Learning by Doing…

Since starting this blog — my first —  in February 2012, I have learned by doing. For a few months early on, I worked on it daily. Then for the next six months, I forgot about it. On the first day of 2014, I checked in again and decided it needed a face lift. People from over 70 countries have viewed this blog, for reasons largely unknown to me. Is it because of Alice? Or, more likely, is it because of the people she knew? Her network was huge, extending from New York to Paris to Palm Beach to Weston, Connecticut, where I discovered her.

I’ve corresponded with several people who knew Alice, including those who worked for her at her various homes. How much more will I find out about Alice, called “a reclusive lesbian arts patron”?

I’ve probably mined all the information about Alice that she wished to have known. More important, for me, are the paths she led me on. Oh, the places I saw! And oh, the people I met! Alice has introduced me to people like Eyre De Lanux, and an article about her appeared in the Weston Magazine Group. And all those “society women” in Alice’s circle, the ones like Anne Morgan who went off to France in World War I to drive ambulances (“The Heiress Corps” article) — how much they have given me in terms of ideas for stories. Such rich lives, literally and figuratively. They have enriched mine, and I hope, the lives of others who follow this blog and read my articles.


10 thoughts on “Learning by Doing…

  1. I developed an interest in Alice’s life because of her father Joseph de Lamar, who crossed paths with my great-grandfather John B Rains in 1879 in Custer County, CO. My g-grandfather discovered the “Terrible Mine” lead deposit which de Lamar bought from him for $5500 and operated for 6 years until 1885 when he sold it to Omaha Smelting for $130,000. This gave him his first significant financial stake which he used to acquire and develop the Idaho gold and silver mines where he made millions before cashing out and coming to New York. Interesting that the mining fortune then funded his and Alice’s “conspicuous consumption” life style for the next 90 years as well as the huge contributions he made to the medical schools of Columbia, Johns Hopkins and Harvard.

  2. My mother was in the same class with Alice at a school for young ladies in NYC around 1910. They became close friends for the rest of their lives. In those early years my mother regularly visited the Delamar estate on Long Island. As a boy I visited Alice with my mother in 1938 and 1940 at Alice’s Connecticut estate, enjoying her pool, her pet goats, and her personal exercise pro who had set up an outdoor gym for people to have fun on. Other members of my family later after WWII visited her at her home in Paris.

    • I would love to know more, Andrew. The school was Spence in NYC, and Clara Spence was a key factor in Alice’s life. You are one of the few people I know of who visited Stone Brook in Weston. The pool remains and is quite famous, but I didn’t know about the goats. Makes sense.

  3. “for reasons largely unknown” — Well, following Google links can sometimes bring you home.

    I was looking at some personal items of the mother of a friend on who’s genealogy I am working. The mother was an army nurse on the Navy hospital ship Comfort, dive-bombed off of Okinawa in April 1945. One was a small pocket diary for 1946 the mother used as an address book; she was in Florida for most of the year, waiting for her divorce to be finalized. She was using it as a do-it-yourself-“Linked-In” database. One entry was just “Helen Benson, dau. John Benson, Westport, Conn.” The name means nothing to the friend and her mother died in 1996. The how & why of the connection are not recoverable.

    Well, being Staples High 1966, I had to look that up! The John Benson it turns out was the founder in 1922 of what has long been Benson-Quinlan Insurance, and the Robert Quinlans lived on the street over from where I grew up. By another tweak of Google, I found the link to the NYT death notice for sculptor Stuart Benson which mentions John and Westport, and which you have posted.

    On the next page of hits, I found the link, “Mary Benson” & “Weston”, which directly led to this blog on Alice. Perusing the “chapter” headings on the left, I saw the section on Eva LaGallienne, read that, and thus remembered a brief meeting (introduction & head nod) at some production at the Westport Summer Playhouse some years before I graduated. (It might have been for a play she directed.)

    Three decades later, at the last weekend of an estate sale in Westport of a movie/TV producer, I found a general European cultural history book from 1920 adorned with Eva’s very distinctive bookplate designed by Waslow Richard Rychtarik {sp?}, dated 1926. Took it with me for a dollar.

    The book has many underlings & reader marks in pencil, with an equal number of short one word comments up to 2 or 3 sentences. They are all in the same hand. They could only have been written by Eva. Regarding a paragraph describing Raphael’s techniques of composition, she wrote “might describe the ensemble of Stanislavsky’s productions”, and on great painters omitting detail to enhance reality, the comment is “Very true of acting as well”.

    So that’s how I found myself here, while physically far away from the rich cultural life of Westport-Weston that still informs who I am, yet learning even more than I would have thought I would about some of the people around me as I grew up. I wish to convey a very large & appreciative Thank You! for the work you’ve put into this blog/history. And a tip of the hat to Alice for helping to create and maintain that “artsy” WW community.

  4. I have a neighbor who was Alice’s lady’s matron. She was her executrix after she died, she is still alive and living at home in Long Beach, NY. I just donated some of the photos taken of Pembroke to the North Shore Historical museum in Glen Cove. Great history.

  5. My father, Felix L. Turnquist, was the superintendent of Alice De Lamar’s Palm Beach estate for 40 years. I grew up on the estate for practically all of my childhood, 17yrs, and what a fabulous childhood it was. Lots of great memories of the estate and the people. Even being the superintendent’s son, I got to meet a lot of wonderful and interesting people such as Alexandra Fatio Taylor. I found out that Alex made her transition this morning and that is how I stumbled upon your blog.

  6. Ewell: Do you have any photos of the Palm Beach days? I am looking for a photo of Alice De Lamar’s T23 Bugatti Brescia which was her Florida car. License plate for 1924 was C34262. Thanks.
    Sandy Leith, Registrar, American Bugatti Club

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