the ridge.
Their friends sold the house, but the Bassetts, who lived near the Avon line in Simsbury, continued to visit the neighborhood as members of the nearby Hop Brook Tennis Club, a small, rustic club with tennis and paddle tennis courts. After a few years, the owners fell on hard times and the Bassetts made an offer for the house. They refused. After it went into foreclosure, the Bassetts paid $260,000 for the property in 1997, with big plans to renovate it.
Then all three of their children announced they were engaged. With three weddings coming up, they put the work on hold.
Nine grandchildren and more than $700,000 in renovations and additions later, the Bassetts have a country estate that is a showcase for indoor and outdoor entertaining and a haven for nature lovers.
"I have seen a bald eagle fly up over the tree line and over the houses," Clay said. Owl, red-tail hawks, and wild turkeys make appearances, as do a wide variety of other birds. They have spotted lynx and fox families, and, of course, deer.
As they reoriented the house, flip-flopping the master bedroom and kitchen, the Bassetts tried unsuccessfully to convince Wallace Talcott, who owned the ridge along Crow's Nest, to sell them the edge adjacent to their property.
When he gave it to a niece, she sold a quarter acre to the Bassetts, but only after confirming with the town that it would not interfere with another land deal she had pending. The Bassetts also have cutting rights to make sure new growth doesn't obscure the view.
Along with the view, they cleared a yard complete with a flagpole, patio opening from the kitchen, and a flower garden. As a birthday present, Clay built Joanne an outdoor shower she had always wanted.
"That is a piece of heaven. When the sun is setting or rising, it's just fantastic," Clay said of the shower.
Another of Joanne's favorites is the small secluded deck off of the first-floor master suite, the perfect place to savor a morning coffee.
The yard abuts 100 acres of forest with trails that reach to the McLean Game Reserve in Simsbury and Granby.