Friday, November 28, 2014


The Giraud Foster estate ~ Bellefontaine. Mr. Foster was well known for his charitable contributions and philanthropy. The estate is now out of private hands. 

Giraud Foster and His Beloved Bellefontaine

Two Great Country Estates ~ Lenox, MA.


Friday, June 13, 2014

Villa Philbrook and The Phillips

'Villa Philbrook'

The Phillips family was, perhaps, considered one of Tulsa's first families. Waite Phillips, the Patriarch of the family, was an ambitious millionaire who had made many fortunes in coal and oil. The saying "Go big, or go home" justly fits him, for nothing Waite did was small. When he sold his gas company in 1925 to a New York investment firm, he walked away with a cool $25 million ($330 million in today's money). Even when he died in 1964, he went out with a "bang", donating a substantial fortune to the University of Southern California, who named one of their buildings after him. In sharp contrast, his wife, Genevieve Phillips, was a shy and quiet lady, who looked away from society. 

Waite Phillips, 1933
Waite Phillips, 1933.

Originally occupying a large house in the Tulsan suburbs, the Phillips, Waite in particular, decided to construct a much larger estate farther uptown to house the family's growing art collection and with more land for the family to pursue their gardening interests. Construction began in 1926, with Kansas City-architect Edward B. Delk supervising the design and building of the home. The mansion was finished in 1927, at a total cost of $1.5 million ($15 million in today's money). It would quickly become a Tulsa icon. 

Waite, Helen Jane, Elliott and  Genevieve Phillips on the east terrace, 1931
The Phillips family at their Villa: Waite, daughter Helen, son Elliot and Genevieve. 

A party celebrated Philbrook’s opening on Oct. 25, 1939. In attendance were Elliott Phillips, an unknown man,  Mrs. Helen Jane Phillips Breckinridge, Mrs. Frank Grant McClintock, an unknown woman, Mrs. Frederick P. Walter and Mrs. George Snedden.*
The Phillips family prepares for dinner at Villa Philbrook. 

Occupying 23 acres of lush gardens and lawns, inspired by the gardens at the Villa Lante in Italy, designed in 1566, the Italian Renaissance mansion is the centerpiece of the estate. With 73 rooms, each possessing a view of the gardens and lawn, the home was designed to entertain, with the main focus of the mansion however being to accommodate the family's art collection. The ground floor held the formal rooms. At the center of the mansion, was the long hall, which opened up to each room. Perhaps the largest room, is the drawing room/ballroom, which opens out to the gardens. The above rooms were reserved for the family's bedrooms and servant's rooms. In the basement was a club room, the kitchen and other staff rooms. 

"All things should be put to their best possible use..."
~ Genevieve Phillips

In 1939, the Phillips graciously donated their Villa Philbrook to the City of Tulsa to be used as an art museum, also donating the entirety of their art collection. The couple opted instead to downsize to a 4,000 square foot, 23-room penthouse atop the Philcade Building, which Waite had built and owned. With them, the couple brought a selection of their furniture, the cabinets and the kitchen from Villa Philbrook. In addition, the family resided at their ranch 'Villa Philmonte' in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains of New Mexico. Occupying 300,000 acres, the family resided at the ranch's main house, a 28,000 square foot Spanish Mediterranean-style home also designed by Edward Delk. Waite donated 36,000 acres of the ranch, along with the main house, to the American Boy's Scouts in 1938. In 1941, he donated another 91,000 acres, and, a year later, the Philcade building and penthouse were purchased by the Standard Oil Company for use as a Tulsa-base. The Phillips family later settled at yet another estate in Bel Air, California.

Waite Phillips in his later years. 

Today, Villa Philbrook operates as one of Oklahoma's leading museums, with an annual budget of $6 million and a staff of 60 people. Over 150,000 people visit the museum annually. Amongst the pieces in the collection, include works by artists Pablo Picasso, Thomas Moran, William-Adolphe Bouguereau and Andrew Wyeth. The Penthouse at the Philcade Building is carefully maintained as it was when the Phillips family lived there. The same can be said for Villa Philmonte, which today also serves as a house museum and has been restored to when the Phillipes occupied the ranch. Elliot Phillip, Waite's son and youngest child, is the last of the family who built Villa Philbrook. At age 94, he is the current Patriarch of his parent's and sister's children, and grandchildren, and frequently visits Villa Philmonte.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Moorland Lodge

'Moorland Lodge', 2013.

"A rare pastoral estate..."

It was in 1920, that Chicago department store heiress and YWCA activist Vera S. Cushman  decided to develop a rental property at 5 Hammersmith Road, in Newport, RI, the queen of summer resorts from the 1880's up till the 1960's. The property was located near Mrs. Cushman's estate 'Avalon', later the Van Alen residence (demolished 2003). She began purchasing several smaller residences, including a 1900-circa, 6,000 square foot Mediterranean-style main house, which Vera renamed 'Moorland Lodge'. She mashed the properties together to create a much larger estate, which she named 'Moorland Farm', with 'Moorland Lodge' becoming the centerpiece of the farm. Dotting the estate are a number of historic outbuildings, including the gardener's cottage. In 1939, 'Moorland Farm' was purchased by multi-millionaire John Barry Ryan Jr., a grandson of centi-millionaire Thomas Fortune Ryan (worth about $155 million dollars at the time of his death), and his wife, Margaret "Nin" Kahn, a daughter of fellow centi-millionaire Otto Kahn. Together, the coupled renamed the property to simply Moorland Lodge.

Margaret "Nin" Kahn Ryan on the cover of "Coronet" Magazine. 

Floor plan of 'Moorland Lodge'. 

John Barry Ryan Jr. died in 1966, leaving many millions of dollars of Ryan money to Nin, who had already inherited a substantial fortune from her father, including the majority of his valuable art collection. That year, in honor of her father who had so long loved and supported the Metropolitan Opera, she assisted the Opera in moving to their new location at Lincoln Center, which opened with a grand celebratory gala. On a few months earlier, Mrs. Ryan and other Newport socialites had flown up to New York City to wish goodbye the old Metropolitan Opera House at 1411 Broadway, which had been the first home of the Metropolitan Opera, opened in 1883 (Mrs. Ryan's father, Otto Kahn, had been a founder of the Opera and a sponsor of the building). The closing gala was attended by many of the Newport "crowd", including Mrs. Ryan (To read about the closing gala, and to see pictures of the event, please click HERE). 

Nin Ryan lived on at 'Moorland Lodge' for six more years. In 1972, she sold the estate to Mrs. Marjorie Atwood of New York and Georgia for an undisclosed amount. From then on, Mrs. Ryan would split her time between her Manhattan apartment and her London residence. 

After passing through numerous hands,  'Moorland Lodge' was again listed for sale in 2013, with an asking price of $6,000,000. It has since been sold. 

To see a listing of the house, including photos and a description, please click HERE

Monday, June 2, 2014

640 5th Ave.

640 Fifth Avenue. 

A great many people had gathered that day in 1945 in front of the dingy, brownstone mansion that stood at 640 Fifth Avenue, which crouched in the shadows of the skyscrapers surrounding all sides. It was moving day at the Vanderbilt mansion. New York City's long acknowledged social queen, Mrs. Cornelius Vanderbilt III, Grace, was moving out of 640 5th Ave. and moving to a limestone mansion uptown overlooking Central Park at 1048 5th Ave. 640 had long been the scene of Mrs. Vanderbilt's charity balls, dinner galas and exquisite luncheons. Less than a year ago, she had hosted her last ball at the mansion, a charity ball benefitting the Red Cross. For the last time, the French salons, marble entrance hall, gilded ballroom and the pink art gallery had been opened to guests. That day however, it was all being taken away. 

Movers and workers hustled about, as the gilt and golden furniture that had graced the halls of the home were carried out. 1048 was considerably smaller than 640, so much of Mrs. Vanderbilt's furniture and art collection would be donated to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. This included the entirety of the artwork that had hung in the art gallery at 640, which was composed of pieces collected by William H. Vanderbilt Sr., who had built the mansion at 640 Fith Avenue in 1882. Also leaving Mrs. Vanderbilt's possession was the famed 9-foot malachite Demidoff vase, which had stood at the center of the marble entrance hall. One prized piece of the collection that would be moving with Mrs. Vanderbilt, Jared Flagg's 1877 portrait of Commodore Cornelius Vanderbilt Sr., founder of the family's fortune. The portrait had long graced the entry of 640 5th Ave. 

As the last moving truck carried off Vanderbilt goods to either 1048 or the Metropolitan Museum, Mrs. Vanderbilt took one last look at 640, for decades the center of her highly-sought-after entertainments, as if saying good-bye to an old friend. Them, with her gloved hand instructing her chauffeur, she took off to her new limestone townhouse at 1048 Fifth Avenue. Shortly after, 640 Fifth Avenue was demolished, and so with it, went the last great Vanderbilt mansion built on Fifth Avenue, once, long ago, nicknamed "Vanderbilt's Row".

To read the story behind 640 Fifth Avenue, along with details and why the home was sold, please click HERE

The Mercedes

It was November 23, 1984, the day after Thanksgiving, when Palm Beach and New York socialite and philanthropist Mollie Wilmot was woken up in the early hours of the morning by her maid at her stylish Palm Beach estate, which was next door to the Kennedy Family Compound. The maid announced her mistress had visitors. Mollie, assuming it to be the photographer from Town and Country who was scheduled to photograph the inside of her beautiful home and the marvelous salt-water pool gracing the lawn overlooking the ocean, decided that they should get some coffee first. It had been a stormy night last night, and something bitter would be good to wake her up. So, she passed through her drawing room with leopard-printed walls, and into the kitchen. When she finally arrived on the patio an hour later, still in her dressing gown and slippers, what she saw was something completely unexpected. Lying less than a few inches away from her pool, was a massive, 197-foot Venezuelan rust bucket cargo ship named "The Mercedes" which had rammed itself into the seawall at the edge of Ms. Wilmot's property during the rainy storm of earlier that night. 

Mollie Wilmot, wearing her infamous white sunglasses, stands
before The Mercedes at her residence in Palm Beach, FL. 

Overcoming her fear of Venezuelan rats escaping the ship, Mollie quickly rushed inside into her living room. Removing the Picasso hanging on the wall for safekeeping, and spreading plastic across the gleaming carpets, she invited the crew, Captain and the police officers, who had quickly arrived at the scene, into her home for some finger sandwiches, coffee and caviar, later also, too, serving martinis to the journalists that had showed up. She also fed the ship's cat, which they later gave to her and named "Mollie Mercedes". She in turned handed it over to her neighbors, the Pulitzer family, who sent it down to the spa to be properly fluffed and later was outfitted in a velvet collar with gold. 

Mollie sits before The Mercedes, which barely missed her pool. 

For a month the rust bucket sat at the foot of her estate. The company that owned the boat couldn't afford to remove it, as they were broke, and so they abandoned it. The State of Florida also refused to do anything, so Mollie hired a lawyer and finally a crew was sent out to remove it.  Many nights she hosted parties with the ship on her lawn, her guests making numerous wild suggestions as to what she should do with the ship, such as turning it into a restaurant or a nightclub. Mollie was furious that it took so long to remove it, saying "There's a strong possibility" she said "that if the boat had washed up on the Kennedy property, it would be gone already." The whole event sounded like a movie, and that is what Walt Disney Company thought, too. A few weeks later, they contacted Mollie and proposed to her the idea of making the whole affair into a movie "Palm Beached", with Bette Midler or Melanie Griffith playing her. She came out strongly against the idea, claiming they were trying to turn Palm Beach into Beverly Hills. After languishing in development, it died off. 

Mollie Wilmot died in 2002, in her seventies many believe. She was always reluctant to give her age, and told many people many di

Wednesday, May 14, 2014


'Kykuit', the family seat. 

The Rockefeller family is perhaps the richest family that ever lived. The family founder, John D. Rockefeller Sr. was said to be worth $337 billion dollars in today's money when he died in 1937, making him the richest man in history. Overtime, the family fortune has decreased, with the current 200 members of the family being worth a combined $8.5 billion, though they are still vastly wealthy. Overtime, the family came to acquire a multitude of homes: 'The Eyrie' and 'The Anchorage' in Mount Dessert, Maine; 10 West Fifty-fourth Street, 740 Park Avenue, 810 Fifth Avenue, East 65th Street and One Beekman Place in New York City; Bassett Hall in Williamsburg, Virginia; 'The Casements' and 'Indian Mound' in Palm Beach; 'Forest Hill' in Cleveland, Ohio; 'The Golf House' in Lakewood, New Jersey; 'Four Winds' in Livingston, New York and the 'JY Ranch' in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. The family has 81 homes on the National Register of Historic Places List! Many of these homes have come and gone (demolished, sold.. etc.), but the one home that will forever be associated with the Rockefeller family is their estate in Pocantico Hills, New York, 'Kykuit', built by John Sr. and owned by the family for four generations. Today, the house is open to the public as a museum, though much of the family continues to live in residences nearby on the estate. 

This hilltop paradise was home to four generations of the Rockefeller family, beginning with the philanthropist John D. Rockefeller, founder of Standard Oil. His business acumen made him, in his day, the richest man in America. Now a historic site of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, this extraordinary landmark has been continuously and meticulously maintained for more than 100 years.

To read more about the estate and mansion, including an online tour of the property please click HERE.

Monday, May 12, 2014


'Nemours', the 105-room chateau built for family outcast Alfred I. duPont in the DuPont Historic Corridor, which gets it's name for the numerous estates, buildings, hospitals and organizations the duPont has constructed over the years in the area, located in Wilmington, Delaware. The mansion was designed by the famed architectural firm of Carrére and Hastings, in the Louis XVI Rococo style. The jardin á la française , "French formal gardens" are the largest of it's kind in North America, and are designed after the gardens at Versailles. The gardens include a sunken garden, boxwood garden, maze garden, a reflecting pool, "The Colonnade" (a monument to Pierre Samuel duPont) and a numerous other fountains, pools and statuary. DuPont designed the home for his second wife, Alicia duPont. Surrounding the home were massive stone walls, the result of a family feud awhile back. He ordered no other duPonts on the property, and scattered the outside of the walls with shattered class. Today the mansion is part of the duPont legacy, and currently shares it's grounds with the Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children, both run by the Nemours Foundation. 

To read more about 'Nemours' and the duPont family, click HERE

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Happy Mother's Day

Jackie Kennedy with her two children: John Jr. and Caroline. 

Mother's Day is a day to celebrate mothers (hence the Mother's Day). Three particularly famous mother come to mind: Jackie Kennedy, Consuelo Vanderbilt and Sunny Von Bülow. They battled and overcame social, financial and even physical burdens to be the best mothers they could be. These ladies had one fixture in their life more important than anything else, and that was their children. 

"If you bungle raising your children, I don't think whatever else you do matter very much"
                                                                                                          ~ Jacqueline Kennedy

Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis 

Jackie Kennedy raised two children, John and Caroline, and helped raise many grandchildren in her lifetime. During this period, she dealt a Presidential election, the White House, a husband's assassination, the press, a brother-in-law's assassination, a remarriage, another spouse's death, her mother's death and all-the-while the never ending photographers and journalists that followed her family everywhere. Despite it all, she did whatever she could to protect her children, and be the best mother she could be. 

Consuelo Vanderbilt Churchill-Spencer Balsan 

After being forced into a marriage by her manipulative and verbally abusive mother, Consuelo gave birth to two boys, Charles and Ivor, which were the result of a very unhappy marriage. Despite hating their father, Consuelo did whatever she could to be a good mother to her children, something which she had never had. She eventually divorced their father, remarried, and went on to see her family prosper into many generations, including her great-great grandchildren. 

Martha "Sunny" Crawford Auersperg Von Bülow

When Sunny's father died, she was heiress to a $75 million fortune. Her mother quickly swept her off abroad to marry Austrian Prince Alfred von Auersperg, which led to the birth of two children, a boy and a girl, Alex and Ala. The couple divorced, and Sunny took her two children back to America. She later remarried to Claus Von Bülow, which led to another child, Cosima. Sunny battled drug and alcohol addiction to do whatever was needed to keep her children protected, only ever wanting what was best for them. For this, Sunny was forced into a coma by Claus, in an attempt to steal her riches. She died in 2007, having been cared for and visited by her children almost daily. 

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Grace Kelly Visits The Kennedys

Princess Grace and Prince Rainier arrive at The White House, 1961.

On May 24, 1961, Prince Rainer III de Grimaldi and Princess Grace Kelly of Monaco were welcomed at a luncheon held in their honor by President John F. Kennedy and First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy at The White House. This was slightly unusual, for normally protocol dictated that visiting dignitaries were given a dinner in their honor, as opposed to the much less formal luncheon. However, it was rumored that Jackie worried Grace would pull out the crown jewels and out-show her if such a dinner was given. Nevertheless, the event was still highly regarded. 

Prince Rainier and Princess Grace with President and First Lady Kennedy. 

In addition to the Prince and Princess, and the President and First Lady, also in attendance were Mr. and Mrs. Franklin D. Roosevelt Jr. and U.S. Senator from Rhode Island, Claiborne de Borda Pell and his wife, Nuala O'Donnell Pell (who recently passed away a few weeks ago). The Pells summered with Kennedys in Newport, Rhode Island, where, coincidentally, Grace Kelly had lived when she starred in the movie "High Society", which was filmed there. The menu of the luncheon was as thus:

White House Luncheon for Price Rainier and Princess Grace
May 24, 1961

Soft Shell Crab Amandine
Puligny-Montrachet 1958

Spring Lamb a la Broche aux Primeurs
Chateau Corton Grancey 1955

Salade Mimosa
Dom Perignon 1952

Strawberries Romanoff

Petite Four Secs


The seating chart of the White House luncheon. 

The menu of the White House luncheon.

In a latter interview she gave about the President after his death, Grace mentions she kept the menu to the luncheon, as she said she never gets rid of anything. The luncheon was the first official visit to the White House from Monaco. 

To see additional photographs taken of the event, please click HERE.

To see more about Grace Kelly's JFK interview, please click HERE.

Friday, May 9, 2014

"Ze Titanic Zinks!"

The first real film made about the Titanic was the German film "Titanic". Made solely as Nazi propaganda, the film features German first officer Hans Peterson, who warns the greedy British passengers and crew that the ship is going too fast, and as a result they hit an iceberg and sink. Sink there are 3000 passengers onboard, and only enough lifeboats to hold a few hundred, many people die in the sinking. At the end of the film, the British inquiries are held. J. Bruce Ismay walks free, and all the blame is put solely on Captain Smith, who perished in the sinking. 

The Dining Room, before and during the sinking.

Among the passengers traveling onboard, are White Star Line President J. Bruce Ismay and his wife, Gloria, who like all the other first-class passengers onboard are portrayed as sleazy and callous. Ismay plans are increasing the value of his and the White Star Line board-members' stock by having the Titanic win the Blue Ribbon. He cares only for himself and his money. 

J. Bruce and Gloria Ismay. 

Also onboard, are John Jacob Astor and his wife, Lady Astor. Astor is the richest man onboard, and he plans on buying out the Titanic from the White Star Line by purchasing %52 of their stock. Lady Astor, on the other hand, is tired of her husband looking at her as just another one of his assets, and frequently resorts to abusing her maid, Jenny, and her husband's secretary, Hopkins. 

John J. and Lady Astor. 

Then there is the Duchess of Canterville, who is depicted as being at least sensible, if somewhat oblivious, and Lord Archibald Douglas, who is $2 million in debt. The Duchess has never been on a ship before, because she can't swim, and only came onboard the Titanic because it is un-sinkable. Lord Douglas came aboard to find some way out of debt, and to try and steal Lady Astor's jewels, though someone else beat him to it. 

The Duchess of Canterville and Lord Douglas. 

The only non-corrupt first-class passenger onboard is Sigrid Olinsky, a recently impoverished Russian aristocrat, whom everyone thinks is extremely rich. She is Hans's lover, and the only passenger onboard to actually care about her servants. Ismay initially tries to charm her into helping bail out the White Star Line, though he eventually gives up due to his wife's anger. Hans then tries to get her to convince Ismay to slow the ship down. 

Sigrid Olinsky. 

Following the first-class passengers, are an interesting group of third-class passengers, who are, despite being rather idiotic at times, portrayed as still being better than the evil British first-class. Included are a rather dedicated couple, who look as if they belong in second-class rather than third. 

Hans Peterson is right, and the ship hits an iceberg. Chaos thus ensues, and everyone begins to run around and scream. People are seen running about the get to the lifeboats, many wearing the flimsy life vests provided for by the cheap British. Out of the whole boatload of characters, only four survive. Ismay, upon hearing the news, demands a lifeboat be secured for him. After many attempts at finding rescue, Hans announces he will save him, so that he may appear in court afterwards and face justice. It is presumed Gloria survived, as she is the first person in a lifeboat, dressed in a jaguar fur coat and clutching jewelry. Later, her over-crowded lifeboat is seen being rocked back and forth by people in the water trying to climb in, and she is eventually dumped into the water. 

Hans agrees to secure Ismay a lifeboat, to Captain Smith's surprise. 

Gloria demands the officer lower the boat. 

Sigrid tells Hans she is broke, and her takes her to the deck, where they both proceed to help distraught people into the boats. Hans convinces her to get into a boat, as they will need her to keep everyone calm. She goes reluctantly. Hans then somehow gets below decks, into a flooding first-class corridor, where he hears a little girl screaming "Mommy!". He rescues the girl who was abandoned by her callous British parents and then is thrown into the water when the ship begins to sink. All the other boats he swims past, all filled with British passengers, refuse to let him on. He finally swims to Sigrid's boat, where she demands they let him and the child onboard. They are both rescued, and later seen testifying at the hearings. 

Hans testifying at the hearings. 

As for the other characters, they all perish. Captain Smith goes down with his ship, ashamed he acted like an idiot and listened to Bruce Ismay orders to speed up the ship. John Astor, after hearing the news, orders Lady Astor to go up on deck and take a life vest and her jewelry box, accompanied by Hopkins. She brushes her husband aside and goes to change out of her evening gown, refusing to wear the life vest. She dies, as she could not decide what to wear. Astor then tries to buy a place in a lifeboat, but is last seen with his wife's jewelry box in the lounge. He also dies. Hopkins was presumably shot. 

John Astor tries to get Lady Astor and Hopkins to go on deck.

The Duchess of Canterville is one of the last people seen on the Titanic before it sinks. She makes it out on deck, in full gilded attire wearing her life vest, as the last lifeboat departs. She ponders jumping into the boat as it pulls away, but then decides not to, putting her head down knowing she is too late. Both she and Lord Douglas die, who is last seen drinking in the lounge. Just about all the third-class characters also die.

At the end of the film, after the inquiries and hearings, the council decides that all the blame should fall only on Captain Smith, and not Ismay, who gets to walk free. Amongst the last lines in the movie talk about how Britain caused the Titanic, and how corrupt they are.

Despite all the inaccuracies, and the British hate, the movie was rather interesting, if not almost completely fictional. The movie is available on YouTube, with English subtitles. 

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Daisy Bruguiére, Dowager of Newport

Mrs. Bruguiére's portrait by Simon Elves. 

When Margaret "Daisy" Post Van Alen Bruguiére died at the age of 92 on January 20, 1969, at her Newport residence, 'Wakehurst', it marked the end of a fabulous and luxurious way of life. Mrs. Bruguiére was the end of her kind. A grand manner of life, a style of living, was now over. Mrs. Bruguiére's house was the last in Newport to value birthright above all else. As Daisy put it herself, in 1962, seven years before her death, "Wakehurst is the last 'properly' run [estate] left in Newport." Her death was the end...

From the 1940's till her death, Daisy Bruguiére held singular control over Newport and Washington DC society. One was never really in society unless one had been invited twice to Mrs. Bruguiére's home. The first invitation, to tea or lunch, meant nothing, it was only an chance for Daisy to survey the contestant to determine if a second would be sent. If the candidate was lucky enough to be sent a second invitation, it was most always for a dinner or ball. Mrs. Bruguiére's ball were most likely the grandest in Newport. Guests would arrive five minutes early and park their cars along the driveway, so that way they could enter Wakehurst right on time (Daisy never tolerated tardiness). A red carpet would be rolled out, and two footmen to greet the guests. Once inside, they would find their hostess in the long hall, gloved and her neck wrapped in oriental pearls, standing beneath her portrait. Daisy made it very clear that under no uncertain terms does she like the new short cocktail dresses, so her guests never dare to appear in anything less than a full-length evening gown. Dinner begins at 8:00 sharp. Cocktails are allowed, though in the long hall out of Daisy's sight. Smoking is also allowed, too, though also in the Long Hall. After dinner, there is dancing in the ballroom. The ballroom was perhaps the grandest part of Wakehurst. Since it was built, there has never been electricity in the ballroom chandeliers, along hundreds of candles to light it. The walls, much like the other rooms of Wakehurst, are lined with portraits and paintings of Van Alen ancestors and friends, who loom down on the younger generations. Tucked away in an anteroom, an orchestra plays as guests dance till dawn. 
Wakehurst, Mrs. Bruguiére's Newport residence.

The Ballroom at Wakehurst. 

The Long Hall at Wakehurst.

Mrs. Bruguiére spent summers in Newport at Wakehurst, and winters were spent in Washington D.C. at her townhouse on New Hampshire Avenue. Daisy travelled between her two residences via private plane. Mrs. Bruguiére also rented a home in Palm Beach, Florida, and frequently visited her uncle, Frederick Vanderbilt at his Hudson Valley estate 'Hyde Park'. When Frederick Vanderbil died in 1936, he left both his Hyde Park estate and $10 million to Daisy, who was already a rich woman herself. Mrs. Bruguiére, not needing another home, decided to donate Hyde Park to the public at the behest of her good friend President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who lived nearby. In 1948, Daisy shocked her friends by returning from widowhood to marry yachtsman Louis Bruguiére, a somewhat impoverished heir to the founder of San Francisco's first bank. The couple lived at their numerous homes, spending the majority of the year at Wakehurst. Daisy's son, Jimmy Van Alen, was founder of the International Tennis Hall of Fame, and lived near his mother in Newport at 'Avalon'. 

Daisy was notable around Newport for her lavender, if somewhat purple, hair, which she carefully dyed once a week. This, coupled with Daisy's imperious attitude, prompted younger Newporters to refer to her as "The Purple People-Eater", something which, if she ever knew about, would have probably smiled at. 

November 27-30, 1969, an auction was conducted by Christie's in London of Mrs. Bruguiére's possessions and all the contents of Wakehurst. The grand portraits of Van Alen ancestors, the heirlooms dating back hundreds of years and Mrs. Bruguiére's fine jewelry and furniture collection were all sold (some to Jimmy Van Alen and his wife, Candy). When she died, Daisy was said to be the richest lady in Newport, with a $47 million fortune. Wakehurst was sold in 1972, and now serves as a dorm building for the Salve Regina University, who unfortunately removed most of the fine paneling in the ballroom. Despite all this, Mrs. Bruguiére's, Daisy's, legacy still remains in Newport. And Wakehurst, though stripped of the Van Alen's carefully collected possessions, still remains a monument to Newport's most regal leader and her imperious family. 

To read more about Mrs. Bruguiére, called Aunt Daisy by most Newporters, please visit my Facebook page dedicated to her, Wakehurst and her family, "The Extraordinary Life of Daisy Bruguiére and Her Estate 'Wakehurst'", by clicking HERE. Please give us a like and show your support! 

You can also visit my Pinterest board about Daisy Bruguiére and following it, by clicking HERE.

Also, to learn more about Daisy Bruguiére's Newport and the others like her, please join my Facebook group, "Newport ~ Queen of Resorts", which currently has over 730 members, by clicking HERE.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

"The Commodore's Heirs"

The Gilded Age Era Blog is happy to announce that on April 1st, at 6:30 PM, the Museum of the City of New York will be welcoming author T. J. Stiles ~ author of "The First Tycon: Cornelius Vanderbilt" ~ for a lecture he will be giving on the Commodore and his heirs. The Commodore is one of the richest people in all of history! His fortune nowadays worth many hundreds of billions of dollars. His grandchildren - the heirs - emerged as the "nouveau riche" and were scorned by Mrs. Astor and other old monied families. They latter came to triumph over Astor and her kind by building the world's largest homes and giving lavish and excess parties, showing that they were America's wealthiest family - dominating the New York and Newport social arena. 

Here is the official press statement: 

"T.J. Stiles, author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning biography The First Tycoon (Vintage, 2010) recounts the birth 
of the Gilded Age through the story of the Vanderbilt dynasty. “Commodore” Cornelius Vanderbilt rose 
from New York’s docks to become the richest man in America. Old patrician families scorned him, though he 
lived in the same dignified fashion as they did. His popular grandchildren emerged as leaders of the social 
aristocracy, yet they indulged in lavish excess; their legendary parties and vast mansions defined the age. 
The  themes of an Edith Wharton novel play out over three generations in real-life tales of scandals, séances, 
suicide, and a bitter trial over the Commodore’s will. Presented in conjunction with Gilded New York. 
Reservations required — $15 for Museum members; $25 general public. 
Co-sponsored by The Victorian Society of New York. "

Order tickets online at 
or call 917.492.3395 
1220 FIFTH AVE, NY, NY 10029 • 212.534.1672 • MCNY.ORG

It is $15 for museum members, and $25 for non-members. 

Below, are some photographs that will be mentioned at the event: 

Alice Vanderbilt's "Electric Light" Costume ~ Worn to her sister's infamous 1890's ball.

The "Japanese Room" at William Henry Vanderbilt's NYC mansion 640 Fifth Avenue, the
last great Vanderbilt mansion to stand in NYC. 

A wealthy ladies toilette scene ~ like the kinds the Vanderbilt women would use. 

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

The Queen of Summer Resorts

During the Gilded Age ~ And for a long period afterwards ~ the little seaside town of Newport, Rhode Island, was considered to be the select summer resort. One could never be "In" society if one didn't spend summers in Newport (or at the very least own a residence there). Along the oceanside, barons of wealth built colossal marble castles ~ crammed with every finest luxury of the time ~ next door to the sophisticated yet stylish mansions of the "old money" families. No matter the size or opulence, each of these regal establishments were cozily referred to as "cottages" by the seasonal summer residents. Today, many of these palaces survive in the hands of colleges, school institutions or Preservation societies and foundations. A few, however, still remain in private hands. Here are a few "cottages" located in the resort. 

The Breakers
Built by Cornelius Vanderbilt II and his wife Alice, it was built to replace their first
cottage, also called 'Breakers', which burned down. Countess Gladys Szechenyi, Cornelius and Alice's daughter leased the Breakers to the Preservation Society of Newport, who bought the estate from her heirs.
It is the largest in Newport.

The Harold Brown Villa
Built by Harold Brown and his wife Georgette Wetmore as a summer estate. Given no
formal name, unlike most of the cottages, it was a treasured family jewel. It was left to Mrs Brown's
niece Eileen Slocum, who was considered the grande dame of Newport and the Republican Party and died in 2008. It is the only house on Bellevue Avenue still in the hands of the family.

Ochre Court
Built by Ogden and Mary Goelet as a palatial showplace to gain access into society.
Their son Robert offered the place to his daughter, who not surprisingly turned him down. He then donated the place to the now Salve Regina University, who still own it today.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

A Newport Poem ~ Cliff Walk

~Cliff Walk~

Aquidneck Island, in Rhode Island's Ocean State, hosts a trail beside the sea

Where on Newport's legendary cliff walk fog-shrouded mansions rise in mystery

Above the Atlantic's pounding rage one walks past treasures from another age

To glimpse grand palaces on a fabled path along a precipice above the ocean's wrath,

As ghostly mists from another time enshroud the visitor with the sublime,

To view gray sentinels that echo times of lore from the Gilded Age, that lavish life before

When Newport was but America's social queen, of an opulence our nation has seldom seen

Many mansions there, yet, now do last, those triumphant reminders of the past

Where, by moonlight, lofty chimneys yet silhouette the sky above cliffs and rocks over the ocean's haunting sigh.

Above the gray cliffs, those do yet dwell, who recall legends 
of the cliff walk's many tales to tell

Of gossip and social scandals and tragedies of the sea, of success and failure during Newport's proud history.

-Alfred Richardson Simson 

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Grey Gardens

'Grey Gardens' ~ Before the Beale residency. 
'Grey Gardens' ~ During the Beale residency. 
In the 1970's, Lee Raziwill, sister of former First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy, suggested to two film-making brother named Albert and David Maysles, that a documentary be made about the lives of Lee and Jackie's aunt and cousin, both named Edith Beale, and their East Hampton home, 'Grey Gardens'. And so, in 1975, a documentary film was released mystically called 'Grey Gardens'. The documentary focused on the tenure of Edith Bouvier Beale, called "Big Edie", and her daughter, Edith Beale, called "Little Edie", and the ruinous conditions they lived in at their once grand estate, 'Grey Gardens'. 

Little Edie on the cover of the Maysles's documentary ~ Grey Gardens.
In 1924, Edith Bouvier and her husband Phelan Beale purchased 'Grey Gardens' in East Hampton, a few miles away from Edith's father's Hampton residence 'Lasata', where future First Lady Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy would grow up with her sister. Grey Gardens was known locally for it's stunning and beautiful gardens, which had been designed in 1913. The home was located a block away from the Atlantic Ocean, a was where Little Edie grew up. The Beales separated in 1931, later divorcing via telegram in 1946, Phelan Beale was in Mexico at the time. She received no alimony, however was given child support. After a few years of living in upper Manhattan, Little Edie returned to live permanently with her mother at Grey Gardens in the 1950's. Despite a severe shortage of cash, mother and daughter managed to survive by selling off various pieces of Bouvier silver service or antique jewelry. They remained active in Hampton society, however that ended when Big and Little Edie returned home one evening from a party to find the house had been burglarized, the thief making off with several pieces of antique furniture. The Edies rarely left home afterwards. As costs began to rise, including taxes on the home, the Beale girls found it harder and harder to maintain the home, and thus allowed the place to fall into disrepair. The lush gardens and lawn became overgrown with weeds and bushes, the house began to fall apart. The cozy hall and rooms of the house, soon became cluttered with dust and trash and garbage, not to mention there was a never ending supply of animals running around the rooms, mostly strays taken in by Big and Little Edie. Empty cat food cans were piled up along the walls of the rooms, as the paint she and sagged off, and water leaked through the roof and walls. Broken furniture heaped in every room, and blankets and pillow were lying about, since the home had no heat. The living room was perhaps the only recognizable room left in the mansion, with antique furniture propped up in the center of the room, and a portrait of Big Edie in her thirties sitting crooked in a corner. 

Big Edie in her eighties, sitting near the window of the living room at
Grey Gardens, with her portrait sitting in the corner beside her. 
The documentary proved to be the legacy of the Beale ladies, as the home was eventually cleaned up by Jacqueline and a crew of trash men. Big Edie died in 1977 at Grey Gardens, and afterwards Little Edie listed the home for sale. She was stunned at how many offers came in to demolish the home. Little Edie refused to sell the home to anyone with plans to demolish, hoping to find a buyer to restore the home. 

"All the house needs is a new coat of paint!!" Little Edie said to potential buyers. 

Eventually, the home was purchased, and completely restored. It was good timing, too, for when Grey Gardens was purchased by it's new owners, the roof and walls were literally caving in. Today, the home is a beautiful reminder to a forgotten era. 

Please, also visit the website dedicated to the home, known as 'Grey Gardens' Blog, by clicking HERE.

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