Saturday, February 8, 2014

The Firestones in Newport

Harvey S. and Elizabeth P. Firestone sailing onboard a ship to Europe, 1958.

Mr. and Mrs. Harvey S. Firestone Jr. were amongst the wealthiest couples in Newport, with a combined net worth in the range of seventy-million dollars. They summered at their Newport residence, 'Ocean Lawn', which Mr. Firestone had purchased in the early 1950's. In addition to 'Ocean Lawn', the Firestones maintained homes in New York City, Ohio and Palm Beach. The Firestones were a dedicated couple, having wed in 1921, and remained married for over fifty years, till Harvey Firestone's death. Afterwards, Mrs. Firestone remained in seclusion at 'Ocean Lawn', leading a very lavish livelihood. 

Elizabeth Parke Firestone (1897-1990)
Harvey and Elizabeth Firestone were known in Newport for their extensive collections, particularly Elizabeth. Elizabeth Firestone was said to collect just about everything, and she carefully marked, catalogued, sorted and organized her collection into a massive inventory. She was particularly fond of couture dresses, which she collected by the hundreds. Her collection of clothes was so massive, she had a three-story walk-in closest carved out of guest bedrooms at 'Ocean Lawn'. Elizabeth also had a passion for collecting silver and porcelain pieces, which she housed in a small anteroom at 'Ocean Lawn', featuring specially designed class cabinets for their storage. 

'Ocean Lawn' ~ The Firestone cottage in Newport, Rhode Island.

With 'Ocean Lawn' bursting at the seams full of her collection, Elizabeth decided that more property needed to be purchased. In addition to the main house, the property at 'Ocean Lawn' included a guest house, gardener's cottage, pool house, green houses and a playhouse for the Firestone grandchildren. A few years later, Mrs. Firestone purchased the two neighboring properties: 'Southside' and 'The Orchard', to not only buffer 'Ocean Lawn' from other neighbors, but also to utilize the homes as more space for her collection. 'Southside' became completely devoted to Elizabeth's collection of Jamaican furniture, which had originally graced the Firestone residence in Jamaica. 
'Ocean Lawn' 
Elizabeth Parke Firestone, photographed by Cecil Beaton.

Elizabeth Firestone was a perfectionist, carefully concerned and mindful of her appearance. She had a fit routine which she practiced with care every morning. She had breakfast every morning in her bedroom, and planned every meal she ate with her the Firestone's cook. After breakfast, her maid would come and do her hair and nails in the beauty parlor chair and hair dryer she had installed in her room. Afterwards, she would exercise by the pool with her personal trainer. Many remember, that at a certain age, Elizabeth began having facelifts done every seven years to retain a youthful look. She had them done in Florida, by a surgeon who did all the Hollywood stars. Elizabeth also took very very VERY great care in what she wore. She favored pinks and blues, and had swatches of fabric next to each of her shoes to make sure the servant picked the right outfit to match with the shoes. She had her clothes washed in Paris, though pressed at home. Her system of organizing her clothes was so well planned, that she never lost a thing. 

Mrs. Firestone's dressing table at 'Ocean Lawn'.

With Mrs. Firestone's death in 1990, 'Ocean Lawn' was valued at $6 million. Her fabulously collection of dresses was given to various museums, including the Henry Ford Museum in Detroit, Michigan. Christie's New York was given the honor of auctioning off her marvelous jewelry and decorative arts collection. 'Ocean Lawn' was eventually sold for $1 million, and 'Southside' and 'The Orchard' were also sold. Today, both 'Ocean Lawn' and 'The Orchard' still survive. 

To read more about 'Ocean Lawn', click HERE

To read more about Mrs. Elizabeth Firestone, please click HERE  and HERE to read about her fabulous wedding dress, currently on exhibit at the Henry Ford Museum. 


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