Okay, fasten your seat belts---we're off on another Six Degrees tour.
While writing a piece about menservants behaving badly in Gilded Age Bar Harbor for New York Social Diary, I mentioned Joseph Pulitzer's son-in-law, W.S. Moore, great grandson of Clement Moore of Night Before Christmas fame. It occurred to me that Benjamin Moore (the lawyer, not the paint manufacturer), who built Chelsea, the wonderful Chinese/French house by Delano & Aldrich at Syosset Long Island, was also a descendant of Clement Moore, and I wondered how closely related the two men were. As it turns out, very closely---they were brothers.
|Chelsea (Nassau County Parks Dept.)|
Benjamin Moore was also married to a Bar Harbor girl, Alexandra Emery, daughter of Cincinnati real estate magnate J.J. Emery, and his wife Lela, who later married the Hon. Alfred Anson, younger brother of the 4th Earl of Lichfield, who in turn was married to the niece of Elizabeth the Queen Mother---although that's not where we're going. I'm just gratuitously inserting that information. Royal connections always create such a nice frisson, no?
|The Turrets, the J.J. Emery Cottage at Bar Harbor|
The Turrets, the Emery summer cottage at Bar Harbor, is a chateauesque pile of granite designed in 1895 by Bruce Price. Price was the father of Mrs. Price Post, better known as Emily---but that's not where I'm headed either. Just mentioning. Nor am I going to digress by mentioning that Bruce Price's successor partner, Jules-Henri de Sibour, architect of the French Embassy in Washington had a grandson who married a niece of Society decorator Diane Tate---but that's a different tale of six degrees of design separation--let's stick with the Emerys for awhile.
Peterloon, the Cincinnati estate of Alexandra Moore's brother, John J. Emery Junior, was also designed by Delano and Aldrich, but in a robust early Georgian style---in strong counterpoint to his parent's Edwardian excesses.
Emery Jr. married Irene Gibson Post, daughter of artist Charles Dana Gibson, who also had a summer home in Maine, on 700 Acre Island, near Dark Harbor. Her aunts included Lady Astor, and her cousin was decorator Nancy Lancaster, both of whom visited often, but let's save that one for another day also, tempting though it is to wonder if Dorothy Draper or her cousin Sister Parish ever crossed paths with Lancaster at Dark Harbor. In late breaking news, we do know that Alexandra Emery, later Moore, traveled to China with Nancy Lancaster, then Tree, in 1920. And, of course, Lancaster's first husband's brother, who was also her second husband's cousin, Marshall Field III, had a house at Dark Harbor, also...small world indeed.
|The Gibson cottage, Dark Harbor, vintage postcard view|
The two other Emery daughters followed a path traveled by many American heiresses before them, and married nobly---Leila second to the Duc de Talleyrand, and Audrey first (morganatically) to the Grand Duke Dimitri Pavlovich. She was later elevated to the title of Princess Romanov-Ilyinsky in her own right, not that Russian titles were worth all that much after the Revolution. She second married Prince Dimitri Djordjadze. After divorcing her second Prince, she resumed her maiden name and was known the rest of her life as Audrey Emery. She finally landed, as everyone does sooner or later, in Palm Beach, where her son, Prince Paul Ilyinsky, later became mayor. I like this thread. Let's stick with Audrey for a minute.
|Night and Day...Audrey Emery's house on El Vedado Way, Palm Beach. The urn uplights are terrific (top: Cleveland Library Archives, bottom: Jerome Zerbe, 100 Most Beautiful Rooms)|
Audrey Emery built a house on El Vedado Way in Palm Beach, designed by Clarence Mack, a stylish architect from her home state of Ohio, who had established a practice in Palm Beach specializing in elegant neo-classical houses in the style that would become known as Palm Beach Regency. The house was much admired, and Emery's elegant drawing room was featured in a book called 100 most beautiful rooms in America---which might have been stretching it, but it was nonetheless an attractive room.
Audrey Emery tended to suffer from real estate, as well as marital, restlessness, and after a few years sold her house on El Vedado. The purchaser was Mme. Jacques Balsan, the former Duchess of Marlborough, nee Consuelo Vanderbilt, the most famous of all the nobly married heiresses. Mme. Balsan, recently widowed, was downsizing from her enormous Casa Alva estate in Manalapan. As for Audrey, she moved to a lovely Bermuda style house on South Ocean Boulevard, which was later owned by Jimmy Buffet. Yes, that Jimmy Buffet. But let's not digress. We wouldn't want you to get confused. Go pour a margarita and we'll continue:
|Audrey Emery's drawing room in the Palm Beach house (Zerbe, 100 Most Beautiful Rooms)|
|The apple doesn't fall far from the tree: A grainy photograph of her mother's hall at The Turrets shows a Louis XV bergere and a Regence fauteuil, both very similar to chairs in the Palm Beach drawing room|
|A view of the Drawing Room during Mme. Balsan's occupancy, with two of four paintings of the seasons, after Lancret, Baques chandelier from Casa Alva, and Savonerrie Rug.|
|One misses the sunburst clock of Audrey Emery's era on the mirrored wall. (Horst photograph, Vogue's Book of Houses, Gardens, & People)|
Mme. Balsan, who only a few years earlier was quoted as saying that she only went into Palm Beach only to get her hair washed and to go to the bank, was now living in town. Making the best of her drastically reduced quarters, she gave the house the full Vanderbilt treatment.
In the drawing room were her four superb Chinese lacquer cabinets on stands--the black ones between the windows of one wall, the red ones on the other. Her magnifiicent collection of French decorative arts filled the rooms richly and gracefully, a testament to her famous taste. The marvel of it all was that each Spring, much of the art and furniture were packed up and sent ahead to her Southampton house for the summer, then the process reversed each fall, that she might never be without her favorite things.
|A corner of the drawing room with one of the lacquer cabinets, and pair of Louis XVI chairs from the Tuileries (Horst, Vogue)|
|Mme. Balsan in the drawing room with the pair of red lacquer cabinets (Toni Frisell photograph, Life)|
|The drawing room of Lou Seuil, Mme. Balsan's villa on the Cote d'Azur in the early 1930's shows one of the red lacquer cabinets, shipped to America before WWII|
Had enough? So have I.
Well, almost enough. I just remembered that somewhere in inventory storage, I have pretty 1920's pastel of Birch Trees by Benjamin Moore, a more than competent Sunday painter. My parents acquired it from the estate of a former maid at The Turrets, who had accumulated many attractive cast-offs from employers in Bar Harbor over the years. I still dream about a little apple green neoclassical urn stand from the same source.
For the New York Social Diary article that set off this ramble, Click here
For another Six Degrees Post, Click here.