Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Brooke Astor on Mount Desert Island

Brooke Astor at Cove End, Mount Desert Island, Maine.
She is thought to be about 93 at the time of this photo.
Photo by Brian Vanden Brink for Architectural Digest.
With many photos of Brooke Astor's Park Avenue apartment and her weekend home, Holly Hill, in the news for the upcoming auction at Sotheby's on September 24 and 25, 2012, it was thought some images of her beloved summer residence would find some interest.  The Devoted Classicist has visited Mount Desert Island, Maine, only in the summer, but it is an absolutely delightful place. 

Brooke and Vincent Astor bought the house and its contents in the village of Northeast Harbor in 1953.  Looking out to Gilpatrick Cove, they named the property Cove End.

A view of Gilpatrick Cove from the terrace.
Photo by Brian Vanden Brink for Architectural Digest.
When the Astors first married, they had planned spending their summers yachting abroad, but changed their minds after the first year.  With other residences being more grand, the Astors were appreciative of the cozy informality of the summer retreat with several acres for gardens, and space to entertain friends.

The water side of Cove End, 1996.
Photo by Brian Vanden Brink for Architectural Digest.
Sister Parish, who had decorated their weekend house in Westchester County (and a life-long summer resident of another Maine island, Isleboro), was called in to make it comfortable.  With the help of her business partner Albert Hadley, Cove End was 'freshened' over the years, but changed little before Mrs. Parish's death in 1994.

A tallcase clock in an alcove of the Entrance Hall
at Cove End, as it appeared in the July, 1996, issue of
Architectural Digest magazine.
Photo by Brian Vanden Brink.
Nancy Pierrepont, a friend whose late husband Brooke had known since childhood, continued to freshen a few rooms until an updating was undertaken in the mid-1990s under the direction of Mark Hampton.  A former Parish-Hadley employee for a short time (before working for David Hicks and McMillen before he opened his own firm in 1975), Mark kept the general Sister Parish approach rather than transform it into his own more regimented style.

The Living Room at Cove End as decorated by Mark Hampton.
Photo by Brian Vanden Brink for Architectural Digest.
The Living Room was a few steps lower than the Entrance Hall, giving it a higher ceiling.  This photo shows the results of the Mark Hampton scheme.

The Library at Cove End as it appeared in 1996,
after the refreshening of the Sister Parish scheme.
Photo by Brian Vanden Brink for Architectural Digest.
In the Library, the same chintz chosen by Sister Parish in 1980 was reused in a freshening by Nancy Pierrepont.  The fabric was specially printed to order from Scalamandre rather than change the scheme.

The Master Bedroom at Cove End as it appeared in 1996,
after the refreshening by Nancy Pierrepont.
Photo by Brian Vanden Brink for Architectural Digest.
The Master Bedroom also retained the Sister Parish decorative schemes, using a Brunschwig & Fils fabric for curtains, upholstery and bedhangings.

The new swimming pool garden at Cove End,
as it appeared in 1996.
Photo by Brian Vanden Brink for Architectural Digest.
A new Secret Garden utilizing native plants was added by landscape architect Morgan Wheelock to conceal the new swimming pool.  Mrs. Astor regularly used the pool for exercise until her advanced age prohibited it.

Mark Hampton died in 1998 at the age of 58, but Brooke Astor lived until 2007, surviving until the age of 105.  Her later years were not without problems, however, too complicated to go into detail here.  In 2003, Cove End was signed over to her son Anthony Marshall after he acquired power of attorney over his mother's assets;  he then signed it over to his third wife Charlene, whom he had met when she was married to a local Episcopal pastor.  A 2006 court order required ownership of Cove End to return to Tony Marshall.  Mrs. Marshall was not charged with any wrong doing and still owns some properties surrounding Cove End today.

The Brian Vanden Brink photographs appeared in the July, 1996, issue of Architectural Digest magazine;  a favored rate subscription is available here.

In one last try before publication of this essay to find if Nancy Pierrepont was still alive (a reader left a comment that she passed in 2004), it was found that several years ago The Downeast Dilettante had posted some great vintage photos and floor plans of Cove End on his blog, one of my favorites.  It may be viewed here.

14 comments:

  1. Nancy Pierrepont's obituary is in the NYT for August 15 2004 she died on August 13 2004

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  2. Nancy Pierrepont's obituary is in the NYT for August 15 2004 she died on August 2004

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    1. Many thanks. When I last saw her in the late 1980s, she was quite advanced in age though still active. Clearly, I need to use some different search engines. Your contribution is greatly appreciated.

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  3. Thanks so much to the "Devoted" and the "Downeast" for covering the waterfront. I'd be happy to take the chauffeur's room.

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  4. Terry, you might like the quarters but not the employers.

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  5. Nancy Pierrepont died several years ago. I quite liked her--very old school, formal and grand---but also kindly and very talented. I bought a neo-classical French wallpaper screen at a sale of her effects---orange and black octagons alternating with goddesses in chariots on blue ground. Bold and dazzling. She had a real eye for the sort of chic French taste of a generation or more back.

    I was thinking about the cutting garden at Cove End just a few days ago. It was heaven, with its zig zag beds riotous with bloom

    A very reliable source---I'd be guilty of egregious name-dropping if I said who---told me that Mrs. Astor was not happy with the Mark Hampton room, and had Mrs. Pierrepont change it back only weeks after it was photographed.

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    1. Thank you for your comments, D.E.D. If I am not mistaken, Nancy Pierrepont's mother was a respected decorator in Washington, DC, so her experience in design had a foundation.

      I have forgotten the name of the devoted gardener who led the efforts to keep Cove End in such a glorious condition, but he was deserving of credit, too.

      I suppose Mark Hampton wanted his scheme to show a noted difference, but I, too, thought the Parish-Hadley fabric choices in the Living Room were better for the waterfront summer house in Maine.

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  6. Thanks for this background. I have viewed the Sotheby's catalogue of Brooke Astor's estate, which I enjoyed, particularly the Chinese School pictures.

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    1. Columnist, as you may know, Brooke Astor's living in China as a child led to her great appreciation of the art and culture. Perhaps you have seen the Chinese Court that was her gift to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, around 1980. Thanks for commenting.

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  7. The less formal, yet still elegant, cozy interios of Cove End underscore what a real retreat/escape it must have been for Mrs. Astor. A close examination of the photos reveals rooms filled with depictions of animals (on pillows, in paintings, as outdoor scultpure...), a theme so prevelant in the beloved objects of hers about to go up for auction. Beyond charming...

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    1. Very observant, APB. Your comments are appreciated.

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  8. Your blog is lovely and very informational. I wish I could get past the guilt of living and enjoy things more, but I don't seem to know how to do this. I am stuck always in the past; not quite ground hog but it is my reapeated living. Why I keep asking? It is not something others can understand and put an end to.

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