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Big building, big price tag

Got millions? Check out the Ames-Webster mansion

A carved oak staircase leads to the upper floor of the mansion on Dartmouth Street. A carved oak staircase leads to the upper floor of the mansion on Dartmouth Street. (Wendy Maeda/ Globe Staff)
By Johnny Diaz
Globe Staff / October 15, 2009

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Boston house hunters now have a very big option.

The Ames-Webster mansion - one of the largest properties in Back Bay, with 26,000 square feet, 50 rooms, and 28 fireplaces - is for sale. Going price? Between $18 million to $25 million.

“It’s a big building,’’ said Joanna Rizzo Dresser, a project manager with LandVest, which is marketing the property and expects about 150 brokers in town for Christie’s Great Estates 2009 Annual Conference to visit tonight at a cocktail party planned to build buzz for the listing. “It can either be used as a single family home, multifamily residences, or commercial office space,’’ she said.

The property is owned by Reality Realty Trust, whose members include developer Neil St. John Raymond of the Raymond Property Co. and the founding members of CBT Architects firm. The mansion is the corporate headquarters for Raymond and was also the base for CBT until 1999, when it relocated to a larger space downtown. The Raymond company is planning to move its offices to downtown Boston to be closer to current projects, such as the redevelopment of the Government Center Garage.

“We loved the opportunity that 306 Dartmouth gave us when we were starting out and believe it’s time for new stewardship,’’ CBT’s Richard Bertman said in a statement.

The hulking brick-faced property at the corner of Dartmouth Street and Commonwealth Avenue currently houses a collection of office suites. Twenty businesses, ranging from money management companies to law offices, sublet space. (Brightly lit chandeliers hang in some of the offices.)

But the building was not always commercial space.

The Mansard-roof house, built in 1872, was once the home of Frederick Ames, an industrialist and member of a prominent Bay State family. The estate was designed by the Peabody and Stearns architectural firm. In 1882, architect John Hubbard Sturgis expanded the property by adding a four-story tower.

The property is known for its intricate design details, inside and out. The house features a stained glass skylight by John La Farge and murals by French painter Benjamin Constant. Cherubs and seahorses line the staircase as it rises four stories.

Despite the current real estate market, local real estate specialists say the property, given its address, could be snatched up.

“It’s a signature property,’’ said Greg Vasil, chief executive of the Greater Boston Real Estate Board. “Other properties in that neighborhood even though the economy hasn’t been great, have sold. A property like that would get interest in any type of market.’’

Johnny Diaz can be reached at jodiaz@globe.com.