In 1903, Edith Wharton, who had spent summers at Newport since childhood, sold Land's End, the cottage that she had renovated and decorated with the help of Ogden Codman, but had not occupied since 1900.  The project had been so successful that the pair collaborated on The Decoration of Houses, which was both Wharton's first book, and which was one of the most influential design tomes of its era, helping to sweep out the gilded excesses of the late 19th century, and bringing to the fore a preference for classical simplicity.

Although Wharton had long had a love-hate affair with the resort, and her reasons for departure were many----the lack of intellectual discourse endemic to places of fashion, and the damp climate among them----I like to think that (and I realize that this is not an officially sanctioned notion, but mere whim on my part) perhaps the last straw was in 1899, when the view from her elegant octagonal sun room was compromised when construction commenced on grim new house across Ledge Road, one whose unknown architect clearly had not yet absorbed Mrs. Wharton's design principles.

Breakwater as it appeared from Mrs. Wharton's lawn
That house, named Breakwater by its owner, Charles Lippitt, son of, and later himself a governor of Rhode Island, was one of Newport's largest cottages, a fair approximation of an English Castle---a little Belvoir, a dash of Windsor, a soupcon of Carnarvon---and the very image of what Wharton's friend Henry James a few years later would so famously refer to as one of the 'white elephants, all house and no garden...witless with no soul',  that had risen up to replace the simpler wooden cottages of his own youth in Newport.  The pile of mortar forbiddingly dominated its spectacular site on rocky ledges at the end of a point between Bellevue Avenue and Bailey's beach.

In an 1899 news story, a reporter for the New York Times speculated that Mr. Lippitt's grand structure, then under construction, was to be an apartment house, or first class hotel, so large were the foundations.

But it was not to be a hotel, much as the reporter felt one was needed in Newport, but merely the Lippitt's summer cottage, three floors of gloom, in sharp contrast to the sparkling marble and gilt palaces around the corner.  

The site had long been a favored spot for local fishermen, and was also traversed by the last stretch of the Cliff Walk, that ancient right of way that passed between mansions and shore.   Finding both facts unsatisfactory, Lippitt proceeded to eject the public from his property, building a wall to prevent the Fishermen (it was soon demolished in protest), and to cut off access to the Cliff Walk, complaining that picnickers could be seen at the edge of his lawn.  He failed in both attempts.

Lippitt died in 1924, and the castle which had burned around the same time, was not rebuilt.  In 1926, the ruins were purchased by architect John Russell Pope, as the site of a new summer home for his family.

Pope's had a long relationship with Newport.  In 1901, he designed Whiteholme, Beaux Arts palace for Mrs. Robert Garrett, later Mrs. Henry Barton Jacobs, widow of the president of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad.

Whiteholme, the Garrett cottage at Newport
 And in 1912, he married Sadie Jones, the daughter of the very Social Pembroke Jones's of Wilmington North Carolina, whose own Bellevue Avenue cottage, Pembroke Lodge, a fussy affair loosely based on the White House, was designed by Hoppin & Koen (who also designed The Mount, the Lenox house Edith Wharton built after leaving Newport)

In 1915, Pope completed one of his most famous houses, Bonniecrest in Newport, for Stuart Duncan, the Lea & Perrin's King.  It was a grand and faithful representation of a Tudor country house, based most notably on Compton Wynates.  For the design of his own cottage on the Lippitt site in 1927, Pope chose a simpler Olde English idiom, that of a half timber English cottage, albeit on a scale probably never dreamed of by the simple yeomen whose cottages inspired it.

Bonnie Crest, the Stuart Duncan cottage at Newport, by John Russell Pope.  The property immediately to the left was Pen Craig, the home of Edith Wharton's parents.
The Waves, John Russell Pope's own house at Newport, built on the ramparts of Lippitt's Castle

Using the ramparts of the Lippitt Castle as the starting point, Pope built a house, which for all its deliberate aged charm, nevertheless was attuned to its site in a very modern way, seeming to grow out of the very ledges upon which it was built, its weathered natural materials in harmony with the land in a way that the castle had never been. A rambling arc plan allowed every room sun and views, and protected a courtyard garden that evoked the work of Jekyll and Lutyens in England. Taste had indeed changed in the fewer than three decades that separated the buildings.  Facing the house across the garden was Pope's studio, where he indulged passions for painting and photography.  The Popes named their new house The Waves.

The south front of The Waves
The Waves, garden front
Two aerial views of The Waves from Country Life, 1935

After the Popes, the Waves was owned by Josephine Hartford Bryce, heiress to the A&P Grocery fortune.  Her daughter, Nuala, married Senator Claiborne Pell, and built a cottage, Pelican Lodge, at the northern end of the property.  Later, The Waves was purchased by Barclay Warburton, an heir to the Wanamaker's Department Store fortune, who divided it into condominiums, which it remains to this day.  In a 1961 article about the decline of Newport, Time Magazine reported that the dining room alone now held a four room apartment. 
A long hall ran the length of the garden front

The Studio

Looking at the interiors of The Waves in old black & white photographs, one has to remind oneself that these rooms were actually alive with color.  This was brought home to the Dilttante when he realized that in these 1930s photos, the library chairs are covered in the very same Chinese inspired block print linen that he used for a pair of chairs in the 1970s, in a palette of green and brick and blue on tan ground.

Would Mrs. Wharton have approved of the Waves?  Might she have remained across the street?  Doubtful, but it is entertaining to speculate the course of American literature had she not left...

All uncredited black & white photographs of The Waves from the Gottscho-Schliesner Collection, Library of Congress.


HABS AND ACCURACY: You Still Have to Be Able to Think for Yourself

Fast quiz:  Which of these two houses is the Ruggles House at Columbia Falls, Maine?

 The answer of course, is that 'B' is the Ruggles House, one of the most exquisite Federal era structures in Maine.   Photo 'A' is of the James P. White house in Belfast, Maine, designed by Calvin Ryder, and one of the finest Greek Revival houses in the state.  Both photos are from the estimable online catalog of the Historic American Buildings Survey, the staggering catalog of American architecture, humble and grand, started as a works project during the Depression, and which continues its important work today.  Many buildings long lost are thus preserved for our collective memory.  Many of the earliest photographs in the catalog are evocative in a way that modern pictures cannot be, as below:

 That's the good news.  The bad news is that both photographs appear in the catalog entry for Ruggles House with this caption:


In my frequent wanderings through the HABS catalog, I have found many such errors, enough sadly, that they make suspect the accuracy and reliability of the catalog as a whole.  I confess, as if the regular reader hadn't noticed, a passion for the facts---accurate, hard facts.  I enjoy the hunt, separating urban legend from what really happened, reconstructing a scenario from sometimes conflicting accounts, bringing logic to the proceedings.  It's why I prefer the New York Times to Fox News, any political leanings aside.  When I'm wrong, as I often am (don't tell my friends that I admit it), I am glad of being corrected and set on the path to truth and righteousness.   And so it is always disheartening to discover that a major and authoritative source has strayed.
One assumes, of course, that the huge job of scanning and uploading these thousands of images was performed by interns, and in fact hopes, given the evidence, that it wasn't done by Library of Congress staff. Or, in fairness, perhaps the pictures have been mislabeled from the beginning, Either way, most of the errors are easily enough spotted by merely looking at picture and caption and stopping for a moment to assess the information given.   Internships are important----they give a student experience in a chosen field, they give needed assistance to organizations and institutions whose resources are stretched.  But interns need the ability to think critically, and to ask questions---and staff need to supervise, else you wind up with examples like below, also from HABS, this time of Chateau Sur Mer, the grand Wetmore cottage at Newport designed by Seth Bradford, and variously altered by Richard Morris Hunt, John Russell Pope, and Frederic Rhinelander King.

It starts out well enough, with this photo of Chateau Sur Mer, captioned as a view from the northwest, as indeed it is:  
 But things start to deteriorate a few photographs later, with this view of the opposite corner, described as from the northeast.  

Um, no, that would be from the southeast.  Looking northwest.  One looking at this photograph cold, neither knowing the geography of Newport, or this house, would have no reason to doubt the caption, all the more reason that it should be accurate.

From there, things go rapidly downhill----For example:

HABS RI,3-NEWP,59-14

Obviously, regardless of the caption, this is a photograph of the stair hall, looking North-northeast, if anyone cares, but one imagines the hapless surfer of the photographs scratching his head to try to figure out what in hell constitutes a moon gate in the picture.

But that's as nothing---let's continue on our tour of Chateau Sur Mer via HABS.  The alert reader will immediately note that not all is what it claims to be:

HABS RI,3-NEWP,59-15

HABS RI,3-NEWP,59-16

HABS RI,3-NEWP,59-18

HABS RI,3-NEWP,59-19

HABS RI,3-NEWP,59-24

HABS RI,3-NEWP,59-26

 The photo of the library is my particular favorite, because as anyone can seethe desk is open.  

But, back to serious.  Each photograph is numbered on the negative, as one sees.  The numbers are tied to a photo caption list, from which the captions seen here are generated.  Hence, the level at which whoever did this was not paying attention had to be off the charts, and likewise the lack of supervisory checking.  For example, the photo accompanying caption # 18, claiming to be the stable, with # 24 written on the negative, indeed does match the caption for # 24.  And # 24, numbered 30 at the top of the negative, appears again later, as itself with this correct caption:


I'm sure I appear didactic, but it is worrisome that the organizations charged with research and accuracy sometimes fall down beyond the point of acceptable human error.  Recently, while seeking material for a recent project, of importance to the money-making career enhancing portion of my life, not merely blogging fun, I wandered to the Bangor Public Library.  I needed something very specific from a vintage issue of Country Life in America,  and knew that the Bangor Library had a complete run of the magazine.  And here's where the trouble began.  The Bangor Library, a magnificent structure designed by Peabody & Stearns, expanded a few years ago, more than doubling its faciility with an addition by Robert A.M. Stern Associates.  More recently, they purchased another buiding across town for use as a 'last copy' storage center, and moved their bound periodicals there.  Inconvenient though it is for the general public---it is not staffed, hence materials have to be requested and brought a few at a time to the main library building, a delay of sometimes days.  But at least they are not throwing out the primary materials, as are so many. I went to a reference librarian, who looked up Country Life in her periodicals catalog, and determined that there were no issues in the collection from the 1930s.   As they had all dates both before and after, and the library had had a complete run, this seemed unlikely---that they would for some reason dispose of just those years and keep the rest.  I gently pushed, and hit a complete stone wall---basically 'catalog says NO'.  I went back again a few days later, and this time at least got her to find that the magazine had gone through several subtle name changes, accounting for the different blocks of cataloging.  But, the issue I needed still did not appear in her list, and there the request died.  A plea to at least check the shelves resulted, surprisingly, in refusal.  But never underestimate a Dilettante in need of information.  Finding a different person at the reference desk I asked a third time, laying out my case, and he quickly agreed that it was likely there, lost in the cataloging crack, would check himself, and within 48 hours had provided the needed issue.  One still can't beat first hand knowledge and engagement in the task.

As for HABS, for all its flaws, where else would interested parties be able to find such wonders as a set of cross section drawings of Chateau Sur Mer?  Or from the floor plans that a windowless room on the fourth floor mezzanine of one of the towers, accessible only by many far flung flights of stairs, and through a warren of attics and trunk rooms and service passages, was called the liquor room? And why?  Is it where the Wetmore sisters stored their booze during prohibition?  Where a dipsomaniac uncle retired to drink in secrecy? 

Unfortunately, for many of the recorded buildings, the earlier the material, in particular, data pages are missing.
End of rant.  In a couple of days, you'll be able to read the post whose research started all this.

In the meantime, for more about the Ruggles House, click HERE for a post on that most delightful structure.

For the full catalog entry in HABS about Chateau Sur Mer, click HERE



I used to think, even if not trendy or fashionable myself, that at least I had some bead about what was going on in those worlds.  However, I guess not so much, because more and more, things get by me---and how.

While stopping for gas at a  less-than-upmarket convenience store in a not-so-chic part of rural Maine the other day, I wandered in for a snack, and scanned the displays for my choices.  All the usuals were there:  Cheetos, salted peanuts, Famous Amos Cookies, Lilly Pulitzer Special Edition Animal Crackers, Snickers Bars, beef jerky----whoa, wait a brightly printed cotton pickin' second!

LILLY PULITZER SPECIAL EDITION ANIMAL CRACKERS????   In East Podunk?  Anxiously awaited by the mill workers and fishermen stopping by for a six pack and snack on their way home from their very hard, very dirty, work, no doubt?  Talk about ironic---I'm still trying to picture it--- "Forget that beef jerky, Mike, I'm gonna have me some of them Lilly Pulitzer Animal Crackers with my Bud tonight!"   

It turns out, after googling 'Lilly Pulitzer Animal Crackers', that I am indeed the very last person on earth to know, let alone blog, about this, the strangest marketing marriage since Joe Namath donned pantyhose, but that doesn't stop me from duly noting my amusement.  One wonders where the nice folk at whatever corporation now owns the Lilly label---I'm not interested enough to Google the answer---thought these 'special edition' crackers were going to wind up?   Grocers in Palm Beach and the Hamptons perhaps?  Or is this a clever attempt to broaden the brand, and we can soon expect Lilly Pulitzer for K-mart?  They've got to do something to replace Martha now that she's gone to Macy's.  No, wait, I've got it, Lilly Pulitzer for Carhart safety wear! Lilly Pulitzer steel toed work boots! 
The Lilly Blog announces that 1.5 million boxes were produced, and placed in sometimes  unexpected places (no kidding), in addition to a few saved for their stores, and that one can even get on their facebook page for finding them.  Well folks, I found three of them, and I wasn't even looking.  (click HERE for Lilly blog)

Already, they are apparently collector's items---I see them on eBay for thrice what I paid (silly reader---you didn't really think I'd just pass them by without buying a couple, did you?), so maybe I'll just put mine away for retirement.  Right next to the Beanie babies.  

As you see, once again, I'm behind the curve, but if you'll all promise to be kind, I'll tell you about the pair of pink and orange Lilly Men jeans I had back when I was a skinny teenager.  On second thought, I've changed my mind.  Not on your life.  And all the pictures have been destroyed.

UPDATE:  Color me fuschia pink and lime green with embarrassment.  Upon closer inspection, I find that a portion of the proceeds from this special edition go to the Urban Arts Partnership.  I can't make fun of that.



Moving one's house has always been a popular pasttime in New England.  Since the earliest days, buildings have been on the move, by land, by sea, by oxen or truck, whole or in parts.  My own house, a cape built in 1814 was replaced when the family who owned it achieved a modest prosperity in the late 19th century and built a new larger house designed by William Ralph Emerson.  Rather than demolish the existing house, where the owner's wife had grown up, they lifted it from its foundations, put it on greased logs, and then moved it across fields to its present location.  

Drawings of the house that caused mine to be moved ( Drawings by W.R. Emersonformerly in possession of the Dilettante, now in the collection of Maine State Historic Preservation commission
In the neighboring town of Castine, Tory loyalists, not wishing to live in the new United States after the Revolution, took their houses apart, and transported them by boat to Saint Andrews New Brunswick, where they were re-erected, and their owners remained subjects of King George.   Elsewhere in our town is a house built in Ellsworth, 15 miles away, in 1796.  When threatened with demolition, it was purchased by a decorator who borrowed a barge from the St. Regis Paper Company (''fortunately, our family had stock in the company'') and floated it to her parent's summer estate here.  And, in a post last year, I told the tale of Spite House, a Federal Mansion that took an 80 mile trip by sea from its original site in Phippsburg Maine (click HERE).

After writing last week about "La Rochelle" a grand old summer cottage at Bar Harbor, I was reminded of another traveling house  (Click HERE for the previous post).

Early postcard view of three of La Rochelle's neighbors on West Street, built within a few years of each other, before trees and planting matured and gave some sense of separation.  L - R, 'Sunset', designed by Fred Savage; 'Far Niente' designed by Bruce Price, and 'Aloha' designed by William Appleton Potter of Potter & Robertson
One of the fascinating things, to me, about fashionable summer resorts is how the desire to be near society trumped the need for a little elbow room, and how the variety of architectural styles, sit cheek by jowl on lots often as small as those in the city, making strange bedfellows in their architectural cacophony.  West Street in Bar Harbor was no exception.  The first house on the street was La  Rochelle in all its French Renaissance glory.  Its nearest neighbor, the summer cottage of Kentucky poet George Douglass Sherley was a log and stone lodge on a mere half acre of shorefront, and so it went down the street, as one passed shingle style, colonial revival, and Eastlake Victorian cottages by some of the most important architects of late 19th century America.

Photograph of the Sherley cottage by E.E. Soderholtz from The Country House, A Practical Manual by Charles Edwin Hooper, 1903.
The addition of the Sherley property allowed Mr. Bowdoin's cottage a central location on its property.
The Sherley cottage was built and designed by a local carpenter to Mr. Sherley's specifications sometime after 1900.  When Mr. Sherley decided to give up Bar Harbor in 1912, he sold the land to his  neighbor, Mr. Bowdoin of La Rochelle, who desired a larger lawn.   The house, however, wasn't included in the sale.  Mr. Sherley instead had the place dismantled, as if it were a giant Lincoln Log kit, and had the whole shipped back to Lexington, where he had it re-erected.  And of course, I'd love to know if it still exists.  I once saw a picture taken in the 1950's at its later location, but there the trail grows cold.



During the gilded age, when the remote Maine resort of Bar Harbor was considered second only to Newport on the summer social tour, partners in the Morgan Bank, or 'Morgan Men', as they were known, were mainstays of the opulent summer community.  It was understandable.  Their employer had long and deep ties to the resort---J.P. Morgan's wife, the former Frances Tracy, had summered there since childhood, when Bar Harbor was still called Eden and had returned most summers since.  The great banker, more restless, traveled back and forth on his yacht Corsair, an imperial presence on the social scene.  Louis Auchincloss, in A Voice From Old New York, remembered his parents, who summered in Bar Harbor, cancelling a previous social engagement when summoned to dine with Morgan aboard Corsair.  When young Auchincloss questioned his parents---his father did a great deal of business with the Morgan firm---about throwing over their intended hostess for that evening, his mother simply told him that 'someday you will understand'.  

One of the Morgan partners at Bar Harbor was George S. Bowdoin, a grandson of Alexander Hamilton---another of whose grandchildren was married to Morgan's son-in-law Pierson Hamilton, also a partner in the bank, also a Bar Harbor summer resident.  Mrs. Bowdoin, the former Julia Irving Grinnell, was the great niece of Washington Irving.  

The newly completed 'La Rochelle', 1903
Ocean Front
In 1901 Bowdoin purchased an in-town shorefront lot on West Street, and commissioned a cottage from architects Andrews, Jacques & Rantoul.   Completed in 1903, the house , curiously urban in that way of houses in grand resorts---were it not for the ocean behind it, one could imagine this house in Kalorama---was a surprisingly harmonious blend of French Renaissance & English Georgian, of brick trimmed with Indiana limestone.  Large (Some 35 rooms on four levels) but not vast, elegant but not opulent, it was the first major brick house in a resort hitherto filled mostly with massive stone, shingle and stucco cottages.  The new cottage was called 'La Rochelle' after the Bowdoin family's ancestral town in France.  

First floor and grounds plan
Second Floor Plan
Andrews, Jacques and Rantoul, who designed many of Bar Harbor's finest cottages---Herbert Jacques summered on Schooner Head south of town---excelled in the design of integrated houses and landscapes, and 'La Rochelle' sat well supported by an elegant entrance court separated from the street by an brick and iron fence.  On the ocean side, a huge curving terrace with lattice brick and limestone balustrade on the ocean bluff anchored the house to its site.  An intimate sunken walled garden was adjacent to the entrance court.  Although the architectural framework was provided by the architects, the layout and planting plan were by Beatrix Farrand, whose family had an estate nearby.

The sunken garden at 'La Rochelle', once upon a time, and last week
George Bowdoin died the same year as J.P. Morgan, 1913, and his son, Temple Bowdoin, also an associate of the Morgan Bank, died the next year.  "La Rochelle' was inherited by the Bowdoin daughter Edith.  Miss Bowdoin, intensely proud of her Huguenot heritage, sometimes styled herself as Edith Baudoin.   Earnest and serious, a major supporter of the ASPCA, she was a firm opponent of the motorcar on Mt. Desert---a battle soon lost---and is best known today for her donations, both in Bar Harbor and New York, of watering troughs and fountains for horses. 

The entrance portico is beautifully detailed.  Sadly, the balsutrade on the entrance terrace, seen in the top photo, is lost.
After Miss Bowdoin's death in the 1940's, 'La Rochelle was acquired by the Tristam C. Colkets of Philadelphia.  Mrs. Colket was the former Ethel Dorrance, daughter of John T. Dorrance, the Campbell's Soup king, who had summered at Kenarden Lodge south of town.  The Colkets maintained 'La Rochelle' in perfect order---one of the last houses in Bar Harbor to be kept to the precise standards of earlier time, every shrub groomed to perfection, the lawns mowed in English stripes by reel mowers, the gravel in the drive raked daily, the shutters kept in perfect gloss.

Also lost are the brick balustrades that defined the terraces around the house.
 After Mrs. Colket's death, 'La Rochelle' was donated to a favorite charity, The Maine Seacoast Missionary Society, which maintains the boat Sunbeam as a floating church, providing services to the islands of the region.   As so often happens, the Mission took their lovely gift, and immediately started thinking of ways to change it.  And change it they did, almost immediately.  Down came the lovely brick balustrades, whose plinths had only the summer before held pots of perfect geraniums.  Out went the French doors to the lovely iron balconies on the driveway side, replaced by solid panels topped by a single square pane of plate glass.  The iron gates were removed.  Inside, a partition went up, separating the central hall from the cross hall, and cutting off the vista of Frenchman's bay from the front door.

A small circular vestibule opens under the curved double stairs and looks ahead to French doors to the ocean terrace, and a 90 foot cross hall.  Notice the curved mahogany door.
Although Ogden Codman is known to have done the interiors of the Bowdoin's Park Avenue town house, this picture of Mrs.Bowdoin's sitting room at 'La Rochelle' would suggest that he probably wasn't involved at Bar Harbor.
 After a few years, happily, the Mission reconsidered these early changes.  The partition was taken down inside, and although the windows have been replaced in recent years, with square heads instead of the graceful round head they once had, French doors were put back, although not as well designed as the originals, it is a vast improvement, and despite the loss of the balustrades, a chimney, and the formal landscape of the entrance court, I will complain less than usual, because unlike most of its peers, at least it survives and is respected.

Side terrace, once upon, and now.  The eastern end of Bar Island, once owned by another Morgan partner, E.T. Stotesbury, is visible on the right.  Stotesbury purchased it in the early 1900s and had intended to build a cottage there, but, his second wife clearly had other ideas about accessibility for entertaining, and the Stotesburys finally built a cottage on Eden Street, dead center in the heart of fashion
The sun never shines in Maine in May.  When I picked up the camera, the sky was blue with puffy clouds.  By the time I started taking pictures, blue had turned to gray. If one squints one's eyes, the neighborhood around 'La Rochelle' retains a bit of its old lustre.  The house on the left, seen from the side terrace, is 'Reverie Cove', once the summer home of Abram S. Hewitt, mayor of New York, and later his daughters, founders of the Cooper-Hewitt Museum.  It too has lost its elegant terrace balustrades.
Another survivor near 'La Rochelle' is Greenlawn, built in 1884, and typical of the medium-size shingle cottages interspersed among the grander houses throughout Bar Harbor.  Not so many years ago, the brick red windows shades were in every window, a perfect counterpoint to the blue trim.
 Of the gilded age resorts, Bar Harbor's decline was more dramatic and final than that of any other.  After weathering the vicissitudes of the Great Depression and World War II, a forest fire swept through Bar Harbor, destroying half the remaining great cottages overnight.  'La Rochelle', the first house on the West Street as one turned from Eden Street, Bar Harbor's grandest thoroughfare, missed the fire by only one building.  Its neighbor on the corner of Eden and West, the exclusive De Gregoire hotel, burned.

The De Gregoire hotel on the Corner of Eden and West streets, burned in the Bar Harbor fire. A few hundred feet to the right, La Rochelle escaped the flames.
 And there the tale would end, but for a tiny postscript:  In 1905, 'La Rochelle' was published in House & Garden.  The article was seen by a Hartford industrialist, Dr. George C.F. Williams, who so admired it that he commissioned Andrews, Jacques & Rantoul to design a smaller variation of the design on Prospect Avenue in that city.  The Williams house is now the Connecticut Governor's mansion.

The Connecticut Governor's mansion
 For the 1905 House & Garden article about 'La Rochelle', click HERE