Miss Spence had formerly summered across the bay at Sorrento, but now spent her summers at Bar Harbor with her longtime companion, Miss Charlotte Baker, the assistant principal at Spence, an heiress to the fortune left by her aunt's husband, John Steward Kennedy. Two years later, Spence and Baker, with their four adopted children, would move from a cottage on the Kennedy estate to 'The Willows' a beautiful Regency style cottage designed for Miss Baker by the Boston firm of Andrews Jaques & Rantoul on Eden Street. "The Willows" would eventually pass to Miss Baker's sister, Mrs. Francis Kellogg, and later be sold to Canadian mining tycoon Sir Harry Oakes, but that's another story, which can be found HERE
|The Misses Spence & Baker, with adopted daughters Margaret Spence & Ruth Baker (Spence School)|
Despite Miss Spence's disapproval, the Astor marriage went ahead, only to be cut short when Col. Astor perished aboard the Titanic in April of 1912. In August of 1912, three of the survivors, Madeline Astor, Mrs. George Widener, and Mrs. John B.Thayer, were in Bar Harbor as the guests of Mrs. A.J. Cassatt at "Four Acres", the Cassatt estate, which abuttied the property where Miss Baker and Miss Spence's new cottage was rising.
|'The Willows', the Bar Harbor cottage of Miss Baker|
The next summer, even as the Misses Baker and Spence were moving into "The Willows", Mrs. Astor was also moving, into a nearby cottage also designed by Andrews, Jaques & Rantoul, a few carefully raked gravel driveways up Eden Street from the famed educators.
|La Selva, ocean front in better days|
That house was 'La Selva', built in 1903 for Pennsylvania coal baron Andrew Davis. During Mrs. Astor's occupancy members of the press were frequently seen lurking at the gates in search of news about Mrs. Astor and her new baby, John Jacob Astor VI.
|In 1916, Harper's Bazaar caught Mrs. Astor at Bar Harbor as she was about to be remarried.|
A few years later, Mrs. Astor would depart "La Selva" for a more secluded cottage on the George Vanderbilt estate, but "La Selva" would soon attract another colorful tenant, Mrs. Leonard Thomas, formerly Blanche Oelrichs of Newport, known professionally as the playwright, poet, and actress Michael Strange. Sometimes referred to as 'the most beautiful woman in America', Mrs. Thomas was already planning to leave her banker husband to obtain a Paris divorce, that she might run away with her lover, John Barrymore, one of the most famous actors of his day.
|La Selva's next tenant was the beautiful Michael Strange (nee Blanche Oelrichs), seen here with her lover and later husband, John Barrymore.|
'La Selva' is currently for sale, its condition more than a little reminiscent of 'Grey Gardens'. I have written its colorful history for 'House of the Month' in the current issue of Portland Monthly. The article may be read HERE. More pictures HERE.
|La Selva, views of entrance front taken two weeks ago|