One of a kindCentral Pennsylvania has its share of available high-end homes

By - Last modified: September 28, 2012 at 1:41 PM

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The home of the late Alex Grass sits on 13 acres in Susquehanna Township and includes an in-ground swimming pool and tennis court, plus a connected three-car garage. Photo/Submitted
The home of the late Alex Grass sits on 13 acres in Susquehanna Township and includes an in-ground swimming pool and tennis court, plus a connected three-car garage. Photo/Submitted

For all of the money he had, Alex Grass was an extremely frugal man.

If something was made of high-quality materials and meant to last, that's what it did, said Elizabeth Weese, one of his four children and executor of his estate.

Grass, the founder of East Pennsboro Township-based Rite Aid Corp. and a well-known philanthropist in the Harrisburg area, died in 2009 at the age of 82.

"He was not out to change things because the style changed," said Weese, who has been sorting out her father's large estate, which includes his primary residence on Crooked Hill Road in Susquehanna Township.

The single-story brick home, which was completed in 1972, remains a reflection of that era with original floor and wall coverings and classic St. Charles kitchen cabinets — all of it top-of-the-line at the time.

In the decade after it was built, the bedrooms were redecorated. Wallpaper in the kitchen was replaced at least twice through the years, Weese said. Before it was listed, some hallway painting was done in the bedroom wing, and a new roof was put on.

The home, listed for $1.725 million, sits on 13 acres and includes an in-ground swimming pool and tennis court, plus a connected three-car garage.

"Whoever buys the house has to make it their own," Weese said. "In my mind, you could put almost any kind of interior in there."

Weese described her father as practical, not fancy. He didn't wear jewelry, and he had no hobbies.

"He didn't golf or read books. He didn't play cards," she said. "He worked, and he took care of his family."

If something worked, he left it alone.

Of course, he and his wife had a passion for high-end art, which was scattered throughout the 8,100-square-foot home.

The home, which has wide hallways and large rooms, features cathedral ceilings and floor-to-ceiling windows, which provided ample room for valuable artwork.

Entertaining

Despite his low-key nature about political contributions, Grass often held cocktail parties and fundraisers for local and national politicians who he believed would make a difference, his daughter said.

Former presidents, including George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush, as well as Israeli politicians, spent time at the home through the years. President Ronald Reagan also may have been there, Weese said.

Grass was well respected in the Jewish community.

"He gave away a lot of money over the years," she said. "He did try to make a difference in his community."

Grass also was on a number of boards in Israel and often traveled there, she added.

Why sell?

The family is selling the home for multiple reasons, Weese said.

For one, his children and grandchildren are not local. Secondly, Grass left his wealth to charity, she said.

"As the executor of his estate, it's my job to ensure the estate generates as much cash as possible to give to charity," she said.

Through different companies, Grass owned many enterprises, including several commercial real estate holdings across the country, said Steve Wilds, a Harrisburg attorney whose firm has done legal work for the family since 1996.

"He had quite a few holdings. We are in the process of working our way through those," Wilds said.

The Susquehanna Township residence, with its contemporary look and square angles, is unique and could be very attractive to the right buyer, he said.

"The high ceilings look out of place, but with contemporary art, it served as a showcase for a lot of collectibles that the Grass family had accumulated," he said.

Grass had other residences in Florida and New York City, Wilds said.

In this price range, the average time on the market is in the two-year range, said Jim Koury of Lemoyne-based RSR Realtors, the listing agent on the Grass home.

It's possible the property could be more attractive to a buyer looking to subdivide the acreage and create a few mini-estates, Koury said.

"Having the added acreage helps," he said. "It's in a good location, a relatively good school district, and close to downtown and

the interstates."

When the home was built, there was nothing around it, Weese said.

"It was a big empty field," she said. "There was nothing there. It's amazing the amount of building in that area."

What can you buy for $1.7M and above?

The 13-acre Alex Grass estate at 4025 Crooked Hill Road in Susquehanna Township has been on the market since November.

The nearly 8,100-square-foot contemporary-style, brick ranch home, completed in 1972, is listed at $1.725 million. The single-story home has five bedrooms and eight bathrooms, a three-car garage, a pool and a tennis court.

Within 20 miles of Harrisburg, what else is available for at least $1.7 million? Here are some other listings as of mid-September:

• For $1.75 million, there is a 7,200-square-foot home with five bedrooms and seven bathrooms on about 1.5 acres on Sand Pine Court in Hampden Township.

• For nearly $1.8 million, there is a home with four bedrooms and three bathrooms on more than 30 acres near Hollywood Casino at Penn National Race Course.

• For $1.97 million, there is a 6,100-square-foot home with four bedrooms and six bathrooms on 22 acres on Spring Hill Lane in Hampden Township.

• For $2.1 million, there is more than 12,000 square feet of living space in a main house and guest house with eight total bedrooms and seven bathrooms on 10 acres on Lyters Lane in Lower Paxton Township.

• For $2.24 million, there is a 9,700-square-foot home with three bedrooms and five bathrooms on 2 acres on Greenwood Circle in Wormleysburg.

• For $2.6 million, there is a 3,600-square-foot home with three bedrooms and three bathrooms on more than 60 acres on Grandview Road in Mount Joy Township.

• For $7 million, there is a 3.6-acre property in Middle Paxton Township that has 15,000 square feet of living space, with six bedrooms, 11 bathrooms and a carriage house with an upper-level apartment.

Who was Alex Grass?

Alex Grass was an attorney who founded East Pennsboro Township-based Rite Aid Corp.

Grass died in August 2009 at the age of 82 after battling lung cancer for a decade.

He opened his first drugstore in 1962 in Scranton. The Thrif D Discount Center would become Rite Aid. Grass took the company public in 1968.

He left Rite Aid as its chairman and CEO in 1995. The company had nearly 3,000 stores at that time. He remained a board member until 2001.

Rite Aid, the third-largest drugstore chain, has been focusing on customer rewards programs and adapting to the changing market while contending with debt and a long string of consecutive quarterly losses. The company posted $25.2 billion in revenue last year.

Grass also was widely recognized for his local and national philanthropic efforts, which included the creation of the Grass Family Foundation.

His daughter, Elizabeth Weese, runs that foundation along with a second, the Alexander Grass Foundation.

Grass had several other business interests, including commercial real estate holdings.

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