The Connecticut mansion previously owned by talk show host Phil Donahue and actress Marlo Thomas is at risk of meeting the wrecking ball. The structure, located along the Long Island Sound, is at the center of a dispute between the property’s owners, who claim it’s become infested with vermin, and the Historic District Commission, whose members wish to keep it standing.
The 8,500-square-foot Tudor-style mansion features seven bedrooms and nine bathrooms. It’s currently owned by Peggy and Gary Reiner, who’ve built a larger “McMansion” on the property and wish to demolish the older structure. The pair applied to bulldoze the house at a meeting with the Historic District Commission over Zoom.
“It’s infested by lots of different types of rats and rodents and moths, and we’ve had a really hard time…it’s falling apart, it’s under code,” Peggy told the commission’s members. “It has a lot of beautiful parts to it, but most of it has been ruined over the years by many different occupants. To bring it up to code, and to make it livable on the many levels, just didn’t work for us at all. And apparently didn’t work for most people that looked at the house.”
Among the Reiners’ concerns are the mansion’s waterlogged basement, unsafe balconies and a roof that’s close to caving in.
Donahue, best known for hosting his very own talk show between 1967-96, and Thomas, who portrayed Ann Marie on the sitcom, That Girl (1966-71), owned the property at 114 Beachside Avenue in Westport, Connecticut for many years. In the middle of the 20th century, the town was part of the “Hollywood of the East,” with the likes of Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward, as well as comedian Rodney Dangerfield, residing there.
Donahue sold the property in 2006 and moved to a mansion nearby. The structure was purchased by Herbert M. Allison Jr., who went on to serve as Assistant Secretary of the Treasury for Financial Stability under US President Barack Obama, for a whopping $25 million. The house was listed again in 2017, four years after Allison’s death, and remained on the market until the Reiners bought it in 2020 for $16.5 million.
“The Tudor was not in good shape when the Reiners bought it,” an unnamed realtor told the New York Post. “The purchase price was strictly for those nearly eight, gorgeous beachfront acres, with a spectacular view of the South. The house itself was pretty b******ized, and it had been previously renovated very badly.”
On April 11, 2023, a 180-day delay was imposed by the Historic District Commission on the property, with its members urging the Reiners to come up with alternatives to demolition. The couple has not engaged in any of the talks, meaning the mansion could be taken down as early as this coming September.
Speaking to the New York Post, Grayson Braun, the commission’s chairwoman, said, “It’s a beautiful and very left-intact Tudor revival home, and I really hoped it could be saved. But I can’t speak to whether, or not it is infested with rats, or raccoons, or moths, or any of the things Mrs. Reiner claims in the hearing, and I don’t know what she knew when she bought it.”
A demolition sign has since been posted on the Beachside Avenue property.