Okay, I admit it. One needs a GPS to navigate the beginning of this story, but we'll get there. It all began in New York Social Diary with an article I wrote about menservants behaving badly in gilded age Bar Harbor. In the course of the story, some interconnected relationships were revealed. That led to a second story posted last week in this blog, called 'Six Degrees of Interior Decoration', in which I picked up some threads of those relationships and carried it through several more houses before taking it back to where it began in NYSD. Here we wrap it up for the moment, with three generations of decoration in the same family.
There are two choices: One can read the dizzying synopsis in the paragraph below or go back and read the first two stories (Pt. 1 HERE and Pt. 2 HERE), if one hasn't already. If you have read these stories, and don't need or want a synopsis, simply skip the next paragraph, and venture to the new territory.
Mrs. J.T. Bowen of Chicago, friend and patroness of Jane Addams, built a summer home, Baymeath, at Bar Harbor in 1896. She had two butlers who fought in the butler's pantry. Snatched each other's wigs off. Joseph Pulitzer bought a house, Chatwold, at Bar Harbor in 1894. He had some lazy footmen who smoked cigars when they were supposed to be sweeping the drawing rooms. Pulitzer's daughter Edith married W.S. Moore, great grandson of Clement Moore. Their Bar Harbor cottage was Woodlands, which burned in the Bar Harbor fire. After the fire, Mrs. Moore bought Baymeath, where any problems with her butler are lost to history. Got that? Then, in the 'Six Degrees' post, I picked up the threads. W.S. Moore's brother Benjamin, and his wife, Alexandra Emery, built Chelsea, a lovely and famous house on Long Island, designed by Delano and Aldrich. Alexandra Moore's mother, Mrs. J.J. Emery, later the Hon. Mrs. Anson, owned a granite pile at Bar Harbor, called the Turrets, designed by Emily Post's father, Bruce Post, another thread we won't follow. Her son, J.J. Jr., built another handsome Delano & Aldrich house, Peterloon, in his native Cincinnati. His wife was the daughter of Charles Dana Gibson, and a first cousin of decorator Nancy Lancaster, but we didn't follow that thread, so forget that. However, another of his sisters, Audrey, twice married to Russian princes, built a stylish Regency House in Palm Beach, later owned by Mme Jacques Balsan, the former Duchess of Marlborough, nee Consuelo Vanderbilt. Mme. Balsan was a great friend of her first husband's cousin, Winston Churchill, who was a not so great friend of Nancy Lancaster's aunt, Nancy Astor---but we said we weren't going to follow that thread today, so forget I mentioned it. Mme. Balsan's cousin, Frederica Webb, married Edith Pulitzer Moore's brother Ralph, which almost gets us back to Bar Harbor and Baymeath. Did you get all that? I feel like Suzy Knickerbocker on speed.
|Thorncraig was perfectly sited at the summit of Point Lookout|
In 1931 Jane Addams died, and though the exact sequence isn't clear, it appears that the house was purchased 1932 by the Harry Hill Thorndikes. Mrs. Thorndike's sister, Miss Belle Gurnee, owned the property between Yule Craig and Baymeath, a large chalet built in Switzerland and imported to her property on Lookout Point. Miss Gurnee's uncle Augustus Gurnee was one of Bar Harbor's largest taxpayers a generation earlier.
|Thorncraig, Entrance Front. The house was set slightly into the summit of its little hill--one stepped down from the front door into the house, and the facade had a whimsical quality, with curved entrance hood, turret and curved brackets.|
The Thorndikes apparently did not take immediate possession of the cottage, which they renamed Thorncraig, as the next summer found Mrs. Bowen's daughter Helen and her husband William McCormick Blair, in residence for the summer. The design savvy reader will have a frisson of recognition, for Mrs. Bowen's daughter and son-in-law were the builders of a highly revered house designed for them by David Adler in Lake Bluff, Illinois. If you don't mind a quick six degrees moment, don't forget that the front door of that house was inspired by one owned by the Blair's great friends, the J. Watson Webbs, he the cousin of Mme. Balsan, and the brother of Edith Moore's sister-in-law, Frederica Webb Pulitzer. Got that class? You may be quizzed.
|Port of Call, the William McCormick Blair house on Crab Tree farm in Lake Bluff, designed by David Adler|
Thorncraig was inherited by the Thorndike's son, Augustus Gurnee Thorndike, and was later purchased by John J. Emery. Emery was the grandson of the Cinncinati real estate tycoon who had built the Turrets in the 1890s, and his aunt was married to Benjamin Moore, brother-in-law of Mrs. Moore who later owned Baymeath. Thorncraig proved to have notoriously irresolvable plumbing troubles, and was demolished in the early 1980's. The design of Thorncraig was imaginative and playful, a large shingled cottage designed to appear smaller than it really was, and the roofs and central stair turret exactly echoed the hilltop whose summit it graced. I always enjoyed seeing Thorncraig ahead on its on its hilltop as I left Bar Harbor, a cheerful little shingled chateau overlooking Frenchman's Bay.
It is interesting to to track sensibilities as style travels through several generations, as can be seen in these photos of Mrs. Bowen's Hall at Baymeath, the hall, living room, and library of her daughter Helen Blair in the Adler House at Lake Bluff, and the famous hall, drawing room and library decorated by Billy Baldwin in the Washington house of Mrs. Blair's daughter-in-law, Mrs. William McCormick Blair Jr.. At Baymeath, we see the early Colonial Revival in play, with touches of Victorian taste still lingering. In the William McCormick Blair Sr. house, we see the version of Colonial decor made high style, as popularized by Henry Davis Sleeper at Beauport, and adopted by many fashionable people in the 1920's and 30's, with humble objects chosen for their aged charm and soft colors, romantically arranged for modern living.
And last but not least, we have Edith Pulitzer Moore's redecoration of Baymeath after she purchased the estate in 1948.
|Mrs. Bowen's Hall at Baymeath, Bar Harbor|
|Mrs. William McCormick Sr.'s living room at Port of Call, with 18th century paneling from Virginia|
|Mrs. William McCormick Blair Jr's. Washington Drawing Room (Horst, Billy Baldwin Decorates/TW)|
And though we don't have a picture of Mrs. Bowen's library at Baymeath, we can see it through the doors beyond the stairs, lined with books and mementos, and engravings and large travel photographs so ubiquitous to the era. Here are the next two generations:
|Mrs. Blair Sr.'s Library at Port of Call.|
|Mrs. Blair Jr's. library in Washington, by Billy Baldwin (Eric Boman, HB/TW)|
|Baymeath, drawing room|
|Baymeath, Hall (photographs by Elizabeth Mills, courtesy Sargent M. Collier)|
There, have I forgotten anything?
Oh yes, thanks, Beth, for the photos of Thorncraig