The House That Ate the Hamptons

Ira Rennert's Fair Field<a href="" target="_blank">Wikimedia Commons</a>

Let our journalists help you make sense of the noise: Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter and get a recap of news that matters.

This weekend, Mitt Romney made a very profitable swing through the Hamptons. On the agenda: A trio of fundraisers, including a $50,000-a-head party at David Koch’s $18 million estate and a shindig at financier Ronald Perelman’s 57-acre estate, home to “the most outstanding private conifer collection in the United States.” But those spreads have nothing on billionaire Ira Rennert’s estate in Sagaponack (which, sadly for Romney, did not host a fundraiser). 

Thought to be America’s largest inhabited residence, Fair Field cost $100 million to build and is worth at least $200 million. The 110,000-square-foot complex has 29 bedrooms, 39 bathrooms, three pools, two libraries, a bowling alley, a playground, a full theater, its own power plant, and a garage for 100 cars. The main building is 66,000 square feet, 28 times bigger than the average new house. It’s the third-largest private home in America. (No. 1 is the 174,000- square-foot Biltmore Estate.) The mansion even inspired a novel, The House That Ate the Hamptons. Kurt Vonnegut called it “the greatest book ever written.” In a rare public appearance, Rennert described his mega-mansion as “old age and loneliness insurance.”

A local architect who approved the project praised its “restrained classic design.” Or, as one local put it to MoJo‘s Josh Harkinson, “It’s a fucking monster!” Fair Field is now at the heart of a new controversy between Rennert and his slightly less affluent neighbors, who have accused him of “practicing class warfare” with his noisy private helicopters. Seriously. Check it out.


Headshot of Editor in Chief of Mother Jones, Clara Jeffery

It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

We kept coming back to one word: corruption. Democracy and the rule of law being undermined by those with wealth and power for their own gain. So we're launching an ambitious Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption, and asking the MoJo community to help crowdfund it.

We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

Thanks for reading—whether or not you can pitch in today, or ever, I'm glad you're with us.

Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

payment methods

We Recommend