One of the largest houses ever built in Bernalillo County – a 13,425-square-foot mansion with an indoor swimming pool, maid’s quarters and three wings of bedrooms – is on the market for $1.45 million, and the curious are lining up to take a look inside.
The home at Altura and Washington NE in Albuquerque has been closed off from public view for years. More than 700 people turned out for an open house in early August, and a second public open house will be held from noon to 2 p.m. Saturday.
“The open house was incredible. They just wouldn’t stop coming,” said Daniel Gutierrez, branch manager for Highlands Residential Mortgage, which is offering financing for the home. “It’s such a unique property. It’s just the mystique.”
Listing real-estate agent Vicki Criel said she appealed to the family to hold a second open house. “Let’s just let the community enjoy it,” she said.
The house was designed by Bette “Beje” Chastain, who despite having no formal training, drew up the blueprints, acted as the general contractor and was on the site every day during construction from 1977 to 1979, Criel said.
Chastain and her husband, the late Charles Cook, former president of Presley Homes Inc., lived there together until divorcing in 1984, after which they remained friends and went out to lunch every afternoon together until his death in 2012.
Chastain, who remained in the house until her death last summer at 87, hosted some public events in the early years, but developed a severe allergy to perfumes and colognes and became reclusive, no longer entertaining visitors, Criel said.
Teens would ring the doorbell just to get a glimpse inside the house, she said.
Indeed, most of the guests at the open house just wanted to look around. Many said they heard there was a bowling alley and wanted to see it. In fact, the owners considered adding a bowling alley upstairs, but decided against it. “The rumors about (the house) are wild,” Criel said.
One story is true. Early on a June morning in 1979, the couple awoke to an Albuquerque teen ringing the doorbell and pounding on the door. Cook went to the door with a revolver and shot and killed the teen after he tried to force his way inside. Cook was charged with murder, but the case was dismissed.
The mansion, which sits on just over half an acre and has been used as a movie set, might not have a bowling alley, but it has plenty of other unusual features. The indoor pool has its own changing room and a fireplace on the deck, for example. The house also boasts nine bedrooms, nine bathrooms, a butler’s pantry, a library with wood paneling and floor-to-ceiling bookshelves, three staircases, a large sunroom, and a master suite with a pedestal for a canopy bed and its own enormous bathroom.
Chastain was an interior designer and she imbued the house with her own eclectic style. Intricate glass chandeliers hang in the entry and living room, along with a line of leaf-shaped ceiling fans. On the floor are ceramic tiles Chastain had shipped from Italy.
Although the house has a new roof and the kitchen was remodeled in 2004 with Viking and Wolf appliances, the buyer will need to do a lot of updating. The house still has metallic wallpaper, orange and green patterned carpet and other cosmetic features that are out of style.
The property, 4416 Altura NE, is listed on estately.com.