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. 

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"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 

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