By Nancy Kane
Geoffrey Stern has a memory from childhood of an August day. His grandmother is turning 102. It’s a big celebration at the 16-acre family compound; everyone is there, lining up to take the annual photograph. His father, Jerome, sets up a whimsical replica of the Statue of Liberty along the driveway. The statue still stands, a testament to the freedom, expression and enlightenment that continues to pervade Camp Jerome. Geoffrey, his three brothers and sister (and later, 11 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren) grew up at this summer home in Quiogue, a tiny hamlet wedged between Westhampton Beach and Quogue. The kids frequently played on the basketball court. One day a neighbor complained, insisting that a wall be built to block the noise. Jerome Stern complied, commissioning Chilean graffiti artist Nelson Rivas, aka Cekis, to paint a mural across it. Unlike the cranky neighbor, Mr. Stern welcomed people onto his land, into his home, and into the structure he built in 1999, dubbed the “art barn.”
“My father said, ‘Farmers have potato barns and milk men have dairy barns, why shouldn’t I have an art barn?’” says Geoffrey. Modern and contemporary paintings and photography, as well as surrealist and Israeli works, were housed in the climate-controlled, two-and-a-half-story galvanized steel structure. On trails throughout the property, sculptures by Ann-Sofi Siden, David Hammons and Nate Loman mix with a silo by Wolfgang Winter and Berthold Horbelt, constructed entirely of water-bottle plastic crates, and Geoffrey’s favorite, a copse of pine trees garlanded with yellow panels by the controversial artist Menashe Kadishman, called “Necklace in the Forest.”
Jerome Stern passed away at age 93 in the spring of this year. His home is up for sale for the first time in half a century, asking $23.45 million and listed with Tim Davis of The Corcoran Group. Mr. Stern bought the home from its original owner, Lucius Beers, who built the house around 1910 as a gentleman’s farm. The arts and crafts-style home features 10 bedrooms, 10 bathrooms, six fireplaces, several sitting rooms with views of Quantuck Bay and a widow’s walk. There are 2 three-bedroom guest cottages, a three-stall horse barn, a tennis court, a swimming pool, a pool house and a dock.
“The home was a magnet for our families every summer,” Geoffrey says, referring to Friday night get-togethers with artists, politicians and social activists.“There is just this cohesiveness and flow to the place.” In a speech at Mr. Stern’s funeral, one of his grandchildren said: “Camp Jerome was our Camelot.” In short, you couldn’t find a more congenial spot for a happily-ever-after than here.