Asking $72 Million: A Private Island on Montana’s Flathead Lake

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The seller is Anne Brockinton Lee, widow of Robert M. Lee, the founder of the luggage and leather goods retailer Hunting World. The couple bought Cromwell Island in the 1980s, Mrs. Lee said.

The Lees discovered the island, which has about 3 miles of shoreline, during a fishing trip, she said. Driving from British Columbia to their home in Reno, Nev., they stopped at Flathead Lake and started looking at homes. When their agent asked if they would consider an island, “we went, ‘Bingo!'” Mrs. Lee recalled.

She said she didn’t recall how much they paid in 1989 for the island, which had three separate owners at the time. They also purchased a home on the mainland of Flathead Lake, and intended the island to be a nature preserve. But after buying a boat and spending more time in the area, Mrs. Lee said they drew up plans for a full-time residence with five bedrooms on the island that they could fill with antiques; Mr. Lee was an avid antique, gun and car collector. Part of the vision included driving his 1929 Model A truck and other cars around the island, she said.

Mrs. Lee said her husband, being the “brilliant, eccentric man” that he was, wanted the house to be able to withstand storms and earthquakes. Instead of wood framing, the house is made of poured concrete and clad in Montana limestone. It has a terra-cotta tile roof and mahogany windows and doors with solid brass hinges. The island also has a 5,000-square-foot guesthouse and a large dock with five slips, including one that can accommodate a 70-foot boat.

The Lees brought power to the island via underwater cables, and there is a backup generator capable of generating off-grid power for 8 to 12 weeks. They also excavated space for an underground shooting range between the villa and the guesthouse.

The exterior of the main house is now completed, but the interior isnt. Mrs. Lee said by the late 1990s the couple wanted a break from the project, which had become a full-time job. In 1999, the year Mr. Lee sold 80% of Hunting World, they bought a home in Lake Tahoe and moved there full-time. “We started having so much fun at Lake Tahoe that we sort of didn’t look back,” she said. He later sold the rest of the company, although Mrs. Lee wouldn’t say the price.

Mr. Lee died in 2016. Following her husband’s death, Mrs. Lee said it is too much of an undertaking for her to complete the house on Cromwell Island, which she said is “too immense” for one person. Her primary home is in Reno, where the couple’s 200-plus car collection is located. She has sold the Lake Tahoe house but still has homes in Charleston, SC, and New York, as well as a working cattle ranch in Montana and property on Flathead Lake’s mainland.

Flathead Lake is the largest natural freshwater lake in the contiguous US west of the Mississippi. Spanning roughly 200 square miles, the lake has about 185 miles of shoreline dotted with log cabins as well as larger homes that sell for millions of dollars.

Former NBA player and coach Phil Jackson has a house on Flathead Lake, and in 2018, billionaire Ron Burkle paid $10.5 million for Shelter Island, a 22-acre private island on the lake.

Although Shelter Island is visible from Cromwell Island, Mr. McDavid said it is not a comparable sale since it is much smaller, and traded before property values ​​skyrocketed during the pandemic. He said over the past 12 months, the average sale price for lakefront properties was just under $3 million, and the average size of sold property was 3.13 acres. The most expensive sale was $21 million, he said, adding that there is nothing else “of this magnitude” on the lake.

Mr. McDavid said a prospective buyer could alter the floor plan of the Lees’ house and keep it as a single-family house, or find another use for it.


Would you want to live on a private island? Why or why not?


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