Legendary broadcast journalist Diane Sawyer is ready to bid adieu to Chip Chop, her iconic Martha’s Vineyard estate. Sawyer and her late husband, director Mike Nichols, purchased the home in 1995 for $5.3 million, and now she’s listing the property for $24 million.
Located on a narrow stretch of land between Vineyard Sound and Lake Tashmoo, the sprawling Martha’s Vineyard compound is composed of an updated main house, multiple guest homes, a swimming pool and a tennis court, as well as long stretches of private beach along both bodies of water.
Architect Eric Gugler, who also remodeled the West Wing of the White House for President Franklin D. Roosevelt, designed Chip Chop in the 1930s, for stage actress Katharine Cornell. Construction was halted briefly amid World War II; the main house was eventually completed in 1945. Once Cornell moved in, she welcomed guests including Noel Coward, Sir Laurence Olivier and Vivien Leigh.
“[Chip Chop] feels like Hollywood in the ‘40s, especially the pool and tennis court. They are perfectly elegant and understated.” Wallace & Co. Sotheby’s International Realty broker Mark Jenkins, who has the listing, told Observer.
Sawyer and Nichols were married in the area in 1988, and purchased Chip Chop soon after. “Mike fell in love with the Vineyard in the ‘60s and always remembered the day he visited Katharine Cornell at her home,” Sawyer said in a statement to the Wall Street Journal. “He said it was the most beautiful house he’d ever seen.”
The property, which sits at the entrance to Lake Tashmoo, has only changed hands three times in over 75 years. This marks the first time it has been placed on the open market.
The three-bedroom main house spans nearly 5,000 square feet, with 10 chimneys throughout. The great room is outfitted with cozy wood paneling, exposed beams and two large fireplaces. It’s rife with outdoor space, including a large patio with plenty of room to dine, and a veranda outside the bedroom. And, of course, there’s tons of relaxing space to lounge poolside while looking out over the sound.
Shortly after purchasing the home, Nichols and Sawyer brought in Tate Builders to complete a renovation, using aged and recycled materials to restore the home, including adding replica antique windows and hard-carved wood doors that required hand carving. That renovation came after Cornell had set up the kitchen without windows because she “wanted her guests to enjoy skinny dipping without having to worry that her servants were peeping Toms,” the New York Times Magazine wrote more than three decades ago. However, Jenkins told Observer that the restorations did not include significant structural changes.
The property, which spans nearly 20 acres, also features a two-bedroom caretaker’s cottage and a pair of guest houses, which are referred to as The Shacks because they were “dilapidated fishing shacks when Mike Nichols and Diane Sawyer bought them,” Jenkins explained, though he noted the name is is somewhat misleading, as they were entirely rebuilt into “sophisticated modern beach houses” in 2007.
As for why Sawyer is parting ways with the home now? “We’ve been so lucky to be in this amazing home for 28 years, but as our summers became more about time spent differently, with children in camps and travel, it seemed time to let someone else fall in love with this magic place,” she told the Vineyard Gazette.
It’s a statement property for luxury homeowners, and not just because of its celebrity pedigree. It’s a truly one-of-a-kind location, combined with a rich legacy that has been meticulously preserved in the home, eschewing modernization in favor of showcasing a distinctive history.