Historic property transformed into beautiful estate

Annie Blanks | 315-4450 | @DestinLogAnnie |
The McIlroy estate took two years to complete and was built by combining three properties. Peter McIlroy's maternal grandparents first came to what is now Destin in 1938, and the property has been in their family ever since. ANNIE BLANKS/THE LOG

There are houses with a view. And then there’s the McIlroy home.

Set on five acres on Calhoun Avenue in Destin, the 9,000-square foot estate belonging to Peter and Pam McIlroy features four bedrooms, five bathrooms, two pavilions, an infinity pool, a boathouse and plenty of lawn and live oaks.

But what makes the property even more special is its history.

Peter McIlroy’s maternal grandparents Albert and Alice Fox first came to the area from Syracuse, New York, in 1938, before Destin was even Destin. The Foxes built a cottage on a lot that McIlroy said was owned by acclaimed “To Kill a Mockingbird” author Harper Lee. They lived next door to the Zerbe family and down the street from the Stahlman family.

“They built about five cottages and rented them out,” McIlroy said of his grandparents. “They had a nice life here … they were naturalists, they had a canoe.”

During World War II in 1943, McIlroy’s father Bob McIlroy was on a destroyer in the South Pacific and his wife Pat came to what is now Destin to live with her parents. When the war was over, McIlroy came to town to pick up his wife, and briefly considered staying, but decided “it was too small.”

So the McIlroys moved to Pittsburgh for the family business, Robroy Industries, and upon retiring in 1980 moved back down to Destin.  

“They bought the second property from Harper Lee and built the core of what this house is now in 1980,” McIlroy said.

Bob McIlroy helped lead the charge to incorporate Destin in the 1980s, and succeeded in becoming the town’s first mayor. He and Pat lived out the rest of their days in the home on Calhoun Avenue, with Bob passing away in his 70s and Pat passing away only a few years ago.

“She would sit right there at that window for hours, just watching the water,” said Pam McIlroy, pointing to the large center window that overlooks the yard and bay.

After her passing, Pam and Peter decided to come down to Destin and build an estate on the property. The self-described architect and design junkies bought two adjacent properties to accumulate five acres and spent the next two years constructing their modern estate, which features clean lines, tall windows and sweeping, unobstructed views of the bay.

“We had a vision of it looking different from most of the properties here, which are pretty densely populated with trees,” Peter McIlroy said.

“Our vision was to have a lot of lawn with big gracious trees spread out around it,” Pam McIlroy added. “We love the trees, that’s what makes it so pretty. We just got rid of the junk.”

To complete the home, the McIlroys worked with several local businesses, including general contractor TimmShores, architect Pat Ballasch and landscaper Andrea Connor with Lawnscape. The result is a sprawling mansion with picturesque vistas that the McIlroy’s nicknamed “paradise.”

The McIlroys also own a beachfront penthouse next to the Back Porch in Destin that they nicknamed “heaven,” and a 12,500-acre estate in Southern California. Peter McIlroy recently retired from his family business Robroy Industries, which manufactures electrical and oil field equipment.

The McIlroys spend about four months out of the year at their Destin home, but no matter where they live they say they are proud to have Destin in their blood.

“We’re all here because of Peter’s grandfather,” Pam McIlroy said. “We grew up coming here as a family. We all love Destin. This is our home.”