SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Business

August 15, 2012

A passion-driven project

Penguin Hall being converted into luxury senior condos

WENHAM — Penguin Hall, the estate of Ruby Boyer Miller, once served as a place of “friendship” for Mrs. Miller and the equally married Adm. Richard Eveyln Byrd, or so the story goes.

Signs of their companionship are embedded in the 20,000-square-foot “summer house,” from two bronze penguins standing guard in the courtyard that were a gift from Byrd, a noted Antarctica explorer, to the name “Penguin Hall.”

There’s a spider web and zodiac signs on the front door; hearts on the downspouts; and two urns that, when lit from behind, form the shadow of a heart.

It’s not often that a story of forbidden love serves as a pitch to buy a unit in a luxury senior-living condominium complex. The story behind the estate can be explained when you understand that it was written by Jim Mullen, once one of the nation’s top advertising executives.

On the property website: “When Ruby Boyer Miller built Pen­guin Hall in 1929, she and her home were served by an atten­tive staff, per­mit­ting a cos­seted lifestyle and the leisure time to pur­sue her par­tic­u­lar inter­ests — at the time, firmly focused on Admi­ral Richard Eve­lyn Byrd. Your staff at Pen­guin Hall will be equally atten­tive, although we do hope your inter­ests will be more broadly distributed.”

It’s the kind of story that could make a person fall in love with the property and want to share in its secrets.

Mullen and his developer partner, Chris Wise, founder and CEO of Wise Living, are repositioning the former corporate campus into a place where people who are sick of homeownership can continue to live a vibrant and active life. They plan to build 240 units with prices ranging from $350,000 to $1 million.

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