Rumsfeld rumored to buy St. Michaels house

Defense secretary's visits set off speculation on sale

October 30, 2003|By Chris Guy | Chris Guy,SUN STAFF

ST. MICHAELS - It usually takes more than the sale of another waterfront mansion to set tongues wagging in this trendy town of 1,193.

Unless the buyer might be Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld.

Several recent visits by Rumsfeld have set off a flurry of speculation that he is behind the Washington-based corporation that paid $1.5 million Oct. 14 for a 300-year-old estate known as Mount Misery.

Real estate agents who handled the sale of the former bed-and-breakfast are keeping mum. Neighbors of the 4.43-acre property just outside town say they've seen little activity at the house, which has scenic views of Broad Creek, a wide Choptank River tributary.

The purchaser is Kalorama LLC, whose registered agent is Robbins and Associates, a Chicago accounting firm. Its president, Terry Robbins, did not return phone calls. Neither did Rumsfeld's Pentagon spokesman, Larry DiRita. But property records show that Kalorama LLC also owns the house where Rumsfeld lives in Washington.

The sellers of Mount Misery, Stacy S. and Malcolm H. Ringel, have moved from the estate where they resided for eight years. Its bed-and-breakfast Web site is operating, but its phones have been disconnected.

Stacy Ringel acknowledged the sale of the property but declined to identify the buyer.

"I don't know if it represents a security risk to even be talking about it," she said. "They asked for anonymity, and we've granted them that."

The chatter here began when Rumsfeld was spotted eating at the restaurants and browsing in the shops that have made St. Michaels a destination for tourists from Baltimore and Washington.

Like others who have snapped up second homes on the Eastern Shore, Rumsfeld might have been attracted by Mount Misery's proximity to the capital, which could make it an ideal weekend getaway from running the U.S. military.

High price tags appear not to deter buyers of properties along nearly 600 miles of waterfront in Talbot County, where real estate listings yesterday included 63 properties for at least $1 million, ranging as high as $8 million.

Mount Misery is fairly modest for Talbot waterfront property, and its oldest section dates to 1805, with several additions. It has four bedrooms, in-law quarters, original wood floors and half-dozen fireplaces. There are extensive gardens, a pool and a dock, where 4 to 5 feet of water can accommodate large sailboats.

"I've heard about Rumsfeld rumors like everybody else," said Michael Rork, the owner and chef of the Town Dock restaurant. "I do know he's been around town because he came into my restaurant about two weeks ago. But Ari Fleischer came in a couple months back, so that doesn't mean anything," he added of the former White House press secretary.

Rumsfeld would not be the first big-name political figure to discover Talbot County.

Former Treasury Secretary Nicholas F. Brady has a waterfront home near the town of Trappe, where he has played host to numerous luminaries, including Rumsfeld. Two years ago, weeks after the Sept. 11 attacks, Vice President Dick Cheney arrived for a hunting trip.

Longtime residents say they have learned to ignore the occasional power broker or celebrity who might turn up in everyday places. "This has sort of been the buzz around town for a couple weeks," said Patti Willis, who lives down the street from the Mount Misery property. "We do run into famous people in St. Michaels. A couple years ago, I was at the Acme store and Ollie North was standing behind me in the checkout line," she said of the former Reagan aide.

"We get lots of such visitors," Willis said. "Whether they're moving in is anybody's guess."

Sun staff writer Walter F. Roche Jr. contributed to this article.

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