By age of fifty, Richard Hellmann commanded a mayonnaise empire that stretched from New York to Florida, from Chicago to San Francisco. But his doctor's message was blunt: "You have six months to live. However, there is a chance you could live longer, if you retire now and move to the country."
And that is exactly what he did.
For his summer home, Hellmann discovered a pine-studded promontory high in the Catskills, not far from the arts colony of Woodstock. His Park Avenue architect took full advantage of the site, sketching out a 20 by 30 foot Great Room with a cathedral ceiling and a massive stone fireplace.
He then filled the room with windows, encompassing both the panorama of the mountains and the Esopus valley below. Around this he wrapped a forty-foot covered dining porch with Adirondack-style tree trunk columns and railings.
To accommodate the Hellmann clan, the architect strung four bedrooms along the northern edge of the promontory. Mr. Hellmann's own bedroom was placed at the south end of the house, on the balcony level, overlooking the Great Room on one side, and the river valley on the other.
He added some finishing touches: meandering garden paths and a classic twig gazebo.
The Hellmann's took occupancy in 1930, enjoying everything the magnificent estate had to offer - even championship billiards in the grotto-like Game Room.
And what about that doctor's prediction? Well, Richard Hellmann lived to be 94.