Probably the world doesn't need another post about Beauport, the brilliant fantasia of early Americana created at Gloucester Massachusetts by the pioneer decorator Henry Davis Sleeper in the early 20th century.  However, on a recent visit, on a gray fall day, I happened to be the ONLY visitor in the 3 PM time slot, and to experience those wonderful rooms, and the collectioins within, free of other tourists, able to truly experience Sleeper's effects of color, light and arrangement, was a superlative experience.  One is not allowed to photograph the interiors, but the high quality of restoration on the exterior and grounds, including a new cedar shingle roof---oh what nightmares the poor roofing contractor must have had---is worth a look.

For those not familiar with Beauport, please visit the website of its owner, Historic New England, HERE

One enteres through a garden house which adjoins the high brick wall separating the grounds from the public lane.

The new house next door, which replaced 'Wrong Roof', the cottage of Sleeper's friend Caroline Sinkler after it was lost in an explosion, demonstrates all too well that one man's dream house is a neighbor's nightmare


TODAY'S QUIZ: One Degree of Separation

This is Nathaniel Sparhawk, wealthy merchant of Kittery Maine,  son-in-law of Sir William Pepperell, the only American baronet, as painted by John Singleton Copley in 1764 (Collection of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston).

This is a scene from 'Lost Boundaries', starring Mel Ferrer and Beatrice Pearson, which won the award for Best Screenplay at the 1949 Cannes Film Festival.

And these are children of Frederick Woolworth, of those Woolworths, at the former family summer home in Monmouth, Maine, as featured in the August, 2012 issue of Town & Country (photograph by Susanna Howe)

And last, Darryl Hall of Hall & Oates, at his house in Maine (photo via Zimbio)

Do you know the thread that connects these disparate people across the centuries?  No fair using Google if you don't know the answer.

I connect the dots in the October issue of Portland Monthly, beginning on Page 25.  Click HERE for the article.

P.S.  Early on in the article, I use the word bravado.  I meant bravura.  Really I did.  Unfortunately, if I spell my mistake correctly, spell check can't save me from myself...



"Red-flannel shirts should be worn in the woods, if only for the fine contrast which this color makes with the evergreens and water"

                                                                          ----Henry David Thoreau, The Maine Woods 1864

It has ever been thus

Statue of Paul Bunyan, Bangor ,Maine
L.L Bean's Maine Guide Shirt.

"Red is the great clarifier - bright, cleansing, revealing. It makes all colors beautiful. I can't imagine being bored with it - it would be like becoming tired of the person you love. I wanted this apartment to be a garden - but it had to be a garden in hell." 

Thoreau and Vreeland---Who knew?

Post Script:

Thoreau made this foray into fashion advice after his journey to the Chesuncook wilderness in 1853,where he stayed in a log cabin like the one below, and at a public house, whose unexpected presence led him to observe:

'Palace of the Pioneer, Chesuncook'
"Before our companions arrived, we rode on up the Moulton Road seven miles to Molunkus, where the Aroostook road comes into it, and where there is a spacious public house house in the woods.  There was no other evidence of man but this huge shingle palace in this part of the world; but sometimes even this is filled with travelers.  I looked off the piazza round the corner of the house up the Aroostook Road, on which there was no clearing in sight. There was a man just adventuring upon it this evening in a rude, original wagon, a mere seat with a wagon swung under it.  Here, too, was a small trader who kept a store in a box over the way, behind the Molunkus sign-post. I saw him standing in his shop door. His shop was so small, that, if a traveler should make demonstrations of entering, he would have to go out by the back way and confer  with his customer through a window about his goods. "

11 years later, in 1864, the year in which the above description was published in The Maine Woods, the hotel  described by Thoreau had been supplanted by a new tavern, the Chesuncook Lake House.  In 1882, another traveler, Thomas Sedgwick Steele traveled up for the fishing, and in his book about the journey, Paddle & Portage: From Moosehead Lake to the Aroostook River, he left his own impression of the accomodations:

"There is a farm upon this lake It consists of a wilderness of ground and a collection of rickety sheds clustered like barnacles to a major pile which you suspect to be the homestead There is nothing pretentious about the architecture It is of a rather complex order and the span of life never seemed to me so short as at the moment I attempted to determine it Such a view of angles horizontals and perpendiculars never before greeted my eyes It was simply distracting The designing genius must have suffered with a cast in his eye or a mind disordered through indigestion   These farm buildings stand alone in a large open tract.of country.  The sight of them strikes you instantly as strange and unaccountable At first you wonder and half believe yourself in the vicinity of Ararat and a debilitated ark Then you shudder and give thought to a terrible suspicion a small pox hospital perhaps Finally unable to reach a plausible conclusion you forget you are in Maine and in generous sympathy with the glory awarded to all the super dilapidated buildings of the lower states declare at once that the pile must be the old headquarters of General Washington "

The Chesuncook Lake house still operates today.  The population of Chesunccook village, in the last census was 10 (Ten), all of whom, we hope, wear red flannel shirts.



Note: this longer-than-usual post first appeared as an article on New York Social Diary, 01.14.2013

Summer Society has always needed its amusements, and Gilded Age Bar Harbor was no exception. Golf came first, as it often does. With the founding of the Kebo Valley Club in 1888, Bar Harbor was in the vanguard of the newly popular sport in America. The new club, with six holes designed by H.C. Leeds, was stated to be "cultivation of athletic sports and furnishing innocent amusement for the public (or at least that segment of the public listed in a new publication called The Social Register) for reasonable compensation." Or at least that segment of the public listed in a new publication called The Social Register, begun only two years earlier. With this, the transformation of Bar Harbor from hotel resort to fashionable summer colony had begun in earnest, and Society was--literally---off and swinging.

The first Kebo Valley clubhouse, designed by Wilson Eyre
The new clubhouse was designed by the Philadelphia architect Wilson Eyre in a suitably picturesque style — the marble splendors of Newport were not for Bar Harbor yet. The separation of hotel visitors and the new cottage society, in their large and elaborate villas, was well underway, and by June 1890, The New York Times was able to report:
Fifth Green, Kebo, c. 1915

“Kebo Valley aims to lead in things social, and is certainly in a way a sort of focus, though its claim cannot be said to be generally acknowledged yet. The transient people do not take kindly to it, as it tends to take away from the prestige of social affairs in the village. Nor are the cottage people by any means unanimous in its favor. It is for one thing,a bit away from the centre of things ...”
Horse show at Kebo
Whatever aversion the summer colony may have had to traveling a mile from town soon forgotten, and in addition to golf, Kebo offered tennis, hosted Bar Harbor’s early horse shows, and contained a theater suitable for dances and performances, including the amateur theatricals and tableaux so loved by Society of a simpler time.

The club lawns and verandas also served an all important function as a place to be seen in the afternoon, just as the Swimming Club on the West Street shore provided a morning promenade as the members of the colony swam to music from the Boston Symphony Players.
Society on parade at the second Kebo clubhouse (Maine Historic Preservation Commission)

In 1899, the clubhouse at Kebo burned. A new clubhouse was built, but lacked the performance space of the old, and by 1905 a few leaders of the summer community decided that the time had come to build for the Arts---Music, Theater, Dance--- the same quality of facility as those already already available for the Amusements---Yachting, Golf, Tennis and Alcohol.

The site for the Arts Building was secured on Eagle Lake Road, at the very edge of one of the Kebo Valley Club’s putting green, which doubled as an outdoor amphitheater.

Five prominent members of the summer colony stepped forward with funds Mrs. Henry Dimock, sister of W.C. Whitney, George W. Vanderbilt, George B. Dorr, who would become a founder also of Acadia National Park, Fifth Avenue Hotel heir Henry Lane Eno, and Mrs. Robert Abbe, wife of the pioneer radiologist.

Plan of the Building of Arts
The architect chosen was Guy Lowell, a fashionable country house architect who also designed the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. With the usual logic of a committee, it was decided that a Greek temple under the pine trees would provided the most appropriate setting for the high culture they envisioned for the rocky island. 

The newly completed building of Arts, as published in Architectural Review
This temple was built not of stone, but stucco plastered over wood, “finished to represent Parian marble," and the red Venetian tile roof was supported by “the largest wooden columns ever turned in Maine.” Copies of the Parthenon Friezes, imported from Paris, were mounted on the facade. Inside, the walls and ceiling of the stage adapted the principles of the sounding boards of the great German concert halls, and the natural lighting was provided “from the top after the manner of the ancient Greek shrines.”

The interior of the Building of Arts (Maine Historic Presevation Commission
A proscenium curtain of golden English damask, specially woven for the building and elaborately embroidered, was donated by Mrs. John Inness Kane and George Vanderbilt. The building immediately attracted national attention, an article by Owen Wister in Century Magazine, as well as a large photographic spread in The Architectural Review.

Rendering of the Building of Arts by Jules Guerin, from Century Magazine
The opening concert on June 13, 1907 featured Emma Eames, then one of the world’s leading lyric sopranos. She was followed over the years by many others of the world’s greats including the violinists Kreisler, Zimbalist and Kneisel, singers Alma Gluck and Roger de Bruyn, pianists Paderewski, Schelling, and Iturbe,conductors Damrosch and Stowkowski, and monologists Ruth Draper andCornelia Otis Skinner. Acting troupes such as the Washington Square Players and The Theatre Workshop performed Bar Harbor seasons, as did local stock companies like the Surry Players, sponsored by Mrs. Ethelbert Nevin, whose numbers included the young Henry Fonda.

Matinee at the Building of Arts (Maine Historic Preservation Commission)
High Culture was not the only venue at the Building of Arts, and flower shows, including the Bar Harbor Sweet Pea competition were held there, as well as well as ‘serious’ lectures and art exhibits. 

The Greek Tableau, as published in Architectural Review
And of course, Society has always loved dress up no costume too silly,, and in the early years many amateur tableaux were featured, including a 1909 Greek pageant arranged by the artistic Mrs. Albert Clifford Barney, mother of Natalie (click HERE for more about her) featuring members of the summer colony, including assorted Endicotts, Schieffelins, Gurnees, de Kovens, Pinchots and Welds traipsing about the grounds in diaphanous garb, acting the story of the love of Egeria for the mortal Strephon. At another, in 1915, members of society recreated favorite portraits.

The Greek Pageant (Architectural Review)
The young widow Mrs. John Jacob Astor was a Reynolds beauty in picture hat, a Miss Maull balanced Mrs. Astor as a Gainsborough, Miss Mary Canfield andJohn J. Emery, Jr. were a Watteau Shepard and Shepardess, Mrs. Ernest Schelling reenacted a Polish Farm scene with costumes she’d brought from Poland, and family proud Albert Eugene Gallatin portrayed his own grandfather in a Gilbert Stuart Portrait. It was simpler time.

In those days before Tanglewood and the Pops, the Boston Symphony lay idle in the summer, and members of the orchestra, as the Boston Symphony Players, would spend the summer in Bar Harbor, playing at the Swimming Pool Club during the morning swim, and popular tunes at parties and dances in the evenings (This franchise was to receive serious competition when a young bandleader named Meyer Davis broke onto the Bar Harbor scene and his eventually became the orchestra of choice from Bar Harbor to Palm Beach.)

The Washington Square Players in costume for their performance at the Building of Arts (New York Times)

Meanwhile, golf and art continued to merge at the edge of the Kebo Greens, and the Symphony Players even provided background music for a ladies putting tournament.

For all the glamour of the featured performers, the most extraordinary performance at the Building of Arts there was not seen by the public. In 1916, Meyer Davis was playing for the evening dances at the Malvern Hotel. In her memoirs, Mrs. Davis recounts watching the orchestra through a glass door behind the ballroom stage when she suddenly witnessed a most extraordinary little scene. A compact man, dapper in a pearl gray suit, entered the back of the room, and rather than taking a seat, as she expected, he suddenly, unseen by the others focused on the band, broke into a little gavotte. Entranced, she made inquiries, and to her astonishment, the man proved to be the great dancer Vaslav Nijinsky.

Njinsky (in costume for til Eulenspiegel, left)
As World War I raged in Europe that summer, Serge Diaghelev instead sent Nijinsky to spend the summer at the Malvern, where it was hoped the fresh air and relative isolation of Bar Harbor would inspire the dancer to complete his new (and as fate had it, last) ballet, “Till Eulenspiegel.” Rest and isolation were relative concepts with Nijinsky and his wife, after one evening’s round of argument, took a car and drove aimlessly for two hours in the middle of the night, returning at dawn.

Robert Edmund Jones' costume designs for til Eulenspiegel
A fashion columnist ponders Till Eulenspiegel's effect on fashion
There is no record of a public performance by Nijinsky in Bar Harbor that summer, the Building of Arts became his rehearsal space, and there the ballet was choreographed for its opening in New York that winter. He was joined there by set and costume designer Robert Edmond Jones and by Paul Magriel, who wrote that "invitations to the great houses of Bar Harbor showered upon me like gold,” in the hope that the great dancer could be lured along with him, but Nijinsky rarely went out in society, instead rehearsing by day and working on the production designs by evening.

After the 1929 stock market crash, the Building of Arts soldiered on for a time. New patrons were found, impresario Timothee Adamowski continued to book important performers, but the clock was running out. The Surry Players performed Aristophanes’ ‘The Birds’ in the outdoor amphitheater in July of 1935.

The coverage in the New York Times the next day was far more concerned with the quality of the audience than of the play. Notably absent from the impressive listing of names---among them Mrs. Reginald de Koven, Mrs. John D. Rockefeller Jr., Mrs. J. West Roosevelt, Mary Roberts Rinehart, Mrs. Gerrish Milliken, Mrs. Shepard Fabbri---were the husbands, who may have been back at the office in New York, or more likely, on their yachts or the golf course next to the amphitheater, where one assumes that the occasional cry of ‘fore’ punctuated the Greek chorus

In 1941, as America entered World War II, an exhibit was held at the Building of Arts for benefit of the American British Art Center, featuring Cecil Beaton’s then unpublished series “London’s Honorable Scars,” recent London war posters, and 25 sketches by J.M.W Turner. By the next season, Bar Harbor gas rationing had made remote Bar Harbor difficult of access, and the colony was a virtual ghost town, with many cottages shuttered, as some had been since the Depression.

John D. Rockefeller, Jr. had been among those who had quietly made up the Building of Arts deficit for years, and he had now taken stronger action, as the structure was about to be sold by the town for tax liens. Through his agent,Serenus Rodick, whose ancestors had built the largest of Bar Harbor’s early hotels, Rockefeller quietly purchased the building for $500, hoping to secure its future as a center for culture on the island.

By 1944, Rockefeller decided that adequate support was not forthcoming from the community, and he disposed of the building. It was acquired by Consuella de Sides, a pupil of Baba Ram Dass, who intended to make it once again a center of performance. In October 1947, the great forest fire that swept Bar Harbor in that driest of seasons swept across the Kebo Greens, destroying both the clubhouse and the Building of Arts. Bar Harbor’s temple for the high arts had lasted but forty years.

President Taft, not attending a performance at the Building of the Arts.
Kebo Valley Club survives, its golf course the eighth oldest in the country. The ‘Elbow Hole,” where President Taft carded 27 in the shadow of the Building of Arts, where he was not attending a performance, is now the 17th green, and nearby at the edge of the woods the broad steps of the lost temple lead nowhere.