Mon | Dec 4, 2023

Dream House | A beauty overlooking the harbour

Published:Sunday | December 29, 2019 | 12:00 AM
A picture-perfect image.
This house welcomes Christmas like no other.
Have a seat in traditional splendour.
One of the six distinctively styled bedrooms.
A stunning night view of Montego Bay and harbour, from the house.

It is Christmas time again, and here is a house that embodies the spirit of the Yuletide season – bringing good cheer to all those who enter its hallowed space.

Rodgers and Hammersteins cinematic musical classic, the Academy Award-winning The Sound of Music (one of the highest-grossing films of all time), has been a welcome tradition on TV at Christmas for many a year, both here in Jamaica and overseas. One of the songs, My Favourite Things, has been included on the Christmas albums of several of the world’s most successful artistes.

Oscar Hammerstein II, the world-famous lyricist and librettist of the American Theatre, has been credited along with Richard Rodgers, as being “the greatest musical partnership of the 20th century”.

This is the legendary man who wrote the words to songs for such timeless smash Broadway musicals/motion pictures, as Oklahoma, South Pacific, and The King and I. In fact, believe it or not, The Sound of Music was actually written from the inspiring terrace of this house.

Today, I introduce you to the 17-acre, former winter estate of Oscar Hammerstein II and his wife, Dorothy, in the hills (that are also alive with music); with its jaw-dropping panorama of Montego Bay and its harbour – 20 minutes away – which they purchased in the 1960s in an area known as Content, St James.

Casual elegance

The chord of comfort is struck and this melodic house sings to the very beat and tempo of casual elegance, where the rhythm of composition and arrangement of rooms, the pitch of soaring roofs and the tone of colours offer a beautiful rendition.

It was originally built in the 1940s for English stage and silver screen goddess Gladys Cooper.

The villa of 7,000 square feet, with private outdoor and indoor living areas, is interestingly designed to enclose a main courtyard and a large, brick swimming pool.

A spiral staircase excitingly winds to a rooftop sun deck. There is also a living room with a vaulted ceiling and handcrafted fireplace, a recreation room, a billards area with mini-kitchen and wet bar, glass-enclosed sunroom and a dining room on the outside.

It continues with a country-style kitchen, five terraces surrounding the buildings, and six distinctively styled bedrooms (with en-suite bathrooms) and sitting area – accessed by interconnecting walkways, all having adjoining porches and private decks.

Architectural and decorative effects which delight include marble floors, imported antique furniture, and Jamaican and Haitian artwork to be proud of.

Botanical gardens expose an isolated yoga/spa pavillion, allowing physical and mental wellness. A beach is seven minutes away.

The next owner was New York celebrity accountant to the stars – including The Beatles and Hammerstein himself – George Teichner.

The current owner since 2000 is Brenda Isaac, a former corporate event planner from Atlanta, Georgia.

What sets this house apart from most is its beautiful accommodations, inextricably intertwined with a social purpose.

Isaac has established a non-profit organisation, ‘One Love Learning Foundation’, that encourages children in Jamaica, South Africa, and the United States to get back to the soil and with each other. It involves creating a five-acre organic garden on property that feeds not only the residence, but also poor schools in the surrounding community; focussing on the arts, gardening, and cultural educational exchange programmes.

Here, the child truly learns to give and receive from others. So fitting, especially at this time of year. Merry Christmas!

- Barry Rattray is a dream house designer and builder. Email: or