Retired Amazon Executive Lists 100-acre Friday Harbor Waterfront Estate for $20 million

In writing Patti Payne’s Cool Pads, I’ve been able to share some amazing residential properties with you every week, and every week I get great reaction from loyal readers.

Now here’s one for the books that is sure to spark considerable interest: a $20 million waterfront estate in the San Juan Islands, a listing, the likes of which doesn’t come on the market every day. In fact this is one of the most expensive estates in the region. Windermere Brokers Melissa Boucher and Patrick Chinn have the listing.

This property, with 765 feet of low-bank waterfront, is just shy of 100 acres and is situated down a meandering 1.4-mile-long country lane on San Juan Island, near Friday Harbor’s historic American Camp. Owners Rick and Sue Ayre now live east of Lake Washington. They used to be out on the island much more, spending summers, long holidays, weekends, and every spare moment they could carve out to get away to this ultimate escape.

“Even winters,” Rick said. “Our New Year’s parties were famous.” Times change. Now their five children are all grown and they don’t use this property enough to keep it. Rick Ayre was executive editor of “PC Magazine” and then went to Amazon as vice president and executive editor from 1996 to 2000, reporting directly to Jeff Bezos for the first two years as one of the early employees of that e-commerce giant. “We built the ( website,” Ayre explains. “What you see and what you read – that’s (part of) what we did – art and editorial and production.” It was an exciting pressure cooker of sorts, one can imagine, which the peaceful 100 Friday Harbor acres would help to diffuse. Ayre retired at the age of 50.

The property has its own FAA-approved landing strip called Burden Field after Henry S. Burden, who turned one of the many fields on the acreage into a runway. He was reportedly in the commodities business in the Chicago area and commuted in his private plane. Burden built a large house, with five wood-burning fireplaces and river-stone chimneys. Two of the fireplaces are in bedroom suites.

They had gardens and horses in the two barns. “They were serious about farming in the beginning,” said Ayre. Somewhere along the line, Burden and his wife moved to Bellevue and sold the place in 1999 to the Ayres ,who bought it so that their extended families would have a place to gather for annual reunions and enjoy the best of the Pacific Northwest in the summers, rather than rent various other places on the East Coast, where their families live.

“The real estate agent said the house had great bones, and it did,” said Ayers. “We had to strip all the floors, redo a lot of the walls, clear all the wood. It came back beautifully after an intensive effort. We redid it inside and out. And there was a separate very large pool-house which we completely redid as well and added a gym.” It turned out to be the perfect place to spend quality time with each other, with immediate and extended family, and friends, as well as a perfect place to entertain and throw great parties. “We’d often come up in April and stay to October,” he said. The Ayres had a one-acre garden plus an orchard full of healthy fruit trees bearing apples, cherries, pears and plums. There are four fresh-water ponds with fish on the property, as well as a maze of paths winding through the acreage. Ayre’s favorite part of the house is a large river-stone patio on the eastern side of the house. “Every evening before dinner we sit out there, and early morning, drinking our coffee with the views of Lopez and Mt. Baker, the weather being nearly perfect,” he said wistfully. They both loved the breathtaking views looking out over Griffin Bay and the wildlife: bald eagles, red-tailed hawks, river otters, foxes and deer. Sue, who was an avid bicyclist, loved biking the island.

Check out the photographs from Clarity Northwest Photography to get a feel for this $20 million slice of island living.

Puget Sound Business Journal | March 2017
Patti Payne