Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Never a Dull Moment in Newport!

Mrs Robert R Young and Mrs John Nicholas Brown at the Newport Music Festival 

A wonderful newspaper article about Newport. It's main 
topic is over the Newport Music Festival and Breakers Fundraising
ball. It also mentions several of the up coming galas at 
the grand cottages. In it; Mrs Jane Langley has just bought
'Berkeley Villa' and also just arrived from showing her
paintings in Palm Beach. Harvey Firestone Jr has also bought 
a house in Newport, once owned by the Drexel family. Mr and Mrs John R
Drexel make an appearance at the opening of the Music Festival with
their daughter Noreen. 12 or more of Newport's cottages have been 
owned at some time by a member of the Drexel family, including
'Fairolme', owned by Mrs Robert R Young, whose husband
owned the New York Central. Mrs John Nicholas Brown, who is
president of the festival and cousin of Mrs Drexel, greets guests as they enter 
the hall of the 'Breakers'. Mrs Auchincloss serves as co-chairwoman of 
a music gala. 

Mr and Mrs John R Drexel III with their daughter Noreen were guests at the Music Festival 

A concert in the ballroom of 'Marble House', one of the ocean cottages built by Mr and Mrs Willie K  Vanderbilt 

Click HERE For The Link 

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

The James Hazen Hyde Ball

James Hazen Hyde's grand party he held in the ballroom of Sherry's in 1905 
was, and still is today, considered amongst the most lavish and expensive parties
ever held in the whole universe! The Equitable Assurance Society of New York 
millionaire invited everyone who was anyone to the magnificent event. Attired
in his dark-green formal attire of the Coaching Club, he greeted his 600 guests
who danced the night the night away in the two ballrooms at Sherry's. The $200,000
ball included hundreds of bottles of champagne and a play which Hyde had 
specially commissioned. 

Guests at the Hyde Ball; At the far right is Mrs Stuyvesant "Mamie" Fish; the white haired man is Stanford White. 

The grand ball was the talk of society for months. Costumed were commissioned 
for thousands of dollars; family jewels and heirloom pieces were pulled out from
vaults; wigs were purchased and powdered; carriages and other luxury means of
transport were bought just for the occasion. The two ballrooms at Sherry's were
decked out magnificent gilded decorations and period furniture. 

Though the ball was grand and amazing, securing Hyde's position in society,
he was never the same. A lawsuit from the Equitable Society, who were
suing him because of a rumor that he had used company funds to pay for 
the ball, caused him to flee to Paris. Shortly afterwards they found out that
he had payed for the night out of his own pocketbook. He returned in 1941 to
live in a splendid penthouse at the Savoy-Plaza on Fifth Avenue for the rest of his life,
dying in 1959. 

Saturday, March 23, 2013

'Avalon', Newport. RI

In the early 1950's, James 'Jimmy' Van Alen, who had summered in Newport since birth, and his wife Candace 'Candy' Van Alen purchased a historic looking estate spread out along Ocean Avenue, called 'Avalon'. The estate had originally been built in 1906 by Grosvenor Atterbury for Edward S. Rawson, who expanded the Mediterranean villa in 1917. He sold the 34-acre estate in 1920 to Vera S. Cushman of New York ~ one of the early leaders of the YWCA(Young Women's Christian Association. In 1952, the Van Alens purchased 'Avalon' from the Cushman Family. 

Jimmy and Candy were hopelessly in Love, being married for 43 years

Candy was one of Newport's most outspoken socialites, it was her idea that Jimmy find a Tennis Hall of Fame

News Photo: James Van Alen playing the guitar while his…
Jimmy always admired Tennis, playing the game as a boy on the tennis courts at 'Wakehurst'

Twelve years after purchasing 'Avalon', the Van Alens purchased the next door old 'Wrentham Estate', a stone and shingled house designed by Richard Morris Hunt, for $85,000 and turned the land surrounding the house into a gaming preserve for his hunting guests. Shortly after they
added a guest wing to house. opposite the ballroom. Soon after this, Jimmy was elected as President of the Newport Casino, which was literally a dump. He and Candy purchased the house, completely restored it, and turned it into the brand new International Tennis Hall of Fame. 

The International Tennis Hall of Fame, which helped to preserve the Newport Casino, all thanks to Jimmy

Jimmy and Candy were perfect for each other; they both lived in the moment, both loved Newport, both were energetic; smart; they shared a love of writing; good times; and adventure. Surprisingly Candy, unlike Jimmy's first wife Eleanor, got along with Jimmy's wife, Mrs Louis Bruguiere, Newport's reigning dowager matron. Frequently, Candy was invited by Mrs Bruguiere to co-host with her at 'Wakehurst' or at the New York townhouse. 

Mrs Louis Bruguiere, 'Daisy', the Dowager Queen of Newport's 'Old Guard'

Hitting the Van Alens like a bullet, In early December of 1976, as they were returning from Madrid, a fire started at Avalon. Sally Rodrigues, the caretaker, saw lights flickering off and on around in the mansion and figured that a burglar had tripped the alarm. As she rushed toward the house with her shotgun, she saw smoke bursting out from the garage. Grabbing her two year old daughter, she rushed to a neighbors house and called the Fire Department. When they arrived, the house was engulfed in flames. Eileen Slocum, one of the Van Alens' closest personal friends, was returning from Providence when she heard the fire alarms. She called the fire department and found out it was 'Avalon'. Knowning many of the Van Alens' most prized possessions were in the house, Slocum immediately flagged down a fire truck. "I hopped onto the fire engine and said, "Take me to the front door ~ there is a a beautiful set of china just inside!". By the time she got there, the home was almost unrecognizable. Slocum and the firemen spent the next hour and half pulling out what furniture and artifacts they could. 

Eileen Slocum, on of the Van Alens' closest personal friends, was largely responsible for saving
the Van Alens collection of artwork and antiques

Luckily, most of the ground floor rooms were still intact, and the Van Alen decided to build a new 'Avalon' around the rooms, making it a very spacious, albeit a much less attractive, mansion.

Candy giving the giving the golden trophy to the tennis match winners

The Van Alens continued to live at 'Avalon' throughout their life. In 1991, Jimmy, who was 
practically blind, accidentally stepped off his bedroom balcony onto the gravel driveway and died while recovering in the hospital. Candy continued summering at 'Avalon', spending her winters at the Van Alen estate 'Penny Pond' on Long Island. In 1992, she had the Van Alen Room dedicated at the Tennis Hall of Fame in honor of her husband. 

Candy at The Van Alen Room Dedication

In 2002, Candy died. 'Penny Pond' was subdivided and demolished. 'Avalon' was sold four years later for $10.4 million, the highest sale in Newport. The home was demolished shortly afterwards. 

Thursday, March 21, 2013

The Last Aristocrats

The Last Aristocrats 

By "aristocrats", I do not simple mean rich people. I mean people who are masters of the
art of retention - people who pass on their china with a surname, who have oil paintings of their
ancestors usually and middle initials always. 

Click HERE To Read More

Monday, March 18, 2013


Of all the homes in Newport still in private hands, 'Beaulieu' is amongst the most famous. Presently the year-round residence of Ruth B. Wheeler, the home has a rich and interesting history, being home to not only Astors and Vanderbilts, but also the scene of hundreds of lavish 
parties and events. 

Ruth Buchanan Wheeler, one of Newport's most outspoken matrons, is famous for her Lunch parties
Photo: Nick Mele

News Photo: Mr and Mrs Wiley T Buchanan with their…
First coming to Newport in 1960, They quickly decided they wanted to live here
Ruth and her first husband Wiley T. Buchanan, who was serving as President Eisenhower's Chief of Protocol , first came to Newport 1960, coming with President Eisenhower who summered there, first at the Naval Base and later at the 'Eisenhower House'. They were staying with friends at 'Clarendon Court' when they decided to take a walk along the Cliff Walk. Soon they came upon a decaying estate next door, which had been unseen by them due to the large, overgrown grass and forest of trees surrounding it. The windows were smashed in, the porched gone, graffiti all along the walls the gardens infested with weeds, the home crawling with bugs and rats. The interior was destroyed and had had severe water damage, so bad it looked like there had been a fire. That home was 'Beaulieu'.

Wiley was determined to save the home, which he shortly after bought for around $100,000.
Within a year, the home was as gorgeous as ever. The Buchanans had replaced the porch, added a kitchen, restored all the rooms with french antique panelling and fixtures, rewired the house with electricity, replaced all the windows, restored the gardens, fixed the roof, fixed the plumbing and painted the exterior. They hired legendary designer Valerian Rybar to decorate the interior. Brought in a team of 13 gardeners to maintain the grounds and an additional 15 servants to work inside. Extended the garage and greenhouse. They brought 'Beaulieu' back to life.

Life at 'Beaulieu' with the Buchanans was formal, yet cozy

Ruth Buchanan, later Wheeler with marriage to Ed Wheeler after remaining a widow for more than a decade, is now in her 90's

Today, Ruth lives alone in her elegant home. Visited by family and friends, her newest thing is
to host Sunday luncheons. At 'Beaulieu' the work is never done, as Ruth comments "We are always having to replace something". Yet despite the tremendous amount of work it takes, 'Beaulieu' still remains one of Newport's finest private estates.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Making the Mummies Dance

The Metropolitan Museum of Art would not be what it is today if it wasn't for Thomas Hoving. The son of Walter Hoving, director of Tiffany & Co., and Mary O. Field, his step mother Jane Pickford Hoving later was the Republican challenger against Ed Koch for the US Senate from New York. He recounts his fabulous tales as director of the Met Museum in his memoir 'Making The Mummies Dance: Inside The Metropolitan Museum of Art' 

Hoving With His Latest Acquisition 

To see this book on Amazon, click HERE.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

'Clarendon Court'

'Clarendon Court', Newport RI. Built by Horace Trumbauer. In the 1970's
it was the home of Martha Crawford Von Bulow, known as 'Sunny', whose
estranged husband famously tried to poison her, which forced her into a coma. 
Sunny managed to live into her 70's, dying in 2008, still her in sleeping-beauty 
coma. Click HERE and HERE For more

Books about Kykuit and the Rockefeller Family

Said to be one of the greatest and most magnificent estates overlooking
the Hudson River, 'Kykuit', though the main house and most of the land owned
by the state, is still in family hands. It was built by John D. Rockefeller Sr, the 
richest man who ever lived. It was then lived in by his son, John Jr, who
was a prominent art collector and a major philanthropist, using
 the family's wealth and prominence to amass a magnificent art collection. The house
then passed to his son, Nelson Rockefeller, who served as President Gerald Ford's 
Vice President and was founder of the Rockefeller Republicans. It was on
his death that the estate was donated, though the family still maintained most 
of the grounds, gardens and homes they had built on the property. This area 
today is known as the 'Pocantico Compound' and ten or so Rockefeller families
live there. 'The Playhouse', located on the estate, is now the current family
seat and is where the family has their annual meetings. Many great and wonderful
books have been written about the estate and family, some by family members. Here are 
some of them:

Pinned Image

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Picnics on the Grand Newport Estates

Back in the 1960's, there was a severe problem with lack of privacy. It started when average Newporters, walking along the Cliff Walk, decided to venture out onto the grand estates that bordered the Cliff Walk. Most just wandered the grounds, though some families had the nerve to set up picnics and some even went up and looked inside the windows. One such incident happened at 'Vinland', the Twombly cottage, when a man went right up to a window and starting peeking in, right over Mrs Twombly's shoulder. To solve the problem Doris Duke bought two large doberman, built a large barbed wire fence and had the outlines of her property covered in broken glass.  And then there was the incident at 'Wakehurst'.

'Wakehurst' had been in the Van Alen family for over 100 years

Daisy Post Van Alen Bruguiere was Newport's leading grand dame and society matron

"Some years ago, A large family
piled out of their beaten-up van
onto the grounds of 'Wakehurst',
Mrs Bruguiere's estate, and proc-
eeded to have a picnic. The grand
told her servants to leave the strangers
along but to get the car's license
number and to have her butler
follow them. The following Sunday 
she arrived at their home in her
chauffeur-driven Rolls Royce
and her footman proceeded
to set up an elaborate picnic for
Mrs Bruguiere, complete with
gold dinner service, french china 
and crystal cups. The owner
came out and asked what she was 
doing. "You honored me
with a visit last week and I wanted to
return the compliment" Mrs
Bruguiere replied and continued
her solitary meal" 

Friday, March 8, 2013

The Last Home of Grace Vanderbilt

Pinned Image

In 1942 the movers came to Vanderbilt stronghold at 640 Fifth Avenue, the last private residence
on that avenue, surrounded on all sides by towering skyscrapers. The grand furniture and artwork gracing the golden salons and marble halls was boarded and packed up, most of them antiques and heirlooms, and shoved into the moving trucks. Earlier that week, Mrs. Cornelius Vanderbilt III, Grace, had bought for $120,000 the former Miller mansion at 1048 Fifth Avenue and planned on making that her new residence. The mansion at 640 Fifth Avenue had been sold awhile back by her husband before his death to raise capital, the conditions being they continue to live there till 2 years after his death. 2 years later, with less than $2 million, the time came for New York's reigning grand dame to move. 

File:Grace Graham Wilson01.jpg
Grace Wilson Vanderbilt, called 'Her Grace', was the only lady ever able to replace THE Mrs Astor

The Vanderbilt mansion at 640 Fifth Avenue was simply 'Lost in a sea of skyscrapers' 

Most of the furniture, because of it's history, was turned over to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, as there was no room for it at 1048 Fifth Avenue. The only Vanderbilt heirloom being kept was the famous painting of Commodore Vanderbilt. 
Two weeks after moving in, Grace held a grand opening party, with 128 guests in attendance. Then later came her opera ball for 276 guests. Then after that came another fundraising ball, all the while she was still living excessively, even still rolling out the red velvet carpet across the sidewalk for her guests. At dinners there was always a footmen for each guest (never under 60), and she still had kept her dining room table that could seat sixty. And after the New York season was over, the house would still be flooded with mothballs, the furniture covered in white muslim and the chandeliers bagged, as she headed out for Newport. One wondered where she was getting the resources to do all this. 

The big spending matron was, in reality, a tight-fisted penny-pincher 

Since she had moved out of 640 Fifth Avenue, Grace was determined to stretch her money as far as she could. With the $2 million from her husband, and an additional $1.7 million left from her father, Grace lived a great illusion. For starters, most of the downstairs furniture was rented: The grand piano, the stove, the tapestries, the books, the artwork, even some of the fixtures were rented. She reused most of her gowns, having tailors mend and adjust them into new costumes and covering them in jewels to make them look new. She had cut the staff from the original 26 people that worked at 640 Fifth Avenue down to a staff of a skeleton crew. It consisted of The butler, chef, assistant chef, housekeeper, a downstairs maid, upstairs maid (which doubled as her lady's maid), kitchen maid, 2 footmen, a handyman, secretary and a chauffeur. Whenever she had large amounts of guests, she had the butler and chauffeur double as footmen, while also calling in waiters. She rarely purchased anything, and slowly and quietly began selling small amounts and pieces of her jewelry for extra cash. She cut her son's allowance of $200 a month down to $100 a month. She sold the 30 Rolls Royce limousines her husband had, keeping only one. 

It was all just an illusion

In 1949 Grace gave her last party, her famed opera ball, and after that she unable to attend the opera, arriving last time in a wheelchair. She was rarely visited, and then only by intimate friends and family. Her son's visits were once or twice a year. The dame was growing feeble and blind. In 1950 she quit the lease on all the downstairs furniture, leaving the first floor empty, except for a few pieces of furniture she owned. The portrait of The Commodore was given to Vanderbilt University, along with a few other heirlooms. In 1952 Grace Vanderbilt died, worrying if the money would last. Afterwards her son, left literally penniless, auctioned off 1048 Fifth Avenue and sold everything.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

A Feast For A King

The grand banquet hall at 'Hearst Castle' in California has seen many wonderful and lavish 
events and dinners in it's existence, though none quite like the sumptuous dinner 
given there by it's owner William R. Hearst on November 28 1945. The lavish dinner was 
so grand and marvelous that extra staff had to be called in to help. The guests that night included Hearst's wife, Millicent, who was rarely seen around her husband, Marion Davies, who
was Hearst's very public mistress, Huguette Clark, the recluse heiress, Charlie Chaplin, Douglas Fairbanks and Mrs August Belmont Jr. That night, guests consumed more than 70 bottles of wine and ate over 5 courses.

Hearst (center) surrounded by his guests, which mostly consisted of actors and businessmen

The kitchen staff was in a frenzy that night, rushing about the kitchens in an attempt to prepare 
the meals. It was reported that right after the last course that Millicent stormed out of the grand
mansion, slamming open the front doors in such fury that the guests even heard it, summoned her limousine, drove to the Hearst private jet hangar, and flew in a fuming fury to New York. The cause of this: She had seen her husband whisper something to Marion.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

LIFE: The Senator Weds

The Kennedy-Bouvier wedding in Newport RI was one of society's most famed events. 
The popular First Lady would become one of Rhode Island's most famed citizens.

Click HERE For An Article From LIFE Magazine About The Wedding. 

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