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Norton Manor: Frank Islam and Debbie Driesman's Pride of Potomac

11:43 PM, Nov 28, 2013   |    comments
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POTOMAC, MD (WUSA9)--Frank Islam and his wife, Debbie Driesman, spent their first Thanksgiving in their new home, Norton Manor.  It's been 6 years in the making and as WUSA9's Andrea Roane explains, it is no ordinary house at 47,000 square feet. 

In addition to the main house there is a 9,000 square foot guest house and a tea house.  There are 14 bedrooms, 22 bathrooms, a movie theater, a gym, 60 chandeliers.  Never mind the number of kitchens.  The sprawling compound sits on 9 acres.  Some of the gardens are inspired by the Hampton Court Palace in England.  Another is inspired by the Rose Garden at the White House.

Frank and Debbie built their home, in part, as a tribute to their adopted country.  Both come from humble beginnings.  Debbie is the daughter of a Canadian mechanic.  She is the first person in her family to graduate from college.  Frank is from India.  His father was a farmer.  Frank came to the United States when he was 15.  Both are now U.S. citizens.

Frank worked for government contractors before starting his own company, QSS, with the help of federal grant money.  In 2007 he sold QSS Group, Inc. to Perot Systems for a reported $250-million.  Today he and Debbie fund technology start-ups and volunteer their time with various philanthropic interests. 

"We have been so blessed. It would be a shame if we didn't give it back," says Debbie.

Frank adds, "We are always guided through the faith of the old saying 'To whom much is given, much is expected.'"

Norton Manor is not only their home, it is also where Frank and Debbie host political fundraisers and events for their charitable interests.

US Presidential memorabilia is everywhere.  For example, the desk in Frank's library is a replica of the Resolute, the desk in the White House's Oval Office.

The grand foyer has a domed ceiling that reminds you of the one in the Capitol Rotunda or Statuary Hall. There are also hand-painted murals depicting Maryland landscapes. 

Downstairs in the Art Deco entertainment area there are murals of Washington landmarks.

"I think it is very much a showcase for artists," says Debbie, when talking about the Manor.  "We had 6 different faux companies work in the house. We had an extremely talented glass artist do a lot of lighting and sculptures for us."

The one thing that is obviously missing from the compound is a swimming pool. 

"Well my wife does not like to swim," says Frank.  "Therefore we do not have a swimming pool."

But there is a 2,000 square foot Koi fish terrace. There is also a reflecting pool in front of the Manor.

"I got the idea from the Presidential Palace in India," says Frank.  "And the Taj Mahal also has a beautiful reflecting pool.  It is indeed very nice in the evening, you can see the reflection of the house in the pool as well."

Norton Manor is also a green home, says Frank.  There are geothermal wells ad an elaborate solar system.  The last electric bill was for $5,000.

That is the only money Frank and Debbie will talk about.  They don't like to talk about how much they have spent to make Norton Manor a home.  But in a Wall Street Journal article, Frank is quoted as saying, "It's $30-million over budget."

"America has provided a land of opportunity for us to succeed," Frank tells WUSA9.  "We love this country very much.  We are of the notion that America is a great country and America is a country where you can aspire.  You can do a lot of things.  And you can renew and realize and achieve your dreams."

 


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