7.3.11

THREE MORE DEGREES OF INTERIOR DECORATION.

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.

Baymeath, the J.T. Bowen house at Bar Harbor
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
Near Baymeath, on Lookout Point in Hull's Cove, was a cottage called Yule Craig, designed by Rotch & Tilden of Boston for the son of Senator Yulee of Florida. In 1904 The house was purchased by Mrs. Bowen's friend, Jane Addams and Miss Addams's lady friend Mary Rozet Smith.   A half mile path connected Baymeath and Yule Craig, and there was much visiting back and forth, as Mrs. Bowen was one of the chief supporters of Jane Addams's Hull House Settlement in Chicago, and donor of the Bowen Country Club.  Miss Addams once famously said that she could raise more money in a single month in Bar Harbor than all the rest of the year back home in Chicago.


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.

Mrs. Bowen's Hall at Baymeath, Bar Harbor
Mrs. Bowen's daughter Mrs. William McCormick Blair's all at Port of Call, Lake Bluff, with the famous arrangement of Currier & Ives Prints set into the woodwork.

Mrs. William McCormick Blair Junior's stair hall in Washington, decorated by Billy Baldwin (House Beautiful, via Toby Worthington
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.  

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)

 And last but not least, we have Edith Pulitzer Moore's redecoration of Baymeath after she purchased the estate in 1948.


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 

20 comments:

VoiceTalk said...

My God! I think I got it all, but am reaching for the dramamine.

I love Mrs. Blair Jr's library!

The Devoted Classicist said...

A fascinating spin! I know there are at least a couple of the new generation of Bar Harborians that intent on maintaining a high level of design appreciation and have the funds to do it, no? No doubt there are still occasional butler issues, though.

Anonymous said...

The Blair house is actually called Port of Call, and the farm is called CrabTREE Farm- otherwise its all perfection.

The Ancient said...

http://www.crabtreefarm.org/history

The Down East Dilettante said...

Voice Talk---I'm not going to do another one of these for awhile---even I got dizzy after this third installment.

Devoted, indeed there is a little coterie still in Bar Harbor that keeps things up---but I can't imagine the critical mass will ever be there to roll back the hotels and bad construction---and 85 per cent of the old houses are gone.

Anonymous---thanks for the clarification---and duly corrected. The Dilettante hates to make mistakes, and is always grateful for being made more right.

Anonymous said...

Joseph and Louise Bowens daughter who married Blair was named Helen not Joan. Their son Bowen married Joan (who I think is still alive) and named their daughter Joan, who today is Mrs. Gedge.

The Down East Dilettante said...

Ancient, I'll take your www.crabtreefarm.org and give you my
lakebluff.govoffice.com/.../%7B674C2185-78D0-46CE-91D9-3A187A178406%7D.PDF and raise you two.

The Down East Dilettante said...

Anonymous. Oh dear. This is why the Dilettante should only post in the morning when fresh as a daisy, and not late at night when he only wants to go to bed. I usually fact check before publication---and in this case, anxiousness to get the post up won over amateur scholarship (and oddly, I did fully realize that Helen Bowen was Mrs. Blair. I wonder where the heck I got Joan?)

The Down East Dilettante said...

PS to the two anonymouses, who I believe to be the same anon:, thanks again for the corrections, and that reminds me that I'm working on a piece about the Chicago-Bar Harbor connection, including more David Adler clients, and if you shoot me an email sometime, would love to let you fact check it before.

Beth said...

Such a great post! I can't get enough of these family histories and relationships, and the Bowens are my favorites. Thank you so much for doing this sleuthing!

Flo said...

"I wonder where the heck I got Joan?"

You got Joan from my cousin Joan who married a Thorndike. Ha.

I remember those Deeda Blair photos when they were published! Gawd I'm old.

Oh for Mrs. Bowen's rugs, and what a spirit she must have been to throw one just so over the railing so the heads of visitors surely were tickled by the fringe.

And "a large shingled cottage designed to appear smaller than it really was" has made my day, thank you.

The Down East Dilettante said...

Beth, you've already forgotten that part of the credit for this particular sleuthing is yours, not mine--and thanks!

Flo, what doesn't show in the photo of the Baymeath Hall is the actual scale of the place, which was very generous.. I passed under those stairs many times, and though the rug was long gone, I can assure you, even at 6'2", there was plenty of headroom, and unlikely is it that the fringe ever got to tickle.

Flo said...

Thank you! I was imagining the height of the bench seat @ 20" then eyeballed upward at what I thought were 20" intervals not realizing the volume was swallowing all my good intentions. Gosh it looks low and gosh I didn't know you were so tall.

Another bit of brilliant work, lush and layered, I'll chew on this latest of yours for days.

The Down East Dilettante said...

Flor, hmmm, I'd say a minimum of seven feet under the stairs, more likely 7.5. Three steps up from entry level to the living hall, twelve steps to the landing over the door, risers 7-8 inches...yeah, that works out about right. The staircase was wider than four feet--there was a full size empire sofa on the stair landing when I first saw the house, so as I mentioned, the scale was very generous.

smilla4blogs said...

Arrived laughing after your comment, head now spinning after your Bar Harbor tour! I'd never be able to keep it all straight, but I'm glad you do....fabulous post!

Romantisch Hotel Brugge said...

Thanks for nice posting and fantastic your idea . really i loved that and beautiful your all photo's and sweet home.

Decor Arts Now said...

What a tangled web. All interesting photos but uveitis fail the quiz. Lynn from Decor Arts Now

Anonymous said...

PAINT-
What color do you think the walls are painted in Mrs. Blair Sr.'s Library at Port of Call? And don't you love the pickled effect of the lime washing on the stone walls of the exterior of the same house? Ah....Its all so lovely and peaceful.

Turner Pack Rats said...

and they think us Mainers are inbred -Oh my Gawd!!!
the crabtree farm setup looks like the Pratt Oval on a smaller scale.
i love thorncraig for all those weird little spaces like those two funny dormers on the roof and the myriad windows of all sizes but like Chatwold - too nice - tear it down. and don't give me the big house lecture - i know i know

security word def - "vatic" - text word for the bead shufflers big house from which you wouldn't want to rome too far.

The Down East Dilettante said...

Anonymous, in a later color photograph when the Blairs still owned in 1979, it was deepest brick/chinese red.

Turner, I hated to see Thorncraig go. My sources tell me the plumbing problems were legendary and irreparable. It was a particularly nice bit of architecture...sad.