Miss Spence had formerly summered across the bay at Sorrento, but now spent her summers with her longtime companion, the heiress Miss Charlotte Baker, who was also assistant principal at Spence, in a cottage at 'Kenarden Lodge', the estate of Miss Baker's aunt, the widow of railroad financier John Stewart Kennedy. Two years later, they would move to 'The Willows' a beautiful cottage designed for Miss Baker by the Boston firm of Andrews Jaques & Rantoul on Eden Street, where they summered with their four adopted children. The Willows would eventually pass to Miss Baker's sister, Mrs. Francis Kellogg, and later be sold to 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 marriage went ahead, 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 abutting 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 cottage designed by Andrews, Jaques & Rantoul a few carefully raked gravel driveways down Eden Street from the famed educator.
|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 found lurking at the gates.
|In 1916, Harper's Bazaar caught Mrs. Astor at Bar Harbor as she was about to be remarried.|
A few years later, after her next marriage, Mrs. Astor would depart, but La Selva would soon attract another colorful tenant, sometimes referred to as 'the most beautiful woman in America', who was already planning to leave her banker husband to obtain a Paris divorce, that she might run away with her lover, 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|