Olympic sailor sells waterfront Gulf Stream estate for record $16.5M

Home was designed by Mar-a-Lago architect Marion Sims Wyeth

Stephen Benjamin with 1200 North Ocean Boulevard (North Sails, Daniel Petroni)
Stephen Benjamin with 1200 North Ocean Boulevard (North Sails, Daniel Petroni)

It’s been decades since Stephen Benjamin won a medal at the Olympics, but he just scored a record for the $16.5 million sale of his waterfront Gulf Stream compound.

Property records show Benjamin sold the home at 1200 North Ocean Boulevard to Lemon Hill Partners LLC, a Florida corporation managed by a Kentucky-based lawyer.

Randy Ely and Nick Malinosky of the Randy and Nick Team with Douglas Elliman had the listing. Betsy Cooke and Brad Cooke of the Cooke Team at Corcoran brought the buyer.

Both broker teams confirmed that the deal is a record for non-oceanfront sales in Gulf Stream.

Benjamin and his ex-wife, Helen Z. Benjamin, bought the property for $7.1 million in 2018, according to records. The 6,019-square-foot, five-bedroom, six-bathroom house was built in 1939 and sits on 2.6 acres, records show. The estate includes a main house, guest cottage, and two caretaker houses, O’Connor said.

The estate was designed by Marion Sims Wyeth, who also designed the Mar-a-Lago Club in Palm Beach, the brokers confirmed. Wyeth was a notable Palm Beach-based architect in the first half of the 20th century. His work also included the Florida Governor’s Mansion, and Doris Duke’s famed Honolulu estate, dubbed “Shangri La” by the tobacco heiress.

Brokers said the Gulf Stream property is a rarity for its size. Mike O’Connor, an agent with the Randy and Nick Team, said a standard lot size for Gulf Stream is 100 by 140 feet, equating to 0.3 acres. The 1200 North Ocean Boulevard compound is more than eight times that size.

Benjamin won collegiate sailor of the year while attending Yale in 1978, and clinched the silver medal for sailing in the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics, according to the Olympics website. On his mother’s side, he is the grandson of Franklin Chase Hoyt, the first justice of the Children’s Court of New York, and a descendent of Salmon P. Chase, the Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, appointed by Abraham Lincoln. He currently works with the sailmaker North Sails in Miami, according to the company’s website.

Helen Benjamin is an heir to the $2.8 billion Royal Baking Powder fortune, a company co-founded by her great-grandfather William Ziegler in 1866. In 2015, Benjamin’s brother Peter Ziegler suffered an accident at home that rendered him paralyzed below the neck. When he decided to leave his portion of the inheritance to a charity for quadriplegic research and assistance, Benjamin sued him, the Hartford Courant reported. According to the outlet, the Connecticut Supreme Court ruled against Helen Benjamin.

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Property records show that she was removed from the Gulf Stream deed in a transfer that took place in January. That was the same month that the couple’s divorce was finalized, Palm Beach County court records show.

According to Betsy Cooke, the Gulf Stream Wyeth house was known for a longtime as the Yellow House. Cooke said Nancy Touhey, who bought it for $2.7 million in 1996, according to records, gave it the name that stuck: Lemon Hill.

The listing for the property advertised it as a “renovation opportunity.” Cooke confirmed the buyer intends to restore the home, and complete the 250-foot yacht basin and 80-foot pool currently under construction. She declined to disclose the buyer’s identity.

“A lot of people would have torn it down, but the buyer is more interested in restoring the actual house,” she said.

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Gulf Stream, a small town just north of Delray Beach, has been home to some of South Florida’s most noteworthy flips in recent months.

An oceanfront estate flipped for an 85 percent markup in June, selling for $27.5 million. A trust linked to top executives at the hedge fund Elliott Management flipped an oceanfront property for $26.7 million in March. Also in March, an entity linked to San Francisco hedge fund manager William Oberndorf sold another oceanfront estate for $33 million.

Cooke said demand is high and inventory is limited in Gulf Stream, even with reports of the South Florida resi market cooling.

“I had clients all day Monday,” she said. “I barely had anything to show them.”