Let’s face it, Beverly Hills, the Hamptons, and Martha’s Vineyard are fatally overexposed. This is an article about ten tiny exclusive places that most Americans have never heard of…. and that is just the way the residents want it. The ten places in this article are virtually unknown beyond their immediate geographic area and extremely elite.
I have stumbled upon many tiny elite enclaves that for various reasons don’t make the Higley 1000. Most commonly because they are too tiny to register or are summer vacation spots that are dominated by second homeowners that report their income at their main residence. There are no racial statistics to report, the following places are almost exclusively non-Hispanic White with the exception of an occasional caretaker.
They are for the most part gated and the only view inside is through Bing Live Local or Google Earth. Those that aren’t gated are definitely private and off limits to the geographic explorer. If any of my readers would like to add comments about these places, it would be much appreciated. I can guarantee you that the residents aren’t talking!
Here is a map of the ten places I am highlighting today:
United States Map of Ten Exclusive Enclaves
View Ten Exclusive Enclaves: Quiet Please... No Publicity! in a larger map
Northeast Harbor, Maine: Summer Headquarters of the Social Register
Located on the one of the many picturesque harbors on Maine’s Desert Island, Northeast Harbor is the Grand Dame of Social Register summer homes. It is relatively large place for this list as it has 651 houses of which 368 are seasonal (56.5%). Northeast Harbor is a rarity for this list as it is neither gated nor private and is open to tourists.
In my study of the 1988 Social Register, 117 listees maintained a second home in Northeast Harbor. Only 11 families listed it as their main residence. Considering Maine’s winters, this is not surprising. The other coastal enclaves of the upper class had fewer Social Register homeowners (North Haven, 56; Scarborough, 40; and Islesboro, 36).
The permanent population of this tiny burgh is 527 and one can safely assume that their main occupation is servicing the estates of the wealthy. The median household income of the townees was a relatively low $37,885 per household. About half of the permanent residents lived in rental units and half in single family homes.
The waterfront homes of the summer visitors are grand and are often passed from generation to generation with little publicity. Brooke Astor must be rolling in her grave as her Northeast Harbor $5.5 million manse, Cove End became a centerpiece in the recent trial and conviction of her sons’ machinations to score as much of her wealth as possible in her dotage.
Sailing and enjoying the private benefits of old money are the main activities although there are some tourist accommodations. I recommend the Grey Rock Inn, a converted mansion with 8 guest rooms. The internet reviews of the the much larger and well known Asticou Inn (48 rooms) are generally poor. The Northeast Harbor Fleet is headquartered on the nearby Blank Harbor and has 400 members.
Map of Northeast Harbor, Maine
View Northeast Harbor, Maine in a larger map
Nonquitt, Massachusetts: A Well Kept Secret
As befitting another Social Register enclave, Tyra Pacheco’s essay on Nonquitt was the only source I could find on the internet. She wrote the following for the website From House to Home.
“Tucked away in a waterfront corner of South Dartmouth, Nonquitt is a small community, born of a desire to escape the hustle and bustle of city life in the late 1800s.
In its early days, Nonquitt was an open space of unused farmland, where a group of families and friends would retreat in the summer. For a number of years, a small colony of tents dotted the shoreline in the summer, occupied by a close-knit group of family and friends.
In 1870, this well-kept secret on the shore leaked out and soon other families appeared with their tents, within view of Nonquitt’s earliest settlers. This prompted the group to begin the process of securing what they had come to consider their land for their own, exclusive use.
Two years later, under the leadership of former Roxbury Mayor James Ritchie, the group formed the Nonquitt Beach and Wharf Association. Together, its members purchased a total of 455 acres of land. Before they began the process of dividing lots for development, the corporation established an area of common land along the shore, to be shared by all of the residents of Nonquitt.
The following year, construction began on the Nonquitt Hotel. A social gathering place for visitors and residents alike, the hotel expanded over its 20-year life to include three buildings, before it was destroyed by fire in 1893.
Shortly after the fire, construction began on a new public building, The Casino, a building which is still used as a meeting hall and activity center.
The loss of the hotel prompted many residents to build additions on their summer homes, as they had been relying on the Nonquitt Hotel for meals and socialization.
While many people still summer in Nonquitt, many of the original cottages have been winterized for year-round occupation, and new construction is well-suited for four seasons.
A good number of the properties in Nonquitt have been passed down from one generation to the next. As real estate prices and tax rates have increased, holding on to that property can be difficult for younger families.
The original settlers of Nonquitt were not considered to be wealthy, but rather, middle class merchants. Current real estate prices hint at the quality of modern life in Nonquitt. Listings for land include $1.1 million for just over an acre to $5.75 million for 3.8 acres.
Among Nonquitt’s well-known former residents are Civil War hero General Philip Henry Sheridan, artist Robert Swain Gifford, and author Louisa May Alcott.
Today, Nonquitt is a private, gated community. Visitors are allowed by invitation only, and members of the community are reluctant to publicize any aspect of life behind the gates.
Residents are filled with stories of history, but reluctant to go public, for fear their quiet corner of the world will be exploited.
A book detailing the history of Nonquitt was published in 1987. “Nonquitt: A Summer Album, 1872-1985” by Anne Morse Lydell is filled with anecdotes and photos of years gone by, but little is revealed about more recent life in the community.
“People like to guard their privacy, and they don’t like the world to know about Nonquitt,” one resident says.
Historical information for this story was gathered with permission from “Nonquitt: A Summer Album, 1872-1985,” as well as Nonquitt residents who, for the sake of privacy, asked not to be identified.”
Located just south of Nonquitt is a condominium development that has a much more colorful past, Round Hill. It is built on the grounds of Colonel Edward Howland Robinson Green’s estate and features a main road named for the notorious Hetty Green, the Witch of Wall Street…. but that’s another story.
Map of Nonquitt, Massachusetts
Map of Fishers Island, New York
View Nonquitt, Massachusetts in a larger map
Map of Fishers Island, New York
Fishers Island, New York
Yet another bastion of old money, Fishers Island had 110 Social Registerites in my 1988 study. The locals live on the Western third of this 4.2 square mile island and the gated Eastern two-thirds is given over to the blue blood estates and the uber elite Fishers Island Club (known locally as the “Big Club”. Access to the island is provided by a ferry that runs from New London, Connecticut.
The 2000 Census found 289 permanent residents living in 138 housing units. The median household income of $54,000 is obviously not reflective of vast wealth found in the estates of the East Enders that number around 2,000 during the summer. The 2000 Census showed 448 Seasonal homes, easily dwarfing the housing available for service workers.
The social and economic distance between the locals and the East Enders has only grown through the years. In 1988 Nick Ravo wrote a profile of the island for the New York Times that illustrated this problem when the median price of an island home was $585,000 (“The Talk of Fishers Island; Isle’s Summer Gentry Squeezing out ‘Locals’“, Sept 14, 1988). Today, at the beginning of 2010, Zillow estimates the median cost of a home on the island at $1,671,800.
Mr. Ravo’s article also lamented the fact that the population of townees had dropped 50% in the 15 years preceding 1988 to about 350. Obviously, the rapid decline has abated, but the affordability issues continues to loom large. Twenty-one years ago controversy was stirred when the Walsh Park Benevolent Corporation proposed building 12 affordable housing units “to maintain a ‘critical mass’ of ‘help’ on the island and to maintain the island’s crusty character.” I was unable to ascertain as to whether the affordable housing was ever built, but a tour of the island via Bing Live Local shows that were numerous huge estates under construction at the time of the flyover.
There is an interesting history of the island found at The Fishers Island Website.
Gibson Island, Maryland
Gibson Island is another low key island refuge for the wealthy and it is found in the Chesapeake Bay in Anne Arundel County. Gibson Island is connected to the mainland by a causeway and is gated to keep the hoi polloi out. The island is about 20 miles southeast of Baltimore and 35 north of Washington DC.
Map of Gibson Island, Maryland
View Gibson Island, Maryland in a larger map
The island had a 2000 population of 310 in 136 houses. The Census also found 52 seasonal houses (as well as 21 vacant houses).
The following description is posted on the Gibson Island website: “Gibson Island’s rich and colorful history includes its use as a summer residence by Native Americans in the 1600’s. History also tells us that Captain John Smith sailed past Gibson Island in his voyage up the Chesapeake Bay in 1608. By 1663, the first land grants were established. There were many owners between these original land grants and the purchase and consolidation of the Island in the 1920’s. W. Stuart Symington, the founder of Gibson Island as we know it today, purchased the three existing Island farms with his brother Thomas. They envisioned and developed it as a residential community where families from the Baltimore/Washington area could spend summers. One of the early owners was a man named Gibson – it is his name that identifies the Island.
The Symington brothers set certain areas aside for community facilities and divided the remaining land into building lots offered for sale through the Gibson Island Company, now known as Gibson Island Corporation. From that time to the present, Gibson Island has had its own real estate department specifically handling the listing and selling of Island properties. Revenue generated from these sales is returned to the community for its upkeep and beautification.
The Symingtons, upon the advice of Edward H. Bouton, the developer of Roland Park and Guilford areas in Baltimore, hired Frederick Law Olmsted to create a master plan for the Island. One of the premier landscape architects of his time, he designed many important landmarks across the country, including Central Park in Manhattan. In 1925, the first Deed and Agreement was adopted and recorded which provides Gibson Island Corporation with architectural oversight powers, helping to maintain the beauty and tranquility of the Island over the years.
The Great Depression halted rapid development of the Island. In 1936, a group of gentlemen deeply interested in the future of the Island undertook the reorganization of its ownership, passing control to the Island’s homeowners, thus putting those with the greatest interest in a position to preserve the Island’s ambiance. Succeeding generations have carefully maintained the natural environment of the Island, with about two-thirds of its land set aside for recreation, forestry and open space.”
In August of 2009, Forbes magazine claimed that Gibson Island had the 12th most expensive median Zip Code asking price for a home at just over $3 million dollars. Home prices start at about $1 million.
Mountain Lake Estates, Florida: Where Blue-Bloods go to Die in Their Own Private Heaven
You may ask.. just where is this mountain in Florida. Well look no further than the towering 295 foot high Iron Mountain just north of Lake Wales, Florida. This exclusive enclave with yet another high concentration of people listed in the Social Register is small (114 houses) and completely off the beaten path of the usual Florida haunts of the rich and famous, most notably Palm Beach and Boca Grande.
The gated community features the obligatory golf course and a lovely hotel, the Colony House at Mountain Lake. Although the place is definitely low key, if one does a bit of research, you can find some information on Mountain Lake.
This is the info posted on the hotel’s website:
“Mountain Lake is one of Florida’s best kept secrets, especially for the avid golfer. A private community founded in 1915, Mountain Lake also has a top-ranked golf course designed in 1916 by Seth Raynor.
Mountain Lake is located in the rolling hills and lake region of Central Florida, just outside the small citrus town of Lake Wales. The community is within easy driving distance of both Orlando and Tampa.
Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr., whose father designed Central Park and the Boston Common, among other projects, did the original layout for Mountain Lake. He also designed the Colony House, which serves as a clubhouse and private hotel. The Colony House and Mountain Lake Estates Historic District are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Since its earliest days, Mountain Lake has kept its original character as a place of great natural beauty with a style of living that is outdoor oriented and unpretentious. The community has been described as “a setting of wondrous isolation from the clutter of commercial life.”
Golf & Travel magazine named Mountain Lake one of the most attractive golf communities in America. There are 125 residences, few of them within sight of the golf course, so the gently rolling land is open and space is abundant. Mountain Lake is an ideal getaway spot for those who appreciate great golf, tennis, and croquet in beautiful natural surroundings, with an atmosphere that is warmly hospitable and relaxed.
The community has a fascinating history. Mountain Lake was founded in 1915 by Frederick S. Ruth of Baltimore, whose family owned property in the area. Ruth assembled 3,500 acres in the hilly, verdant land, which is among the highest in the state. He engaged Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr. to lay out 600 acres of the property for the residences and brought in Seth Raynor to design the golf course.
In the mid 1920s Edward W. Bok, the publisher of The Saturday Evening Post and The Ladies Home Journal, was a homeowner at Mountain Lake. He had come to America from Holland and became very successful in his career. Wanting to make a lasting contribution to his new homeland, he acquired over 100 acres of the highest land of the park and created what is now known as Historic Bok Sanctuary. The “Singing Tower” is one of the world’s most renowned carillons, and outdoor concerts and other events are scheduled on a regular basis. Bok Sanctuary also hosts an international festival of carillonneurs* each year.”
*People that play music on bells in freestanding towers
Map of Mountain Lake Estates, Florida
View Mountain Lake Estates, Florida in a larger map
Map of Casey Key, Florida
View Casey Key, Florida in a larger map
Casey Key, Florida: The Longest Stretch of Mansions on a Barrier Island in the World
Located just south of Sarasota, this 6 1/2 mile of barrier island is about as low key a place as there is on Florida’s gulf coast. Starter homes go for $1.8 million and the huge houses top out in the $7-8 million region. Casey Key is unincorporated and the beaches are private. Surprisingly, it is not gated and anyone can drive through and take a gander. Just don’t stop… everything is private.
Casey Key has 447 homes of which 162 are seasonal and 285 are “first” homes resulting in a population of 630 very fortunate residents.
The Highlands: Seattle’s Most Elite Address
Good luck finding any information on this tiny enclave of Seattle’s old moneyed families. Tucked between Puget Sound and the Seattle Country Club. this neighborhood of 110 homes stands apart from exclusive neighborhoods of Seattle that bracket Lake Washington to the east (e.g. Hunts Point, Medina, & Denny Blaine). There is virtually nothing on the internet about this tiny enclave that is populated with the mansions of Seattle elites with names like Boeing, Nordstrom, and Finkelsteins.
Map of The Highlands, Washington
View The Highlands, Seattle in a larger map
The Yellowstone Club: A Fiasco of Wretched Excess or Why the Old Money loathes the Nouveau Riche
If you really want to read about the super-rich involved in what is certainly one of the biggest real estate fiascos ever cooked up by some of the most vulgar people since Gilded Age, wade through this long New York Times article:
The most laughable quote in the article is that the members “have to be willing to check their egos at the door”….just how delusional are these people?
It’s hard to wrap your mind around and “invitation only” club with a membership fee of $250,000 and lots selling for $2 million/acre and homes that are for occasional use and sell for between $5 million and $35 million.
The woman at the center of this sordid bankrupt menagerie, Edra Blixseth, can be summed up by a few observations in the Times article.
- A 30,000 square foot mansion with a private “Prayer Room” (what a Christian!)
- A private 240 acre golf course
- A boyfriend who is a former underwear model
- A Billion dollar bankruptcy
- Only 40 servants (down from 110)
Where is the Guillotine when we really need it!
Map of The Yellowstone Club
The Wausaukee Club: Republican Communists in the Woods!
Hidden in the idyllic forests of Northern Wisconsin resides a tiny and exclusive club for some of Chicago and Milwaukee’s old money families. The Wausaukee club has a mere 35 houses and only 9 of them are winterized.
There is not gate to the 2400 acre development and several years ago I managed to infiltrate this bastion of privacy and even had a cryptic interview with a very nervous General Manager. I had become aware of this tiny slice of heaven through my research of the Social Register and to my delight I found that this sylvan club was a mere 47 miles northwest of my family’s cottage on Green Bay just south of Marinette, Wisconsin.
I hope he wasn’t fired for talking to me. The information I was able to gleen from the internet came about because of an advertisement that the club ran for a new General Manager. The homes are modest by most standards and surround an astoundingly pristine and beautiful private lake. There is a large communal dining hall….. I repeat communal….. and probably Republican Communists at that.
The annual budget for this seasonal endeavor is $1.1 million. The operating budget is shared by the members… Communists!! As many as 160 of these Red Devils share the bliss of a Wisconsin summer in high season (July-August).
Like the Yellowstone Club, I’m only guessing at the boundaries and I rest comfortable that absolutely no one will really want to bother these fine people.
Harbor Point, Michigan: When Harbor Springs Just Isn’t Exclusive Enough…
Map of Harbor Point, Michigan
View Harbor Point, Michigan in a larger map
The following description is from a 1965 article in Time Magazine. No doubt, it is still applicable although I suspect the homes have been passed to heirs and heiress at this point.
“Harbor Point is Michigan’s most exclusive because the millionaire and blue-blooded families who live there guard their privacy well. Located on a point that juts out into Little Traverse Bay near Harbor Springs, Harbor Point does not even allow automobiles to intrude upon its seclusion. Instead they are parked at the entrance to the point, and the residents are delivered to their doors by a horse and buggy that makes a circle of the area every 15 minutes. The buggy also is used when residents visit their neighbors. There are some 70 homes on the point, two-or three-storied with numerous sun porches and beautifully kept lawns leading down to the shore. Among the house owners are Wrigley Offield, scion of the chewing gum clan, Elton MacDonald, creator of Plaid Stamps, and Frederick S. Ford, a director of Libbey-Owens-Ford Glass. The Harbor Point Association carefully screens anyone wishing to build on any of the 103 lots still available in the area. There are two golf courses near by, and there is a club at the entrance to the point with a huge swimming pool and a sprawl of tennis courts. Most residents also keep a boat, which is docked in front of their homes.”
Read more: Recreation: Splendors at Home, by Time Magazine