Tuesday, December 31, 2013

The Stately World of Newport

Being fitted for a costume ball, Mrs. Sheldon Whitehouse tries on a 19th
Century Gown long treasured in a trunk.
Harold Vanderbilt and guest Winthrop Aldrich look out to sea from the
fog-shrouded lawn of Vanderbilt's Newport mansion, Rock Cliff.
In a Newport mansion a lady stood stately and erect while her maid pinned her gown. On the lawn of a palatial Newport estate two yachtsmen gazed wistfully toward the sea. They were all anticipating the excitement and splendor that they and the famous resort once knew - and would never forget. In Newport's grandiose prime a half century ago a party wasn't really a party in one of the great marble homes 200 guests, attended by 100 knee-breeched footmen, sat down to dinner before solid-gold plates. The grandeur has simmered down since then, but enough of it remains so that, on the proper occasion, the elite can once again perform extravagantly.
     This week, such an occasion arises with the sailing of the America's Cup races off Newport's shores. Mansions maintained by nostalgic owners with skeleton staffs of four to eight servants will come alive with lights and polite revelry. In great houses that have been turned into museums there will be enormous receptions. Harold Vanderbilt, victorious skipper in the 1903 America's cup defense, will reign as the resort's patriarch. The younger New Guard of Newport will, for this occasion, join with the Old Guard in a collective effort to show when Newport decides to entertain is has no peer for pomp

          ~ LIFE Magazine, September 21, 1962. 
Click HERE to read the full article, which also includes pictures of many of the Newport socialites and cottages. 

Monday, December 30, 2013

Seafair - a.k.a "The Hurricane Hut"

'Seafair' - The V. Reed Cottage

In the 1930's, Verner Z. Reed Jr. (1900-1986); Vice-President of the Chase Manhattan Bank and later appointed Ambassador to Morocco by President Reagan; called upon British architect William Mackenzie to design for him and build an impressive mansion upon a monumental seaside plot of land. The cottage, once completed, was said to be the last of Newport's famed "cottages" built along the sea. 

After a series of massive hurricanes that hit the house ~ earning it the nickname "Hurricane Hut" ~ which did particular damage since the house sat jutting out, exposed to the sea. The house was sold, and later divided up into condominiums. In the 1940's, the home was rented out to William Van Alen, whose mother, Daisy Van Alen Bruguiere lived at 'Wakehurst' a few miles down. In 1945, a Hurricane hit the home as Van Alen and his family were evacuating. Eventually water struck the three Van Alen Rolls Royce, filled with Van Alen, his family and their servants, which were on their way to Van Alen's brother's place, 'Avalon', which was on higher ground. Three servants died in the incident, and soon after, Van Alen and his wife, Bessie, headed out for Philadelphia. 

After a wave of owners, a few more wave crashes, Seafair was finally purchased by Rick Bready, chairman of Nortek Inc. in Providence, RI. He and his wife occupied the estate for about four years. In 2013, the couple listed their high-price estate for $19 million. They also listed a separate condo on the property for $3 million. Check out the links below for more information on the listing. 

254 Ocean Av, Newport Rhode Island

Seafair - A Historic $19 Million-Dollar Waterfront Property in Newport, RI

Seafair - $19,000,000


If you are interested in Newport and it's historic "cottages", or even have a general love for architecture and the Gilded Age, and have a Facebook, please ask to join my group, "Newport ~ Queen of Resorts" for plenty of information, floor plans, photographs and stories of Newport cottages and the people who lived in them. Please also give The Gilded Age Era's Facebook page a like, by clicking HERE, and showing us your support. To see photographs of many of the Gilded Age properties, including the Vanderbilt homes, Astor palaces, Widener estates and Rockefeller compounds, please visit my Pinterest account, by clicking HERE

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Demolition of Inisfada

'Inisfada' Front facade. 

Today, December 5, 2013, demolition was officially begun of the historic 'Inisfada' estate on Long Island, which happens to be the 4th largest home built in the United States. Built between 1916 and 1920, the estate was constructed for Nicholas and Genevieve Brady, a wealthy Catholic couple. After Mr. Brady's death, the house was willed to Genevieve, who in turn gave it to the St. Ignatius, who used the residence as a retreat house. In 1936, the home served as the base for Pope Pius XII during his U.S. tour. 75 years later, the home was listed up for sale by the institution, who decided to sell the place after previously auctioning off several furniture pieces dating back to the Brady ownership. It was sold for $36 million in August of this year, and was rumored to be demolished. After a last-ditch attempt by preservationists, demolition crews finally showed up this morning, ready to begin. Already, the solarium and many exterior walls lay in a pile of rubble. Here are some links regarding the estate and the demolition. 

'Great Gatsby'-Era Retreat House Dismantling Begins

North Hills OK's Inisfada Demolition Permit

Inisfada Furnishings Net $51K At Auction

Inisfada Sold To Developers For $36.5M

Preservationists Try and Bar Demolition of 87-Room Mansion

Gold Coast Goodbye 

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Kennedy Family - Book Recommendations!

"After Camelot: A Personal History of the Kennedy Family"
by J. Randy Taraborrelli 
The Kennedy family is perhaps one of the most iconic and well-known families in America today. Their lives have been the subject of hundreds of articles, films, TV shows and books. Originally descended from farmer John Kennedy, the family first gained notoriety for Joseph "Joe" Kennedy, who was appointed U.S. Ambassador to England. Patriarch Joe and his wife Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy (who would go on to outlive the majority of her family, dying at the age of 104 in 1995) gave birth to the most legendary of the Kennedy clan: JFK, Bobby Kennedy, Ted Kennedy. Then there were the glamourous Kennedy wives: most notably Jackie (d. 1994) and Ethel (-). Though JFK, his brothers and Jackie are dead, they continue to impact America and the world today (Most recently, the fiftieth anniversary of JFK's assassination.) The following is a list of great books I recommend about the Kennedy's and their influential lives. 

"Grace and Power: The Private World of The Kennedy White House"
by Sally Bedell Smith 

"These Few Precious Days: The Final Year of Jack with Jackie"
by Christopher Andersen 

"Capturing Camelot: Iconic Images of the Kennedys"
by Kitty Kelly 

"Portrait of Camelot: A Thousand Days In The Kennedy White House"
by Richard Reeves 

"Janet & Jackie: The Story of a Mother and Her Daughter, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis"
by Jan Pottker

Friday, November 29, 2013


'Merrywood': Circa 1920's. 

Overlooking the Potomac River, and located just a few miles away from George Washington's 'Mount Vernon', 'Merrywood' is one of the finest estates in Virginia, and is just northwest of Washington. Built around 1919, the 46-acre estate was purchased in the mid 1930's by Hugh D. Auchincloss II, who is most famous for being the step-father of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. Jackie, whose mother married Hughdie (as Auchincloss was called) when she was 13 years old, grew up at the estate, spending her free-time swimming, horseback-riding and playing tennis on the estate's grounds. Jackie's mother, Janet, was known for the series of lavish parties she hosted at the estate, earning the title Mistress of Merrywood

Jackie Kennedy with her mother, Janet Auchincloss, having tea with
one of Janet's many dogs on the grounds of 'Merrywood'. 
When not in Washington, the Auchincloss family spent time at their magical country estate in Newport, R.I., 'Hammersmith Farm', the last functioning farm in Newport. It was here that Janet and Hughdie would host Jackie's wedding to John F. Kennedy, a U.S. Senator from Massachusetts. Later, both 'Merrywood' and 'Hammersmith Farm' would serve as fundraising HeadQuarters for Kennedy's campaign for President. 

'Merrywood': Circa 1940's. 
With Kennedy's election as U. S. President, the couple was able to move out of 'Merrywood' and into The White House, though their visits to the estate were no less frequent! The Kennedy's visited 'Merrywood' so often, that it was officially given the code name "Hamlet" by the U.S. Secret Service. 

It was around this time, that Hughdie quietly listed 'Merrywood' for sale. With his once successful firm now taking huge losses, the financial burden of maintaining 'Merrywood' and 'Hammersmith Farm' was becoming too heavy for Hughdie. For years, he had been asking Janet to start economizing at 'Merrywood', which resulted in the layoff of many of the groundskeepers. Finally, in 1963, an offer was submitted for $650,000 (the estate was listed at $850,000). Hughdie accepted the offer, and with Janet purchased a four-story townhouse in Georgetown, a few miles down from The White House. 

John Dickerson, age 7, whose parents purchased 'Merrywood' in 1964. 
In 1964, 'Merrywood' was purchased by Wyatt and Nan Dickerson, who moved in with their son, John. In his book, "On Her Trail", John describes that  "before Barbara Walters, before Katie Couric, there was Nancy Dickerson. The first female member of the Washington TV news corps, Nancy was the only woman covering many of the most iconic events of the sixties. She was the first reporter to speak to President Kennedy after his inauguration and she was on the Mall with Martin Luther King Jr. during the march on Washington; she had dinner with LBJ the night after Kennedy was assassinated and got late-night calls from President Nixon. Ambitious, beautiful and smart, she dated senators and congressmen and got advice and accolades from Edward R. Murrow. She was one of President Johnson's favorite reporters, and he often greeted her on-camera with a familiar "Hello, Nancy." In the '60s Nancy and her husband Wyatt Dickerson were Washington's golden couple, and the capital's power brokers coveted invitations to swank dinners at their Merrywood estate on the Potomac.

Wyatt and Nan Dickerson, pictured at 'Merrywood' during the happier
times of their marriage.
Wyatt and Nan divorced in 1981, and together they sold the place in 1984 for $4.25 million to Alan and Dianne Kay, a high-powered couple who used the home to fundraise for their numerous charities. In the 90's, the home played host to Michael Jackson, who appeared at the home for the Kay's fundraising drive for the Capital Children's Museum. The home was sold for $15 million in 1999, and again in 2005 it was sold for $24 million, this time to Steve Case of AOL. The estate beautiful estate remains in his ownership today. 

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

The Met Is Dead! Long Live The Met!

Lily Pons bows graciously onstage at her curtain call,
while at the Closing Gala of the Metropolitan Opera.
On April 16, 1966, over 3,000 people packed the gilded auditorium of the massive Metropolitan Opera House on Broadway for it's Farewell Gala. A line-up of the Met's finest operatic stars would be featured that night, with curtain calls from some of their oldest singers. The long-time patrons gathered in their lush, golden first-tier boxes, collectively known as "The Diamond Horseshoe", named in honor of the 200-stone diamond necklace so frequently worn by Caroline Astor, almost 70 years ago! 

The gilded auditorium of the Metropolitan Opera on the night of their
Farewell Gala. 

Many of the Met's oldest families were represented that night. Cornelius V. Whitney (whose grandfathers Cornelius Vanderbilt II and William C Whitney had helped find the Met) was present, along with his wife, Marylou. Another Met stalwart, Mrs. John Barry Ryan (whose father, Otto Kahn, had started looking for the Met's new home in 1908) was also present, though arrived late. 

Among the A-List notables in attendance were retired heavyweight champion Gene Tunney; former opera singer Rise Stevens; sportsman Ogden Phipps; Mrs. Joseph P. Kennedy (mother of JFK); Mrs. August Belmont; Prince Michael and Princess Marina of Greece; Brooke Astor, a New York philanthropist;  Winthrop W. Aldrich;  Mrs. William C. Langley (Jane Pickens); Lewis W. Douglas, former Ambassador to the Court of St. James; Governor Walter J. Kohler Jr. of Wisconsin; and Mr. and Mrs. Henry duPont.  

With tickets costing $200 a head, the evening netted $292,000 for the non-profit Metropolitan Opera Company, which had taken over control of the Opera House in the 1940's from the wealthy families that owned private boxes. 

"I paid $200 for my seat, and I can't even get a program!!" one disgruntled man complained. 

To read my original post on the closing gala, which features photographs of the even, courtesy of LIFE Magazine, please click HERE.

To read the program of the farewell gala, which that disgruntled man can now read online, please click HERE.

Please also visit my Pinterest boards on the subject, by clicking HERE and HERE.

Also, please visit Gilded Age Era's Facebook Page and show your support by giving us a like. 

"Newport Today"

Laurence Cutler, pictured in the office of his Newport residence 'Vernon Court', 
which currently serves as the National Museum of American Illustration. The home was originally built in 1989 by architects Carrere and Hastings. (Photo: Nick Mele)  
Recently, the New York Social Diary wrote an article titled "Newport Today", which was a sequel to an article they had previously written about a year ago, titled "My Newport". Both articles feature photographs by Nick Mele, Sam Bolton and Alex Kendall. "My Newport" covers the old guard of Newport, whereas "Newport Today" gives us a peak into the younger generations of Newport. To read their article, "Newport Today", click HERE.  To read their prequel article, "My Newport", click HERE.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

The Real-Life Sleeping Beauty

Sunny Crawford Auersperg von Bulow; American heiress,
international socialite; twice almost murdered by her husb-
and, Claus.

Martha "Sunny" von Bulow, heiress to a fortune of over $75 million, was forty-nine years old when she was found lying on the marble floor of her bathroom at her summer residence, 'Clarendon Court' in Newport, Rhode Island, unconscious and unresponsive ~ completely entranced in a coma. Though autopsy reports suggest the coma was a result of a drug overdose, traces of hypoglycemia were found in her system, leading some to suspect foul play on the part of Sunny's second husband, Claus. This was not the first time this had happened to Sunny. Only a few months before, Sunny had been found lying unconscious, her unconcerned husband sitting next to her, reading the newspaper. Other suspicious behavior had occurred from Claus, like telling anyone that would listen that Sunny had a drinking problem, something which many found curious, since Claus was known for buying his wife lavish gifts of whiskey and champagne. In addition, Claus was also seeing a mistress, Alexandra Isles, who demanded he get a divorce from his rich and beautiful wife. Sunny also talked about getting a divorce, saying she was holding her husband back. It appears the only person who had a problem with divorce was Claus.

Claus and Sunny von Bulow 
A trial was summoned, with Sunny's children from her first marriage, Ala and Alex, and her personal maid, Maria, along with the Auersperg and Aitken (Sunny's mother) team of lawyers representing the prosecution. Claus and his team made up the defense. The trial was the talk of Newport, with many of Sunny's neighbors along Bellevue Avenue taking their stance against Claus. In the end, Claus was found guilty on both accounts of trying to murder his wife. An appeal was held, and Claus was found not guilty. To this day, Sunny's family remains convinced that Claus is guilty. Ten after the appeal, Ala and Alex filled a $56 million civil lawsuit on their mother's behalf. An agreement was settled out of court; Claus agreed to divorce Sunny, give up all claims to her fortune and leave the country, on the one condition that his daughter, Cosima (Sunny's only child with Claus) be reinstated in her grandmother's will. Annie Laurie Aitken, Sunny's equally wealthy, remarried mother, had disinherited her third grandchild from her estate when she sided with Claus. As according to the agreement, Cosima inherited $30 million as her one-third share when her grandmother died in 1983. For 28 more years, Sunny lived on, still raptured in the never-ending coma, in the seedy New York City nursing home she was placed in on the day of her coma, guarded by round-the-clock armed bodyguards, eventually dying of cardiopulmonary arrest in 2008, at the age of 77. 

To read the entire story, please click HERE

Sunday, September 8, 2013

William Vanderbilt Dies in New York

The Evening Independent - Jan 8, 1944

New York, Jan. 8 - William Kissam Vanderbilt II, 65, former president of the New York Central railroad and one of the nation's foremost yachtsman; died at 12:32 a. m. today of a heart ailment which had forced him to return to his home here from Florida before Christmas.
     He was one of the wealthiest men in the United States and a great-grandson of Commodore Cornelius Vanderbilt, founder of both the railroad and the Vanderbilt family fortune. At death he was a director of the railroad and a member of it's executive committee.

Vanderbilt - Circa 1930's.
With his brother , Harold, he was a residuary legatee in the $56,000,000 estate left by his father, also named William Kissam Vanderbilt.
     Four years after leaving Harvard university, Vanderbilt went to work on the railroad in 1903, becoming assistant to the president in 1910, vice-president in 1912 and president in 1918. After a year in the presidency, he became a director until his death.

Vanderbilt and his wife Rosamund - circa 1931.
During the last few years, he was also a director of the Western Union Telegraph company.

The Survivors 

     He is survived by his wife, the former Mrs. Rosamund Lancaster Warburton; his brother Harold; his daughters, Muriel and Consuelo, and a sister, Mrs. Jacques Balsan, former Duchess of Marlborough.

    Vanderbilt's interest in the sea led him to make many round-the-world trips in private yachts and in establishing the Vanderbilt marine museum at Northport, Long Island, New York. 

Vanderbilt's great yacht "Alva" - circa 1936.

When motoring was in it's fancy he amused himself for awhile as a racing driver and built the Long Island Motor parkway, 60 miles of toll highway, which he later donated as a public road.

     He was one of the first millionaires to use an airplane to commute from home to business. A pilot himself, he made two flights to South Africa when such long air trips were unusual.

     For private consumption, Vanderbilt wrote books on his trips by plane and yacht. His latest yacht, the Alva, was built at an estimated cost of $2,500,000 and was one of the most palatial yachts afloat.

Entrance to Vanderbilt's Long Island estate, 'Eagle's Nest' (Robert Bruce)

When the present war broke out Vanderbilt gave the ALva to the government. In the First World War he served as lieutenant commander in the navy aboard one of his own vessels. 

     Vanderbilt was first married in 1899 to Virginia Fair, daughter of U. S. Senator Fair, Nevada silver king. They were divorced in 1927 and shortly afterwards he married Mrs. Warburton, who was a constant companion on his extensive voyages.

    The Vanderbilts maintained a home known as Alva Base at Terminal island, near Miami Beach, Florida and another home next to the museum at Northport.

The Vanderbilt Family mausoleum at Moravian Cemetery, Staten Island. Where
every Vanderbilt family member is buried. 

Saturday, September 7, 2013

The President's House

The Bush Family Compound, Kennebunkport, Maine.
The Bush Family Compound has been used as a retreat by the family for over a century. First purchased around 1900 by George H. Walker, a St. Louis banker, with the main house later being built in 1903, the home was later passed to Walker's daughter, Dorothy Bush, who had married Wall Street banker Prescott Bush, later a United States Senator from Connecticut. Bush, like his son to come, was very active in politics, favoring a Nixon-Rockefeller ticket for 1960. He later denounced Rockefeller, who had been his longtime friend, for his remarriage to a woman, 20 years his junior. Later, the main house was given to Dorothy and Prescott's son, George Herbert Walker Bush, named after his grandfather; the 41st President of The United States.

Three generations of the Bush family gather in front of their beloved family
home, Maine. 1980's. 
During Bush's vice-presidency and presidency, and even during his son's presidency, the compound was visited by many prominent celebrities and world leaders; including Soviet Union President Mikhail Gorbachev, British Prime Ministers Margaret Thatcher and John Major, Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney, Russian President Vladimir Putin and President Bill Clinton. Celebrities include Billy Graham and his wife Ruth, Brooke Astor and Nancy Reagan. 

A water-color of the Bush Family Compound in Kennebunkport, Maine.
The Bush family continued to use the compound throughout his presidency, also frequenting their residence in Texas, located in the posh neighborhood of Tanglewood. Today, both President Bush and his son can be found at their working residences in Texas, though the Bush family still owns their Maine compound, which is visited by the former President and Fist Lady, once or twice a year. 

The Gilded Age Era Facebook Page!

Kirkside, Miss Helen M. Gould's Summer Home, Rexbury-in-the Catskille.
The Gilded Age Era now has it's very own Facebook Page! Now 
you can check updates and see currents post all from Facebook! Come and show your support! https://www.facebook.com/thegildedageera?ref=hl

Also something to check out, my highly esteemed Facebook group "Newport ~ Queen of Resorts", for all the latest info on our Newport Cottages. With over 160 members, we are a presence indeed! 

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Beaulieu Floor Plans

The recently found ground floor plan of 'Beaulieu' cottage
in Newport, RI. 'Beaulieu' was originally the estate of 
William Waldorf Astor. After the infamous feud with his
New York Society queen aunt Caroline Astor ~ who 
spent her summers in nearby 'Beechwood' ~ he sold the estate.
The property ended up being rented by Cornelius and Grace
Vanderbilt. 'Beaulieu' was Mr Vanderbilt's favorite home, where he spent his time away from his yacht. The Vanderbilts purchased the home outright and Grace summered there every season. After Mrs Vanderbilt's death in 1954, he son sold the estate.

Mrs Grace Vanderbilt ~ The Queenly Kingfisher

The estate then fell into complete and awful despair. The estate was rotting all over and was completely unrecognized. Then one day Wiley T Buchanan, Chief of Protocol for President Eisenhower, and his wife Ruth were walking along the Cliff Walk with a friend who lived at 'Clarendon Court' and they came upon the ruined beauty. Buchanan, after touring the house the next day, told his wife "We must buy this house". They purchased the home and resorted the beauty; Summering at the estate every season. Today, Mrs Buchanan ~ now remarried ~ Ruth Buchanan Wheeler ~ still lives at the estate. 

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.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...