There aren’t too many secrets on Martha’s Vineyard. It’s an island after all, so word gets around.
Everyone knows, for example, that John Kerry and wife Teresa Heinz just plunked down a small fortune to purchase a historic property up island, far from the madding crowds that characterize Edgartown and Oak Bluffs in the summer.
Indeed, the former secretary of state, who likes to consider himself a man of the people, will be very hard to find at Seven Gates Farm, an exclusive enclave in Chilmark. Kerry and his wife — using a private trust to negotiate the deal — shelled out $11.75 million for the spectacular 18-acre property overlooking Vineyard Sound.
Thomas Wallace of Wallace & Co. Sotheby’s International Realty handled the sale, but declined to talk to us about it, citing a confidentiality agreement with the buyer.
For several years, Kerry and Heinz had summered on Nantucket, which has a deserved reputation for being more corporate – more uptight, you might say — than the Vineyard, where the vibe is decidedly more relaxed. (Former GE chairman Jack Welch is a Nantucket guy; comedian Larry David likes Martha’s Vineyard.)
Last summer, Kerry signaled it might be time for a change when he put his Nantucket compound on the market for $25 million. Near as we can tell, the mansion Kerry used for years to entertain friends, foreign diplomats, and heads of state is still available.
His new place on Martha’s Vineyard is, in fact, quite old. The seven-bedroom house sits on one of the parcels that were part of the original Seven Gates, a province on the island’s north shore established by Nathaniel Southgate Shaler, a Harvard geologist who came to the island in the 1880s and, liking what he saw, bought up farmland totaling 1,600 acres. According to our friends at the Martha’s Vineyard Museum, the name Seven Gates Farm derives from the number of fences Shaler had to bypass on his way from the main road to his residence. (Our guess is that Kerry and Heinz might install one or two more.)
A once-thriving dairy operation at Seven Gates Farm ultimately went out of business, and the heirs of the enclave’s 12 original families incorporated to form the Seven Gates Corporation to control — “stop” might be more accurate — development. Even as far back as 1939, real estate listings for Seven Gates Farm were promising “complete seclusion,” and that is no doubt part of the appeal for Kerry and Heinz.
The couple has kept a relatively low profile since Kerry, who’s 73, left the State Department last year. Heinz, beset by health issues in recent years, has been especially sequestered. In 2013, she had a seizure while vacationing on Nantucket and was taken to Massachusetts General Hospital and, later, the Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital.