Wondering about the state of the iconic “mansion” in Dandan owned by late billionaire Larry Lee Hillblom? The place is now owned by Coldwell Solar chief executive officer Dave Hood, who bought Hillblom’s house in August 2016 and is preparing to restore the multi-level property, which sits on five acres of land that leads to a secluded beach.
“I think I could fix and make it great again. So that’s my mission,” said Hood during a tour of the property last Saturday afternoon. He said he wants to bring the house back to its original state without making too many changes.
Hillblom, a co-founder and former owner of DHL Worldwide Express, died in a seaplane crash off Anatahan waters on a flight from Pagan Island to Saipan on May 21, 1995, leaving behind an estate worth approximately $550 million. The bodies of the pilot and a business partner were found, but Hillblom’s body was never recovered.
Hood now says he and his wife got a permit to clear the house in August 2018, and subsequently power was hooked and they cleared the house of vegetation last year. COVID-19, however, delayed the restoration work.
“We will start again this summer but we’re not really going to rush it. We just [want to] take the time to do it right,” Hood said.
Hood first got on Saipan in 2013 as he was looking for a place that was “Hawaii-like” and it was at that time when he heard from people about the Hillblom place. Hood said the house is actually structurally in pretty good shape. There was no electric power, though, so the first thing he did was get the power restored.
Hood said they then hired people to clear the building of vegetation and clear it of termites. “So we’ve cleared everything and it’s ready to be restored. We’re just going to bring it back to life,” Hood said.
Hood said he got a new 55-year lease of the property.
The house, which was soon abandoned after Hillblom’s death, became a derelict. Saturday’s tour showed that the house has no windows and there was nothing inside. The top deck and other parts of the building were littered with broken glasses. The swimming pool was filled with algae, dirty water, and other items. Tangan-tangan and vines covered the premises.
Hood said the condition of the property when he bought it was pretty bad as there were 25 years’ worth of growth from vegetation and trees and the structure itself was ransacked. “Most of it was covered by jungle. It was very sad,” he said.
Hood said he could not even recognize that a swimming pool existed outside the house.
Yet when he first found the property, Hood said he just fell in love with the property itself. “ I thought it was unusual at the time but I then realized there’s lot of properties like that here that’s just abandoned,” he said.
Hood said the restoration is going to be a lot of work and expensive, but it’s going to be worth it.