Washington Life Magazine

Washington Life Magazine

THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS

Westmoor Farm: The Holiday Home of Barbara Harrison and John Chester Pyles, III
Written by Mary K. Mewborn Photographed by Porter Gifford

Barbara Harrison and John Chester Pyles, III When by sheer chance, NBC News 4 anchor Barbara Harrison literally ran across the former Vanderbilt family estate known as Westmoor, it was a dream come true. Barbara and her husband, developer John Chester Pyles, III, president of Washington Management Development Inc., had been looking for a Nantucket vacation home large enough to accommodate their extended family for Thanksgiving, Christmas and other holidays. Barbara never thought they would actually find one for the family, a veritable modern day “Brady Bunch” with eight children.

Last summer, while lost and jogging with friends, it was as if Barbara fell through a rabbit hole and into a “fairy tale environment, a magical spot.” Even before she realized the old Vanderbilt estate could comfortably sleep more than two dozen people, she knew she had found her ideal holiday home when she discovered the property “was populated with an amazing assortment of bunnies.” It was her “fantasy world come true.”

Harrison and Pyles purchased the property “as is,” from Michael Egen, the former chairman of Alamo Rent-a-Car, complete with rabbits, goats, chickens and a moose head hanging from a wall in one of the compound’s eclectic mix of buildings. The estate includes twelve traditional New England-style guest cottages bearing the names of the farm’s fabulous flora and fauna, including Wisteria, Holly, Rose and Dogwood. A nine-bedroom great house resembling an Alpine ski lodge rises over the landscape. Two large Mid-Western style structures, known as the Red and Green Barns offer additional shelter and purpose. There is also an enormous stable.

If the couple’s time at Westmoor is spent living the fantasy life Barbara recalls from childhood, she is determined to share her joyful experience. For 20 years, Barbara, broadly recognized for her community service and philanthropic and charitable activities, has been making children’s dreams come true through her work on Channel Four’s news segment “Wednesday’s Child.” Now she plans to use Westmoor as a place where “abused and abandoned children” can escape to the fairy tale existence they deserve.

Besides hosting the children and their social workers, Barbara and John also hope colleagues, family and friends will flock to their newfound “Shangri-La,” (as Mary Haft, a dear friend and Nantucket neighbor refers to the Harrison-Pyles’ home). This fall, Barbara is especially looking forward to scalloping, building bonfires and enjoying cookouts on the beach: all things that her husband who is “drawn to the sea” eagerly anticipates as well.

The couple also looks forward to greeting guests in the Green Barn with its full sized theater stage, ballroom, basement game room, and authentic tin roofed Irish Pub and to spend cozy moments in the Red Barn’s main room where two huge “walk-in” fireplaces will surely add to the warmth of friendships fueled in front of the flames. This year, Barbara and John will create holiday cheer in the commercial-sized chef ’s kitchen which could easily cater a Thanksgiving feast for a hundred hungry pilgrims. The kitchen also has an industrial- size ice cream maker, perfect for producing the pie a la mode which Barbara will no doubt bake once the apples in her orchard are harvested this fall.

The Red Barn also houses Barbara and John’s master suite, which the couple constructed out of a multi-room office on the top floor. From their restful retreat they can survey their pristine property and watch the trees change color. Here too, they will first hear the symphony of farmyard sounds as Barbara prepares to run in the cool morning mist along garden paths, past her Koi pond, waterfalls, a croquet and game pitch, Little League baseball field, and flowering gardens.

For Barbara, who rises for work at 3:00 a.m., in Washington, one of the nicest things about being on vacation at her Nantucket home is that she “gets to extend her dreamtime.” Indeed, spending time on this beautiful island along the Atlantic seaboard is living a dream. No wonder she and her family plan to make worthwhile use of Westmoor all year round.

Barbara Harrison and John Chester Pyles, III
At Westmoore Farm
Barbara Harrison and John Chester Pyles, III feel like their new compound is a “dream come true”

 

 



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