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Opening wallet, and mansion, for political causes

Vahan H. Gureghian has made the massive house he built on the Main Line a prime fund-raising venue.

The Gladwyne estate, valued at an estimated $13.5 million, contains 10 bedrooms, 11 bathrooms, and a "great hall" that can hold 200. (Eric Mencher / Staff Photographer)
The Gladwyne estate, valued at an estimated $13.5 million, contains 10 bedrooms, 11 bathrooms, and a "great hall" that can hold 200. (Eric Mencher / Staff Photographer)Read more

At 30,652 square feet, a French-inspired brick-and-limestone mansion in Gladwyne built by Vahan H. Gureghian is one of the largest homes on the Main Line, surpassing the famed Ardrossan homestead in Radnor and the former residence of Walter Annenberg in Wynnewood, now owned by Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie.

Gureghian, a lawyer who operates the state's largest charter school, Chester Community Charter, built the home on 7 1/4 acres on Merion Square Road.

It features 10 bedrooms, 11 bathrooms, four wood-burning fireplaces, a two-lane bowling alley, a wine room, a media room, several bars, a "great hall" that can hold 200 guests, and a moat.

The house was completed in early 2007. Its estimated market value in 2008, according to the assessor: $13.5 million, with annual property tax of $181,462.

Gureghian said in a statement that he had worked since he was 10 and over the years pursued a variety of ventures including promotional sales, real estate and a weekly newspaper.

He's also an accountant and a lawyer, having become at 39 a managing partner at the former Center City law firm of Clark Ladner. He went on to become a partner at Obermayer Rebmann Maxwell & Hippel L.L.P.

He stopped practicing law to run the charter school, but he still operates Matt Outdoor, a billboard company that holds permits for 11 signs in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware, officials said.

Gureghian, who declined to be interviewed, also has been a political player in Delaware County, where he used to live, and in Montgomery County, where in June he became finance chair of the county's Republican committee.

He and his wife have contributed $752,429 to candidates and committees since January 2000, mostly to Republican efforts, records show.

The mansion became a perfect venue for political fund-raisers. For many guests, the chance to see the mansion is as much a draw as the hobnobbing, said Montgomery County Commissioner Bruce L. Castor Jr., for whom Gureghian has hosted fund-raisers. "The closest thing I can compare it to is photographs I have seen of Versailles," Castor said.

In addition, Gureghian has donated $127,416 to Castor's campaign coffers since mid-2007. Since mid-May, when Castor ally Robert Kerns became chair of the Montgomery County Republican Committee, Gureghian - who had not contributed money to it before - has given the group $85,125. Kerns declined to comment.

Gureghian declined to allow a reporter to cover a June fund-raiser for a Republican state Senate candidate. The candidate, Lance Rogers, said the "phenomenal" event had exceeded his expectations.

Several neighbors said they were not bothered by the size of the Gureghian mansion- or the frequent political events.

"The guy has lived out the American dream. I think it's fantastic," said Shanin Specter, a neighbor and son of Republican U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter.