What is Foxcatcher?
Most in the amateur wrestling community would say it’s the much-anticipated film about Olympic wrestling brothers Mark and Dave Schultz. Serious filmgoers now know “Foxcatcher” as a movie that made its debut at the Cannes Film Festival in May, garnering great reviews, a best director award for Bennett Miller, and considerable Oscar buzz for the film, its director, and its actors.
The two hour, 15-minute film, now scheduled to be released November 14, tells the story of the Schultz brothers – 1984 Olympic gold medalists and collegiate wrestling champs -- and their involvement at the Olympic wrestling training facility run by multimillionaire John du Pont who murdered Dave Schultz in January 1996. “Foxcatcher” stars Channing Tatum as Mark Schultz, Mark Ruffalo as older brother Dave, and Steve Carell in the role of du Pont.
However, the public at large may not realize that “Foxcatcher” takes its name from Foxcatcher Farms, the name du Pont gave to the estate which had been his home his entire life, in Newtown Square, Pa. just outside Philadelphia. In the late 1980s – after the death of his mother -- du Pont turned Foxcatcher Farms into an elite Olympic-level wrestling training facility, home to his Team Foxcatcher.
This writer, who has written about “Foxcatcher” movie for more than two-and-a-half years as College Wrestling Examiner, and long before that, penned a five-part series about Dave Schultz’s murder for InterMat in 2006, only recently learned the fate of the facility known as Foxcatcher Farms.
This month, a good friend, Dennis Damm, a former wrestling coach who encountered du Pont at wrestling events, provided me with research materials including photos that show what’s been happening at Foxcatcher in the past 18 months. With Dennis Damm’s permission, I’ve put together this photo-feature on the fate of Foxcatcher.
Liseter Hall, John du Pont's home
At the heart of Foxcatcher Farms -- located just outside Philadelphia, in Newtown Square, Pa. -- was a mansion. The house, named Liseter Hall, was where John du Pont grew up and lived all but the last years of his adult life. Liseter Hall was built by the grandfather of John du Pont for his parents’ wedding. It was modeled after former President James Madison's home, Montpelier.
When du Pont’s mother Jean (who also resided in Liseter Hall) died in 1988, he constructed the Olympic wrestling training facility known as Foxcatcher Farms.
In January 1996, John du Pont shot and killed Olympic gold medalist wrestler and Team Foxcatcher coach Dave Schultz, who lived in a separate home on the grounds of Foxcatcher Farms with his wife Nancy and their two children, Alexander and Danielle. After murdering Dave in cold blood, du Pont fled to Liseter Hall, where he barricaded himself for two days, surrounded by police, before surrendering.
In January 2013 – seventeen years after the murder of Schultz, and a bit more than two years after du Pont died in prison for that crime – Liseter Hall was demolished to make way for a new upscale housing development.
Foxcatcher Farms becomes Liseter Estates
Presently, what had been Foxcatcher Farms is being developed into Liseter Estates by luxury homebuilder Toll Brothers. The Liseter website describes the development as “the only master-planned community in Newtown Square with classic Main Line architecture, a scenic convenient location, and spectacular on-site amenities.”
According to the Delaware County Daily Times, homes will range from 2,400-5,000 square feet. Estimated total build-out for the project is $325 million.
Single-family homes under construction at Liseter
This photo shows some of the single-family homes being built at Liseter Estates. In addition, the development will also feature townhomes.
According to the Toll Brothers website for Liseter, prices for townhouses start at about $500,000, while detached homes are priced from the low $600,000s to just over $1.1 million.
Historic barn stays, joined by new townhouses under construction
This photo not only shows the rolling terrain of the former Foxcatcher property, but also a contrast of the old and the new. In the background, townhouses under construction at Liseter. In the foreground, one of the few surviving features of the Foxcatcher Farms era: a historic barn. According to multiple sources, the 7,000 square foot barn will be converted into a community center for the new development.
Foxcatcher's natural beauty
This idyllic image shows a portion of what was once Foxcatcher Farms which has not been developed. The developer has said that large sections of the property will be left in their natural state. John du Pont had reportedly stated his original intent was for the property to become a nature preserve upon his death, but instead it was sold for development.
The house that plays du Pont's mansion in "Foxcatcher"
The original Liseter Hall where John du Pont grew up and lived until he was arrested for the murder of Dave Schultz in January 1996 was torn down in January 2013. Delaware County Daily Times reported that the developer had explored the idea of restoring the mansion, but to restore it would have cost $16-$20 million.
Filmmakers found a stand-in for Liseter Hall across the state, in suburban Pittsburgh. Wilpen Hall, located in Sewickley Heights, Pa., was constructed in 1900 for a family of wealthy industrialists, decedents who still live in the home.
Foxcatcher: The house, the poster
The now-gone Liseter Hall at Foxcatcher Farms in suburban Philadelphia continues to live on, as part of the "Foxcatcher" movie poster which was unveiled for the 2014 Cannes Film Festival in May. The image features a silhouette of John du Pont (as played by Steve Carell), with an image of a mansion inside.