Behind the house, an infinity pool adjoins the terrace, which connects the house with a matching covered porch on the left.
Nestled atop a 140-foot cliff overlooking a graceful bend in the Severn River, a classic Georgian Revival home peaks out from behind stands of trees. This stately brick structure was modeled after the James River Plantations and enjoys the privacy of 23 picturesque acres—and a history that is truly unique.
Up until recently, it was also a mess. Years of neglect interspersed with makeshift renovations had left it a shadow of its former imposing self. Built in 1922 (by an arms dealer who ostensibly concealed illegal weapons in a hidden basement passageway), the property changed hands several times before the Catholic Church purchased it in the 1940s and converted it into St. Conrad Friary, which at its peak housed more than 60 Capuchin monks. Thirty years later, the monks’ numbers had dwindled and the house—then complete with a medieval-style chapel and a boxy five-story dormitory—was sold. Over the next 30 years it remained largely empty, an intimidatingly massive and dilapidated structure that caused prospective buyers to run the other way.
The front door opens to a gracious entry, framed by an elaborate, restored archway.
Enter Phillips Seafood CEO Steve Phillips and his wife, Maxine. “We were looking for a house on the Severn with privacy,” Maxine says. “But we didn’t look at this one because it was listed with 27 bedrooms!”
Eventually, the acreage and dramatic views convinced the couple to take a look. Three hours later the house was theirs—despite the presence of a large family of raccoons living in it. “We thought we’d buy it for the land and tear it down,” says Maxine. “But as we started going through the house we found little hidden elements to it, and the history captured our fancy. It turned out to be in shockingly good shape structurally too. We thought, ‘This building wants to be here. We shouldn’t tear it down.’”
The couple tasked Annapolis architect Charles Anthony with restoring the mansion to its original splendor and adding the touches and conveniences that would make the place feel like home. “Though respectful, they weren’t interested in a strictly historic approach,” Anthony says. “They wanted a functional, comfortable home for living and entertaining.”