Upstate ‘panic house’ used by VIPs hits the market for $2.5M

New York Post

By Jennifer Gould
Feb. 8, 2022


Paranoid yet? Then we have the house for you: A safety sanctuary, tucked away on 8½  acres in Chester, NY, designed to protect its owners from acts of biological terror, war and natural disaster — like, perhaps, a comet crashing to Earth. 

It comes with its own private helipad and security gate house.

Inside, the bedrooms have secret exits and panic rooms, and an indoor pond in the library features its own filtration system to fish year round if the house is off the grid, while built-in planters in the foyer are used to grow vegetables and spices.

The four-bedroom, five-bathroom, 7,202-square-foot house at 19 Greentree Lane is back on the market for $2.5 million — down from its 2018 asking price of $3 million. 

“It was built as an emergency safe house and to be off the grid — and it’s just 15 minutes from Midtown by helicopter, or 60 minutes by car,” said homeowner Dave Vitalli, a US defense contractor, security expert and reality TV personality (“Maury” and “My Dysfunctional Family”).

An exterior of the Chester, NY, home.

Saudi royals have shacked up in the upstate mansion. Nest Seekers

An interior of the 19 Greentree Lane home.

The Chester, NY, home boasts 7,202 square feet of cedarific space. Nest Seekers

Vitalli is now running for Congress in Tennessee, “most probably” as a Republican. (He describes himself as a libertarian and says he is currently speaking to both parties. He also tells The Post that he plans to run for president in 2024.)

Although the house was originally built for overly cautious members of the Dow Jones family in 1986 by renowned architect Paul Rudolph, chair of Yale School of Architecture using 18th-century reclaimed wood from the original homestead and 20th-century reinforced steel — “in case of firefights in the home” — was able to scoop it up for just $389,000 in 1999.

The pool at the Chester, NY, home.

There’s an outdoor saltwater pool guarded by statues.

But over the years it has also housed African leaders during UN summits, Middle Eastern royals and security forces who trained with weapons there.  

“Since it’s private, we’ve done a lot of shooting, but it’s basically the fun house, where people come not to worry,” said Vitalli. “Princes from Saudi Arabia and the head of state from Jordan and others from the Middle East and Africa [have stayed here]. Since the helipad is here and we have armored vehicles, we’d pick them up from the airports and escort them to the property where they had their own little oasis to do what they wanted and know their families were safe and protected.”

The dining area inside the Greentree Lane digs.

The dining area inside the Greentree Lane digs. Nest Seekers

One Saudi royal, for example, flew to the property by himself in a 747 and another came in a 727 “filled with his wives.” 

“The main one would travel with him and the others would stay on the second floor — at least five women,” Vitalli said. “It was quite the entourage. He’d take them all to Woodbury Commons and they’d blow millions. They bought so much stuff that we had to send another vehicle.”

A bathtub inside the Chester home.

Nothing relieves approaching-comet anxiety quite like a good soak. Nest Seekers

Besides its proximity to Woodbury Commons, the property’s other amenties include an outdoor saltwater pool, kitchen, clay tennis court, koi pond and a white sand beach made from crushed limestone to replicate sand found on the coast of Africa.

There are also three different air filtration systems so part of the house can be locked down to conserve energy and there are storage rooms for art, documents and food.

That’s all not to mention the chef’s kitchen, ballroom, cigar room, media rooms and a wine tasting area. On the grounds there’s room to build a barn, horse stables or another home.

“This house is meant for entertaining,” said Vitalli, adding that many of the safe house’s other features are hidden and cannot be publicly revealed. 

What he can say however is that one bedroom’s emergency exit is hidden through a closet — like in the “Narnia” books — and leads to a hidden room and then eventually to an indoor/outdoor area.

An exterior of the home with waterfalls.

Let your stress flow away like so many waterfalls that adorn the home. Nest Seekers

“I will never be able to duplicate this house,” he said. “It’s really over the top. Every board in this house is cedar — today the reclaimed wood would cost millions — and the glacier-cut slate floors — you couldn’t do this now because of the cost. I will miss this house, but it’s time for the next owner to enjoy it.”

The listing brokers are Nest Seekers’ Shawn Elliott, currently starring on “Selling the Hamptons.” and Jamie Richichi. 


Shawn Elliott Shawn Elliott
President of the Ultra Luxury Division
Jaime Richichi Jaime Richichi
Global Luxury Real Estate Advisor