Saturday, February 8, 2020

"Mrs. Post’s Mar-a-Lago"

From one of the tiny treasures of the internet, New York Social Diary:
Marjorie Merriweather Post liked to live large. Really large.
The world knew the size of her fortune, the length of her yacht and the speed of her Vickers Viscount turboprop jet with a Rolls-Royce engine. But her family, friends and staff were the ones aware that regardless the extent of Post’s inheritance, there were few as compassionate and generous. “There are others better off than I am. The only difference is I do more with mine,” Mrs. Merriweather Post once told an interviewer.
July, 1920. Marjorie Merriweather Post and E. F. “Ned” Hutton’s wedding announcement. New York Herald, July 10, 1920. Library of Congress. Two months later, Ned’s 19-year-old son Halcourt Hutton, from his first marriage to Blanche Horton, died from injuries following a horseback riding accident. During the next several years, the newlyweds focused on expanding Camp Hutridge, later known as Camp Topridge, spending more than $200,000 on their rustic Adirondack compound. Outfitted with an electric elevator, the main lodge was centered around a 65-foot by 50-foot living room. Guest cabins were staffed with their own butler.
Her secretaries, cooks, maids, footmen, and chauffeurs especially were mindful of Post’s uncompromised standards at Palm Beach, whether accommodating notable house guests, holding black-tie dinners or underwriting a charitable gala. They could attest she was as confident hosting dignitaries beneath the gold-leaf ceiling in Mar-a-Lago’s living room as she was welcoming underprivileged children with peanuts and hot dogs to a circus tent put up on her lawn.

So they were probably not surprised in April 1944 when Mar-a-Lago, Post’s more than 15 acre, 100+ room ocean-to-lake enclave with a nine-hole golf course, was converted into an occupational therapy center for convalescent WW II veterans housed at The Breakers, then operating as the Ream General Hospital.

Her readiness to share her private realm during wartime foreshadowed what she expected might be one of her lasting legacies: Her dream of having Mar-a-Lago repurposed for a greater good, as a presidential retreat and sanctuary for visiting heads of state.

However ambitious Post’s aspiration, the mansion’s construction posed obstacles that at times made its completion in 1927 as unlikely as the roundabout way it eventually fulfilled Post’s objective – as the Winter White House of President Donald Trump, who bought the property late in 1985 and opened it as his private Mar-a-Lago Club a decade later.

Hogarcito, facade. Golfview Road, Palm Beach. Marion Sims Wyeth, architect. In October 1921, the Huttons received a building permit valued at $28,000. By late March, the Huttons had moved from one of the Everglades Club’s maisonettes across the street to their new villa located on the club’s golf course, naming it Hogarcito. With their yacht anchored nearby and one of Hutton’s brokerage offices located at the club, Ned Hutton bought several lots along Golfview Road, retaining Wyeth to design spec houses that were sold to several of their friends. Augustus Mayhew Photography.
Hogarcito, façade detail. In March 1924, Ned Hutton was a key member of the Everglades Club’s reorganization committee after Paris Singer announced plans to retire and turn the club over to the members. Five months later, when those plans were dissolved because some members did not want to become burdened with the responsibilities of owning the club, Singer and Hutton pursued other interests. Singer bought Whitehall with plans to convert it into a hotel, acquired Gus’ Bath and established the private Palm Beach Swimming Club, and purchased a large stretch of oceanfront that today is known as Singer Island. With the building of larger Palm Beach homes becoming more fashionable, the Huttons acquired a more sizeable ocean-to-lake property that would afford them more privacy and amenities.

Mrs. Hutton builds
In April 1925, news broke that E.F. Hutton, then 50, and his 38-year-old wife Marjorie had made plans to build a new home in the town’s South End. By then, the couple’s architect, Marion Sims Wyeth, and his associate Maitland Belknap had already created drawings for a “master’s house, another for the children, another for guests, and other unique features,” according to a Palm Beach Post report.

The couple found Hogarcito “too small for their needs and not near enough to the ocean,” especially since her daughters from a previous marriage were now joined by their new half-sister born in December 1923, Nedenia Marjorie Hutton, later better known as actress Dina Merrill. Setting out to elaborate on Hogarcito’s camp-like configuration, Wyeth formulated a sprawling house sited along the coral rock ridgeline. Set back from the ocean boulevard with its more imposing crescent-shaped profile visible from the lakeside, the house was then described as “the largest residential undertaking in the resort’s history.”

The month after the Palm Beach announcement, Ned Hutton was reported aboard the yacht Hussar anchored off shore in the South End, along with the Huttons’ friend, Broadway impresario Flo Ziegfeld, inspecting the ongoing preconstruction work. The 17-acre parcel was being cleared and the foundations set. Along the estate’s South Ocean Boulevard frontage, crews planted 14 of the island’s tallest coconut palms....

In March 2019: 

A Different Sort of Tesla Story
Well, it's about time I outed myself on this.
I am a fan of New York Social Diary.
I can't tell you how many times I almost linked to one of their posts but refrained.
Today though, today we hit "publish."....