Talk of the Town

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Atlanta’s $14.7 million ‘safe house’ designed with family and fun in mind


It took six years to build, but the Rice House, the luxury Atlanta property that has quickly become famous for its high-end security, was more than sixty years in the making.

The $14.7 million, 36,000 square ft. compound in Country Club of the South was created by a self-made, octogenarian entrepreneur who wanted to build a home that embodied of all his boyhood dreams. 

A bat cave? Yes. Waterfall? Sure. Secret entrances and exits? You bet. Upper and lower motor courts? Um-hum. And the art museum, infinity pool, bowling alley, gun range, game room, solarium, spa, theater and play area that resembles something from Disneyland.

“He is an intellectual thinker and he is a super fun guy,” said listing broker, Paul Wegener of Atlanta Fine Homes Sotheby’s International Realty about the homeowner. “He dreamed as a child of building something like this. All these things you think about when you are a kid,” Wegener said.

The homeowner had planned to fill the eight bedrooms, 14 bathrooms, six partial bathrooms and three kitchens with family and friends. He had hoped the home would become a gathering place and a legacy for his family to pass from one generation to the next.

He was holding on to the home but ultimately other priorities won out. His son wasn’t much interested in living there and with much of his family on the West coast, the homeowner decided to sell his $30 million project. 

In building a home that would last forever and survive any foreseeable catastrophe, he sought out and worked with a team of the best architects, landscapers and security experts in the country. 

The process began with a full scale model and as construction continued, the homeowner would add different features that seemed cool. “He would say, ‘We’ve got more room, I want to add a gun range and a bowling alley.’ The scope of the project continued to grow,” Wegener said. 

Atlanta architect Charles Heydt brought to life their vision of the Greek Acropolis. Whatever standards were set by building code, the home was made to meet at least triple that requirement. The foundation and was dug to the rock bed, anchored with rebar and poured with concrete that can withstand 5,000 pounds of load per square inch. The exterior walls have the same level of strength. 

Al Corbi, renowned security expert, came in to make sure the security features of the home were part of the construction process. Reinforced walls, bulletproof windows and doors, concealed entrances and exits and an underground bunker, are just a few features that make Rice House one of the safest homes in the country. 

The home is also self-contained with projections that inhabitants could survive for three years on the property without outside assistance, Wegener said. 

There are three water sources -- municipal, three 1,000 ft. deep artesian wells and a reserve tank of purified water that would normally be used for irrigation on the property and topping off the pool and fountain.

Wegner was initially skeptical about the need for a house with such high-level security features, then he thought about events like 9/11.

“You almost don’t like to say survival, but suddenly it doesn’t become that far fetched. He was forward thinking,” Wegener said. 

It takes about two and a half hours for Wegener to walk prospective buyers through the property. And yes, there have been prospective buyers. 

But who, other than an owner with a vision would want a property like this? Maybe it could be a safe house for board members or executives of a major international corporation or a family haven for another successful entrepreneur in a high-risk industry.

So far, inquiries have been coming from outside and within the country. The security of the home has proven to be the biggest draw along with the level to detail that went into designing the home, Wegener said. 

There have also been some curiosity seekers who are clearly not serious buyers.

“The serious interest comes from the same crowd,” Wegener said. “This particular project is the cream of the crop for the amount of money spent and the degree of security.”

While the home is complete, the finishing touches have been left to the whims of the new owner. Wegener says it is the most unique home he has ever dealt with and it is important to him to find just the right buyer. 

“There are homes (in Atlanta) that are beautiful but were never constructed to this level of complexity,” Wegener said. “It was not just meant to be a massive compound. It was important to him to construct this property that would be enjoyable. It was ultimately for family and these other things were layered in. I am trying to find someone that will appreciate all of that.”


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About the Author

Nedra Rhone has been a features reporter with the AJC for 10 years. She’s written about everything from fashion to food to news.