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Oh Henry!

The Red Sox poobah joins a very exclusive club - owners of the most egregiously overbuilt mansions in the state

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By Alex Beam
Globe Staff / August 12, 2011

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I have always wanted to organize a bike tour of the area’s most grandiose and overbuilt ego-monuments masquerading as private homes: the Deval Patrick Berkshires manse; Chez Pallotta in Weston, and now, one of the most jumped-up single family dwellings ever seen: John Henry’s Fieldstone Monster in Brookline.

I’ll make it a charity ride. I’ll call it the Pan Crass Challenge.

We’ll be starting in bucolic Richmond, where governor Patrick has erected a $4 million mansion on a 77-acre plot he owns there. The original plans allowed him to build a 24-room house, though now it has been scaled back to a mere 10 rooms-cum-pool and 1,000-foot driveway. What about that squash court he got permitted? Not yet built, says spokesman Brendan Ryan.

From Richmond we pedal east to one of Boston’s several high-value “W’’ exurbs, to gawk at the “House That Ate Weston,’’ as Boston magazine memorably called Celtics co-owner Jim Pallotta’s egregious $22 million, 27,000-square-foot wannabe Hearst Castle. From there it’s just a little hop to Newton, where you can see the grandiose helipad in front of “modest billionaire,’’ New Balance chairman Jim Davis’s stately pleasure dome. I’m sorry - that’s not a helipad. It’s merely the largest inlaid brick and stone courtyard I’ve ever seen, outside of the Venetian Hotel in Las Vegas, that is.

Of course, we wouldn’t want to miss former Reebok chairman Paul Fireman’s goliath 25,000-square-foot “aesthetically offensive’’ - that’s how a local characterized it in a 1999 Globe story - Chestnut Hill mansion, which overlooks the Country Club.

Our ride ends in the gentle hills of Brookline, where yet another vulgarian Xanadu is rising. Henry, the principal owner of the Red Sox, is building what looks like a medium-size prep school, code-named “Summera House’’ in the public filings, on a 6.3-acre plot overlooking one of the city’s many scenic ponds.

Henry bought the property from Frank McCourt, the notorious, soon-to-be-ex owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers, who was once Henry’s rival for ownership of the Sox. McCourt’s loss is Boston’s gain. Hostage to his bitter divorce and business litigation, the Dodgers are floundering, while the Sox have thrived under Henry’s stewardship.

After paying $16 million for the property four years ago, Henry chose to raze McCourt’s 13,000-square-foot red brick Georgian Revival mansion, and an adjacent home. Both originally belonged to Charles Sprague Sargent, the first director of the Arnold Arboretum.

What’s Henry replacing it with? Columns, many Doric columns. I counted a total of 30 when I looked at the plans on file at Brookline Town Hall. From the street, you can see a grand entryway, which has a Hyatt Vacation Club feel to it. It is no accident that Henry’s architectural firm, Shope Reno Wharton of South Norwalk, Conn., also designed the Pallotta estate and Fireman’s sprawling excrescence.

What else besides columns? Plenty. Henry easily bests Pallotta and Fireman in the MansionSprawl sweepstakes, with more than 35,000 square feet of living space. He is constructing a home theater, a theater lobby, a “grotto,’’ (very Plato’s Retreat!), a two-tier garage for eight cars, a “safe room,’’ sports lounge, chef’s kitchen, family kitchen, and “her study’’ for his wife, Linda Pizzuti. “His study’’ must be over at Fenway.

Let me catch my breath. There is a mudroom, three powder rooms, a breakfast room, a conservatory, “his bath,’’ “her bath,’’ “her hall,’’ “his closet,’’ “her closet,’’ a master plus five other bedrooms, a 30-foot-by-50-foot in-ground granite pool, spa, pergola, fountain, blah blah blah.

What does it all cost? In 2008, Henry announced his intention to build a $10 million home. I saw almost $3 million worth of separately permitted work in the Brookline files. The total cost is one of many aspects of this home that Henry does not want to discuss. In an e-mail, the Sox owner cited privacy concerns among the reasons he wouldn’t answer any questions about his new home. If you had wanted privacy, Mr. Henry, you wouldn’t have dropped a 3,000-megaton architectural stink bomb in the middle of Brookline.

Charity ride’s over! I could probably raise more money by promising these fat cats never to write about their Big Mac mansions again. I’ll think about it.

Alex Beam is a Globe columnist. His e-dress is beam@globe.com.

Overbuilt local mansions
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Overbuilt local mansions

Take a look at some of the largest offenders.