In the midst of one of our greatest recessions, economists are hotter than your last late afternoon romp in Widener stacks. This week, FM decided to journey over to one of the hottest (and economically sound) real estate investments around—the home of Professor N. Greogry Mankiw, one of Harvard’s favorite economists. What better home to investigate than his?
Brick Center Hall Colonial, built in 1932. Three stories. 6 bedrooms, 5.5 bathrooms.Location: Wellesley, MA.
Size: Approximately 6,500 square feet.
A blue 2002 BMW 330xi with an “EC 10” license plate is part of what makes Mankiw such a legend. On the back are two bumper stickers: one says LBI for Long Beach Island, where his parents have a summer home, and the other is a sticker in the shape of Nantucket Island, where Mankiw and his family vacation in the summer. Once inside his little Bimmer, the first thing the professor does is pull out two CD’s and ask “Vampire Weekend or Jason Mraz?” Even more legendary. We put on “Oxford Comma” and proceed to make the quaint 30 minute drive to the Mankiw abode in suburban Wellesley, MA.
The first thing you’ll notice rolling up the driveway of the Mankiw’s brick colonial house are the lush and rolling gardens that surround it. Tobin, the family’s border terrier, galumphs over, adding to the Hansel-and-Gretel-like atmosphere. Giant trees circle the property, with gigantic bees buzzing around and acorns falling from what seems to be either the very tall flora or the sky. “One of the things we wanted to do was have a nice garden in our backyard. We hired a very good gardener to come and plan and maintain it, and we grow tomatoes and peppers and other vegetables,” explains Mankiw. “My wife and I harvest the vegetables and there are some edible spices here. I have a few dishes that I even cook myself. I have a coq au vin recipe I really like.”
The view from the home is that of a peaceful suburban neighborhood, with similar-looking colonial homes all around.
Mankiw leads us to a little hammock by his children’s playground and describes his neighbors. “A psychiatrist and his family live over here to the left, while a cardiologist is here next door. It’s a stable community of professionals and their families. No real eccentricities,” he says.
“The house was built in 1932, which is kind of unusual because that was in the darkest times of the Great Depression, so not a lot of homes were being built. We bought it from the original owner, and she had bought it as a newlywed with her husband and had it for over 50 years,” Mankiw explains.
“It’s pretty much the same except for a few changes. We turned the screen and porch into a library. We put in a family room in the back where we hang out and watch TV and play games.”
THE LIVING ROOM
Walking into the home, a center hall greets you with rows of stairs climbing up three stories and a living room and dining room square off the sides of the space. We venture into the living room, the more formal of the family spaces. A piano sits to the right and several guitars are set up on the other side of the room, which his sons love to play.
“Our style is very traditional without being too formal,” Mankiw says. “We have some mementos, like old family heirlooms and photographs, mixed with more modern pieces like guitars. I fool around with the guitar myself.”
Clearly one of the professor’s favorite spaces, his excitement seems to grow once stepping into the sunlit library lined with walls and wall of books. Mankiw goes over to one shelf in particular. “Over here are all my textbooks in all different languages. This one is Polish. This one here is in Georgian. A bunch of crazy languages,” says Mankiw.
“Over here is my official portrait with the American flag in the background, and here we have a photograph of President Bush and I in the Air Force One.” Impressive.When asked if he has any favorite books, Mankiw replies “Besides my own? (laughs) I have some collections of some old Economic texts. I’m not particularly a collector of objects, but here we have some Alfred Marshall and some other famous 19th and 20th century economists.”
THE FAMILY ROOM
Appropriately, the Mankiw family room is one of the more casual of the living spaces in the home. “We added this on to the house when we had our third child,” Mankiw says. “This on the table is a game called ‘Cathedral.’ It’s one of those logic puzzle games. I was a chess player growing up, but no I’ve never played the chess master at ABP.” A giant plasma television rests against one wall showing that the Mankiws don’t only enjoy books and logic games, but also kicking back and watching some TV every once in a while.
“This part of the home is where we spend the most of our waking hours. These are granite countertops with matching cherry wood cabinetry. I personally love the skylights because they allow a warm soft light to fill this space,” explains Mankiw.What’s in the fridge? “Nothing special, standard junk. We love Whole Foods, so most of our food is from there. Here we have some yogurt, some chicken breast...a lot of stuff is organic,” Mankiw says. “We even have a butler pantry over here although we don’t have a butler (laughs). But there’s a cooler with tons of wine.
Favorite wine? “Currently I’m particularly a fan of New Zealand wine. Sauvignon Blancs.”Making our way over to the formal dining room, Mankiw starts to get a little nervous as the table is in a state of disarray, covered with the children’s schoolbooks and homework. “I might get in trouble for this,” he says. “I don’t think my wife wanted us to come in here.”
Apologies, Mrs. Mankiw.
Leaving the home, there’s a rosary resting atop one of the tables. Mankiw explains, “We’re not Catholic, it’s just that my son visited Spain over the summer and he brought it. I grew up Ukranian Orthodox actually.” At this point, Tobin comes galloping in and Mankiw’s brother-in-law passes by, carrying a leash. How perfectly suburban and adorable.