If you are a Democratic politician getting wined and dined in D.C., chances are you've spent an evening or two at the Norton Manor, a faux-Old European estate in Potomac, Maryland that arrived seemingly out of nowhere last year. After a six-year renovation, the extravagant Neoclassical McMansion on nine acres, owned by the Indian-American technology entrepreneur Frank Islam and his philanthropist wife Debbie Driesman, is now fêting guests like Vice President Joe Biden and the Afghan ambassador. Apparently all you have to do to get well-connected politicians at your dinner table is build a pastiche of a Gilded Age mansion, an 18th-century French chateau, and (of course!) the gardens of Versailles in a rich suburb of D.C. Fittingly, the couple says they built Norton Manor as a tribute to the American dream. The Washington Post recently profiled the house, unloading a slew of facts about the place. Here now, 10 of the most interesting details:
10. This couple prefers Democrats. Just this year, they've hosted a dinner for Vice President Biden, a fundraiser for Senator Al Franken, and an event for Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley, among other important left-leaning politicos.
9. In a nod to bipartisanship, they had the anti-tax activist Grover Norquist over for dinner a few months ago.
8. When the politicians are busy, they invite over ambassadors from Finland, Kazakhstan and Afghanistan. The musician Herbie Hancock has also dined at the palatial Potomac estate.
7. Tours of the home are given, even though it is not historic in any way. However there is an 800-pound chandelier hung from the center of a Vatican-style dome.
6. $1.5M was spent on landscaping, and now there are 1,600 boxwoods, 11,000 outdoor lights, several artificial streams, waterfalls, and stone bridges. Also, there's a backyard teahouse with a koi pond and a reflecting pool.
5. There are his-and-hers offices. In these grand-yet-gendered rooms, visitors will find a model of the Oval Office's massive wooden Resolute Desk.
4. While there is definitely a faux-Old European vibe going on—the kitchen is painted to look like it is covered in 16th-century Dutch Delft tiles, and there are many English fireplaces—most of the furnishings were made in the USA.
3. There is an Art Deco-style party room with decorative patterns inspired by New York's Radio City Music Hall.
2. The house was built by GTM Architects, and decorated by DC interior designer Skip Sroka, who is known for his methods for hiding electronic appliances (so as to not detract from faux-Old European flourishes). He spent three years decorating this "American palace," as he called it in the Washington Post.
1. The property used to contain two ranch homes. Driesman and Islam donated one to the local fire department to burn in its training program. They demolished the other home.
· Norton Manor is a 40,000-square-foot residence on nine acres in Potomac, Md. [Washington Post]