Lost Houses of the Hamptons: Villa Mille Fiori in Southampton

Garden facade at Villa Mille Fiori from Gary Lawrance Collection
Garden facade at Villa Mille Fiori (cropped), Photo: Gary Lawrance Collection

At the Southwest corner of Coopers Neck Lane and Great Plains Road what appears to be a large landscaped lot was once the site of Southampton’s most incredible mansion. A stone wall surrounds the property and it’s heavily overgrown with ivy, but at the center of the wall facing Coopers Neck Lane is an opening that looks down an empty drive. One would expect to see a beautiful home at the end of such an allée, and at one time there was.

Now the site where this mansion once stood is on the market for nearly $14.5 million. It’s just one more chapter in the property’s enchanting history.

In 1910, Attorney Albert Barnes Boardman bought this piece of once flat sandy land and commissioned a structure that would let everyone know he had arrived. Boardman didn’t want just another summer house made of shingles and fretwork—he wanted a villa of imperial grandeur. The model for this Southampton Villa was the Villa Medici in Rome, and he chose the architectural firm of Hill & Stout to design his dream home.

Villa Mille Fiori, Courtesy Houses of the Hamptons 1880-1930
Villa Mille Fiori, Courtesy Houses of the Hamptons 1880-1930

Dream houses are often a collection of many inspirations, and to copy an older existing building is considered unimaginative. Here, the architects created a building that very closely resembled Villa Medici at first glance, but was also unique on its own. Like the Villa Medici in Rome, the house has two tall towers that come into view and frame the entrance court and two lower side wings. The residence constructed of concrete, steel, terracotta and tile, was solidly built.

The entrance to this striking villa was through an arched porte-cochere in the south wing. The interiors were also a surprise, unlike any others in the Hamptons, with rich wood paneling, coffered ceilings, frescos, inlaid mosaic floors and equally impressive furnishings covered in velvets and brocades.

Villa Mille Fiori Garden Loggia
Villa Mille Fiori garden loggia, Photo: Courtesy Houses of the Hamptons 1880-1930

The principle rooms of the house, living room, dining room and two-story open loggia were on the west garden side. The interpretation of the original Villa Medici is clearly seen on the garden façade. Here, the two towers, only seen at a distance on the front side, are now part of the rear façade and reach up four stories. At the top of the towers are open loggias that must have been great vantage points to view the ocean and enjoy an evening breeze. Between the towers, the two-story arched loggia served as an outdoor living room.

This loggia also provided the perfect spot to view the luxuriant gardens beyond, highlighted by Italian statuary, splashing marble fountains, boxwood parterres and thousands of flowers—which gave the Boardman’s new summer house its name, Villa Mille Fiori, “House of a Thousand Flowers.”

Villa Mille Fiori garden postcard from Gary Lawrance Collection
Villa Mille Fiori garden postcard from Gary Lawrance Collection

Albert Boardman and his family enjoyed their home for many summers until 1927 when he sold the estate to his business partner Judge Morgan J. O’Brien. The villa’s magical appearance also was not lost on Hollywood—it was used as an enchanted castle in the 1926 silent movie, Just Suppose. The film was about a lonely prince who hated being a Royal and just wanted a nice simple girl with whom to share his life and live in anonymity.

After the O’Brien family sold the villa in 1938, the house had a series of owners but was never the showplace it once was. The “House of a Thousand Flowers” is no more. Some time in the mid-1960s it was demolished, and the land sold. Fortunately, the property was kept intact and the former garage/caretaker’s cottage became a charming summer residence.

Villa Mille Fiori entrance facade
Villa Mille Fiori entrance facade, Photo: Courtesy Houses of the Hamptons 1880-1930

The 3.57-acre property has since rested in an enchanted slumber, but it was recently listed for $14,495,000 with Douglas Elliman and a sale is pending. One can only guess what will be built there next, but the days of towering magical castles are over, thanks to building height restrictions, square foot limitations and numerous other building codes.

But one can always wonder and say, “Just Suppose.”

Gary Lawrance is co-author of Houses of the Hamptons 1880-1930 with Anne Surchin, and maintains a blog and popular Mansions of the Gilded Age Facebook group.

Villa Mille Fiori from Coopers Neck Ln. postcard, Gary Lawrance Collection
Villa Mille Fiori from Coopers Neck Ln. postcard, Gary Lawrance Collection

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