Sunday, July 28, 2013

Two Great Country Estate ~ Lenox, MA.

Two great Berkshire estates: (Top) 'Bellefontaine', the long-time
estate of Giraud Foster, the last great Berkshire estate. (Bottom)
'Elm Court', the comfortable estate of Emily V. S. White. 
The Berkshires were long-since known for it's beautiful estates, though perhaps the most famous of these homes were the ones built by Giraud Foster and his bridge partner Emily Vanderbilt White. 

Giraud Foster ~ pictured beside of bust of his likeness,
Lenox, MA. 
'Bellefontaine' had been designed and built by architects Carrere and Hasting, in the style of Louis XV, for multi-millionaire Giraud Foster ~ known as "grand old man of Lenox". Originally built as his summer home, it later became his year-round residence. It was here that Giraud Foster became well-known, becoming one of the last of the wealthy resorters. It was often said that Mr. Foster's birthday celebrations were the most anticipated events of the Lenox season, with sometimes 100 guests filling the dining room at 'Bellefontaine'! 

Giraud Foster's 93rd birthday celebration at 'Bellefontaine'.
CIrca 1943. 

Giraud Foster designed the grounds of his estate with impeccable taste, a multitude of gardens and pools filled the grounds and fountains beamed across the lawns. With health always a priority, Giraud Foster walked from one to three miles a day on the grounds of his estate with the head superintendent, Edwin Jenkins, discussing current affairs and the development of the estate. 

The Palm Room wing, overlooking the East Parterre Gardens. Circa 1930's.
Photo: Taken by Robert Bruce. 
When Giraud Foster died at his estate ~ in his ninety-fifth year ~ it was truly the end of a very lavish era of entertaining and living. Never will it return, nor will it ever be repeated. 

Saturday, July 20, 2013

'Ochre Court'

A 1960's postcard of 'Ochre Court', Newport, Rhode Island. 

The wind blew as Robert Goelet ~ heir, hotel mogul and railraod developer ~ drove out the opulent gates of his family's massive Newport palace, 'Ochre Court', for the last time. The estate, which encompasses 50-rooms of stupendous luxury all designed by famed architect Richard Morris Hunt; making the estate the second largest home in Newport, had been donated by Robert to the Sisters of Mercy, which later formed into the Salve Regina University.  It had taken weeks to pack up the hundreds of thousands of furnishings inside the home, which would all be relocated to Mr. Goelet's new home, 'Champ Soleil', located down the street, which at 31 rooms was considerably smaller than 'Ochre Court'. The empty house sat locked up, with the Sister's of Mercy taking ownership of the house about a month later. The home, which is still in their possession, would serve as the basis of what would be the Salve Regina University; with other historic estates being purchased by the university, including nearby 'Wakehurst' and 'Vinland'. 

'Ochre Court' today ~ a marvelous survivor! 

Click HERE to read the full story of this extraordinary palace! 

Monday, July 15, 2013

"Oak Point" and Mona von Bismarck

One of the finest socialites of her time ~ the iconic Mona
von Bismarck, "The Kentucky Countess".
Mona von Bismarck was one of America's all-time greatest socialites, internationally famed for her sense of style and taste. Looking past her southern origins in Kentucky, she went on to marry Harrison Williams, said to be the wealthiest man in the world at the time, with an estimated fortune of $600 million ($7,800,000,000 in today's dollars); later she won the title of "Best Dressed Woman in The World", becoming the first American to do so. The Duchess of Windsor(1934) and Elsie De Wolfe(1935) would earn this title. 
Mona ~ inheriting most of her third husband's $600 million ~ would
end of being married a total of five times; remarrying twice after William's
death. Both husbands of whom, married her for money, much like she had
her previous three husbands.

Please visit this extraordinary pinterest page to read more:

Friday, July 12, 2013

The Stonors: A Forgotten Dynasty

Noreen Stonor Drexel (1922-2012); perhaps one
of the most famous members of the Stonor family.

In 1911, Ralph Stonor, 5th Baron of Camoys, in a desperate attempt to save his bankrupt family from having to auction off and sell their beloved country estate, 'Stonor Park', married Mildred Sherman, daughter of William Watts Sherman. Mildred, one of those famed dollar-princesses, was pushed into the marriage by her imperious, bible-bashing mother, who weighed an enormous 270 pounds! With the Sherman dowry, the Stonor family was able to save their beloved country estate; with Mildred purchasing every single antique and heirloom to save it. Besides 'Stonor Park', Mildred and her husband lived in Newport, RI, where her parents summered, at a home known as 'Stonor Lodge'. Ralph and Mildred had three children; Sherman (1913-1976), Nadine (1917-2005) and Noreen (1922-2012). To read more about this forgotten dynasty, visit my pinterest page; named "The Stonors Family".

Thursday, July 11, 2013

The Man Behind The Vanderbilt's

Senator Chauncey Mitchell Depew ~ As he appeared on his
eighty-sixth birthday. Circa 1920. Photo: Courtesy of the Robert
Bruce collection.

Senator, orator, father, husband ~ known most famously as the Vanderbilt family's personal lawyer and manager; having been brought in himself by the "Commodore". For the remainder of his life, he would become a prized family friend and confidant; being turned to on numerous family issues and crises. In 1899 he embarked on a twelve-year adventure in the U.S. Senate; becoming a United States Senator from New York (R-NY). 

Click to Read More:

Friday, July 5, 2013

"First Marry For Money, Then Marry For Love"

Alva Smith Vanderbilt Belmont ~ Circa 1919
"First marry for money, then marry for love" once said Alva Vanderbilt Belmont, referring to her first marriage to William K. Vanderbilt and then her later marriage to Oliver Belmont. Alva was perhaps one of the greatest socialites of all-time, even managing to trump over THE Mrs. Astor, who ruled New York's elite for decades. Never caring much for jewels, costumes or perfume, Alva won her title with her great passion for fabulous architecture, a love which she shared with her friend and architect Richard Morris Hunt. Commissioning her friend to design and build the grandest home in New York, she lived in equally palatial homes in Newport, Long Island, Paris and Washington DC. 

'Marble House' ~ Newport, RI. Designed and built by Richard M. Hunt.
Costing $11 million ~ $7 million of which was for the 500,000 cubic ft.
of marble ~ it was said to be the largest home in Newport at the time of it's
construction, later only being topped by the 'Breakers', built by her brother
and sister-in-law. Both are now in the hands of the Preservation Society. 

Click HERE for a fantastic story about this amazing woman, who spent her young life overcoming society and later turned to women's suffrage.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013


'Wilderstein' as it appeared in the 1980's, during Daisy Suckley's
last years of occupancy. Photo: Courtesy of Robert Bruce.
For exactly 139 years, 'Wilderstein' and it's acreage were owned by New York's imperious Suckley family. Built in 1852 by businessman and property investor Thomas H. Suckley, it was a two-storey villa designed by John Warren Ritch. The estate was quickly turned into a Queen Anne style country house with the renovations of Thomas's son, Robert, and his wife Elizabeth. The most defining changes were the addition of the five-storey tower, a third floor, attic and porte-cochere. The interior, the work of a cousin of Louis Comfort Tiffany, was done in the Historic Revival style, with mahogany, leather, stained glass and linen materials used. 

HABS NY,14-RHINB.V,4- (sheet 3 of 8) - Wilderstein, Morton Road, Rhinebeck, Dutchess County, NY
First Floor Plan of 'Wilderstein' Photo:
Library of Congress.
The estate was beloved by the Suckley family, who had lost most of their trade and shipping fortune during the Great Depression, and was the scene of a happy growing up for the Suckley's daughter, Margaret "Daisy". Daisy, a distant cousin and close friend of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, loved her childhood home and she inherited the home from her father. At the estate, she carried out her passion for breeding and raising dogs, one of which was Roosevelt's famous scottish terrier "Fala", which Daisy had raised and fed before presenting it to her cousin. A close intimate and confidante of the President, she frequently accompanied him on his trips and was a reappearing guest at the White House. 

Margaret "Daisy" Suckley poses on the lawn in front
of 'Wilderstein'. Photo: Courtesy of Robert Bruce.  

Both Daisy and Fala, along with another of FDR's close cousins the eccentric Laura Delano, were with the President when he died in Warm Springs, Georgia in April of 1945. After FDR's death, Daisy returned to 'Wilderstein', where she continued to pursue her interests and activities. She served as archivist at the Franklin Roosevelt Presidential Library on the Roosevelt estate 'Springwood' in Hyde Park, nearby her own beloved 'Wilderstein', until her retirement in 1963. 

Daisy Suckley in the white and gold salon of 'Wilderstein' ~ in her
90th year. Photo: Courtesy of Robert Bruce.
The last surviving member of her family, she decided, in 1983, to place her beloved home in the care of "Wilderstein Preservation", an organization she had started, dedicated to the restoration and preservation of her historic home, which she still retained life interest in. Daisy died in the bedroom of her beloved estate, in 100th year, in 1991. 'Wilderstein' continues to be preserved and maintained by the organization, which had slowly been restoring the decaying estate since 1991.

'Wilderstein' today ~ Circa 2013.

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