"The golden gleam of the gilded surface hides the cheapness of the metal underneath"

~Keeping Alive The Gilded Age Era; And The Mansions, Parties, Yachts and People That Made It So Gilded.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

The Eleanor Elkins Widener Rice Mansion, New York City


Eleanor Elkins Widener Rice had had quite an exciting and adventurous life for a socialite. She had started out being born to the enormously wealthy William L. Elkins and she grew up with her siblings at the family estate, Elstowe. She eventually married George D. Widener, whose also enormously wealthy family and their estate Lynnewood Hall was on acreage adjacent to Elstowe.





















The Wideners Were A Happy Couple, Who, Like The Rest Of Their Families, Were Quite Active In Philadelphia, New York City and Newport Society

Shortly after their marriage, the Wideners had plans drawn up for a large stone cottage in Newport RI, which they named Miramar. The mansion would be one of the largest in Newport, occupying several acres.


They immediately set off for Europe to gather furnishings for the home. On their return home, they boarded the new ship the R.M.S. Titanic, which was going on it's maiden voyage. On April 14 1912, the Titanic struck an iceberg and two hours later, on April 15, it sank to the bottom of the ocean, taking George D. Widener with it. Eleanor had made it off on one of the last lifeboats to leave the ship.





















Three Years Later, Eleanor Married The Explorer Dr. Alexander Hamilton Rice Jr., Who Was Famous For Exploring Dangerous Countries

As a memento to George Widener, Eleanor had Miramar completed and she lived their very frequently, along with her new husband, Dr. Alexander Hamilton Rice Jr., grandson of Republican governor and U.S. congressman Alexander Hamilton Rice. Eleanor also continued to reside at Elstowe, but by 1920, she and the doctor felt they needed a New York City townhouse and they commissioned Horace Trumbauer to build a fabulous New York townhouse that would be up to their standards. Construction was completed in 1923.

 The Beautiful Residence Was One Of The Few Great Mansions To Be Constructed During The 1920's

By the time the mansion had been completed, society had become younger, as many of the original members had died off, and they didn't feel compelled to maintain the large houses that their parents had found so necessary. Nevertheless the Rice moved in and promptly began to entertain lavishly. The lavish interiors were centered around a large courtyard. The ground floor held the stair hall, men and ladies' reception rooms, the servant's hall and the kitchens. The second floor held the salon, second floor hall, the dining room and the pantries. The third floor held the library, master suites and two guest rooms. The next two floors held guest and servant's rooms.

The Entrance Hall Had Beautifully Checkered Floors, Rather Modern Compared To The Floors Of Other Great Mansions


The Semi-Circular Stair Hall Had A Large Stair Landing Leading To The Circular Staircase, Which Rose To The Second Floor

The Ladies' Reception Room Was Especially Imported From France At A Cost Of $10,000, $136,000 In Today's Money

The Second Floor Hall Was Decorated With Several Antique Rugs, One Of Which She Had Wrapped Around Her When She Entered One Of The Last Lifeboats To Leave The Sinking Titanic



The Large Dining Room Was Frequently Used For Large Dinners And Parties, The Table Could Extend Out To Seat 30 People

The Beautiful Salon (Now In A Museum) Was Often Used As A Ballroom, It Was Mrs. Rice's Favorite Room In The House

The Third Floor Hall Looked A Lot Like The Second Floor Hall, The Same Statuary, Furniture And Floors




The Library Was The Only Room In The House Not Designed In The French Style, It Was Mr. Rice's Favorite Room

Mrs. Rice's Lovely Bedroom Was One of The Most Comfortable Rooms In The House, Designed Especially To Her Tastes

Mrs. Rice's Beautiful Bed Had Been Designed According To Her Specifications And Was Supposed To Fix Her Bad Back

Mrs. Rice's Office Area, Where The Millionairess Financed Her Husband's Expeditions And watched Over The Widener Empire

Mr. Rice's Small And Comfortable Bedroom Was Where He Planned Out He And His Wife's Expeditions Across The World

Eleanor died in 1937 and left an estate of $14 million. Her husband received the interest of the fortune, amounting to $1.4 million. Her two surviving children by George Widener, who had inherited massive fortunes from their father, were both given trusts of $3 million. Dr. Rice retained life tenancy of the Newport and New York City homes.

Meanwhile The World Around The Rice Residence Was Changing, Next Door Heiress Florence Twombly Built A Massive 70-Room Palace

In 1956, Rice died and the estate mansion was sold and demolished, along with the Twombly mansion next door. Today an apartment building occupies the spot.

1 comment:

  1. What an entertaining page! I was raised in Elkins Park, PA and believe my grandfather Frank Begley was one of the last to build on open lots there. On Meade Rd he purchased two lots and built large houses. I just came back from RI and saw the Miramar House, now private we couldn't access the grounds. Thank you for the information. My wife and I have started a media production company after the time period - 1890 Media. Please feel free to contact us!

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