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Sunday, September 1, 2013

Coconut Grove Bayfront Series: THE SHEIK'S SHACK

       America has its royal families and the DuPonts are one.  In 1964 Willis DuPont built a 27,000 sq. ft. home at the end of the  St. Gaudens Road in the South Grove.   He lived there with his wife and young kids for several years. 
  We pass its 8-foot walls and imposing entrance on frequent walks to the bay.

       In '67 the home was invaded and the family tied up.  Thieves left with over $10 million in loot.  The DuPonts left for Palm Beach.
         The five-acre DuPont Estate was sold to a member of the Saudi royal family.     We walk by often but have never seen "the Sheik" or even a human.  All we know is the large, angry dog barking at the gate as we pass by.
        Early this year a "for sale" sign went up.   For $22 million the Sheik's huge house, complete with tennis court, pool, and boat house, could have been yours.  While I couldn't imagine that kind of money,  I could imagine what life was like on the other side of its tall walls. 
       Friday night was different, the estate's front gate was open and as we passed a big, brown dog ran out.  As it headed towards us I realized it wasn't the guard dog but a large, playful poodle.  A man ran out chasing it and once the dog was caught, he apologized.
       I told him we admired his house.  He told us he was only the caretaker and that he was moving things out adding, "It's been sold, a rich Venezuelan got it cheap,  $18 million". 
    We nodded, pretending that $18 million was very little to pay for a house too.  He told us the place going to be demolished and something new built.

      We walked on with me still thinking, "What's the Sheik's house like?"  The next day I found out (and took these pictures)..

   We saw this hand scrawled sign on Main Highway yesterday morning. We followed it down St. Gaudens and behold, the Sheik's was having a garage sale!   He had moved himself, his favorite things and left  the rest for us.
We were able to sit where the sheik sat and,

admire his art collection


Lounging around in the living room I felt very sheik-like.

Prices weren't cheap but this laughing elephant, lounging in the dining room, could be purchased for $25.
The gypsy lady had no price tag but she was probably beyond my reach.   

 We all know why some
cells are padded.      Every room, including the bathrooms, has padded and upholstered panelling.  I enjoyed poking them.

     I asked the woman in charge if we could meet the Sheik.  "Are you kidding?"  She replied, "He hasn't been here in years.  He only showed up for  short visits every five years.  People like him collect houses all over the world."

     I walked home thinking the sheik life probably wasn't all that great.  I'm sticking with our cottage on Palmetto Avenue.  

     The sheik's sale will continue 'til four today.
When I left the gypsy lady and laughing elephant were still available.

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