Inspired by a chance encounter with Caroline and Rose Kennedy years ago in Massachusetts, a Sunnyside native built the ultimate home for his extended family.
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Reggie Van Lee, a known area arts advocate and philanthropist, said he calls his work a compound, describing the property as ideal for family gatherings and parties.
“Family’s always been so important to us,” Van Lee said in an interview with Eyewitness News. “My father and mother both were keen on family, nuclear family, extended family.”
To this point, several members of his family reportedly live in the 20,000 sqft. home, including his four sisters, their spouses, kids and grandkids.
Divided into apartments or “casitas,” a la Kensington Palace, Van Lee said his place is just a nice and functional; each family member’s wing reportedly comes with its own decor.
Another sister passed away, but she is said to be home with Van Lee, too — in the chapel.
After graduating from MIT and Harvard, Van Lee said a friend introduced him to Caroline and Rose Kennedy, and a visit to the political family’s infamous Compound in Hyannisport motivated him to create the same type of space for his own.
“You can imagine how excited I was to go there, and I met Rose Kennedy, and it was just amazing,” Van Lee said. “But, seeing the family all together in that context, I thought, ‘Wow, wouldn’t it be something if we did something like this?'”
He said he hoped to create such a place with his own parents in mind, but they died before his masterpiece could be completed.
His mother did leave him with the plot of land in Wharton where the mansion now sits, however, laying the foundation for his lifelong vision after her passing.
See more of the Texas-sized compound here.