It’s not every day that you come across a 3700+ square foot, 4-level, Frank Lloyd Wright-inspired residence that is as captivating inside as it is outside. What makes real estate along these lines even more tantalizing, is when there is a fascinating, fairytale-esque story that accompanies the creation of the property.
Take 5650 Keems Lane for example. The story goes that the builder of the lavish MCM home, Nelson Keem Sr., did not start off as a home builder at all. The man actually grew up on a WNY dairy farm. Although he was successful in the farm business, it was a trip to Florida to visit a cousin who was building apartments that led to his first home designing and building venture.
What is especially interesting about all of this is that Keem knew zippo about designing and building homes. In fact, when he took his wife Marie to the land where 5650 Keems Lane stands today, and told her that this was the spot where he was going to build “her” house, she apparently laughed and told him that he was dreaming. After all, the land was essentially atop a cliff, overlooking wilderness and a creek (or crick, as they call it in the Hamburg neighborhood).
Maybe he was dreaming. But as we all know, many real life ventures start out as dreams. Without any real direction, the self-taught architect and builder began to jot down his drawings of the property, the house… the whole shebang. He was 29 years of age at the time.
Resolute and steadfast in his conviction and determination to build a sensational modern home, with magnificent vistas overlooking Lake Marie – a man-made lake that he would name after the love of his life – Keen ultimately fulfilled his promise to her.
The result was an opulent sprawling house that boasted flagstone from the same quarry as FLW’s Falling Water, an Italian marble floor in the kitchen, a starlit ceiling (with sunburst), a 100% concrete and steel staircase, flocked wallpaper, shag carpeting, glamour bathrooms, pink chiffon bedspreads, mirrored walls, a white Schumann baby grand piano, bleached mahogany built-ins, 3 wood burning fireplaces, and numerous patios for entertaining.
The entire place was built for entertaining – that was the main point, according to Kathleen Jones, realtor at Keller Williams who toured me throughout the compound.
“Can you imagine the parties? It must have been so lively back in the day,” said Kathleen, as we stood at the top of the endlessly-spiraling staircase, overlooking the living room area. “He harvested the cherry trees from the property and made those cabinets [pointing]. The natural lighting is incredible – the house is surrounded by nature, with lots of windows to view the natural setting. In the springtime it’s a palette of colors. Marie loved to sit outside. Inside she had her Gucci pillows, a room full of designer shoes and handbags, and her collection of dolls. I’ve become quite intimate with the house (and the story) because I signed up as project manager for the listing – I spent three weeks getting it ready for showing. What I love most about the house is how quiet it is – it’s built exceptionally well. It was not long after building the house that Keem would be awarded Builder of the Year. He ended up building all of the homes on Keems Lane, but one. The lane features Lake Marie… and Marie Drive is just around the corner. It’s an incredible listing, that has it all.”
Starting with meager means, Keem and his wife managed to create palatial accommodations for themselves, which they shared with their friends. Marie would spend time preparing the food “down below,” before bringing it up to the kitchen, where it would be served. The sensational soirées spoke of the Keem’s desires to live life to the fullest, but as we are painfully aware, all good things must come to an end. After the passing of his father, and then mother, Nelson Keem Jr. decided that it was time to hand the keys to the dream home to someone that could truly appreciate the posh domicile – the hope being that that person carries on the legacy that all began as an impulsive act of devotion, which led to a fulfilling career in WNY homebuilding.