11.2.11

SIX DEGREES OF INTERIOR DECORATION

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.

Peterloon (Peterloon Foundation)
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'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
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:

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.  

A corner of the drawing room with one of the lacquer cabinets, and pair of Louis XVI chairs from the Tuileries (Horst, Vogue)
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.

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
Shall I take it back to the Moores now, and wrap this up? Mme. Balsan's first cousin, Frederica Webb, married Edith Pulitzer Moore's brother Ralph.  They lived at Kiluna Farm on Long Island, later the home of Babe Paley, whose daughter Amanda Mortimer married Carter Burden, grandson of Mme. Balsan's cousin Florence Burden, but we'll not stray there either.  A forthright friend maintains that the rich are as inbred as any isolated island dwellers Down East.  She may be right.

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.

22 comments:

Topaz said...

My head is still spinning.

The enchanted home said...

Chelsea is right down the street from me, its sad to see that though its still up its in need of repair...the beautiful little gatehouse with its tall roof is a reminder of an era that will never be...I drive by it daily.
Nice blog..very intesteting poking around. Plesae visit mine, more visionary treat than anything..its about my love for interior design (in a more formal sense) and in the building of our new home. Hope you will stop by...www.theenchantedhome.blogspot.com

Anonymous said...

Next you should do some posts on Dark Harbor, it's one of the least talked about coastal Maine summer colonies in general and totally deserving of more attention!

The Down East Dilettante said...

Topaz, I may start handing out sea-sickness pills whenever I feel one of these posts coming on..

Enchanted, it is sad about Chelsea---one of the most interesting of all, and the County never seems to quite get it right.

Anonymous, you'll be glad to know that I have eight or nine Dark Harbor posts in draft, but have just not gotten around to them...so much material, so little time. I'll try to get one out in the next few weeks. Dark Harbor is indeed an amazing place.

The Devoted Classicist said...

D.E.D., I am delirious with joy over your wonderful post. I have long admired that Clarence Mack designed house and freely reinterpreted and reused that urn uplight idea. Sister Parish and Nancy Lancaster were friends, but whether their paths crossed on Dark Harbor, I do not know. Thanks for the treat.

ChipSF said...

OK! Still here after that whirlwind tour. Ready to follow you down any of those tangents.

Re: Nancy Lancaster & Alexandra Emery - you probably know that they took a trip to China together in 1920.

Re: Peterloon - A few decades ago I went to a party there - wonderful! In those days I think it was set in 2000 acres.

The Down East Dilettante said...

Devoted: I still regret selling a 1930's plaster column with plaster urn uplight...so stupid I am sometimes...

Chip: No Way! No, I did not know that---I have yet to get around to reading the recent Nancy Lancaster book. I did, of course know about Mrs. Moore's wedding trip, and how it influenced the house. I may just have to re-edit the post and work that in.

Hels said...

I don't mind who was married to whom, where the money came from, whether they were outrageous snobs and totally class conscious. Good taste is good taste!

Audrey Emery's drawing room in the Palm Beach house could almost fit into a modern architecture and interior decoration magazine today. Perhaps there is something timeless about the neo-classical.

Turner Pack Rats said...

don't you mean seasick bags - my head is spinning so much from the first paragraph, its a good thing i was sitting down and hadn't eaten yet.
don't go taking that inbred thing away from us Mainers - it's about all the rich have left us. just the other day, friends of mine were leaving the courthouse after the divorce proceedings. she was crying and he turned to her and said, "what are you crying about. we're still brother and sister"
a correction altho you probably didn't want to go down that path either, you should've have said about the Turrets: " IS " a chateauesque pile as it is one of the few Bar Harbor piles that is still extant albeit as classrooms and offices on the campus of College of the Atlantic. I roamed thru it before the college took over. It had a fountain that was both indoors and out with sliding doors that closed around it- unfortunately smashed by vandals. the tower on the right had curved glass window about half an inch thick. one more trivia - when the school took over - they unmortared every single stone (about 18" cubes), slid them out of their place, remortared them and slid them back. and you thought your reno projects were tedious.
and finally, in the interest of furthering my education, couldn't you just put a little lexicon off to the side when you use those words i don't know. i know, just like my 3rd grade teacher always said - look them up in the dictionary dear. i'll show her what to do with her dictionary.
this is only for my benefit:
frisson - a brief moment of excitement, shudder or thrill
bergere - upholstered French armchair
fauteuil - a French open arm chair frequently with carved relief (what a relief -whew!)
Lacquer cabinets aside (i love oriental lacquer anything), i think the Emery room was so much more successful.

security word def - "adihumn" - archaic word meaning what you do when pretending to listen to the dilettante. (see - i define my words)

Flo said...

The margarita was just the ticket, offered a little late in the narrative but timed nicely for my second reading.

Clinging to masterpieces like this more and more since you've so deservedly been awarded more writing assignments. Salt heals all wounds, pour another margarita, wait patiently for our turn in the DED queue.

And thanks to TPR for the glossary.

The Down East Dilettante said...

Hels: Oh so true, and agreed

Turner, In the spirit of bonhomie, perhaps I will link words to the dictionary==maybe.

But Flo, despair not. I've actually been posting more often of late. (As for my 'masterpieces', you're too kind. I just re-read this, and found to my horror, for example, that I had used 'superb' as an adjective in each of the four sentences of one paragraph....sigh.

ChipSF said...

Down East -
If you have not read the Robert Becker bok on Nancy L.; get thee to a quiet corner and sit down with it NOW! I mean right NOW! It is like one long extended whirlwind Dilettante post. Your head will be spinning by page 3. Even Maine makes a few appearances alongside Mirador, Cliveden, Ditchley, etc.

Flo said...

"I had used 'superb' as an adjective in each of the four sentences of one paragraph....sigh."

So?

Now, if you'd committed the Awesome crime, or the Stunning crime, more especially if you'd committed the Amazing crime, you would not receive this Lifetime Adjective Dispensation Pass that I hereby lay at your holy feet.

The Down East Dilettante said...

Chip, Duly ordered---found a .99 copy on Amazon.

Flo, Thank you for the dispensation. Sadly, I am sometimes guilty of the Amazing crime, and a repeat offender of the Enormous crime.

Toby Worthington said...

How interesting, these connections.
The minute I laid eyes on the Aubrey Emery drawing
room my brain went on Alert: those engaged fluted
columns, the mirrored wall. But where had they been
seen before? Ah, yes, Voque's Books of Houses, and
the piece on Consuelo Vanderbilt Balsan. Love those
floating brackets against the mirror. In fact, love just
about anything to do with Consuelo~so the larger image of her was a very pleasant surprise.

Anonymous said...

This was just - beyond - perfection! KDM

Cashon&Co said...

I am printing off this post and the two earlier and getting cozy tonight and sitting down to read these. I wish i had more time in the morning, but this looks like a fantastic read so I am saving it for tonight!!!

Anonymous said...

When Edith Vanderbilt sold Pointe D'Acadie she wasnt married to Peter Gerry as yet, she married him in 1925.......I have several photos of Whileaway, Islecote, and PDC, it is one of my favorite places in the world.

The Down East Dilettante said...

Anonymous, you are absolutely correct, my mistake and thank you for calling it to my attention. And about those pics of the houses---would love to see.

Anonymous said...

your welcome, Im Todd from Biltmore group, they will be out sooner or later when I finish my book on GWV. I just emailed you from my group email, respond there plz

real estate degrees said...

Thanks for sharing all the pictures..I could not control the spinning of my head still..It is the effect of first picture..

Stew said...

After the housing bubble and crash, I wonder if any of those masterpieces were auctioned off in houses for rent in Cincinnati Ohio. I can't even think what the numbers are on their "price tags".