When businessman and conservationist David Hartwell first walked into the house on Lowry Hill in 1994, he felt a pull.
"I saw the Curly Red Birchwood in the dining room and said, 'This is where I want to be,'" Hartwell said. "It's the heartwood out of the black birch tree, and there are no huge black birch trees like that anymore. Plus it's got stained glass windows, 4-foot front doors and so much character. And it's a great place for entertaining."
Hartwell bought it.
In the 27 years that he has lived there, he has fallen even more deeply in love with the place. That's partly because of the memories he has made there. He hosts an annual holiday party that draws upwards of 200 people.
"The most fun is when the house is full of people smiling and having a good time," Hartwell said. He's done fundraisers for conservation and naturalist causes.
And it's also home, the place he looks forward to coming back to after taking birding trips across the globe — he has seen flyers in 85 countries so far.
Hartwell researched the history of the property.
"It was built by a Mr. Burleigh, who was an adjuster for the Great Western Insurance Company, in 1905," Hartwell said. "He also built the house next door for his kids, but he did not live here long. There's an obituary of him in 1915, 10 years after, and he was living at the Oak Grove Apartments. Something happened that caused him to not be living here 10 years after he built it."
Hartwell said that he has poured sweat, heart and a lot of emotion into the six-bedroom, five-bath structure, bringing it back to a sense of its original glory. Self-described as someone who likes to "futz with things," he has remodeled the bathrooms.
"When we moved in the house, almost every light had been stripped and the only things left were the sconces in the dining rooms," Hartwell said. "The were actual pizza lights in here like the kind that hang over pool tables. The house wasn't in terrible shape, but we've done a lot of restoration."
The stained glass is all original except the two panes by the front door that he added. The house used to have a three-season porch with a hot tub. He removed that, and enclosed the porch, making it part of the kitchen. He rebuilt the space above the porch into "a sleeping porch."
But now it's time for someone else to enjoy it, he said.
"I'm in a different phase of my life, and at nearly 6,000 square feet, it's too much for one person."
The house once had a pool, but that Hartwell had it removed. In its place is a 2,000-square-foot organic garden that Hartwell plants with fruits and vegetables. The neighbors and food shelves appreciate the harvest.
"We get 10 gallons of raspberries off the raspberry bushes," Hartwell said.
Some years ago, a previous owner turned the third floor into the owner's suite. It gets lots of light and has lovely views, including of fireworks on the river downtown.
The one unusual feature of the house is something that he kept: a urinal.
"It was pink when I first saw it; we painted it white," Hartwell said. "I've only see one other house with something like that,"
For 26 years, Hartwell served as president of the global composite panel supplier Bellcomb, Inc. He also has served on the boards of the Audubon Society, the Land Trust Alliance and the Nature Conservancy, among others.
He's psyched about downsizing to a smaller place, preferably one that also has a workshop for his tools. But his biggest thrill will be bird-watching trips he will take to some of the 100-plus countries that he hasn't yet visited.
"I've wanted to sell it for a while, but it's a hard place to leave," Hartwell said. "Now I'm ready for just locking the door and not thinking about the house when I'm away."
David Calhoun, of the Calhoun Group, brokered by EXP Realty, 651-299-0300, has the $1.4 million listing.