Clarion County mansion and its 1,500 acres are on the market for $24 million

The owner spent 11 years renovating the empty, vandalized home


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FOXBURG, Pa. -- Working for decades as an orthopedic surgeon Arthur Steffee found time to invent a plate-and-screw device to straighten spines. In 1998, he sold AcroMed. Corp., a Cleveland-based maker of spinal implants, for $325 million.

With plenty of money and time on his large, gnarled hands, the determined physician spent the past 11 years renovating a historic home in this Clarion County town 90 miles northeast of Pittsburgh. Now, he's trying to sell the house and 1,500 acres along the Allegheny and Clarion rivers for $24 million, listing it with agent Robert Smith of Howard Hanna Real Estate Services' Butler office.

"I'm 75. I find it very difficult to keep going at everything full bore," said Dr. Steffee, who also is Foxburg's unofficial mayor.

Since his arrival, he has transformed the community by building the Foxburg Inn, Foxburg Wine Cellars and Foxburg Pizza & Country Store. He also restored a theater on the Carnegie Library's second floor. His estate is often a setting for fundraisers that benefit the Allegheny RiverStone Center for the Arts.

Despite his years, Dr. Steffee has the energy level of a man half his age. He mucks out horse stalls, plants gardens, tends a greenhouse and makes hay for 40 beef cattle and 20 sheep. In a spacious wood shop, he builds fences to thwart deer from invading a 2 1/4-acre walled garden. He has plans to build a two-story high bell tower as well as a new, 3,500-square foot home.

His soft-spoken wife, Patricia, who pays the bills for various Foxburg businesses, looks after the Peruvian alpacas and Spanish goats.

A three-hour tour of this compound reveals how the couple has renovated a vast summer estate built in 1828 by the Fox family, Philadelphia-based descendants of George Fox, who founded the Quakers.

The Steffees call it RiverStone Farm because of the gold and gray sandstone they have dredged from the land and rivers and used to build walls and barns. Visitors pass by miles of oak fence and enter a security gate, driving along a winding, two-mile private road before arriving at the 26-room mansion.

The gray stone house was an empty, vandalized wreck when the couple paid $5 million for part of the property in 1998. Starting in 2000, the Steffees lived in a comfortable double-wide trailer with a fireplace in its living room while the home was gutted to its walls and crews of workmen, including local Amish craftsmen and stone masons, worked feverishly.

Architects Lee and Brett Ligo of Slippery Rock oversaw design; Whalen Construction in Franklin served as the contractor. The Steffees moved in in 2002.

"I grew up as a kid on this river," said Dr. Steffee, an Oil City native. "I wanted to spend my second childhood here," he said, adding that the next owner will need to hire eight or nine people to tend it.

Stone mason Bill Green lives in one of the 10 houses on the land; others are occupied by the doctor's in-laws, a maid and friends.

"They've taken out all the timber, all the coal, most of the oil and gas. The only thing they haven't taken is the beauty of this valley," Dr. Steffee said.

Visitors walk under a porte-cochere and arrive in a commodious kitchen with two eating areas, three stainless-steel sinks, a deep stone sink, a 60-inch LaCanche stove, a stone cooking area with grill, and Durango limestone countertops. In a round breakfast room, a window seat lines a wall of curved windows that overlook the Allegheny River.

Craftsmen from Greenville Wood Products used butternut for the wainscot and window frames. Curly cherry and quartersawn sycamore create a dazzling contrast of red and gold woods on the cabinets. Clay floor tiles are interlaced with wormy chestnut.

The Fox family's former winter kitchen holds a long, informal dining table and a dumbwaiter that carries wine up to the room. Beyond this space is an enclosed porch and a guest room furnished in the style of a hunting lodge. Here, Dr. Steffee stows his fishing gear.

Visitors can walk around in socks thanks to the radiant heating system in all of the floors. There's plenty of atmospheric warmth, too.

"We rebuilt all the fireplace chimneys," Dr. Steffee said, adding that two of the home's 17 fireplaces burn wood as well as gas.

Around the corner from the kitchen is an inviting sitting room with a floor-to-ceiling, log-burning fireplace and a hand-carved Austrian oak mantel. Beyond that space is a center hall entryway with a tall Tiffany window and a tiger maple staircase. The staircase spirals to a fourth-floor widow's walk.

A wall in the center hall features historic documents and pictures of the property; to the right is a baronial library with built-in rosewood bookcases.

To the left of the center hall is a formal dining room done entirely in cherry; the floor is laid in a herringbone pattern and bordered by inlaid black walnut and tiger maple. The hearth is yellow onyx.

Off this formal dining space is a gorgeous glass-walled conservatory that overlooks a stone patio and large pond. JoAnn Garrett, a stained-glass artist, painted 32 images of flowers and trees onto circular rosettes that ring the room. There's also a skylight and stone waterfall with blooming plants. Built by Tanglewood Conservatories in Denton, Md., the conservatory features a mahogany ceiling. The red limestone floor in this room is also heated.

The center staircase leads to the second-floor master suite, which features fireplaces at either end and overlooks the Allegheny River. The suite has a glassed-in shower, steam room and a balcony that overlooks another pond. There's also a large study where the doctor keeps his professional papers and memorabilia.

The home's second and third floors are air-conditioned. The third floor features two guest suites connected by a large bathroom. One of the bedrooms is handicapped-accessible with a wheel-in ceramic tile shower. There's a third guest bedroom and two additional baths.

If you feel like a drink and a game of pool, take the elevator to the fully finished basement, furnished like an English pub. There's a copper tin ceiling, a Brunswick billiard table with leather pockets, bar, sandstone walls, a brick floor and a wine cellar with cherry racks that store 500 bottles. The basement steps are cut from old butternut timbers salvaged from the home's attic.

Down the road from the house are four H-shaped dairy barns with cupolas; two are original from 1910, the other two are duplicates. The barns were converted to horse stables and are part of an equestrian complex that includes a clear span riding arena, two viewing rooms, vet space, two horse showers and two attached residences.

In one of the barns, the physician stores a collection of 25 carriages, including one used by President William McKinley and a Rockaway with ivory handles.

The Steffees restored a stone and wood carriage house designed and built in 1876 by architect Frank Furness. "It was pretty well rotted out," Dr. Steffee said.

The stalls and mangers have been restored and the first floor has French clay tile floors and wooden paneling. On the second floor is a spacious guest quarters paneled in cherry wood.

The carriage house also has a galley kitchen, gas fireplace, dining room with a tower above it, library, master bedroom and full bath plus a Juliet balcony.

Just south of the carriage house is a Lord and Burnham greenhouse made of glass and stone. Restored in 2005, it includes a potting shed.

Five miles of the Clarion River flow through the property, which includes an 18-hole golf course, and an aviary that's home to two peacocks. A wood-and-stone dovecote that stands near a large restored barn would look appropriate at Kelmscott Manor, the British home of Arts & Crafts movement guru William Morris.

There's also a saw mill, maple syrup house, steam engine house and plenty of land on which to build a runway.

For more information on RiverStone Farm, 615 RiverStone Lane, Foxburg (MLS No. OL103569), call Robert Smith of Howard Hanna (724-282-7903) or go to www.howardhanna.com.

The Riverstone estate sits on roughly 1,500 acres and is bounded by the Allegheny and Clarion rivers.

First Published January 30, 2010 5:00 AM


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