William Louis Gardner and Celeste Huston on one of the horses in St Clarens Manor in Ireland, back when John Huston owned the estate.
Merv Griffin, whose ancestors hail from the area, fell in love with the property when he interviewed the then owner Huston there for The Merv Griffin Show; and when the opportunity to purchase the home arose in 1997 he paid IR£2m, describing the purchase as “an investment of the heart”.
Griffin, who ran the house as a five-star hotel as well as enjoying it as a holiday home, had a stable of luxury hotels and getaways including the Beverly Hills Hilton and the Lafayette Hotel on Miami’s South Beach.
The neo-classical house was built in 1784 by the Burke family as a replacement for their ancestral castle — the ruins of which remain to this day — and it remained their home until the 1950s when Huston purchased it and lived there for a time with his fourth wife Ricki Soma and their two children, Anjelica and Tony.
It is easy to see where Griffin’s €5m went.
The house which sits on 44 acres has 11 bedrooms, each decorated with the finest of fabrics and furniture. Each room is called after a former owner or prominent Galway family.
The ground floor consists of a drawing room, dining room, sitting room, kitchen and two en suite bedrooms. At garden level there are four double bedrooms, each with a private bathroom, and on the first floor there are five further bedrooms with open fires and private bathrooms.
There is a second property on the estate, an octagonal lodge with a queen-size bedroom which is called the Angelica suite.
There is certainly something special about St Cleran’s. John Huston called it “the most beautiful house in Ireland” and Griffin was so enamoured of the house that he commissioned historian William Henry to write a book on St Cleran’s, The Tale of a Manor House, which was privately published in 1999.
Before Griffin’s death in 2007 he gave his trust, the Griffin Group, a mandate to market the property to a buyer who would “respect its reputation as the most beautiful manor in Ireland”.
According to estate agents Coldwell Banker, who have the house on the market with an asking price of €3.7m, the sale should be regarded as an executors sale and the trust are determined to sell.