Saturday, December 29, 2012

Ocean Lawn, The Firestone Estate, Newport RI

In the early 1950's, millionaire Harvey S. Firestone, son of the founder of Firestone Tire & Rubber Co., decided he and his wife, Elizabeth Parke, needed a proper summer home. Harvey suggested Long Island or Lenox. Elizabeth had somewhere else in mind, Newport. 

Mrs. Firestone Was Extremely Caring Of Her Appearance, Having Hours Spent On Her Hair Alone, Wherever She WEnt, She Always Brought An Extra Pair Of Gloves, Shoes, Jewelry And Cosmetics

Elizabeth convinced her husband to buy Ocean Lawn, a sprawling 1888 Peabody & Sterns mansion overlooking the water on the corner of Narragansett Avenue and the Cliff Walk. They bought the home for some $70,000. They also bought the mansion next door to them, Southside Cottage, demolished the existing home and had a magnificent pool and garden built on the land. 

Elizabeth Parke Firestone With Her Father, Guy Parke. The Firestone's Were So Wealthy That The Bank That Had Held Their Money Could No Longer Hold All Of It, So The Firestones Built Their Own Bank, Used Only By Firestones 

Mrs Firestone had developed a wonderful collection of clothing over the years (often boasting she had so much clothing that she never had to wear anything more than once) and she needed a place to store all of it. The closet that had originally been at Ocean Lawn was completely inadequate for her needs, so she decided to expand. The two guest bedrooms next to her bathroom suite and the three servant's rooms next door were torn down and all turned into one large closet. Still not enough. Then she tore out all the rooms above that, making it two stories. Still not enough. So she had a large out building built on the property, dedicated only as her closet. Finally, that was enough. 

Harvey S. Firestone Jr Died in 1973, Leaving A Fortune Around $30 Million To Elizabeth 

With Harvey's death, Elizabeth retired to Ocean Lawn permanently, she would live there year round till the end of her days. Mrs Firestone still continued to spend and live extravagantly. She emptied the Firestone's New York City townhouse of it's rare collection of Jamaica furniture and shipped them to Newport. When it arrived, Elizabeth realized that she had no room at Ocean Lawn to put it all. So, to solve the problem, she bought the mansion on the other side of her property and moved the furniture there. 

"It is good for the furniture and life will be much more peaceful without neighbors" 
-Elizabeth Firestone

Shortly after, one of her favorite granddaughters was moving to Newport and needed a place to live. Elizabeth had a grand pool house built for her, overlooking the pool and the ocean. 

The Grand Pool House Elizabeth Firestone Had Constructed For Her Granddaughter, It Is Now A Private Residence 

Elizabeth died in 1990, leaving a fortune of around $13 million. Ocean Lawn was sold, the estate being subdivided. Elizabeth's rare Jamaica furniture was auctioned off and the mansion she bought to house it sold and subdivided. The Firestone heirlooms and antique furniture collection, as well as all of Elizabeth's famed clothing collection, were all auctioned off. The pool house was sold, along with the building Elizabeth dedicated to only her clothing. The new owner of Ocean Lawn have managed it well, though converted Elizabeth's house-sized closet back into three bedrooms and a large library. 

Friday, December 28, 2012

Vernon Court - A Newport Estate

Vernon Court is generally considered to be one of the grandest "cottages" in Newport. The estate, which occupies one entire block, was built for Mrs. Richard van Nest Gambrill, Anna, of Peacock New Jersey in 1898 as an adaption of a french 17th century chateau. The mansion was built and designed by the famed architects Carrere & Hastings, who had just recently built a mansion in Lenox, Massachusetts for Anna's sister, Jane Foster (wife of Giraud Foster) named "Bellefontaine". The estate remained in the Gambrill family until 1956, when it was sold. The mansion passed through several hands until 1998, when it was purchased by Laurence and Judy Cutler, who turned the mansion into the National Museum of American Literature. It survives as that today. 

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Doris Duke's 'Rough Point', Newport RI

doris duke
First built in 1887 for Frederick Vanderbilt as a tudor summer retreat (and later owned by William B. Leeds), Rough Point was bought in 1922 by the enormously wealthy James B. Duke, benefactor of Duke University and his second wife, Nanaline. After several major renovations (including the addition of a ballroom and service wing, and the removal of most of the tudor features) the Dukes moved in. The Duke's had one child, a daughter, which they named Doris

Doris Duke, The Billionairess, Philanthropist, Socialite, Art Collector, Preservationist And Founder of The Newport Restoration Foundation 

James Duke died in 1925, leaving the bulk of his entire fortune (a reported $100 million) to Doris, then age 12. Her inheritance also included the Duke mansion in New York City, Rough Point and Duke Farms in New Jersey. Because of her age, though, Doris couldn't claim her inheritance until she turn 21, 25 and 30. The fortune would be stored in a trust until she could claim it, the interest going to Nanaline. 

Doris Duke Was The Richest Girl In The World 

Rough Point, twice coming close to being sold by Nanaline, became one of Doris's most prized properties, second only to her beloved Duke Farms. After the New England Hurricane of 1938 and with the oncoming World War, Mrs Duke and Doris moved to New York City permanently, Nanaline emptying Rough Point of all it's furnishing and boarding up the house. When she died in 1962, Doris returned to Newport and turned her attention to Rough Point. She began purchasing art and antiques for the house, which she combined with Duke Family heirlooms. She continued to collect furniture for the home, summering there May through November. 

The Ballroom/Music Room At Rough Point, Added By Horace Trumbauer For James B Duke 

In 1966, Doris and her interior designer, Eduardo Tirella, were leaving Rough Point by Station Wagon when Tirella got out to go unlock the gates. Doris slid over to the driver's seat and accidentally hit the accelerator, catching Tirella with the car and dragging him across the street, where he was crushed up against a tree, killing him instantly. Doris was not charged and Tirella's death was recorded as a accident, a shockingly speedy resolution. Coincidentally, a week after the case, Doris wrote out a check for $25,000 to restoring Newport's Cliff Walk (something she had always been firmly opposed to) and 5 months later Police Chief Joseph Radice (The man who had led the investigation) suddenly retired. 

In 1968 Doris and her friend Katherine Warren (Founder of the Preservation Society of Newport) established a plan to preserve several of Newport's colonial homes. Doris named her new foundation The Newport Restoration Foundation. The foundation would be one of Doris's favorite charitable organizations, she would end up donating millions to it. 

Newport Restoration Foundation, Founded by Doris Duke

In 1993, Doris died of a stroke at her Falcon's Lair Estate. She had appointed Bernard Lafferty, her notorious butler, and Marion Oates "Oatsie" Charles, a famed Newport and Georgetown hostess, one of Duke's closest friends, as co-executors of her $1.3 billion estate. Lafferty died in 1996, and new executors were appointed. They included Harry Demopoulos (debtor to the estate), J. Carter Brown, Marion Oates Charles (the sole trustee from Duke's last will), James Gill and John J Mack. Today, Rough Point is owned and managed as a house museum by The Newport Restoration Foundation, where Marion Charles still serves as President. 

Monday, December 24, 2012

The Collis P Huntington Residence, 5th Avenue

Here is a postcard of The C. P. Huntington mansion on Fifth Avenue. It was built by George B Post for Huntington and his wife, Arabella. The fortress was one of the largest homes in New York City, second only to it's neighbor, The Cornelius Vanderbilt II mansion. The Huntington's crammed the home with antiques. paintings and tapestries. Arabella had originally wanted a much larger mansion on the plot, but Post refused to build such a large home. Since the mansion was already atrocious, it is hard to imagine what Arabella had had in mind for the size of her mansion. 

For More, Click HERE

Photo Courtesy of GAE Collection. 

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Wakehurst, The Newport Estate of Mrs. Louis Bruguiere

In the 1960's, with FOR SALE signs popping up everywhere, one private estate remained, Wakehurst, and no signs would be popping up on it's front lawn anytime soon. It's occupant, Mrs. Louis Bruguiere, the former Daisy Post Van Alen, was not only super wealthy but had been living in the mansion for over 45 years. Wakehurst had been built by James J. Van Alen, a noted playboy and art connoisseur, as a summer home for him, his wife, Emily Astor, and their three children. On his death, the estate had passed to James L Van Alen, his son, who had been Daisy's first husband. When he died in 1927, Daisy inherited everything, including Wakehurst. 20 years later she married yachtsman Louis Bruguiere. He died 6 years later, leaving Mrs Bruguiere alone in regal splendor. 

Pinned Image
"Wakehurst is the last estate in Newport to be Properly run" 
-Mrs. Louis Bruguiere 

Mrs Bruguiere continued to run Wakehurst and the grounds just as they had been run back in the 1890's. Daisy had always been exacting in her tastes. Meals start on time, and if one is late, they don't get served. One Newport debutante remembers being invited to dinner at Wakehurst. She arrived late and nothing but silence from her hostess greeted her as the butler ushered her into the Dining Room of Wakehurst. Since they were just finishing eating the main meal when she arrived, she was served desert. It was 4 years before she was invited back to Wakehurst. 

When entering through the Spanish Gates onto the grounds of Wakehurst, it would be like stepping back into Newport's Gilded Age. Trees 80 years old that had been planted when the estate had been built, still lined the driveway. The same crystal candelabra that had brightened the ballroom during James J's residency, still imperiously stood by the windows. The Entrance Hall looked the way it did 70 years ago and the books in the library, antiques of course, were still in the same place they had been 60 years ago. The same chef that had prepared dinners for James L Van Alen as a child, still prepared meals for Mrs Bruguiere and her children. Wakehurst was untouched by time. 

It is likely Wakehurst was the last home in Newport to be run in this manner, tastes, taxes and the servant problem made it that way. But, what made it last so long, was Mrs Bruguiere's determination for no change. It was only at her house that you could find a kitchen boasting it's own French chef, one of the last in Newport, and the brass-cleaner only cleaning the brass. 

Interior photos courtesy of LOC, Painting courtesy of GAE Collection and exterior photo courtesy of the Salve Regina University. 

To Read The Original Post About Wakehurst, Click HERE 

Thursday, December 20, 2012

The Residence of John R. Drexel , Newport RI

"As a feudist Mrs. Fish was unequaled and she particularly enjoyed her altercations with other Newport hostesses. Mrs. John Drexel had a male secretary who was her inseparable companion. One day a friend of Mrs. Drexel came up to Mrs. Fish. 'Mamie, have you seen Cousin Alice?' she asked. 'I've looked everywhere in the house,' she added anxiously. 'No,' replied Mrs. Fish. 'Have you looked under the secretary?' "
-"The Last Resorts"

The John R Drexel residence in Newport RI was a lovely, though modest, residence along Bellevue Avenue. The home was occupied until the Drexels moved into another Newport estate, Fairholme, which they had bought for $123,000. Their son, John Jr. lived in the home with his wife and family during the Summer Social Seasons. When his father sold Fairholme and moved to Paris, he stayed behind, still living in the house. When he died, followed by his wife, their son John Drexel III, who lived at his mansion, Stonor Lodge, just down the Avenue with his wife, Noreen, sold the estate and grounds. He died in 2007, followed by his widow in 2012.

Mrs John R Drexel, Aunt of Mrs Harry Lehr, Later Lady Decies 

Phot: Courtesy of Providence Public Library 

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

John Astor IV Mansion Entrance Hall

Above is a photo of the Entrance Hall in the John Jacob Astor IV Mansion in New York City. The Mansion had been built by Richard Morris Hunt for John's mother, Caroline, Queen of New York City Society, as a double palace for her and her son. When she died in 1908, John had the mansion converted into one massive residence. The mansion was demolished around 1926 and replaced with the Temple Emanu-El, New York City's largest synagogue. 

For More Click The Folowing Links:

Photo: Courtesy of Tyler Hughes Collection, Via Batterson & Gisele Architecture Article 

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

My Newport

On October 26, the New York Social Diary published a wonderful article on Newport RI and the residents/socialites who live there today. The post is well written and includes awesome photos by Nick Mele and Alex Kendall of the numerous residents of this magnificent City By The Sea. The Photo above, taken by Nick Mele, is of Howard Cushing III, his wife Nora and their two sons in front of their historic compound, The Ledges, overlooking Bailey's Beach. The Ledges has been owned by the Cushing Family ever since it was built, Howard being the great-grandson of the original builder. 

To Read The Fabulous Article, Click HERE.
To Read More About The Ledges and The Cushing Family, Click HERE

Photo, Courtesy of NYSD, Taken By Nick Mele. 

Monday, December 17, 2012

A Cabinet That Could Afford It

A cabinet that could afford it

"There is not in my cabinet one man to whom it is not a financial disadvantage to stay
in the cabinet"
- President Roosevelt at Asbury Park

This comical illustration, made in 1905, depicts 6 men and one woman sitting at a table and two men standing behind them, each given a cabinet position. (Seated: Left to Right) J. P. Morgan ($25.2 Billion) as "Sec'y Navy", Thomas W Lawson ($1.3 Billion) as "Sec'y War", Thomas Ryan Fortune ($3 Billion) as "Att'y Gen'l", Russell Sage ($1.8 Billion) as "Sec'y Agric", Henrietta "Hetty" Green ($3.* Billion) as "Post Mistress Gen'l", Andrew Carnegie ($297 Billion) as "Sec'y State" and John D Rockefeller ($663 Billion) as "Sec'y Treas. Behind them are (From Left To Right) James J. Hill ($2.5 Billion) as "Sec'y Int." and James Hazen Hyde ($7.7 Billion) as "Sec'y of Com. and Lab.".

Photo, Courtesy of Library of Congress.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Inside The Newport Estate of Eileen G Slocum

The Grande Dame Herself Chatting With A Friend At Her Newport Estate, The Harold Brown Villa
"At several different times we had three different houses in Washington and two different 
houses in Germany and a house in Egypt that was like a palace
and then a house in Belgium
We lived a very adventurous life"
-Eileen G. Slocum
Eileen Slocum was the Dowager of Newport for many years, ruling over society from her home, the Harold Brown Villa, which had been in her family for generations. The home was built by her uncle,  Harold Brown, and her aunt, Georgette Brown, who inherited the house on Harold's death. It was from her aunt that Mrs Slocum inherited the estate. She lived there for many years with her husband, John Slocum, a noted diplomat and scholar. She was active in politics, serving as Rhode Island's Republican national committeewoman for 16 years. Eileen Slocum died in 2008.

Photos Courtesy of G. Wayne Miller and Aoneko

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Elm Court, Newport

Elm Court is today the Newport home of Guy and Mary Van Pelt. It was originally built in the 1860's by a wealthy farmer, who named it The Cedars. From them it was bought by Frances Ellen Work Roche, heiress of a large New York City fortune and a twice divorcee. She lived at The Cedars (which she had renamed Elm Court) with her daughter, Cynthia, who later married Guy Fairfax Cary. Cynthia Cary lived in the home until her death in 1966, after which it passed to her daughter Cynthia Van Pelt. Her son, Guy, lives in the home today, along with his young wife, Mary. 

Guy And Mary Van Pelt In The Reception Room of Elm Court, Which Is Famous For It's Large Collection of Furniture (Photo: New York Times) 

The Lovely Painting In The Reception Room of Elm Court 
(New York Times)

In 2008 a fire completely destroyed the second and third floors of the carriage house, although the building was salvaged. Mr Van Pelt saw the fire and attempted to put it out with a fire extinguisher, but failed and sounded the fire alarm. The fire department quickly arrived and put out the fire. 

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Newport Home of Ruth Buchanan Wheeler

Beaulieu, the Bellevue Avenue residence of Ruth Wheeler. Ruth was the wife of the late diplomat Wiley T. Buchanan, who was President Eisenhower's chief of protocol. They purchased the home back in the late 1960's. The home, then, was a decaying dump, but was beautifully restored by Wiley and Ruth. Ruth, now twice a widow, still lives at Beaulieu today. 

For More on Beaulieu, click HERE.

Photo from New York Social Diary

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Delmonico's Restaurant, Fifth Avenue

Delmonico's was New York City's first grand restaurant. It was owned by the Delmonico family, who opened locations all over New York, one on Beaver Street, one on Madison Avenue, William Street and Fifth Avenue. It catered many great events and parties held during the Gilded Age and the Delmonico family made a fortune in just a few years. The restaurant closed in 1923 and was demolished soon afterward. Delmonico's, today, though out of family hands, is still a popular restaurant, coincidently located at the former Delmonico's Building on Beaver Street.  

For More, Click One Of The Following Links: 

Delmonico's History 
Delmonico's Restaurant, New York
Home Page, Delmonico's 
The Delmonico's Building 

Photo Courtesy of NYPL

Friday, December 7, 2012

The Entrance At Pelican Lodge

The Entrance to Pelican Lodge, presided over by a white stone Pelican. Pelican Lodge is the Newport "cottage" of Nuala Pell, wife of Newport Senator Claiborne Pell. The home was in fact built by her husband, on the grounds of her family's estate The Waves. More will follow on Pelican Lodge. 

Click HERE To Read About The Waves Estate in Newport

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Ronnie And Brooke

Ronald Reagan (America's Greatest President) presenting the Presidential Citizens Award to New York City Grand Dame and famed philanthropist Brooke Astor, wife of Vincent Astor. Ronald and Brooke were exceptionally close friends and she was a regular guest at the White House during his presidency. 

To Read President Reagan's Remarks On The Event, Click HERE
To Read More About Brooke Astor, Click HERE.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Beaulieu "Cottage" Newport

Pinned Image

Built in 1856-1859 for Peruvian Frederico L. Barreda; designed by architect Calvert Vaux. John Jacob Astor III bought the estate in 1879 and renamed it "Beaulieu." 
 His son William Waldorf Astor assumed ownership in 1888. In 1901 Cornelius ''Neily'' Vanderbilt III and his wife, Grace Graham Wilson, took a long-term rental on the villa and eventually purchased it.  During the 1950s it fell into disrepair and remains a private residence.

-Larry Tenney 

For More on Beaulieu, Click HERE, HERE, and HERE.

Photo courtesy of The Robert Yarnall Photograph Collection 

Monday, December 3, 2012

Out And About: Mrs Vanderbilt At A Store Along Fifth Avenue

The Imperious Mrs Cornelius Vanderbilt III, nee Grace Wilson, returning to her Rolls Royce limousine from a clothing store along upper Fifth Avenue. Her chauffeur, two steps ahead of her, named Henry, waits to open the limousine's door for her. Mrs Vanderbilt never left her New York City home, 640 Fifth Avenue, without one of her many fur coats, her silver fox wrap, white gloves and one of her expensive hats, which were custom made for her. 

To Read About Mrs Vanderbilt's Fortress-Like Home, 640 Fifth Avenue, Click HERE.
To See More About Mrs Vanderbilt, Click HERE.

Photo Courtesy of The Tyler Hughes Collection

Saturday, December 1, 2012

The Last of New York City's Grand Mansions, Part 1

The declining of New York City's grand Fifth Avenue mansion could be dated all the way back to 1913, when congress passed America's brand new Income Tax (another way the Government chooses to tax American citizens). This process was speeded up with the end of World War I, when land prices skyrocketed. 

"Traditionally, the Great Depression is cited as the cause
for the end of the Great House era.
However, the economic collapse was merely the "coup de grace"
for an already defunct tradition .
The Declining Years actually began around the end of World War I. 
Several factors contributed to the demise of the Great House:
a shortage of servants brought on by the severely restrictive 
Immigration Act of 1919;
the first income tax was instituted in 1913; and immediately following the end 
of the war, escalating land values in Manhattan discouraged even
the very rich from building single-family residences"

Michael C. Kathrens 

With all of these factors contributing, it became very hard for even the super wealthy to maintain their palaces along Fifth Avenue. 

Alva Belmont's Chateau, The Mansion That Started The Great House Era, Was The First To Go, Demolished in 1926

Not Far Behind Was The Astor Mansion At 65th Street, Which Made Way For The Temple Emanu-El In 1926
Click HERE To Read More About The Astor Mansion

The following year, Alice Vanderbilt, widow of Cornelius Vanderbilt II, finally was forced to give up the block-long Vanderbilt mansion to developers. The massive home was the largest home ever built in New York City. The home made way for the Bergdorf Goodman Department Store. Alice moved to the much smaller George Gould mansion. 

The Massive Vanderbilt Fortress, Overlooking The Grand Army Plaza, Made Way For The Sleek Department Store That Stands There Today

Click HERE To Read More About The Vanderbilt Mansion 

With The fall of the Vanderbilt Mansion, so went the rest of the area. Quickly following the Vanderbilt mansion's demolition, was the leveling of the Arabella Huntington mansion, also in 1927, the Elbridge T Gerry mansion and then the Mary Mason Jones mansion, both in 1929. Quickly, mansion after mansion along Fifth Avenue was demolished to make way for massive skyscrapers and commercial buildings. The surviving homeowners were practically fighting a war.  

Mrs Cornelius Vanderbilt III, Grace, Refused To Give Up Her Brownstone Fort At 640 Fifth Avenue, The Last of The Vanderbilt Homes (Photo From Robert Bruce)

The Vanderbilt Mansion, 640 Fifth Avenue, Was The First Of The Vanderbilt Homes Along Fifth Avenue, It Was Also The Last

640 Fifth Avenue, Towered Over By Hundred of Skyscrapers, The Mansion Was Finally Demolished In 1947

Click HERE To Read More About 640 Fifth Avenue

The 6-Story William Watts Sherman Brownstone, Then Occupied By His Widow, Seemed Small Compared To The 20-Story Skyscrapers Around It, The Home Was Demolished In 1950 

Click HERE To Read More About The William Watts Sherman Mansion

The George F. Baker Jr Mansion, Occupied By His Widow Until 1958, It Survives Today As The Russian Orthodox Church 

The William Starr Miller Mansion, Later Owned By Grace Vanderbilt After She Sold 640 Fifth Avenue, Still Survives Today As The Neue Gallery 

Click HERE To Read More About The William Starr Miller Mansion 

Another dowager who refused to give up her home was Harriet Alexander, widow of Charles B Alexander. Although her home was engulfed by commercial invasion, she still ran the house just as it always had. She eventually got sick of the skyscrapers and moved to Paris, although she still kept her New York City mansion. 

Harriet Alexander Was Determined Not To Let Her Home Have The Same Fate As The Other Demolished Mansions
The Alexander Mansion (right) Up Against The Bergdorf-Goodman, The Mansion Was Demolished In 1940 

Click HERE To Read More About The Mrs Charles B Alexander Mansion


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