If you’ve spent any time searching for the hidden gems of Fort Myers, you know that there are moments when it feels like a true Southern city—there’s a graciousness that extends not only to the people, but to the homes as well.
And if you have the good fortune to stumble upon the community of St. Charles Harbour & Yacht Club, located just shy of the Sanibel Causeway along the Caloosahatchee River, you’ll find 13911 Blenheim Trail Road, a fascinating testament to Southern charm that proves my point.
Designed by architect/homeowner Greg Gersdorf in 2004 and renovated in 2013, the 8,500-square-foot Adam-style home is a grande dame tucked among homes ranging from $900,000 to more than $10 million. It sits on one-third of an acre and features five bedrooms, five full and three half-bathrooms, four fireplaces, an elevator, a workout room and a 1,700-square-foot master suite.
But what likely causes guests to stand in awe is the home’s two-level mahogany-clad library that Gersdorf fashioned after the one at the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, North Carolina.
“That library just captivated me,” Gersdorf says. “It was a two-story library with balconies. It had a fireplace, and I just thought that was the most charming representation of a library I’d ever seen. So I tried to recreate that. Of course, I couldn’t do it on the same scale.”
Regardless, the library’s balconies are interconnecting with select reading areas, just like George Vanderbilt II’s little chateau in Asheville. And while the scale might not match up to the Biltmore’s, it’s not for lack of trying. The main foyer (as well as the library) features 25-foot ceilings with period molding from a company that reproduces historical molding out of Chicago (Gersdorf’s hometown).
A bit of a jaunt away, the grand room is a mere 40 feet long, clad in marble, and has room for several sitting areas as well as a grand piano, just in case you feel the need to bang out some Southern Nights. Gersdorf’s wife, Jennifer, an interior designer, masterfully scaled furnishings to keep the space from becoming daunting.
“I used the letter H as the basis for the first floor of the house,” Gersdorf says. “The corner of the H is the kitchen and the grand room. From there, each of the main rooms—the sunroom, family room, dining room, library—lead off of that core. … I’ve always felt that, to keep a house interesting and alive, there has to be more than one pathway through a home. So there are multiple paths through the house from room to room. You literally do not have to retrace your footsteps to go through the house.”
And if you’re a fan of light, you might want to make Gersdorf an offer as this place has 110 windows and 22 sets of French doors. France doesn’t have that many doors. Then again, France doesn’t have a lot of Southern charm.
Designed in tribute to the library at Biltmore Estate in North Carolina, the two-story library at 13911 Blenheim Trail Road is awash in mahogany and warm feature.
If ever there were a spot for mint juleps and discussing the kindness of strangers, this enclosed pool area is it. Aside from the infinity-edge pool and balconies, the area features a raised rustic outside bar and grilling space.
On the library’s main floor, Kindles are persona non grata. Floor-to-25-foot-ceiling bookshelves recall a civility of times gone by. Just ask the circa-1930s cheetahs (originally from an estate in Georgia) guarding the roaring fireplace.
With 110 windows and 22 sets of French doors, natural light is never a problem for the 8,500-square-foot home, which features five bedrooms, five full and three half-bathrooms. Yards of historically accurate moldings along with coffered ceilings will have guests thinking Charleston rather than Fort Myers.
Gersdorf used 25-foot ceilings in the entryway to immediately capture guests’ attention. The grand staircase, marble flooring and eclectic furnishings create a grandeur that feels decidedly low-country high class. The chair to the right is an original antique dragon chair from the 1898 World’s Fair Exposition.
The Sun Room is not for the faint of heart. Blood red walls over white marble and floral window treatments by Rose Cumming Fabric (appropriately named Blenheim) create the perfect setting for a Southern belle looking for a spot to repose.
The home’s grand room lives up to its name by stretching wall-to-wall marble some 40 feet. Pastels over soft textured fabric bring a surprising warmth to the space, which also includes a grand piano and separate sitting area.
Photography by Bruce Frame.