|The Killing of a Great American Home|
The Death of our Versailles
|From The Philadelphia Evening Bulletin|
|By Hans Knight|
|May 4, 1980|
The Wrecking ball
didn't have to punch hard. Like a groggy fighter only a light jab away from the
10-count, the house shuddered and gave off a spray of soggy mortar like giant
pearls of sweat on a face. Then the broken wall crashed down.
“Well", said Marie Kitto, who was watching in the rain and the mud, "there goes E. T.'s study. He had a lot of paintings in it, way back, but the books on the shelves always looked stiff and immaculate as if they'd never been opened."
Mrs. Kitto, a lively, tweedy woman with gray hair and bright blue eyes, calls herself Springfield Township's unofficial historian. She had watched many buildings come and go, but this one was special. She was watching the death of Whitemarsh Hall, the enormous magnificent mansion that banker E.T. Stotesbury built in 1921. He had built it for his 2nd wife, Eva, whom he had met on board a ship, and married when he was 62
The house was made of marble and Indiana limestone. It was surrounded by 325 acres of meadowland and maple woods. Ducks and swans floated on limpid pools in the gardens. Statues of Greek and Roman women graced the paths radiating from the house. One stone woman bad held her bonds up to her face, and Mrs. Kitto wondered aloud why the woman would be crying in the midst of such richness and beauty. Then Mrs. Kitto laughed - "She's got a right to cry now because she doesn't have a head anymore. Once called Philadelphia s Versailles for its columned, balustraded grandeur and for the awesomeness visiting Europeans snicker at and secretly wish they had more of the mansion doesn't have much of anything anymore.
For the sentimental among the citizens of Montgomery County, for the aging who remember the comings and goings of heads of state from abroad and the possessors of new money and old closer to home, the distant music from the vast ballroom, the unseen but easily imagined Eva contemplating the goldfish frolicking in the fish pond Ed Stotesbury had built for her just off her boudoir ... for all those there are the voices of ghosts. The voice of the lady guest who exclaimed, "This looks like a Hollywood set," never to be invited again; the hushed voices of the servants who worked below the main floors mostly at night to be out of Eva's vision, the voices of countless ladies and gentlemen of the Roaring Twenties who, having survived the war to end all wars, displayed their pleasure in the it thought that there never would be another.
Over all of this Mr. Stotesbury presided with than cursory appreciation. Unlike most of the guests he had come up the hard way. Relatively, anyway. The son of wealthy Philadelphia sugar merchant, he took a job at 16 with Drexel and Co., the bankers, as a $16.60 a month clerk. J. Anthony Drexel liked the boy who was always punctual and always kept the records accurate and neat.
When J.P. Morgan, the legendary financier, joined up with Drexel, young Stotesbury worked with Morgan. The rest is financial history. Over the years, he became a multimillionaire, and when, as a widower and grandfather, he wed Eva Cromwell, much younger and from Chicago and New York wealth, his life seemed fulfilled.
Eva, according to most reminiscences, ran the house in grand style:
There are those who say that if she had a major fault, it was that she wanted more and bigger than anyone else. When Edward Stotesbury died in 1938, the upkeep of Whitemarsh Hall approached a million dollars a year. "She had a reputation for extravagance," Mrs. Kitto, the historian, explained, dodging a clump of mud flung by an excavator's shovel. "Perhaps that was the beginning of the end for the house.
Eva put the house up for sale but there were no takers. It had cost Ed Stotesbury about $3 million to build some estimates put it as high as $10 million - and the sale price was high. Eva moved to Palm Beach, where the Stotesburys had maintained a winter home, and World War II came. Later, Eva died. By 1964 the mansion, having passed through a few hands that did nothing with it, was empty.
It stood there like a once-indomitable elephant paralyzed by age and neglect, waiting helpless for the armies of the ants. The ants came in the shape of vandals. First went the copper from the roofs. Then there were fires. Bit by bit, the piping vanished, and the heads and arms of the statues. Beer cans swam in place of swans on the pond. Graffiti grew on the walls like fungus. Kids roamed the manor by day, drug addicts peopled the halls by night.
"The vandalism was disgraceful," said Mrs. Kitto. "Some of the stuff was stolen and hauled away, sure. But most of the time, the vandals didn't even bother to collect. They just wanted to smash and ruin and destroy. It was senseless."
Maybe the Russians would have done it differently. They might have turned this rotting symbol of wealth and grace into a Lenin museum. Maybe the Swedes would have turned it all into a home for wayward kids before they became that way. The British, almost certainly, would have unearthed an heir and had him serve tea and crumpets to tourists for a modest but steady fee.
|How Perfect Was the Rubble Pile|
|From The Philadelphia Evening Bulletin|
|By Adrian Lee|
|May 8, 1980|
Whitemarsh Hall has been
recreated so many times that the mind rejects the vandalized interiors. Even with
the wreckers breaking open the devastated, fire-gutted rooms now, it's still
easy to picture the life financier E.T. Stotesbury and his wife led there. The
fascination is not with the sunlight finally reaching the moldy, spongy plaster,
but with the English paintings - Stotesbury's priceless Gainsboroughs, his
Romneys - that used to hang above the mantelpieces. With the crows cawing in and
out of the ruined ballroom, illusion hiding reality.
In another couple of weeks, there won't be anything left of the house in Springfield Township except the six tall, stone columns supporting the portico out front. Scrubbed to get the spray-painted graffiti off, the columns will be left in place, with a few of the limestone roof beams on top. Just enough of them to tie the columns together. Instead of the luxury, the opulent lines and curves that distinguished one of the last great mansions built in America, a spare angular show of roofless columns. It would suggest more the wintry widower Stotesbury than the woman he built it for, the wife (his second) of his old age.
And in that, the display will be inaccurate. From all accounts, Mrs. Lucretia Cromwell Stotesbury, was a striking woman. A full-length photograph taken in Paris in 1912, the year she was married (and given to one of this column's in-laws, a Stotesbury housekeeper) certainly shows her so. For the winter of bleak, old Ned Stotesbury's life, a full summer of a woman. There's not much left of the place to suggest her presence, little of the classic, rounded statuary to relieve the austere lines of the columns. Diana the Huntress is so mutilated that it's hard to tell whether she's a man or a woman. It's the chill personality of J. P. Morgan partner, Edward Townsend Stotesbury, that survives. Appropriate enough - he made the $12 million to build and furnish the place, and another $90 million or so on top of that, including the $4 million he gave his wife as a wedding present.
So you have to see the columns with the fading, yellowing photograph propped against them, so to speak. It's a touch this last remaining structure of this vast house needs. Without it, there's no hint of an old widower's passion for an invalid man's wife, his patience as the husband's life wore to a close, and finally the January, 1912 marriage and the Paris photograph Mrs. Stotesbury later gave her housekeeper. Years later, the housekeeper said: "She was not a woman to allow herself to be taken from her husband, nor if the circumstances had been reversed, was she a woman to take a man from his wife."
With a wrecking crane flailing away with a five-ton steel ball, the demolition has gotten to be a kind of local spectacle; but it was already that before the crane moved in. Even as a vandalized shell, with nothing for people to took at but soggy, leprous-looking plaster, it still attracted sightseers. What made them slog through the mud to peer in at the rotting parquet floors collapsing into the basement? Was it the perfection the house once represented? The passing of an era? The winter summer love affair? Wealth and power beyond most men's dreams? What spell did the house cast, even after the copper had been torn off the roof, and the rain turned the plaster to a greenish slime?
Somewhere, sometime, lost in all the wreckage, there had to be that first break-in, that first act of vandalism that transformed the house. It marred the interior; the perfection that had awed, intimidated the vandals was gone. Whatever spirit it is that inhabits old, empty houses must have realized it was suddenly vulnerable; as serene and untouched as the house might have seemed afterwards, it had been fatally wounded. That first blow had killed it.
After that, it all had a kind of inevitability to it - the smashing of the windows, the sea-green mantelpieces, the mirrors where Lucretia Stotesbury had studied herself. From the marks on the gilt-encrusted frames where Stotesbury's English masterpieces had hung, they had been worked over with a piece of the lead-pipe plumbing ripped from the basement. Watching the house die over the years, you wonder why that first sickening blow. Was it to defy wealth and privilege? Or, incomprehensible, to scar the face of beauty.
|Mansions: An Endangered Species|
|From The Philadelphia Inquirer|
|By Jane M. Von Bergen|
|September 26, 1983|
Butterflies flit across
the wild flowers and swamp rushes crowd Neptune's statue in the, fountain carved
out of a hillside. Someone has scrawled "Led Zeppelin" in strident blue across
the top of the gray belvedere a gracious pillared stone, shelter that once
graced the end of the garden walk.
Gone are the Great Gatsby days when America's richest and most influential people came to the "Versailles of America,", Philadelphia financial genius Edward Stotesbury's 145-room palace commanding the hill above Whitemarsh and Springfield Townships.
Little remains of Whitemarsh Hall, gathering place of the wealthy. Rain ruined it first. Then vandals ravaged it, setting fires in the grand halls and plundering its architectural treasures, In April 1980, a developer's bulldozers and dynamite finished the job. Today, a few pillars and a scattering of statues are the only witnesses to a grand lifestyle that exists no more. Down the hill a bit, a development company, is continuing construction of 183 townhouse units, part of a plan approved in 1979 by Springfield Township officials.
"It's a sad tale," said Marie Kitto, a 55-year-old Springfield Township Stotesbury aficionado. "Believe it." Perhaps because Whitemarsh Hall's fate was sealed so recently, it may be the best-known example of estate-turned-housing-development in the area. But there are others. The few grand houses that remain face extinction in a world of soaring energy costs, property assessments, inheritance taxes, fewer servants and less extravagant, more mobile lifestyles.
The estates, with their magnificent houses patterned after French manors or English castles, have long been public assets, privately held passive sort of luxury by association and part of the appeal of Philadelphia’s most gracious suburbs.
But in the last four decades, as Suburban population increased, housing builders brought increasing pressure to bear on the owners of the estates to sell their land for development a pattern that persists' even now. In the already densely populated inner suburbs, the few estates that remain are the only sizable pieces of building-ground left. Although the press of development is relentless, the attitudes of developers, citizens, history buffs and municipal leaders have changed. No longer is anyone content with the traditional grid-pattern of development, which, is one builder put it, “raped the land” by jamming too many houses onto it with little regard for the land's natural characteristics.
Instead, with a growing awareness of what mansions and their surroundings mean to the community, municipal officials and planners are looking for developments that preserve and protect the land - now viewed as a public asset, no matter who owns it.
Signposts of this attitude are evident everywhere:
* A handful of suburban developers are following the lead of city builders who, instead of tearing down old buildings and mansions, are resurrecting them into offices, stores, condominiums or apartments.
* Federal tax laws have created an incentive to restore historically certified buildings instead of tearing them down to get vacant building ground. And officials in Pennsylvania who must certify the structures say a rush is on among developers wanting to cash in on the tax credits.
* Cluster zoning, recently enacted by many suburban municipalities, can preserve the design and grand physical quality of an estate. Instead of designing a tract so that each house has its own large yard, houses are "clustered" on smaller lots to leave larger tracts of land as undeveloped open space.
* Officials in county planning commissions are awaiting the outcome of a new zoning ordinance enacted in Radnor Township on the mansion-rich Main Line in Delaware.
|Stotesbury Memorabilia is Accepted|
|From The Philadelphia Inquirer|
|Monday, October 17, 1983|
|By Sandra Long|
A collection of photographs and other memorabilia from the Edward Stotesbury family will line the walls of Springfield Township's municipal building and library by the end of this week.
The township commissioners Wednesday night agreed to accept "on loan" the art exhibit from Stotesbury Associates. The exhibit has been valued at $50,000. Township Manager J. R. Fulginiti said the commissioners thought it would be better to accept the exhibit as a loan, rather than as a gift. That would preclude any possible conflict of interest should the donor, a developer, come before the board, he said.
Fulginiti said the collection had been housed in one of the townhouses built on the grounds where Whitemarsh Hall once stood. The move is scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. Thursday.
|Glimpses of History of Family|
|From The Philadelphia Inquirer|
|Thursday, December 1, 1983|
|By Sandra Long|
Visitors to Springfield Township's municipal building can now learn some of the history of the E.T. Stotesbury family, which once resided in the Whitemarsh Hall mansion in the township. Large panels with photographs of family members grace the once bare walls of the township building on Paper Mill Road. "This belongs here," said Marie Kitto, the township's unofficial historian and curator of the exhibit. ''Whitemarsh Hall was of and about Springfield Township," she said.
The exhibit was put together by Philadelphia contractor Jay Gross, who is building townhouses on the 300 acres where Whitemarsh Hall once stood. The photo exhibit was in one of the townhouses until last month, when Gross lent it to the township.
The Board of Commissioners decided not to accept the exhibit as a gift because the members believed it might create a conflict of interest when Gross applied for permits with the township.
The exhibit is made up of panels 4 feet by 8 feet and others 20 inches by 30 inches with gray backgrounds and red lettering. They include copies of original newspaper and magazine articles about and of the Stotesbury family. There are photographs of the original construction of the mansion and the layout of the gardens. Each panel includes a brief description of the accompanying photographs. In one meeting room are panels describing the family tree.
Mrs. Kitto has been studying the history of the Stotesbury family for the last 10 years. "Now, if somebody says Whitemarsh Hall or Stotesbury, they automatically call me," she said. She gives slide-show presentations on the history of mansion and the family.
The township will spend $300 to place each of the panels in laminated glass, Mrs. Kitto said. She hopes the township can find enough money to place track lights in the hallway to illuminate the panels. "It looked like a prison in here for a long time," she said. "Thank goodness we have something to put on the walls." The township building was the only place that could accommodate the display, Mrs. Kitto said. She said when she was first contacted about putting up the exhibit, "I said give me 10 minutes and I'll come back with a plan." She did. Mrs. Kitto has arranged the exhibit so it is a brief story of the Stotesbury family. It can be seen from 8:30 a.m. until 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, the hours the township building is open.
|Relief, as Work is Resumed on Stotesbury Townhouses|
|From The Philadelphia Inquirer|
|Monday January 6, 1986|
|By Francie Scott|
To the delight of residents of the Stotesbury development in Springfield Township, Trumbauer Drive is once again bustling with construction traffic and the sound of workers' hammers. Construction resumed some months ago after more than two years of inactivity. Trumbauer Drive winds through the long-planned, often-delayed community, which is expected to have a total of 183 townhouses.
The project was approved by the township on April 11, 1979, and 48 of the 70 homes proposed for phase one were completed in the early 1980s. However, interest rates on loans rose, and construction stopped in the fall of 1983.
The development sat idle until Evans Builders of Horsham bought the 55-acre tract in September 1985. Although Evans Builders bought a plan that had been approved by the township, the company wanted to make some changes. So in May, when the agreement of sale was signed, yet another approval process began, and the second phase was approved Sept. 11.
Springfield commissioners anticipate approving 70 more townhouses in the third and final phase of the project on Wednesday. The 22 townhouses remaining from the first phase have been completed, and the construction of 43 townhouses in the second phase is under way.
"We're just so pleased to see the development completed," said Pam Samuels, who bought one of the houses in December 1983 from the original developer, Jay Gross.
The Stotesbury development is named for Edward T. Stotesbury, a prominent banker who built a 147-room mansion on the site between 1915 and 1921. The estate was designed by architect Horace Trumbauer, for whom Trumbauer Drive is named, and took five years to build. Stotesbury and his second wife, Eva, entertained lavishly at the estate until his death in 1938. The couple commissioned Jacques Greber, the French landscaper who designed part of the Benjamin Franklin Parkway in Philadelphia, to create an elaborate French garden at the rear of the house. The house was known as Whitemarsh Hall.
Marie Kitto, who describes herself as the unofficial historian of Springfield, said Whitemarsh Hall was the largest house in the state and was hailed as the Versailles of America.
The estate was sold to the Penn Salt Co. (now the Pennwalt Corp.) in 1946, and was used as a laboratory and offices by the chemical company until 1964, when the company moved to King of Prussia.
Whitemarsh Hall was left empty for almost two decades, during which the structure and the gardens deteriorated. The stone work started to crumble and vandals destroyed many of the statues in the garden.
"It was a disaster," lamented Kitto. "It was criminal that it had to go, but let's face it, who could afford it?"
Kitto recalled that many development ideas were proposed for the property but met with opposition from township residents until the Gross project was approved. The mansion was razed in 1980 but some artifacts remain. Stone columns that once supported a portico stand out against a hillside opposite the framework for a cluster of townhouses. A belvedere, or open-roof gallery, remains at one end of the terrace. A gray-stone retaining wall stretches behind another cluster of townhouses, and a headless statue graces the lawn of one unit.
Samuels said the developers "did a really super job" of saving stone work that could be preserved. "With the historical artifacts, it's not going to be a regular townhouse community," she added. "It's always going to be unique."
The early residents of Stotesbury experienced setbacks after Gross stopped his involvement with the project. One of them was that Trumbauer Drive remained unfinished. Also, the subcontractors who mowed the common area grass and plowed the roads after snowfalls had not been paid and refused to continue the work. That situation has been rectified.
Some residents meet informally once every two to three months at Samuels' home, and plan to form a homeowners' association after legal details have been resolved with Gross' attorney.
Samuels said the residents were pleased with what Evans Builders had done and were encouraged by the way the townhouses were selling.
Real estate agent Art Herling of Andrews, Dickinson & Pinkestone in Fort Washington is marketing the development. He said phase two was half-sold, with five townhouses still to be built. Herling said he and his sister had bought one of the townhouses and two other salespeople in his office also have purchased units. The Victorian-style townhouses range from $100,000 to $125,000 and are available with two, three or four bedrooms.
Michael Evans of Evans Builders said he expected to start building the third and final phase in the spring, and expected the construction of phase two to be completed in June. Evans said the Stotesbury development probably would be completed by January 1987.
Life for Historic Site
Homes Where Stotesbury Mansion Stood
|From The Philadelphia Inquirer|
|Sunday, February 9, 1986|
|By Gene Austin|
Stotesbury, in the Wyndmoor area of Montgomery County's Springfield Township, had an exciting fling some years ago when it was a private estate and won such labels as "America's Versailles," but its ultimate place in history will be that of a middle-class housing subdivision with modest but attractive houses and a better-than-ordinary site.
The transformation is progressing with a new flurry of housing construction at Stotesbury, once the site of a 147-room mansion called Whitemarsh Hall. The mansion, completed in 1921, was the home of one of the nation's wealthiest families, headed by financier Edward T. Stotesbury, and was a center of social events and visits by the great and near-great of the era.
Although Michael Evans, the second developer in six years to build houses at Stotesbury, has a healthy respect for the remaining relics of Stotesbury's glory days, he has dropped efforts to evoke Stotesbury's past at every turn in the development's streets. "What we wanted was to separate ourselves from what happened here before," said Evans, who at 29 has a growing string of housing developments in Montgomery and Bucks Counties, including Fort Washington Glen, Timber Glen and Sumney Woods. "We have completely new designs for the homes, although we feel they're in context with the English flavor here."
Evans said the remaining traces of Whitemarsh Hall - a portico with six 34- foot-high limestone columns, a gazebo, a retaining wall, a headless statue and a few other remnants - will be saved. "The people who already live here are interested in keeping it that way," he said.
The 49-acre development occupies a hilltop site off Cheltenham Avenue near Paper Mill Road. The road leading off Cheltenham and into Stotesbury, Trumbauer Drive, is named after architect Horace Trumbauer, who designed the mansion.
Evans said it is possible on clear days to see points up to 30 miles away from Stotesbury. "The view is really incredible," he said.
Jay Gross, who started building houses at Stotesbury in 1980, demolished the shell of the mansion, which had been used as an office building from about 1946 to 1964 and was crumbling from neglect and vandalism. Gross, a lifelong resident of the Philadelphia area who is a rich source of lore about Whitemarsh Hall and the Stotesburys, tried to save enough remnants to give the community a historic flavor.
However, Gross' plans to build 183 townhouses on the 50-acre Stotesbury site were interrupted by the housing recession in the early 1980s, when interest rates for mortgages climbed as high as 18 percent. About 50 houses were built on the site before Gross decided to get out of the development business and devote his time to Bell Savings Bank. "I didn't have time to do both and decided to concentrate on the savings bank, even though I enjoyed building enormously," said Gross, who is chairman of Bell Savings' board. He put the remaining Stotesbury lots up for sale and Evans bought them.
Evans has built about 15 houses at the site and has several dozen more under construction, including five sample houses that are nearing completion. The plan still calls for a total of 183 houses.
Evans' concern for a fresh start at Stotesbury is taking him down different paths from those Gross followed. For example, Gross gave his townhouses tags such as the Kimball, after financier Fiske Kimball, a Stotesbury associate; the Morgan, after J.P. Morgan, a partner and associate of Stotesbury; the Drexel, after Anthony J. Drexel, another Stotesbury associate, among others. The Gross houses, each with two to four bedrooms, had prices starting at $89,900.
Evans has chosen British names such as Wellington, Windsor, Edinborough and Canterbury for his two-bedroom and three-bedroom townhouses, which have prices starting at $96,900. Evans has added front-facing gables, steeply sloping roofs and arched windows to his designs to set them off from Gross' boxier conceptions.
Art Herling, sales manager of Stotesbury for Evans and the real estate brokerage firm of Andrews, Dickinson & Pinkstone Inc., said the designs are the result of studying and combining "the best features of some successful townhouse jobs." Herling said most of the houses are sold with such options as decks, fireplaces, garages, family rooms and luxury bathrooms, bringing the typical selling price to "$120,000 or more."
He said many of the buyers are young professionals or so-called empty- nesters, whose children have grown up and are leaving larger homes for residences that are easier to maintain. "Some of the people work in Center City and some in the Fort Washington area," he said, pointing out that the development is within a few minutes of Route 309 and has quick access to the Pennsylvania Turnpike at nearby Fort Washington.
One of Gross' history-saving projects was to set up a Stotesbury-Whitemarsh Hall museum in one of the townhouses. It featured an elaborate display of photographs, maps, documents and descriptive vignettes about the mansion and its occupants. "It cost us a fortune," Gross said of the display in 1980.
But the museum has been discontinued and the material donated to Springfield Township. A township spokesman said much of the material is on display in the township building on Paper Mill Road, Wyndmoor; some is displayed in the Springfield Township Free Library, also on Paper Mill Road.
Gross, after a recent trip to the Stotesbury site, said he is basically pleased with Evans' approach. "He's doing a quality job," Gross said. "His houses are selling well and that's the proof."
Evans' plans include construction of two tennis courts on the former site of a Whitemarsh Hall garden.
While the image of Edward T. Stotesbury will fade even further from Stotesbury as time goes on, the community's name will no doubt help keep some memory of its origin alive. Stotesbury, who according to legend had Whitemarsh Mansion built as a gift for his wife, Eva, was a key figure in the development of the Reading Railroad and Bethlehem Steel Co. and was involved in dozens of other firms.
"I grew up around here," said Hirling, "and have some memories of the mansion. But it's the older people who remember back in the '30s, when Whitemarsh Hall was quite the thing."
Gross is philosophical about the transformation of Stotesbury. "Evans doesn't have the historical feeling that I had, but he has a good approach," he said. "I'm very pleased."
|A Gilded Home Chronicling the Life and Times of 'The Versailles of America'|
|From The Philadelphia Inquirer|
|Monday, March 17, 1986|
|By Francie Scott|
From 1916 until 1980, one of the grandest houses in Pennsylvania was a sprawling 147-room Georgian mansion in Wyndmoor called Whitemarsh Hall. The ornate rooms, extravagant furnishings and French-style formal gardens earned it the title "the Versailles of America," but to Springfield Township residents, it was simply the Stotesbury Estate, named for its owner, financier Edward Townsend Stotesbury.
The mansion that took five years to build was demolished in two weeks in the spring of 1980, leaving a belvedere, a retaining wall and a few damaged statues. The site is being developed as a townhouse community by Evans Builders of Horsham, and the 183-unit development retains the Stotesbury name.
The life of Whitemarsh Hall, from "soup to nuts," was chronicled March 9 by Marie Kitto, a Whitemarsh Hall enthusiast and a member of the Springfield Historical Society.
Kitto addressed 140 people at Oreland Presbyterian Church and illustrated her talk, which was sponsored by the historical society, with slides.
"Certainly today, no one could afford it (the mansion)," Kitto said. ''But let's face it, ladies and gentlemen: In its heyday, it was absolutely magnificent."
The mansion, which cost $3 million to build, was constructed on 300 acres as a wedding present from Stotesbury to his second wife, socialite Lucretia ''Eva" Bishop Roberts Cromwell. The couple married in 1912, after a shipboard romance.
The mansion was designed by architect Horace Trumbauer, who also helped to design the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Kitto said that "the whole construction time for this show was 19 months." It took three years and five months to complete the interior of the house, which was decorated and furnished at a cost of $7 million.
No extravagance was spared, Kitto said. Oil paintings, statues and tapestries blended with gilt-trimmed wall panels and marble. Enormous Oriental rugs adorned parquet floors. Each guest room had its own breakfast china and stationery and included the services of a chauffeur and car.
Technological gadgets included three elevators and an electrically operated awning that covered Eva Stotesbury's second-floor patio. There was also a pipe organ, three stories high, that was designed to play in the house when the main gates, a mile away, were opened. Cottages and outbuildings on the property were linked to the mansion by a private phone system, Kitto said.
The landscaping was the work of Jacques Greber, designer of the Benjamin Franklin Parkway. The grounds had full-sized maple trees, formal gardens, fountains and terraces.
Although the family lived at Whitemarsh Hall only during the spring and fall, the Stotesbury years represented a grand era for the township. Motorcades of chauffeur-driven cars ferried the rich and famous to glittering balls, gourmet banquets and intimate tea parties given by the couple.
Kitto said guests included humorist Will Rogers, who was not invited back after he joked that the wine tasted like ginger ale; the crown prince and princess of Sweden, and several presidents. Gen. Douglas MacArthur, who was married to one of Eva Stotesbury's daughters for seven years, lived at Whitemarsh Hall for periods during that time.
Elisabeth DeGroot, 82, who lives
in Doylestown, remembers the Stotesbury era well. She and her husband, John, now deceased,
worked for the Stotesburys for four summers, from 1925 to 1928, while they were students
College. The two, who were dating at the time, were companions to Eva Stotesbury's grandchildren, Walther Brooks 3d, 9, and his sister, Louise, 12.
In an interview, DeGroot described how Eva Stotesbury taught her to dance the Charleston to music from the organ and recalled literary discussions on books both had read.
When DeGroot started teaching in Chestnut Hill, Eva Stotesbury would send a Rolls-Royce to bring her to Whitemarsh Hall for a visit. DeGroot said she still cherishes two lithographs that Eva Stotesbury gave her when she and John DeGroot became engaged.
Another acquaintance of the Stotesburys, Virginia Wilmsen, 77, of Springfield, said she remembers "dancing the night away" to the music of ''two orchestras blaring" at Whitemarsh Hall. She attended a debutante ball in honor of Eva Stotesbury's granddaughter, Frances Mitchell, when she was 18 years old. The ball lasted from 8.30 p.m. until 6.30 a.m., and breakfast was served at 2 a.m.
"It was something to remember," Wilmsen said. "We all felt like Cinderella."
Edward Stotesbury died May 16, 1938. His funeral in the candlelit ballroom was the last great event held at the mansion. Although he had earned more than $100 million during his life, only $4 million remained when he died. His widow was forced to sell the property. She died May 26, 1946.
A skeleton staff maintained the building until it was sold, and the basements were used to store art treasures from the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York during World War II, Kitto said. Whitemarsh Hall was purchased in 1944 by Pennsalt, a chemical company, which used the mansion as a research laboratory until 1964.
File cabinets lined the former ballroom, Eva Stotesbury's sun room became a chemistry lab, and the staff lunched in the French gardens. When Pennsalt (now the Pennwalt Corp.) moved to a new building in King of Prussia in 1965, Whitemarsh Hall was sold to a developer.
For the next 15 years, the property was owned by various developers whose proposals were opposed by neighbors. The mansion's heat was turned off, and rain seeped through the roof. The basement floors flooded, and vandals damaged the building and grounds.
Then Whitemarsh Hall was razed to make way for the townhouse development in the spring of 1980.
Wilmsen said she was disappointed
that the mansion was not preserved. She and her first husband, Richard D. Wood 2d, had
purchased a seven-acre parcel and one of the houses on the estate but were unsuccessful in
from buying the bulk of the property. "I thought it was the rape of all times," she said.
One member of Kitto's audience described the loss of Whitemarsh Hall as ''absolutely criminal." The man said he was amazed that the township had let it happen.
In fact, the township tried to save Whitemarsh Hall. Beatrice Garber, who was a commissioner from 1970 until 1979, said every avenue was explored but without success. She said the township considered many uses for the empty building, including a community college and an art gallery.
She said that there was "a great deal of grandiose but a great deal of unusable space," adding that no one group could fully take advantage of the building.
"I feel it's a great part of the history of the region that is lost forever," she said. "It's really a terrible loss to the community."
|Ruins Remain of Elegant Era|
|From The Springfield Sun|
|First of Two Parts by Marge Cathey|
|Thursday, September 2, 1987|
To someone visiting Wyndmoor for the first time, it may be difficult to envision the elegance and luxury of Whitemarsh Hall, Edward T. Stotesbury’s estate that once dominated the community.
Today suburban homes, scaled for a servantless era, and a broken statue or marble railing are the only evidence of the once famous mansion. The Stotesburys lived and entertained royalty, the famous and socially prominent at the estate. Stotesbury owned extensive property in Wyndmoor before he chose the community for his mansion. His holdings included a dairy farm where the U.S. Agricultural Center stands on Mermaid Lane with a horse-training track for the show horses he raised and a railroad siding.
Built by Stotesbury between 1919 and 1921 for his second wife, Eva, Whitemarsh hall was six stories tall with three of the levels below ground.
The deepest basement was used for coal storage. It was a familiar sight in Stotesbury’s time to see rows of coal trucks lined up on the estate waiting to make a delivery.
The mansion, made of
Indiana limestone and Italian marble, was designed by the famous architect
Horace Trumbauer in the French neo-classical style similar to Versailles.
The mansion contained 147 rooms, 45 baths, a movie theater, wine cellar, indoor tennis and squash courts, a gymnasium, and a 64-foot ballroom with a marble fireplace imported from Italy at a reported cost of $60,000. There were three elevators – two for the Stotesbury family and their guests and a freight elevator. The top cellar contained the kitchens, one for the Stotesburys and their guests and one for the servants. The first above ground floor contained the ballroom, an indoor water fountain, an organ with three-story pipes, and other rooms for entertaining the many famous and socially prominent people of that time.
What is now Douglas Road extended all the way to the mansion. A former Stotesbury employee remembered that each day as Stotesbury turned into his estate and was driven up to the mansion, the gatekeeper who lived in the stone home on Willow Grove Avenue would inform the servants.
As the sire of the little kingdom entered his domain, someone would play his favorite melody, “The End of a Perfect Day,” on the organ. On the second floor were the master bedroom, Eva Stotesbury’s rooms, a breakfast room, two offices and many guest suites. The top floor contained the servant’s quarters. The head butler lived in the tower house on Paper Mill Road, which had been part of one of the properties Stotesbury had acquired to form his own estate. Some servants lived in small homes on the edge of the estate, which Stotesbury rented to them.
Nowhere was the elegance of the mansion more apparent than in the rotundas. In those two rooms, Stotesbury displayed the plaster sculpture designed for the Stotesburys by Claude-Michel Clodion. The formal gardens were designed by landscape architect Jacques-Henri-Auguste Greber and were graced with sculpture by his father Henri-Leon Greber.
The estate, many ways, was a self-contained kingdom. There was an emergency electric generator and ice was manufactured on the premises. There was a service entrance from Cheltenham Avenue and all deliveries went to a receiving room. The estate provided its own water from six artesian wells, dug 500 feet deep. Two wells each were at Gladstone, Patton and Paper Mill roads. Filtering beds on Patton Road near Hull Drive provided for on-site sewage disposal.
Today, the outdoor staff of the homes which have been built on the Stotesbury Estate consists of a high school student who stops by once a week during the summer or the householder who cuts the grass. Servants are only a memory from Stotesbury’s day.
But an estate the size of
Whitemarsh Hall required the services of many employees.
In addition to maids, footmen, butler, cooks, laundresses, two telephone
operators, two social secretaries and other inside employees, there were four
watchmen, three cabinetmakers to repair the furniture, three electricians, a
plumber, a man who worked at the garages, two women to cook for them, five
painters and three firemen for the furnaces.
There were an additional 60 to 65 outside men, including five or six whose job was to take care of the grounds immediately surrounding the mansion. Two edgers trimmed the grass along the driveways and walks and men worked in the greenhouse on the estate. Each morning two men from the greenhouse went to the mansion to inspect and water the indoor plants. Fresh flowers from the greenhouse were brought to the mansion each day.
Eva Stotesbury loved to entertain and many large parties were held at Whitemarsh Hall. Among the famous guest who enjoyed the hospitality of the Stotesburys were the King and Queen of Sweden, General Douglas MacArthur and President Warren Harding.
|Paradise Lost in Wyndmoor|
|From The Springfield Sun|
|Last of Two Parts by Marge Cathey|
|Thursday, September 10, 1987|
Whitemarsh Hall, built in Wyndmoor by financier Edward T. Stotesbury for his second wife, Eva, glittered when the housewarming was held on Oct. 10, 1921.
"The line of automobiles, seemingly endless, flowed to and form the Chestnut Hill (railroad) station a mile back,” according to the society pages of a Philadelphia newspaper. “Given the once over by two policemen at the gate, they were allowed to pass on. They rode on and on. Indeed, as chauffeurs pointed out, the ride from the gate to the tree hidden villa for which the guests were bound was longer than from the station to the gate.
Before the great stone plaza that fronts the massive villa which, with the estate, cost $2,000,000, one of the several men in livery gave to each guest a tag bearing a number, and a duplicate tag was given to the chauffeur.
“When it was time to depart, the numbers were telephoned to the garage, before which 500 cars were parked, and the correct machine arrived promptly.”
Guests, according to that long ago account, were greeted at the door of the ballroom by Eva Stotesbury, her daughter-in-law, Delphine dodge Cromwell, in whose honor the housewarming was given, Cromwell’s husband, James Cromwell, and Stotesbury. James Cromwell was Mrs. Stotesbury’s son from her first marriage.
The guests toured the 147-room, 45-bath mansion and the magnificently landscaped gardens. But even the Stotesbury's felt the chill of the Depression. Recalled one former estate employee, most of the outside men were laid off. Only eight of the 60 to 65 were retained. The grass grew high and was only cut around the mansion and along the edges of the drive.
Stotesbury lived 18 years in Whitemarsh hall and died in 1938. His body was laid out in the ballroom. A special train with mourners came from New York City and there were truck loads of flowers sent to the home. After services the flowers were sent to various hospitals. The services were held in the ballroom by candlelight and were attended by the famous and socially elite.
Stotesbury enjoyed playing a small drum during his lifetime and it was hung, draped in black, at the foot of the coffin. The funeral procession, moving slowly along the mile-long drive from Whitemarsh Hall on its way to Woodlands Cemetery in West Philadelphia, marked not only the passing of a man but the passing of an era of elegance and grandeur. The closing of the huge iron gates in the eight-foot fence which surrounded the estate marked the last significant event to take place at Whitemarsh Hall. Shortly after Stotesbury’s death at the age of 89, his widow learned the devastating financial facts that would drastically affect her future.
If Stotesbury had lived a
few years more, spending money as he had been doing ever since his marriage to
Eva, he would have been broke, with three unmarketable mansions on his hands.
Worth an estimated $100 million when he married the widowed Eva in 1912, a probate inventory after his death estimated the net value of his estate at $4 million.
His wife was willed the life-time use of Whitemarsh Hall, but the income from the trust fund he provided for her was only a quarter of what it would cost to maintain the estate. At one time Stotesbury had told a reporter he spent $1 million a year on its upkeep.
He also owned two other luxurious estates, El Mirasol in Palm Beach and Wingwood House in Bar Harbor, Maine.
Not only lavish spending but heavy financial losses during the Depression contributed to the financial problems Eva Stotesbury faced at her husband’s death. With a very uncertain future after years of a lavish lifestyle, Eva Stotesbury closed Whitemarsh Hall, never to return, and moved to a mall rented residence in Washington. She financed the move through the sale of the portraits, furniture and jewels the Stotesburys had acquired.
Unable to find a buyer for the statues in Whitemarsh Hall, she donated them to the Philadelphia Museum of Art in memory of her husband. Mrs. Stotesbury returned to the Philadelphia area once fore her death in Palm Beach in 1946 at the age of 81.
Her arrival in town was no longer a social event and she was ignored. She traveled by train as others did. The private railroad car was no longer available. She had come to view the statues in the museum and did not visit Whitemarsh Hall.
Although the estate was placed on the market shortly after Stotesbury’s death, it was not until 1943 that a buyer could be found – and then only for the mansion and 45.6 acres, a small portion of the estate. Pennwalt was the buyer and immediately began converting the interior of the mansion into a research center.
The gold fixtures were removed from the bathrooms and they became offices and the salons and solariums became offices and laboratories. The champagne cellar was converted by Pennwalt into an area for testing insecticides. The ballroom became a research library. After Pearl Harbor, the cellars were used to store millions of dollars worth of priceless paintings belonging to New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art because it was feared New York would be bombed. The treasures were guarded day and night by armed men.
The butler’s pantry became an employees cafeteria. Outside, Greber’s statuary remained but here and there small encased motors protruded from the building. The remainder of the Stotesbury acreage was sold to Matthew McCloskey who developed Whitemarsh Village.
Pennwalt built a new research center in King of Prussia in 1963 and moved out of Whitemarsh Hall.
The once elegant mansion began a steady decline from that time. During a period of years, there were several owners and several plans for the use of the property including a high-rise apartment complex.
Vandals and vagrants were a constant source of concern to neighboring homeowners. There were fires in the property and the copper roof was stolen leaving the building unprotected from the elements. Vandals broke doors, windows, the floor-to-ceiling mirrors and marble fireplace in the ballroom and spray painted the ceiling of the ballroom. Finally, a developer purchased the 45.6 acres and vandalized mansion. As a condition to get approval for town homes he agreed to demolish the mansion and fill in the three-basement deep hole.
Today there are few reminders of the once-elegant and luxurious way of life enjoyed by Edward and Eva Stotesbury – a few neglected statues by Greber, some columns, and part of a wall.
|A Magnificent Mansion Victimized by Decay|
|From The Springfield Sun|
|First of Three Parts by Adrian Lee|
|Thursday, September 13, 1990|
Whitemarsh Hall is all gone now – the house, the gardens, the lead statues in the fountains. But for the generation that knew the place, a sense of romance lingers.
Even now, long after the house had been defaced with graffiti, its priceless marble mantelpieces had been ripped out and its polished parquet floors had buckled and come unglued under the rain dripping through the holes in the roof, its vanished presence still seems to dominate the Montgomery County countryside.
With scavengers plundering its paneled rooms, it was reduced finally to a shell. But Whitemarsh Hall died hard. At a distance, it still seemed intact, alive, as if it had girded itself for one last stand against the vandals that had destroyed it.
Only close up did this huge mansion, with its leprous-looking, rain-swollen plaster finally reveal its inner secret – Whitemarsh Hall wasn’t dying when the wrecking ball came in April 1980. It was already dead; with the smell of mold hanging around the ruins, it had been dead for years. In its prime, in the 1920s, it was stately. It didn’t nestle unobtrusively in the lovely undulating green landscape of Springfield Township, Montgomery County. Amid its gardens, it reared itself above the countryside – and that boldly. It didn’t defer; it commanded.
From the very beginning, this home of the Stotesburys – dour multimillionaire Edward Townsend Stotesbury and the handsome bride of his old age – was a wonder, a kind of curiosity. How could a house have 147 rooms? How, in the Roaring Twenties, could it have cost Stotesbury $3 million to build and $5 million to furnish, even though the furnishings were rare pieces from 18th century France and ancient China? And reflecting on these lavish expenditures, the people living thereabouts in the Great Depression drew themselves up, aghast at the spectacle of a man gratifying his wife’s every whim while they were scrimping to feed themselves.
But as the Depression wore on, the neighborhood developed a certain tolerance, even affection, for the glittering assemblages that wound their way up the sunlit slopes in chauffeur-driven limousines to the Stotesbury’s balls and soirees. Tolerance, and a kind of pride, too. There were some things that the Depression had not humbled. And Whitemarsh Hall was one of them. Whitemarsh Hall’s turn was to come – old Stotesbury was to go broke in the 1929 stock-market crash, or very nearly so, and Whitemarsh Hall was to be shuttered, and the weeds to grow high and lush enough to hide fountains.
The house was to be reopened again, briefly, and then abandoned finally to the predators who tore the copper sheeting off the roof and let the rain in. It was the rain that turned the house into a moldy ruin. But no matter how high the weeds grew, they could not eclipse the neighborhood’s recollection of the garden centerpiece, the statue of a lissome young woman. She was a thing of grace. And more than the house itself, it is remembered by the people who lived nearby.
She was made of lead, but, catching the morning sun, she seemed of gold. She clasped a leaden fish to her bosom. The fish spouted water. Together, they were images in a fountain.
Curiously enough, this symbol of waste (it was rumored to have cost more than $10,000) was the thing looters seemed to prize the most. It was one of the first things to disappear. Not all at once, but gradually, piece by sun-warmed leaden piece. The statue was not cast as a single entity, but as plates joined together. It was these plates that vanished one by one, exposing the supporting angular iron framework within. The first plates to go were those of more sensual contour. They disappeared as if by magic. One day, they were there; the next day they were gone, with a bleak show of rusting iron underneath to show where they had been.
Occasionally, they are brought out of hiding in houses in the neighborhood. They are “conversation” pieces to be marveled at, at cocktail parties and backyard cookouts. They are passed from hand to hand with an air of, well … regret.
Not regret for have stolen them – wasn’t everybody a thief when it came to looting the vandalized Whitemarsh Hall? Not regret at all – hadn’t the house been abandoned? But a gnawing ache at the realization that something beautiful and irreplaceable had been destroyed.
As luxurious as life was at Whitemarsh Hall, it was not seen as a thing to scorn. Rather, it was a thing to come to terms with, as the people thereabouts finally did, in the privacy of their thoughts. With all the disciplined appearance, with nary an intruding blade of grass to mar the stark white-pebbled walks, there was a strange contradictory air of abandon to the place. It was certainly not in the squarish look to the house – if ever a house radiated solidity and permanence, it was Whitemarsh Hall. But the thing that seemed to soften its outline and lend it an air of mystery was wintry old Ned Stotesbury’s passionate love for his wife. Or was it just an old man’s infatuation, held in cheek until her first husband died and then allowed free rein when she became his wife.
The roof could fall in, the graffiti-ridden ballroom could echo to the skittering of rats as big as cats, and the walls could be blotched with mildew, but still there was an air of romance to the ruins. It’s all gone know – the house, the gardens, and the lead statues in the fountains. But for a generation that knew the place, that sense of romance lingers. How could there be such a place without a grand passion to make it happen?
Stotesbury, the J.P. Morgan partner with a near infallible sense of when to buy and when not, was an international financier of legendary sway and power. Where legend gives way to fact is hard to tell. But the facts, brief as they are, established Stotesbury as a financier of rare shrewdness. This self-contained, spare, rather inconspicuous man in the starched white collar and white mustache knew what he was about.
His wife was Eva Roberts Cromwell Stotesbury (and how all the syllables marched in majestic cadence, across the headlines of the time). If Ned Stotesbury was dry, literal and matter-of-fact, Eva Stotesbury was not. She was outgoing, she liked a good time. Her father, Chicago lawyer James Henry Roberts, seems to have been an earthy person who could tell a good story and tell it well. He rode the same trial circuit in downstate Illinois that Abraham Lincoln did. And at the same time. They seemed to have enjoyed each other’s company.
Roberts named his daughter Lucretia, “Eva” for short. Judging from a photograph taken in Paris about the time of her marriage to Stotesbury, she was a full figure of a woman. But it’s the expression that mystifies. With the swirl of her velvet gown around her feet, she looks out from the photograph with, well … assurance, composure. She holds the photographer’s standard prop of the time, a fan.
She knows who she is, the wife of one of the richest men of her time, reportedly worth more than $200 million – almost a billion in today’s dollars. But swayed by passion, ever? The expression is enigmatic – it says nothing about her inner self.
Extravagant? Yes, she was.
Knowledgeable about the fine paintings, the antiques she was ordering by the truckload? On the word of Fiske Kimball, then director of the Philadelphia Art Museum, she was not: “…There was a typewritten catalogue which Mrs. Stotesbury rather too obviously consulted when asked by visitors what some of the works of art were.”
Worried about appearance? Yes. So much that when old Stotesbury died (age 89, May 16, 1938) early arrivals at his wake were treated to the spectacle of his wife shifting his coffin up and down the ballroom, and back again, until it was displayed at best advantage.
All of which would add up to a picture of a shallow, selfish woman…except for a single oddment of information which detractors were inclined to forget. When her first husband, Washington lawyer Oliver Cromwell, was felled by a stroke and put to bed as an invalid for the rest of his life, she nursed him until he died.
Despite his millions, Stotesbury had always been careful, “frugal” with money. He kept a ledger in which he recorded what he paid for a pair of shoes, a shirt, collars. If among strangers, he was reserved, distant, he could be convivial with few close friends. His marriage to Eva Cromwell loosed the purse strings. And out poured the vast fortune he had accumulated with such diligence and husbanded with such care. The pent-up yearnings of a lifetime had literally exploded.
The key to all that was to happen lies in the Stotesburys’ first meeting three years before they were married. Eva was still married to Oliver Cromwell.
|Widower’s Grand Tour - How Stotesbury met a Special Passenger|
|From The Springfield Sun|
|Second of Three Parts by Adrian Lee|
|Thursday, September 20, 1990|
In the chronicles of Whitemarsh Hall, there’s a scene far removed from the one newspaper-readers are familiar with – sightseers gawking at the vandalized ruins of the once great house that a lonely, fabulously rich old man had built for the lovely bride of his old age.
The time is the early summer of 1909, 12 years before one of the costliest houses ever to grace America was built.
The scene is dockside New York. Passengers are boarding for a grand tour of Europe. Study the scene for a moment – it is out of an opulent, turn-of-the-century past. It is not likely to happen again. World War I was to cool moneyed society’s ardor for the Grand Tour. And the fortunes that might have made a resurgence possible vanished in the Great Depression.
Amid the bustle and the headlines that signaled the departure of notables to Europe, the cast of characters we are concerned with here is small. In order of appearance, the characters are, first Lucretia Cromwell. She is in her middle ‘40s, some 15 years younger than Philadelphia financier E. T. Stotesbury, a man she’s never met but is destined to marry. Although approaching middle age, she is still acknowledged as one of the reigning beauties of Washington society.
Her husband, the father of her two children, has been invalided by a stroke. She is described as “pale, fatigued” from nursing him. She embarks alone, to rest and visit her teen-age daughter, Louise, at a finishing school in France. A longtime family friend, one of her husband’s close associates, comes to see her off. Her pale appearance, her listlessness concerns him. And he goes off hurriedly to check the passenger list for a friend who might “look after her, assist her” on the voyage.
It isn’t until he reaches the S’s on the passenger list that he discovers one – “Ned Stotesbury, sailing for a tour of France, Germany, Italy. Eva Cromwell’s friend doesn’t have time to seek him out, but he writes him a note: “… the wife of an old friend, worn out from nursing her ill husband … could I impose on you … ?” And on stage comes Edward Townsend Stotesbury, paced by the workings of a precise and ordered mind, his rise in Philadelphia investment-banking house of Drexel & Co. has been rapid and rewarding.
At 17 he was $6.66-a-month clerk (a fact he duly noted in the ledger where he entered the cost of a pair of new shoes, shirts, collars). At 32, he was a partner; at 55, he was a “major factor in world finance.” His advice was solicited by governments and the great corporations – steel, coal, the railroads – he had helped to establish.
In the financial panic of 1907, J. P. Morgan “slipped” into Philadelphia to dine with Stotesbury and decide how to “discipline the panic” and restore investor confidence in the market. Sailing for Europe now, he had been a widower for 31 years. He was avowedly “disinterested” in marrying again. He viewed the schemings and machinations of Philadelphia dowagers, in behalf of their daughters, with an amused and sardonic eye. Yet behind this rather cynical manner there lurked a certain loneliness. Not that he ever admitted such. But his friends divined it from his restlessness. He traveled constantly; he bought up paintings, as if to adorn a great house, sent them on ahead, then left them unopened in their packing cases.
The thin face with the world-weary eye had been seen in London, Paris, Zurich, Amsterdam, wherever the Drexel-Morgan interests had established joint offices. Now in 1909, he was sailing to Europe for the 11th, or was it the 12th time (recollections differ); he is accompanied by one of his two daughters by his first wife, Fannie Bergman Butcher, of Philadelphia. His outlook is as historian Horace Mather Lippincott described it:
“He had achieved success through ability, hard work, and thrift … he did not believe in people getting something for nothing … (he) hated beggars and demanded that those who asked his friendship and support should prove worthy of it…”
Not what you would call a particularly engaging personality. He could be curt – in business, he had a peremptory “take-it-or-leave-it” attitude. But given his own millions and the many millions more he managed and spoke for, people, were disposed to ignore it.
He opens the note the purser brings him and reads with growing dismay. The prospect of shepherding a perhaps ill woman across the Atlantic is not one to enchant him. But he is a gentleman of old-line Quaker stock. And so, two days out from New York, he seeks out Eva Cromwell to see if he can be of service.
He finds her on deck, her color considerably improved by a bracing wind. According to an in-law of this writer, who was to hire on as the housekeeper at Whitemarsh Hall, the woman who was to become Mrs. Stotesbury was “entirely charming … whether she was beautiful or not, I truly don’t know. If beauty lies in regularity of feature, she was not beautiful. If it lies in coloring, expression and figure … she was. Her hair and eyes were good and her color delightful – and as nearly as I could make out, entirely natural. If it wasn’t, it was mighty well done. This was the figure that greeted Stotesbury with some reserve. After all, she was an unescorted woman, married. He had been a widower for so long (31 years) that he was considered a bachelor.
By dinnertime that second day out of New York, Stotesbury had moved her from the “obscure” company she kept, in the corner of the dinning room, to the captain’s table. By morning he was sending her flowers. And by the time the ship docked at Le Havre, he had won the breathless Mrs. Cromwell over to what she later described to this writer’s in-law as a “bold” and perhaps “scandalous” plan: With his chauffer and touring car waiting for him at the dock, why didn’t they take the Grand Tour together? With their daughters accompanying them as chaperones, there could be no breath of scandal. They could stay at separate hotels. And since she was so insistent on it, she could pay her own hotel bills.
The picture of Stotesbury, at whose tread the financial world trembled, down on his knees, figuratively, if not literally, begged a married woman to join him on what had to be a pretty risqué escapade is a revealing one. He was human after all, and convincing, too. He sold her on the idea. There could have been repercussions. He was unflappable. He could have faced them down. But she, a married woman?…but there were no repercussions. No hint of gossip reached the headlines. It wasn’t until long afterwards that she told the story to this writer’s in-law.
There is a minuet-like quality to the courtship that followed. And in this day of explicit sex, an apparent innocence that seems almost quaint. In her story to her housekeeper, there are glimpses of the huge touring car, with its polished brass headlamps, silver hood ornament and nickel-rimmed windscreen, trundling down the roads to Paris, Madrid, and Rome. Sometimes, the car is stopped by the road for picnic lunches washed down with sun-warmed wine. Their chaperones doze. Old Ned Stotesbury pleads with the woman he has singled out from the dozens the dowagers of Philadelphia have tried to match him with.
What he said is not a matter of record. And if Eva Stotesbury confided it to her housekeeper, the housekeeper never said what it was. For two to three weeks, Stotesbury dropped from sight – no telegrams signed “ETS” to Drexel & Co., alerting them to his whereabouts, no instructions from probably the most powerful man in Philadelphia to buy or sell.
If Stotesbury asked Mrs. Cromwell to leave her invalid husband, none of her confidants recalls it – or will say. Stotesbury, the man who could buy anything would have to wait until her husband died.
Summing up, this writer’s in-law said: “She was not a woman to be lured from her husband…nor for that matter was she a woman to take a man from his wife…she was a lady without guile.” After her husband died, Stotesbury faced reporters with a terse, one-line announcement – he and Mrs. Cromwell were engaged to be married. He remarked, “We have known each other for some time.” End of press conference. They were married in 1912, three years after meeting on the voyage to Europe.
All who rode in the touring car that summer of 1909 are dead – Stotesbury, the woman who was to become his wife and their daughters by their first marriages.
Whitemarsh Hall survived them, if only as a shell. And even that was to be demolished to make way for town houses. But as long as it stood against the skyline in lower Montgomery County, it bore mute testimony to the 1909 Grand Tour rather than to the witless vandals who destroyed it.
|First Abandonment...then Graffiti - The Fall of Whitemarsh Hall begins with a Gentle Word|
|From The Springfield Sun|
|Last of Three Parts by Adrian Lee|
|Thursday, September 27, 1990|
It must have happened without anybody really seeing it – the first graffiti, that is, to be scrawled on the magnificent façade of Whitemarsh Hall. In retrospect, it must have seemed a minor thing. A couple of flicks of the wrist with a spray-paint can, and there it was, “Kathy.” It was the first graffiti to appear. It would have shone wetly for a moment before sinking into the unblemished exterior of perhaps the costliest house ever built in America.
Well…so? Unsightly as it was, it could have been scrubbed away. But it wasn’t. There wasn’t anybody to do it. It was 1969, and Whitemarsh Hall had been abandoned. And before it was all over, and the wreckers were called in 12 years later in 1981 to cart off what was left of the great edifice that old Turn-of-the-Century financier E. T. Stotesbury built for his comely bride in the 1920s, the walls were alive with graffiti.
But as ugly as the graffiti got – and it ran to four-letter words towards the end – it was, ironically enough, that gentle-sounding “Kathy” that signaled the beginning of the end for Whitemarsh Hall.
The house in the “English Renaissance” tradition, the formal French gardens and the “grave dignity” of the pillared front entrance – it was all doomed.
Without a doubt, says Tom Dillon of Chestnut Hill, riffling through his bulging collection of Stotesbury memorabilia, it was that first graffiti that did it…before that, the flawless beauty of the place had kept the despoilers at a distance. They were awed by it. After the graffiti, they closed in. Whitemarsh Hall had become just another abandoned building. It was suddenly vulnerable.
In its way, Whitemarsh hall became a classic study in wholesale destruction of a great treasure. First came the vandals, a more destructive breed than the forgotten wall-writer who inscribed “Kathy” near the majestic front door. The vandals climbed to the roof. They rocked the great stone urns along the edge until they toppled to go smash three stories down. They decapitated the statues inside and out and then broke off the arms until the premises were littered with stone hands and severed stone fingers. Coming on them, sightseers drew back. Half hidden in the weeds, they looked real.
Essentially, the vandals seemed driven by some strange compulsion to scar and disfigure the face of beauty. They couldn’t tolerate perfection. It irked them, crazed them; it could not be allowed to exist.
But it was the scavengers, another, more practical breed of predator, who did the most damage. They viewed Whitemarsh Hall with a less hysterical, more calculating eye – an eye for profit. What was there here to be salvaged and sold?
They rooted through the wreckage for the lead-pipe plumbing – reportedly, there as a least a half-mile of it winding in and around the building’s 147 rooms. They stole the mahogany paneling, prying it away carefully to keep it from cracking. They brought crowbars and levered out the mantelpieces of sea-green marble. Flecked and veined with white, the marble looked like the sea touched with foam. They unhinged the interior doors of exquisitely carved walnut and carried them off. And on the roof, where the vandals were toppling the urns, they peeled off the copper sheathing, baring the interior to the most destructive force of all, the rain.
And then, for want of a better word that only the psychiatrists could supply, came the “weirdoes.” Their specialty was setting fires. With matches, lighter fluid and astonishing perseverance, they coaxed a flame from the remnants of paneling the scavengers had left behind. The smell of charred wet wood, mingled with the sour smell of mold and mildew from the rain-soaked plaster, became the distinguishing mark of the place. Nobody who wandered through the ruins of Whitemarsh Hall could ever forget it.
And lastly, again for lack of a better word, the “illusionists.”
They didn’t destroy. They came to recreate. Not literally. No one could have raised Whitemarsh Hall intact out of the flooded basement and sub-basements where deep stagnant pools froze solid in the winter and spawned monstrous clouds of mosquitoes in the summer.
The illusionists came to see the house as it had been. A conjurer’s trick, for sure. And in the face of the desolation that unfolded to their unbelieving eye, an escape from reality.
At a distance, Whitemarsh Hall, as always, seemed to race along the horizon. It was, of course, an optical illusion, but quite real for anybody passing the house. From a mile away, the mansion seemed like a great stone ship, dipping among the low green hills, to appear and reappear against the Montgomery County skyline. The gutted foyer, drawing rooms and the huge ballroom where the parquet floor was peeling away in warped triangles, oblongs and squares – they were all visible. The headless statues and the smashed stone balustrades were masked by vines and a tangle of wild blackberry bushes.
From a mile away, it was
if old Edward Townsend Stotesbury and the fetching bride on whom he had lavished
so many millions of dollars were about to step from the red-damask-draped French
doors to the estate’s formal gardens. It might have been that day in early
October, 1921, when the Stotesburys opened Whitemarsh Hall to society for the
The afternoon is warm. There is just enough wind to send the season’s first fall of leaves skittering along the white-pebbled paths. It’s late in the year for a lawn party – later than fashionable. But now that Whitemarsh Hall has established the Stotesburys as the undisputed arbiter of what’s fashionable and what isn’t, the some 800 guests don’t complain. They keep to the sunlight to avoid the chill of the broad shadow cast by Whitemarsh Hall. But complain? Never. With the unfurling of the Stotesbury banner, all other pretensions to leadership of Philadelphia society have been quietly furled and laid away. The Stotesburys’ conquest is complete. In the wind, the red damask curtains stream inwards, affording the assembled guests a glimpse of the shimmering parquet floor within.
The floor reflects the cool blues, grays and reds of the Romneys and Lawrences hanging over the mantelpieces. Stotesbury had bought them and sent them home in his lonely wanderings abroad before he met Mrs. Stotesbury.
Until now, they had been hidden in the flat wooden boxes he had shipped them in. Now George Romney’s “The Vernon Children” and Thomas Lawrence’s “Lady Harriet Conyngham” had been brought from the boxes to light.
Dusted and turned right side up, Lady Harriet gazed out on her purchaser with that remembered playful look of, dare you?…Dare you break out of the narrow world of ledgers, bank balances, and power, to embrace some of the wider world’s beauty and passion. That challenge had seduced him into buying her. She hung now in his study. And when his eyes met hers, he could say, “Yes, I do dare…and, yes, I have done so.”
Turn in from the main highway towards the seemingly unmarked granite façade – and the illusion of moneyed splendor still persists. There is the feeling that the house will finally reappear, around the last turn in the driveway, to the sound of orchestras, tinkling punchbowls and windborne snatches of conversation from the lawn party.
But the only sound, as the car pulls up at the pillared portico where “Kathy” is now inscribed, is the steady “drip, drip” of water down a beslimed wall from a puddle of rain water on the rotting roof, and crows cawing across the trash filled fountains.
For the “illusionists,” the spell is broken, and the house is what the Springfield Township police say it finally became – a haven for drunks, derelicts, pot-smoking and teenage sex.
|Art Sale One of Two Big Events|
|From The Philadelphia Inquirer|
|Saturday, January 12, 1991|
|By David Iams|
The art collection of the former director of Woodmere Art Museum in Chestnut Hill, along with memorabilia from the one-time Stotesbury mansion in Whitemarsh, will be offered at 10 a.m. tomorrow by Barry Slosberg at his gallery at 232 N. Second St. It is one of two major sales next week.
The collection and memorabilia belonged to Harry Harris who died in September. In addition to being director of Woodmere from 1973 to 1981, Harris was an art instructor at Episcopal Academy in the 1950s and 1960s. "He was very interested in the history of Springfield Township, specifically Stotesbury," Michael Rucinski, Harris' next-door neighbor in Wyndmoor and the executor of his will, said yesterday. "His father worked for Edwin Stotesbury."
From that connection, Harris inherited two finials from the staircase of the Whitemarsh estate and part of an elaborate terra-cotta birdbath. They will be included in the furnishings being sold tomorrow. Other furnishings include a variety of Victorian pieces, notably a rare cylinder-lidded secretary desk, a chaise lounge, a step-back cupboard and a drop-leaf gate-leg table.
Harris also acquired from the estate a commissioned oil portrait of a horse that hung in the Stotesbury estate's stables. It will be one of hundreds of art works offered tomorrow. "He was a particular collector of the Woodmere school of artists," Rucinski said. "When they put their works on exhibit at the museum, he would often purchase them himself."
Among the Woodmere artists who will be represented at the sale are John Lear, W. J. Zeigler, Paul Gorka, M. E. Case and Henry Nicholson. Other artists represented include Edwin Blashfield, Earl Horter, Julius Block and Harris himself. The sale will include artist supplies and more than 500 art books, as well as bronzes, Oriental ivory carvings and a rare early Russian icon.
Inspection will be from 9 a.m. to sale time tomorrow. For more information, call 925-8020.
Townhomes, Remnants of a Palace
the Stotesbury Estate Once Stood on these Grounds in Wyndmoor.
The Mansion is Gone, But Bits Remain
|From The Philadelphia Inquirer|
|Sunday, July 3, 1994|
|By Wendy Greenberg|
The estate once called the Versailles of America is long gone, but what remains of Whitemarsh Hall evokes its grandeur.
In the middle of a townhouse community off Cheltenham Avenue, monuments testify to a gilded era and the 447-room Georgian mansion that Springfield residents called Stotesbury Estate after its owner, Edward Townsend Stotesbury. The mansion, finished in 1916, was razed in 1980, but decorative columns, a gazebo-like structure and stone steps remain, now incongruously in the Stotesbury development.
Also standing are the former gatehouse, an imposing entrance way off Willow Grove Avenue, statuary at the traffic circle at Widener and Claridge Roads, and a decorative wall along Trumbauer Drive in the development.
According to Marie Kitto of the Springfield Historical Society, the developers, Evans Builders of Horsham, could not build on the mansion's foundation because of the grading. A neighborhood group, she said, is trying to preserve what is left.
The mansion, said Kitto, took five years to build, and construction cost $3 million. It was a wedding present from Stotesbury to his second wife, socialite Lucretia "Eva" Bishop Roberts Cromwell, for whom nearby Cromwell Road is named. The architect was Horace Trumbauer, who designed the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Ornate French gardens were landscaped by Jacques Greber, designer of the Parkway. Whitemarsh Hall was furnished with exquisite oil paintings, statues, tapestries, marble, gilt-trimmed wall panels, Oriental rugs and parquet floors, at a cost of $7 million. Kitto said each guest room had its own breakfast china and stationery. Guests included Will Rogers, European royalty, several presidents and Gen. Douglas MacArthur, who married one of Eva Stotesbury's daughters.
There was a three-story pipe organ, three elevators and a phone system linking the outside cottages. Motorcades of the rich and famous lined Wyndmoor's streets for balls, banquets and teas, Kitto said.
Stotesbury died in 1938 and his funeral was the last event held in the candlelit ballroom.
His widow, who died in 1946, sold the property in 1944 to the Pennwalt Chemical Co., now based in King of Prussia, which used it as a research laboratory until 1964. Although the township tried to save the estate, exploring uses such as an art gallery or community college, it was unsuccessful. An early developer - who did not build on the property - mounted what Kitto called "an extensive and impressive" exhibit of photographs of the original mansion, displayed at the Springfield Township administrative building on Paper Mill Road during business hours. From the late 1960s until 1980, the mansion fell prey to vandals and the elements. But its ruins hint at bygone days.
|Living In Springfield Township|
Wide Range Of Housing Convenient To The City
|From The Philadelphia Inquirer|
|By Lea Sitton|
|January 21, 1996|
Two wives - apparently
much adored - bustle through the history pages of Springfield Township, the
smallest of Montgomery County's municipalities.
One is Guilielma Maria Penn, whose husband, William, reserved the land for her as the Manor of Springfield. She never saw the place - she died in England in 1694 without ever getting to the New World - but the township signs read ``William Penn's gift to his wife.'' The other is Lucretia ``Eva'' Stotesbury, whose spouse, Edward, a financier, built her a lavish, 145-room mansion in the township. Whitemarsh Hall is gone, but tales of Eva Stotesbury's extravagance live on.
Today, twins, townhouses and singles stand on land where Penn once saw only signs of the Leni Lenape and where, later, Eva Stotesbury's so-called Versailles of America sprawled. Springfield is 95 percent developed, 60 percent of it residential. Open space is seen as a precious commodity, one that township officials plan to pursue.
The development of the township, one of Philadelphia's first suburban communities, is an indicator of its convenience. Springfield shares a border with the city, and Center City is less than 30 minutes by car.
King of Prussia, home to a growing number of jobs, is also an easy commute from the township, as are Willow Grove, Plymouth Meeting and Fort Washington.
``You're really close to the city and the routes that take you out of the city,'' said Township Commissioner M. Jane Roberts, a Realtor with Nancy Keeley Real Estate and a Springfield resident for 26 years. Routes 309 and 73 cross the township, and the Pennsylvania Turnpike and Interstate 476 are within a 15-minute drive.
Springfield prides itself on keeping its streets clear of snow and ice, making driving even easier, Roberts said. A drive through the township several days after the Jan. 7-8 record-breaking snowfall was smooth; even the smaller side streets were neatly plowed.
Roberts said ``it's very apparent, in all directions,'' when a motorist crosses out of the township after a snowfall. Springfield borders Cheltenham, Upper Dublin and Whitemarsh Townships as well as the city.
Springfield residents have access to SEPTA commuter rail in the township and, across Stenton Avenue, in Chestnut Hill. Five bus routes serve Springfield.
Although the township is small - 6.2 square miles in the county's southeastern corner - it feels like more than one place.
There is the Wyndmoor section, a community of professionals and blue-collar workers living in large stone homes and smaller twins that seems more akin to neighboring Chestnut Hill than to the rest of Springfield.
Wyndmoor residents frequent the Hill's specialty shops and the Super Fresh at Market Square, just off Stenton.
The township's shopping hub is along Bethlehem Pike in Flourtown, which has two large grocery stores - Genuardi's Supermarket and Acme - as well as smaller shops and restaurants. The Flourtown Farmer's Market, a miniature version of Reading Terminal Market, is also along the pike, in Erdenheim.
Oreland, at the northern end of the township, has a small shopping district.
Plymouth Meeting, Willow Grove and Montgomery Malls are about 15 minutes away.
In addition to a wide choice of shopping, Springfield offers variety in its housing stock. “Although rowhouses are uncommon and apartment houses scarce, real estate prices range widely,” Roberts said.
``A typical house would be in the 100s,'' she said. ``A lot [are] in the 150s to 200s.'' Still, there are smaller houses priced below $100,000, and others in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Housing styles vary as much as prices. Just off Stenton Avenue, in Wyndmoor, stand grand old stone singles that resemble some of Chestnut Hill's better stock. A little deeper into the neighborhood, modest twins line narrow streets.
Some of the township's older homes are mixed in with newer construction in Erdenheim and Flourtown. In Oreland, newer singles on generous lots offer a snapshot of the middle-class suburban dream.
Among the grand and the pedestrian are the, well, quirky. A series of poured-concrete houses went up in Wyndmoor nearly 50 years, forming what looks like a cozy neighborhood of munchkins.
Molds were used to construct the boxy, flat-roof singles, Roberts said. ``They're very sturdy structures,'' she said, adding that ``inside, the ceiling looks like a Belgian waffle.''
Wyndmoor also features another not-so-common development: Stotesbury, built on the site of Eva Stotesbury's beloved Whitemarsh Hall.
Atop a hill - which is said to have a 30-mile view under clear skies - rise townhouses built in the '80s. A handful of relics from the estate are scattered about: a portico with six 34-foot-high limestone columns, a gazebo, a retaining wall, a headless statue.
Pretty as the townhouses are, Eva Stotesbury probably wouldn't be caught dead in them.
Edward Townsend Stotesbury, head of Drexel & Co., spent $3 million building Whitemarsh Hall for his wife. Then he gave her $7 million more to do the interior.
The house was completed in 1921. The family sold it in the mid-'40s, after Edward Stotesbury died, and it was used as an office building until the mid-'60s. Once vacant, it began a shameful decline. Finally, only a shell, it was demolished in 1980 to make way for new housing.
Photographs and documents on the making of Whitemarsh Hall are displayed in the township building, 1510 Paper Mill Rd. But officials at work in the building are more concerned with the future. As William Penn did, they appreciate green space.
``We don't have a lot of areas where we've been lacking, but this is one of them,'' Roberts said of the interest in preserving open space. Last summer, township commissioners approved an open-space plan, making Springfield eligible for up to $1.2 million in grants under Montgomery County's 10-year land preservation program.
Springfield never can look the way it did when Penn chose it for Guilielma Maria Penn, but its leaders hope to keep - and savor - what green remains.
``We've identified just about every inch of open space,'' Roberts said. ``We will be trying to find ways to use it, through purchases and easements and other ways.''
VITAL STATISTICS Population: 19,184 in 1994.
Median home price: $168,651 in '94.
Household income: $56,303 in 1994, 35 percent above the eight-county suburban average.
School District: Springfield Township.
Parks: Mermaid Park; Oreland Park; Hillcrest Park; Flourtown Country Club, a public facility with pool and playground; several playgrounds and ball fields.
Shopping: In the township, Genuardi's and Acme in Flourtown, and the Flourtown Farmer's Market in Erdenheim, as well as numerous smaller stores. Shopping also in neighboring Chestnut Hill, and nearby malls in Plymouth Meeting, Willow Grove and Montgomeryville.
|Stotesbury Cup Regatta has a real Stotesbury this year|
|From The Philadelphia Inquirer|
|By Ira Josephs|
|May 15, 2002|
An item about the
Stotesbury Cup Regatta popped up on the news a few years ago, and Crissy
Stotesbury popped out of her seat.
The 76th annual Stotesbury Cup Regatta, scheduled for Friday and Saturday, is the oldest and largest scholastic high school regatta in the United States. About 3,800 athletes from 135 high schools across the United States and Canada are expected to row on the Schuylkill this weekend.
The prestigious Stotesbury Cup, presented to the winner of the boys' varsity eight, was donated by Edward T. Stotesbury, the famous Philadelphia financier. Crissy Stotesbury, a freshman at Springfield High in Montgomery County, is a distant relative of Stotesbury.
It is believed that Crissy Stotesbury will be the first member of the Stotesbury family to participate in the event. Although she is a novice rower, Stotesbury is entered in the girls' senior single. "It gets me a little excited," Stotesbury said of rowing in the famous regatta that bears her family name. "I'm happy to race in it. I try not to get myself too overworked. I have a couple of more years."
Only a few minutes from Crissy Stotesbury's home and high school sits a suburban housing development in the Wyndmoor section of Springfield Township, appropriately named the Stotesbury Estates. From 1921 until his death in 1938 at age 89, Edward T. Stotesbury and his second wife, Eva, lived on the rolling 300-acre estate known as Whitemarsh Hall, nicknamed the Versailles of America.
According to the chapter "Rich Men and Their Castles," written for the history work Montgomery County: The Second Hundred Years, Ray Thompson describes the mansion as containing 147 rooms, 45 baths, nine elevators, a movie theater, pipe organ, barber shop and billiard room. A staff of 70 took care of the estate. The cost of the mansion was between $3 million and $5 million, and it cost another $5 to $7 million to furnish the rooms with "French tapestries, Chinese porcelain, Oriental rugs, rare paintings and sculptures from all over the world," Thompson wrote.
Stotesbury, who came from a middle-class family in Philadelphia, attended Central High and Peirce Business School. After beginning as a clerk at Drexel, Morgan & Co., he rose to receive a full partnership in the bank, part of J.P. Morgan's empire. Before Whitemarsh Hall was completed, his net worth was estimated at $100 million. Among those he entertained at Whitemarsh Hall were Will Rogers and Henry Ford.
Stotesbury was not a rower, but he was a social member of Bachelors Barge Club, where his life-size portrait hangs on a club wall on Boathouse Row. "He was a coxswain-size guy, I gather," said Clete Graham, commodore for the Schuylkill Navy, the governing body responsible for coordinating activities of the clubs that make up Boathouse Row. "He was buddies with some rowing guys."
Some of those "rowing guys" included John B. Kelly Sr., who won gold medals at the 1920 and 1924 Olympics, rose from apprentice bricklayer to president of the largest bricklaying company in the country, and was the founding father of the internationally famous family.
Stotesbury, who is believed to have given about $500,000 to charities during his lifetime, donated the two-foot-high silver cup that features his name and the name of the regatta.
Edward T. Stotesbury, Chrissy's father, is in the boat-building business. "People ask if we're related to that Stotesbury," Edward Stotesbury said with a laugh. "It's by name only, not money. "It's very interesting, especially living in the same area where everything happened and the mansion. I would call him a way-distant cousin. If you follow the family tree, we have a direct connection two generations before him from England."
By the time he died, the original Edward T. Stotesbury's $100 million fortune had dwindled to $4 million from the Great Depression and his vast spending. To pay off debts, Eva Stotesbury was forced to sell the estate and its contents. The land was sold and resold from 1943 to 1969, and the mansion even served as a research laboratory for 17 years. By the early 1980s, it was demolished to make room for the current housing development.
Crissy Stotesbury's interest in rowing has been strong from the start. The family - which includes Edward, wife Judith and son Brad, now 10 - attended the Stotesbury Cup Regatta even before Crissy started competing. They sat on the banks of the Schuylkill with thousands of other fans, and Crissy became even more eager to become involved.
"Crissy said if she could row, she would do anything she would have to," Judith Stotesbury said. "We said all right. She's always been pretty driven." Crissy Stotesbury said: "I thought it was a very neat sport. It was different from every other sport."
Springfield doesn't have a rowing team, but Crissy Stotesbury joined Philadelphia Girls' Rowing Club on Boathouse Row last fall. She learned quickly and was a member of the novice eight that won at the Bill Braxton Memorial Regatta in November.
"It was the greatest feeling," she said. "Afterwards, I had no energy. I couldn't think straight when my mom put my medal on me."
Stotesbury also played tennis for Springfield last fall. She rose at 4 a.m. on Tuesdays and Wednesdays to attend workouts on the Schuylkill, and practiced in the afternoons or evenings on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. She still managed to get A's and B's in her classes and also played clarinet in the school's concert band.
"There was never a morning I had to wake her up," Judith Stotesbury said.
During the winter, Stotesbury, who stands 5-foot-61/2, practiced on an ergometer, but was back on the water in late February. In the spring season, rowers represent their schools rather than their clubs, and Stotesbury was forced into a single as Springfield's lone rower.
Stotesbury won against novice competition at the season's start before her coach, Liesel Hud, moved her up to a junior boat. The Stotesbury Cup doesn't offer a junior single event, so Stotesbury will race a senior single for the first time this weekend. On Sunday, she won a novice single race in the Dr. White Regatta on the Schuylkill.
Stotesbury Cup officials think it's a great thing that Crissy Stotesbury will carry her family name into this weekend's action. "It puts such a personal touch on it," said Anne Miller, a Stotesbury committee member. "This is the 76th year, and one of his relatives is rowing in it."
Hud, who also is the coach at Agnes Irwin, said Stotesbury has a chance to make the final in her event.
"When you have a kid this enthusiastic, it's extra-special," Hud said.
|Whitemarsh Hall - Horace Trumbauer's Lost Masterpiece|
|The Springfield Sun|
|By Tom Keels|
|Thursday, December 19, 2002|
The ghost of Whitemarsh Hall, legendary Wyndmoor estate of Edward and Eva Stotesbury, haunts Springfield Township. The stone columns of its entrance portico, all that remain of the actual mansion, loom over the surrounding townhouses of the Stotesbury development off Cheltenham Avenue. Its immense gate piers, stripped of their elaborate iron gates, open on Willow Grove Avenue like a toothless mouth. In between, fragments of mutilated sculpture erupt from manicured lawns like the corpses at the climax of Poltergeist. Only the most vivid imagination can superimpose the stately mansion and its gardens on the present-day suburban neighborhood.
A new book, American Splendor: The Residential Architecture of Horace Trumbauer by Michael C. Kathrens (Acanthus Press, $79.95), resurrects Whitemarsh Hall from its architectural limbo. Although American Splendor profiles 37 other residences designed by Trumbauer, Whitemarsh Hall is its centerpiece. Trumbauer’s classical garden façade for the mansion, surrounded by the lush parterres designed by Jacques Greber, graces the book’s dust jacket. Along with providing a detailed account of the building’s creation, American Splendor recaptures the majesty of Whitemarsh Hall with 15 duotone exterior and interior photographs of the estate, and floor plans of its first and second stories.
Born to a middle-class Frankford family, Horace Trumbauer (1868-1938) became one of America’s top architects through a combination of “hard work, an intense self-education program, and pure genius.” At the age of 14, he took a position as office boy with the firm of George W. and William D. Hewitt, the architects who created much of West Chestnut Hill for Henry H. Houston. After only seven years, Trumbauer opened his own firm at the age of 21. Among his early designs was the Grand Casino at the Chestnut Hill Amusement Park or “White City,” which stood on the current site of Springfield Township’s Hillcrest Park.
Soon, Trumbauer’s luxurious and eclectic style, with elements borrowed from many classical design vocabularies, caught the eye of self-made men building great mansions in the suburbs of Philadelphia, New York, and Washington. Among the structures profiled in American Splendor are Grey Towers, the William Welsh Harrison estate in Glenside (today the main building of Arcadia University); Chelten House, the George W. Elkins estate in Elkins Park; P.A.B. Widener’s Lynnewood Hall; and Ardrossan, the Main Line estate of Robert L. Montgomery.
In 1915, Trumbauer received his largest commission from Edward T. Stotesbury, senior partner in the Philadelphia banking firm of Drexel & Company as well as New York’s J.P. Morgan & Company. The elderly Stotesbury was madly in love with his new wife, Lucretia (Eva) Cromwell, and wanted to build a country estate that would establish her as the queen of Philadelphia society. To that end, he purchased 300 acres between Willow Grove Avenue and Paper Mill Road in Wyndmoor, near his Winoga Stock Farm (today the U.S. Department of Agriculture Eastern Regional Research Center).
Trumbauer rose to the challenge, creating a 147-room, six-story English Palladian mansion encompassing over 100,000 square feet, with 20 bathrooms and 24 fireplaces. Eva Stotesbury, whose exacting standards were matched by her excellent taste, moved into a nearby house and worked closely with Trumbauer to create her palace. Architect and client experienced only one major conflict, over the inclusion of an electric organ console that Trumbauer detested. Eva persevered, and Trumbauer stuck the organ in a side gallery. According to local historians and Whitemarsh Hall experts Charles and Edward Zwicker, the organ was programmed to begin playing “When You Come to the End of A Perfect Day,” Edward Stotesbury’s favorite tune, as soon as his limousine passed the Willow Grove Avenue gatehouse.
Although the shell of the house was finished by 1917, creating its luxurious interior took longer due to World War I import restrictions. By 1921, Whitemarsh Hall had been exquisitely decorated by Charles Allom and Edouard Hitau and filled with priceless art acquired by Joseph Duveen. The Stotesburys opened their house with a gala debut on October 8, 1921. Their 800 guests entered the estate through towering gates on Willow Grove Avenue, traveling two miles through an English style park and past formal parterres before arriving at a portico supported by fifty-foot columns. Once inside, they admired portrait paintings by Gainsborough, Romney, and Reynolds, and marble statues of The Four Seasons by French sculptor Augustin Pajou.
For the next eleven years, Whitemarsh Hall was the setting for Philadelphia’s most lavish entertainments. Guests included such Jazz Age luminaries as Will Rogers and Henry Ford, who was reported to have said, “It’s a great experience to see how the rich live.” Kathrens estimates that in the 18 years after the opening of Whitemarsh Hall, the Stotesburys entertained 100,000 guests at the Hall and their other two houses (El Mirasol in Palm Beach, Florida and Wingwood House in Bar Harbor, Maine).
Kathrens writes that the stylish and charming Eva Stotesbury soon became the most popular hostess in Philadelphia, “except for a few regional bluebloods.” One of these disdainful bluebloods was Chestnut Hill resident Helen Howe West, daughter of architect George Howe. In a 1985 interview, the late Mrs. West spoke with venomous glee of locking herself in “Little Eva’s” bathroom with a fellow party guest and attempting to pry off the solid gold faucet with a corkscrew. Another local legend tells of a guest admiring the newly installed underwater lights in the outdoor fountains. “My dear, they’re lovely,” the lady reportedly murmured to Eva. “They remind me so much of – what’s that place? – oh, yes! Coney Island!” The guest left soon afterward, and the lights were removed the next day. Neither was seen again at Whitemarsh Hall.
The Stotesburys’ wealth
allowed them to survive the Depression in style, although they toned down their
entertaining after a local radio broadcaster recommended that Whitemarsh Hall be
bombed. By the time of Edward’s death in 1938, his fortune of over $100 million
had dwindled to a measly $4 million. His widow Eva closed the house, dismissed
the staff of 40, and sold most of her possessions at a fraction of their
original cost. Appalled by the small sum she was offered for her collection of
French sculpture, she donated them instead to the Philadelphia Museum of Art in
her husband’s memory.
Thus began the painful decline of Whitemarsh Hall. During World War II, works of art from New York’s Metropolitan Museum were kept in its lower stories, safe from the threat of Nazi bombers. After the war, the Pennsylvania Salt Manufacturing Company (now Pennwalt Corporation) used it as a research and development center, while the surrounding land was sold piecemeal for housing. After Pennwalt moved out in 1961, the mansion fell victim to neglect and vandalism. Despite the efforts of the late Marie Kitto and other local preservationists, the battered remains of Whitemarsh Hall were finally demolished in 1980.
Beautifully illustrated and well researched and written, American Splendor is a fine companion to James T. Maher’s The Twilight of Splendor, the 1975 study of Whitemarsh Hall and other American palaces. Those desiring more information about Trumbauer’s masterpiece can also purchase the recently released Images of America: Springfield Township, Montgomery County (Arcadia Publishing; $19.99) by Charles and Edward Zwicker, which devotes a chapter to Whitemarsh Hall; check out the collections of Stotesburyiana at the Free Library of Springfield Township and Springfield Township Historical Society; or visit the Whitemarsh Hall web site maintained by local historian Gerry Serianni at http://www.serianni.com/wh.htm.
Township Administration Building at 1510 Paper Mill Road also boasts a fine
photo display on Whitemarsh Hall. The exhibition is sadly ironic, since Pennwalt
offered to turn over Whitemarsh Hall to the Township as an administration center
in the 1960s. Rather than be saddled with what was then seen as a huge,
high-maintenance white elephant, Springfield Township refused the offer,
erecting instead the modest brick building it currently uses.
Sic transit gloria mundi.
|The Grand Palace of Wyndmoor|
|Montgomery County Town and County Living,|
|By Donna Dvorak|
|Winter 2004 / 2005 Issue|
In the midst of suburban sprawl amid gentle slopes of
tract and townhouses, is a swath of ruins that cut an eternal path of memories
of the majestic splendor that once graced this quiet village. Broken statues and
tableaus, a graffiti laden west belvedere, retaining walls and fifty-feet tall
limestone columns that once formed the portico of Stotesbury Estate, A.K.A.
Whitemarsh Hall, stand proud, veiled in shadowed dreams from its heyday.
From 1921- 1938 Stotesbury Estate, once labeled “America’s Versailles”, encompassed 300 acres, embraced by lush gardens, topiaries, concrete fountains and greenhouses, where fresh flowers that sat in Ming Vases in drawing rooms and salons, were cultivated.
The six-story home contained 147 bedrooms, 28 bathrooms, three elevators, a billiard’s room, theater, 64-foot long ballroom, East and West rotundas, loggias, servant’s quarters, carpenter’s shop, wine cellars, three-story pipe organ, and guest suites. Three floors were underground; one contained the massive boiler room and a winding underground tunnel that led to a secret opening, one contained two kitchens – one for the Stotesbury’s and their guests, another for the servants, and a cookie room with a 15-foot long stove, and another used for coal storage. It took approximately 120 employees to keep the mansion running.
In the 1940’s, during WWII, the Metropolitan Museum of Art stored pieces in the massive vault. Surrounding steel fences were offered to the war effort for scrap metal.
To fully comprehend the grandeur and destruction of glory one has to review the history.
“Edward Townsend Stotesbury, a Quaker, was born in Philadelphia on February 26, 1849,” said Edward Zwicker, Springfield Township Historical Board member and co-author of Whitemarsh Hall – the Estate of Edward T. Stotesbury, and Springfield Township. “His formal education was limited. He attended Friend’s Central High School, then one year at Pierce Business College. His business career began as a $16-a-month clerk with brief stints at Rutter & Patterson (wholesale grocers), then Harris & Stotesbury - a sugar refinery where his father was a partner. He eventually became a senior partner at Drexel & Company, and J.P. Morgan, when the companies merged. Prior to the Stock Market crash of 1929, Stotesbury was worth an estimated $100 million, and one of the wealthiest Philadelphians of his time.”
According to documented information Stotesbury was also director of the Philadelphia Fidelity Bank, Girard Trust Company, Reading Railroad, Lehigh Valley Railroad, Pennsylvania Steel Company, and others. Ironically, when Henry Ford visited the mansion he stated that the Stotesburys are charming – it’s a great experience to see how the rich live.
“Stotesbury and his first wife, Frances Berman Butcher, moved to Mount Vernon Street, in Philadelphia, when they were first married,” explained Zwicker. “A summer home, ‘Sulgrave’ was later being constructed in Jenkintown, but Frances died during childbirth with their third daughter. Edward eventually moved his two daughters to Tulpehocken Street, and then 1923 Walnut Street, near Rittenhouse Square.”
While sailing to Europe he met Mrs. Oliver Cromwell, formerly Lucretia
(Eva) Roberts. They married three years later, January 18, 1912, after she became a widow and thirty years after Frances died. He then purchased 1925 Walnut Street and merged both homes. The Walnut Street mansion is currently used by the Philopatrian Literary Institute (Philo) and the ballroom, with Corinthian columns and 14th century Italian marble fireplace, is preserved.
Stotesbury had two living daughters – Helen (Mrs. John Kearsley Mitchell) and Edith (Mrs. Sydney Emlen Hutchinson) with Frances. Eva had three children; Oliver Eaton Cromwell, Jr., Louise, who married General Douglas MacArthur, and a son, James H.R. Cromwell. James Cromwell’s wives included Delphine Dodge, the automotive heiress, and Doris Duke, the tobacco heiress. It’s documented that Stotesbury told Cromwell, “be glad you married the richest woman in the world because you’re not getting my money.” Cromwell supported New Deal politics; Stotesbury felt it was killing the upper class.
As a wedding gift to Eva, Stotesbury hired Horace Trumbauer, the architect who designed the Philadelphia Museum of Art and renovated the Walnut Street homes, to build a mansion. He also hired Jacques Greber, a French landscape artist, to design the magnificent gardens that resembled the Palace of Versailles, and then Jacque’s father, Henri-Leon Greber, to create magnificent statues that still stand.
They broke ground on October 20, 1916 and moved in five years later on October 8, 1921. During the depression, because of concerns about a class uprising, Stotesbury hired Russian bodyguards to guard their bedroom suites.
They traveled to Europe in 1932 and didn’t return until fall, 1933.
“They only spent spring and fall at Whitmarsh Hall,” explained Zwicker. “They wintered at ‘El Mirasol’, in Palm Beach, Florida, and summered at “Wingwood House’, in Bar Harbor, Maine. Stotesbury’s passion was raising and racing his thoroughbred horses that he kept at “Winoga Stock Farm”, in Chestnut Hill. None of these homes remain today.”
Years later streets were named in memory of the family – Cromwell Rd., Stotesbury Ave., MacArthur Rd., Douglas Rd., Patton Rd., Trumbauer and Delphine Drives.
“Stotesbury rode by in his chauffeured car on Willow Grove Ave.,” remembered Joe Timoney, 79, former electrician for Pennsalt. ”He sat on the columns to watch our Wyndmoor Fire Hose Company parades, and matched the amounts we raised to change from horse drawn to regular fire trucks. We had two new 1927 gas fire trucks when Philadelphia fire companies were still horse drawn. Seven Dolors – the church on Willow Grove Ave. – was built for immigrants who worked for him. He owned ice-making machines and used cool well water for air conditioning. On party nights, the fountains were lighted in pink and blue, but Eva heard someone say that it resembled Coney Island, so the lights were turned off.”
Stotesbury’s descendants recall the joy that reigned in the mansion.
“Eva Stotesbury was my step great-grandmother and we had a wonderful relationship,” said Edith Baird Eglin, Ed and Fannie’s great granddaughter. ” She called me ‘Pixie’. When I was three years old I rode my tricycle on the copper, flat roof that was set up as a terrace with potted trees and furniture. I spent my childhood winters in Palm Beach. Eva knew that I loved dill pickles. Every afternoon I swam at ‘El Mirasol’, and a footman served me pickles from wooden barrels that Eva purchased just for me. Last May I presented the Stotesbury Cup at the Stotesbury Regatta along the Schuylkill River.”
Camilla Cromwell Anderson, 76, of Indiana, is Eva’s granddaughter. Her father was Oliver Eaton Cromwell, Eva’s oldest son.
“When my father moved to Stotesbury with Eva he had just graduated Princeton and gave her away at her wedding to Ed,” she recalls. “I lived with my mother in New York, but used to visit “gaga”, as we called grandmother Eva, on holidays. She was a grand lady. I had a birthday party there and invited my classmates; we went downstairs to the cinema room for entertainment. I fondly remember the butlers - George Burgin and Henry Fussey. I slept on the top floor, with its many little rooms. On the left side of the long hallway were Currier and Ives horse prints. Part of the floor was for the servants. Elena Santa Maria, the housekeeper and general manager, had a fancy office and bedroom up there. Ed owned show horses, but gave them up after he married Eva, and had a closet filled with red and blue ribbons, never yellow or white.
“I used to run through the halls and was scared of the loud sounds from the grandfather clock on the second floor. I wasn’t allowed on the main floor unless there was a party. Our lunch was served on family trays downstairs in one of the loggias. When I started attending parties at age sixteen, “gaga” lent me a beautiful chinchilla coat, but mother thought it inappropriate and sent it back.”
Anderson’s memories flow as if it were yesterday.
“Someone named Monica looked after me because a young child couldn’t roam around a mansion. We took walks and played hide and seek on the top floor or outside behind the balustrades. I removed my shoes and socks and paddled in the fountains, a naughty thing to do then. The gardeners weren’t happy with us traipsing around in the gravel because footprints weren’t allowed –the stones had to be raked. A telephone exchange room was on the main floor under the massive steps. The telephone lady let me push wires in the board. I also visited the carpenter shop and the laundry house on top of the hill, to watch them iron. A swimming pool was near the guard house on Paper Mill Rd., but I never saw one inside. I always wanted to slide down the main banisters, but they wouldn’t let me! My step-grandfather, Ed, was a nice, old gentleman. He carried a cane, was always formally dressed and acted formal, even with children. I’d stand in front of him and say ‘how do you do’, because that’s what little kids did in those days. Eva was very warm.”
Stotesbury died in Eva’s arms on May 16, 1938. A black draped drum – his favorite instrument - lay at the foot of his casket. The dwindling estate was left to his beloved wife. But, she couldn’t afford the upkeep. Items were sold at auction, but selling prices were low. She donated statues to the Philadelphia Museum of Art, dismissed her staff of forty, and rented ‘Marley’, a Washington D.C. home owned by Anna Dillman Dodge, Delphine’s mother. Eva died on May 21, 1946, in Palm Beach.
In November, 1946, Samuel T. Freeman & Co, auctioned the contents of ‘El Mirasol’ and ‘Marley’. It included Eva’s silver, 19th Century English and French colored engravings, books, carved hat stands, slipper chairs, tete-a-tete seating, tables, stemware, a French enameled gilded bed and other objects d’art.
In 1943, the mansion was sold to Pennsylvania Salt Company, who was granted a zoning variance permitting the property to be used and occupied as a research laboratory and office building including pilot plant operations. Elegant rooms were converted to laboratories.
PennSalt, now called Pennwalt, moved to King of Prussia, in 1961. The building remained vacant until September, 29, 1964, when Willow Associates purchased the property with the intent of preserving the mansion and gardens and its incredible history. According to original files Willow Associates installed an alarm system and hired a watchman, as well as local police, to patrol the property. Records remain of repairs to the roof, elevators, pipes, electric lines, boiler, greenhouse glass, and all maintenance required to keep the mansion intact. During that time the grounds were rented to a summer day camp, and art show with proceeds benefiting the Multiple Sclerosis Society.
“After the building was sold, I stayed on,” said Timoney. “Sid Dvorak, co-partner of Willow Associates, wanted to preserve it as it was. The first thing I did was connect five circuits to automatically control night lighting to deter vandals, and supplied circuits for heat tapes around underground water pipe lines to the greenhouse, so they didn’t freeze. Many people were interested in the building. Even Aristotle Onassis sent his agent to see it, but he said that houses were too close to the mansion.”
In November, 1964, Dvorak personally escorted James H.R. Cromwell, Eva’s son, on a final tour of his childhood home. Cromwell offered to assist Willow Associates with an institution or foundation that might display interest in their quest to preserve the property.
Cintra Willcox, Ed and Fannie’s great-great-granddaughter, of New Orleans, shared a copy of a letter written by Cromwell dated January 9, 1965, to Alfred Branam, Jr., an architectural historian. Part of the letter stated;
The house is now owned by a realtor named Sidney T. Dvorak. If you called him I’m sure he would be glad to let you see the house. He is a very nice man, indeed, and hopes to be able to avoid destroying this beautiful piece of architecture by selling it to some institution. Perhaps the article you’re preparing would be of help to Mr. Dvorak in his effort to preserve Whitemarsh Hall in all its grandeur.
Willcox, whose mother has a piece of jewelry from Ed Stotesbury given to her in 1925, along with a book that recorded gifts presented during her debutant year, wrote that she was grateful to Dvorak for his “heroic efforts” in his quest to save it.
Detailed plans were submitted to the zoning board and planning commission to preserve the mansion that included a convent, nursing home, college campus, library, conference center, and government offices. None were approved.
Local residents opposed every idea that would have kept the mansion intact allegedly because of maintenance, over-burdened traffic flow and tax issues. When all sources were exhausted Willow Associates offered the mansion to the township in a letter stating – the existing mansion could be the most beautiful township administrative services building in the world. The formal gardens and major portions of the grounds could be used as a township park, recreational facility site, open space area, and the balance of the land could be disposed of in small parcels for private use in a manner which could be controlled, to assure that such use would be beneficial for the township.”
The offer was declined. Preservation of the mansion -Willow Associates intention - never came to fruition. On Wednesday October 8, 1969, Stotesbury Estate was sold at public auction to Kaiserman and Neff, who, according to newspapers, expressed a desire to retain and rehabilitate the mansion
Eventually, the grand palace of Wyndmoor faded into disarray and finally oblivion. Stone statues, gargantuan sphinx, gargoyles, even concrete balusters enticed the public who tore and ripped away statue by statue, piece by piece. Limestone pineapples that hugged the roof were knocked down and graffiti ran rampant on once gilded walls. Vandals set fire in the home, within the elevators, anywhere they could, adding to the demise, until nothing remained except the shell that once housed a life of opulence.
After other plans were denied, the majestic building that stood in splendor was about to be demolished.
Cranes and bulldozers arrived on the unkempt property, lined up like soldiers waiting to attack. In the early morning hours of May, 1980, they struck, ripping a hole in the land and through the hearts of people who knew the glory and grandeur of Stotesbury mansion.
“I used to sneak onto its forbidden summit and explore the numerous rooms of this abandoned kingdom which had a profound effect on me,” said Gerry M. Serianni, local historian. “As a teenager I became obsessed with it, as neglected and dilapidated as it was, caught in the grip of its power and beauty. But, its glory and character remain”.
It was, as Ed Stotesbury’s favorite song denotes, “The End of a Perfect Day”. Serianni’s comprehensive website (www.serianni.com/wh.htm) is dedicated to Stotesbury Estate.
|Impressions of Stotesbury|
|Montgomery County Town and County Living,|
|By Donna Dvorak|
|Winter 2004 / 2005 Issue|
I was fortunate to live in the shadows of Stotesbury. When I was 11, friends and I ice-skated around the statues in the Lower Fountain, then sled down the hills. Summers, we’d stroll the grounds and ‘hang out’ on cement benches scattered on the path to the West Belvedere. It was truly a “Mid Summer’s Night Dream”. We sat on the massive ‘sphinx” on the west side, revealed secrets, then cupped our hands to peek in the windows, like Alice in Alice Through the Looking Glass.
Six years later I entered the mansion with my father. He unlocked the front door, under the entrance portico, and I was transformed into a world reminiscent of The Great Gatsby. Walking from room to room, floor to floor, he explained the importance of preserving historical buildings for future generations, while pointing out different styles of moldings and other architectural wonders. My only regret was that our conversations weren’t taped for prosperity, but I was too busy (and too young) examining the Rotundas, the Great Ballroom, East and West wings to think of that then. We rode the elevators into the lowest basement where I grabbed my father’s hand. I was petrified of the eerie boiler room with its creaky machines.
When I returned with girlfriends we’d bang on the windows of the old billiards room where George, the watchman, lived so he’d unlock the door. We dreamed that Prince Charming would arrive and whisk us to his castle and debated having our “dates” pick us up there, but wisely decided against it! We danced in the Great Ballroom, pretended an orchestra was playing a minuet, then rode the guest elevator to the second floor. We slowly descended the Grand Staircase, imagining we were debutants being presented to society, then spent hours roaming the hidden tunnel until George had to find us with his flashlight, much to his chagrin.
Years later, during the auction, I stood beside my father feeling his pain. We had spoken the night before and I knew how distraught and upset he was that his quest to save the mansion wasn’t realized, knowing what an historical asset it would have been to the township and the world. Today, as I stroll around the remains with my four grown children, I’m still mesmerized by the memories.
|John H. Deming, Jr. at The HAWKSmoor GROUP|
|2408 Diamond Street, Sellersville, PA 18960-3426|
|January 6, 2005|
Now to the photographs. There are 3 sets
here the first of which is comprised of
three photographs of the beautiful
preliminary perspective renderings of
the three planned gardens on axis with
the house. While none of the drawings
appears to be dated... they were done in
1916 by Jacques Greber, the French
landscape architect. The first rendering
is of the back garden which later would
be named the Tapis Garden... for it's
oriental rug like appearance from a
distance. Those who know the Tapis
Garden and can see it in their sleep...
will immediately recognize that this
rendering bears little resemblance to
that which was installed. This proposal
was more of a water garden than what
would repose in it's place when
installed... but one can see that the
specific space side to side for the
garden had already been determined by
the time this rendering was done. While
the upper parterre gardens and the
belvedere in the foreground would
remain... the big fountain appears quite
truncated... and in the final plan would
be almost twice as far from the
crosswalk in the middle foreground as is
shown here. It is hard to tell exactly
what Greber planned in the upper left
hand corner... but I believe it was not
the plaza that would later be built out
beyond the big fountain... but actually
another fountain arrangement akin to the
colonnade/arcade cascade fountain that
one finds at "Nemours" in Wilmington,
Delaware. I suggest this possibility for
somewhere over the years I did see
drawings by Greber for such an
arrangement for "Whitemarsh Hall"... one
that was obviously never built. I would
point out that earlier tonight I spotted
all three of these images on the
internet at PBA (Philadelphia Buildings
& Architects) but they are tiny
thumbnail images... and if you want to
see them in a larger format... you have
to lay out some cold cash to become a
member. I acquired these images even
before there was an internet... and some
time ago they got filed away and have
not seen the light of day here... until
The following image is of what was known as the Shady Garden and was on axis with the tea room on the west side of the house. This rendering comes very close to the way that the Shady Garden was installed both in terms of elements as well as the proportions.
The last of the three images shown below was the proposal for what would have been the Casino Garden... had it ever been built. It was not... nor was any attempt made to put anything in it's place. Why? Well... this is only speculation on my part... but I think pretty educated speculation. When Greber laid out the driveway approach coming in off of Willow Grove Avenue... the house and Tapis Garden were visible from the main gates as one entered... and from there one headed for the plaza. At the plaza the driveway veered to the right (east) and from that point on there was no view of the house. That was intentional on Greber's part. The next time a visitor would see the house was after the driveway had actually passed the house and began to turn to the left... and that first vision of the house from that northeast vantage point would be the magnificent 3/4 view that would take anyone's breath away. Had the Casino Garden been installed as planned at the bottom of the double cascading staircase outside the east wing, summer loggia or morning room... it would have cut that stunning 3/4 view right in half. A casino garden by it's very nature is meant to be an outside room... consequently as can be seen in the drawing/rendering below... the trees that define the walls of that room would have to be quite high. Their height would have presented a considerable obstruction to the impact Greber was trying to achieve with the first vista of the house facade and side. It is my guess, and that all it is... a guess... that it was Greber himself who nixed the Casino Garden... and also chose not to put anything (no matter how unobtrusive) in its place. There is little doubt as you gaze at the image below... that the room formed by the garden would have been simply enchanting as seen from the house side. But when you consider that 3/4 view of the house... you can see that it was probably not all that hard for Greber to sacrifice the garden for the view. For what it's worth... that's what I think happened to the Casino Garden.
The second group... is a group of one... but a double image. This pair of elevation drawings dates to about the same time as the above group... and shows fountains and general landscaping that were never executed. A few of you may have been sent this image by me before... but for most of you this may be the first time you have seen these drawings. I have to admit I am at a total loss to know where exactly this proposed fountain was to have be placed on the estate. If you look at the top cross axis rendering it's obvious that the ground rises rather steeply to the right. That rise in ground topography would be to the viewer's back when looking at the facade or axial view in the bottom rendering... so it seems unlikely that Greber meant it to be positioned roughly where the big fountain was at the end of the Tapis Garden. The only other alternative that comes to mind for me... is that this may have been what was proposed for the area... which later (after the gardens had been installed) became the plaza. I would be interested in hearing form anyone who thinks they know where this below grade fountain was to have been placed. It would be my guess that this predates the three renderings that appear above.