GLOUCESTER—One of Gloucester’s most notable private residences is getting an estimated $800,000 makeover this spring. Known locally as the Sherman House, it’s the stately 112-year-old colonial perched on the rocks on the south end of Good Harbor Beach.
For many in Gloucester, the house is as much a part of the beach as the surf, the sand, and the ever-hungry seagulls. And that’s the problem, say Jill and Winthrop Morgan, who purchased it in 2005 and have enjoyed summers there ever since.
“At this point, our home just blends into the landscape,” said Mr. Morgan, a 44-year-old retired financier, as he prepared morning martinis in the kitchen. “It doesn’t pop out and say ‘we’re richer than you!’ like it used to.”
“There’s a reason we purchased this home,” his wife said. Gesturing out the bay windows to an expansive view of the breakers, she explained: “We wanted the thousands who pack Good Harbor every day to gaze longingly at our lunches on the back patio and think, ‘Wow, those people really have it good.’”
“Imagine how much better a medallion of foie gras tastes,” Mr. Morgan added, “when you command a vast audience, all gnawing on clam strips from the snack shack.”
“That’s the primary purpose of the Jumbotron,” Mrs. Morgan said, referring to one component of the planned renovation. “It will display close-ups of our exquisitely prepared food, as well as our blindingly white smiles.”
During the hours when the Morgans are not enjoying a meal, the high definition screen will provide real-time updates on their investment portfolio.
Towering 65 feet above the existing roofline will be another key facet of the makeover, a rotating observation deck mounted atop the Jumbotron.
“The engineering was pretty tricky,” Mr. Morgan said. “Pretty pricey, too. But that’s what money’s for.”
While refreshing her martini, Mrs. Morgan explained where the idea for the observation deck came from. “Anyone with a $25 beach sticker can pass the day on a blanket with a fantastic ocean view,” she said. “We spent a lot more on this house. I mean, a lot more. So the quality of our view ought to be proportional. It’s simple algebra.”
According to the Morgans, when they first moved in ten years ago, they would often turn away curious beachgoers who clambered up the rocks for a better look. “Trespassing is the sincerest form of flattery,” Mrs. Morgan said. “Sometimes we even caught them peering in our windows, ogling our Renoirs. Those were the days.”
The Morgans say that interest in their house and extravagant wealth has ebbed in the last six or eight years. But the exact causes of this shift remain unclear.
“Maybe it was the Recession of 2008,” said Mr. Morgan, who cashed out of his Lehman Brothers partnership in December 2007. “And all that nonsense about the 1 percent.”
His wife elaborated: “People put their material aspirations on hold. Almost like they forgot all the ridiculously fun stuff you can do with money.”
“For instance, lighting your cigars with $50 bills,” Mr. Morgan said, flicking a gin-soaked olive into his mouth. “So fun.”
A Gloucester resident enjoying her first taste of spring weather on Good Harbor offered her perspective on the house. “It’s a nice place, but the people are sort of creepy,” said 29-year-old Isabella Costa. “During the summer I always see them waving at the crowds from their backyard. Like they’re flagging down a train.”
Fed up with the apathy, the Morgans have decided to take action, using their high-profile house to prove that money really can buy happiness.
“I know some will say we’re stoking class resentment and petty jealousies. But, ultimately, our mission is philanthropic,” Mrs. Morgan said. “We’re trying to restore people’s hope. Their faith in the American Dream.”