Friday, June 29, 2012

White House, Green Room: Through Mamie Eisenhower

The first President George Washington with his wife Martha
and her grandchildren with a servant (possibly William Lee), 1796.
Martha Washington uses her fan to point to the main street,
now Pennsylvania Avenue, on the map of the District of Columbia.
Engraving by Edward Savage, 1798, after his 1796 painting.
Image:  Library of Congress.

First Floor Plan of the White House indicating the location of the Green Room.
(The adjacent oval room is known as the Blue Room and the largest room is the East Room).
Image: Wikipedia. 
This is the second of a series about the decoration of the Green Room of the White House.  The first essay presented the 2007 refurbishment undertaken with the leadership of First Lady Laura Bush and may be viewed here.   Some background on the history of the room is helpful in understanding the whole topic of interior design in the White House, so bear with me for an abbreviated survey.
The First Floor Plan of the White House, drawn by architect Benjamin Latrobe,
indicating how Thomas Jefferson used the rooms in 1803.
Image:  Library of Congress.
Architect James Hoban intended this room, 22'-6" x 28'-3" with a ceiling height of 18', as the "Common Dining Room" (meaning everyday).  The first occupants, John and Abagail Adams lived there only a short time (because the capital was in Philadelphia before Washington became the official federal city), although the February, 1801 inventory lists it as the "Lodging Room".  The White House's second occupant, Thomas Jefferson, used it as his dining room and we know that it was furnished with chintz curtains and a painted green floor cloth.  James and Dolley Madison used it as a sitting room and James Monroe used it as a card room.
The White House after the 1814 fire as seen in an aquatint by William Strickland.
Image:  Library of Congress.
The bold door and window trim with ornately carved corner blocks came from the Monroe redecoration of the State Rooms after the August 24, 1814, British burning of the White House as did the white marble chimneypieces ordered from Italy.  Although some sources say that the Monroes were the first to refer to the Green Room by that name, others say that it was not until John Quincy Adams presidency that it became universally known as the Green Room because of the fabrics used.  (As a consequence of Monroe's purchase of mostly imported French furniture, Congress inacted legislation that required furniture bought for the White House with public funds must be of domestic origin.  Adams commissioned local cabinetmakers, including M. Bouvier, great-grandfather of future First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy, to create quality furniture for the White House).
The First Floor Plan of the White House, drawn by Alexander Jackson Davis
in 1834 during the Presidency of Andrew Jackson.
The plan is intentially flipped, with apologies, to give the same orientation
throughout the essay.
Andrew Jackson was the first president to undertake a full interior decoration of the White House, partially necessitated by the throngs that attended the 1829 inagural reception, all supplied by Philadelphia furnisher Louis Vernon.   Because of its location adjacent to the East Room, the Green Room was used as a reception room.  It was at this time that advances in lighting and chemical dyes that allowed the rooms to be more colorful and brighter than ever before.  (Jackson also installed running water).  In the North especially, there was a mid-19th century movement that regarded Greco-Roman classicism as un-Christian and completely adverse to American values, but the White House remained white (at least on the exterior) and the interiors restrained.
President Andrew Jackson by Ralph E.W. Earl, 1836.
Image:  White House Historical Association
There was little variation to the Jackson scheme by the Van Burens, Harrisons (who lived in the White House only a month until the President died of pneumonia), and Tylers regardless of the needs caused by wear.  But despite criticism that he and his wife lived regally, which some contribute to his loss of the 1840 election, Van Buren did provide a new suite of all-upholstered furniture for the Green Room that was known as confortables, utilizing coiled steel springs and heavy padding for comfort.
First Lady Sarah Polk in a lithograph by Nathaniel Currier,
after an 1846 daguerrotype by John Plumbe, Jr.
Mrs. Polk is credited as being the first woman in charge of
White House decoration, relying on ready-made goods
from major east-coast cities.
Image:  Library of Congress.
With the 1845 occupancy of James K. and Sarah Polk, a luxurious elegance came to the White House interiors with the help of Washington art collector W.W. Corcoran.  Although no images exist, we know the Green Room had green curtains and upholstery, with a ruby red carpet with a design of eagles and stars.  (The Devoted Classicist has a special interest in the Polks, so you will be reading more about them in future posts).
The Green Room in the 1850s during the Pierce occupancy.
Image:  White House Museum Organization.
In addition to new bathrooms and heating introduced to the White House with the help of architect Thomas U.Walter, Franklin and Jane Pierce replaced the classical chimneypieces in the Green Room (along with the Red, Blue, and East Rooms) with Roco style white marble chimneypieces with arched openings fitted with coal grates.  Painted decorations in a large scale French design was added to the ceilings of the all the State Rooms.  New wallpaper with a green design against a white background and a coordinating fitted carpet completed the new decor for the Green Room, reflected in a large gilt overmantel mirror supplied by L.R. Menger of New York.

The 1860 visit by Edward, Prince of Wales, who was the first member of the British royal family to be received by a President, prompted a renewal of fabrics and carpets for the bachelor President James Buchanan, overseen by his niece, Harriet Lane.

This view of the Green Room is identified as being from the Lincoln era
by the Lincoln White House Community.
The over-spending of the White House decorating budget by Mary Todd Lincoln is well-documented, with the State Rooms getting French wallpapers, lace curtains, furniture, and new carpets from William Carryl in Philadelphia and A.T. Stewart in New York.  (Stewart's is considered the first department store in America).  After the 1862 death of Willie Lincoln from Typhoid Fever, his open casket was placed in the Green Room;  according to accounts of the time, Mrs. Lincoln never entered the room again.
The North Front of the White House, as it appeared about 1865.
The bronze sculpture of Thomas Jefferson, now in the Capitol,
was one of the few statues ever on display in the garden.
Photo:  New York Public Library.
Following Lincoln's assasination in 1865, the White House interiors of Andrew Johnson had been tattered by souvenir hunters taking pieces of curtain trimming, upholstery fabric and carpeting.  The Johnson's daughter, Martha Patterson, undertook the redoration of the State Parlors with Neo-Grec wallpaper and Pompeian-red banding and black & gold borders, thanks to appropriations that totalled more than $135,000 by the end of his term in 1869.

The wall decoration from the Johnson era remained in this view
of the Green Room photographed, 1875-80, during the Grant presidency.
The 1859 ebony suite by Gottlieb Vollmer & Company,
 Philadelphia, is still in place.
Photo:  New York Public Library.

This view of the Green Room by Mathew Brady is undated,
but may be a photograph from the Grant era.
It is documented that slipcovers were used by the Johnsons,
however, because of the tatered upholstered fabric.
Photo:  Library of Congress.

The Green Room with an enormous portrait of General Grant
on horseback leaning against the wall.
Photo: White House Historical Association.
President Grant was not interested in interior aesthetics despite that America was poised to enter the Gilded Age at the time of his 1865 inauguration. (He did oversee the extensive landscape improvements of the grounds, however).  Julia Grant essentially left the Green Room as she found it (although she changed the Blue Room and the East Room).  Neither Lucy Hayes nor Lucretia Garfield had the opportunity to make many changes in White House decor.  But the Garfields did have the Washington furnishers W.B. Moses & Sons supply the Green Room with ready-made Aesthetic style upholstered furniture and curtains in the same fabric;  the 1850s gasolier and over-mantle mirror remained.
The Garfield Green Room, 1800-85.
Photo:  New York Public Library.
Chester Arthur was widowed and one of the few presidents to have significant input for the White House decor.  As a New Yorker who was familiar with the Gilded Age mansions, Arthur brought in Louis Comfort Tiffany, sometimes considered the first professional American decorator.  Tiffany's work in the White House in 1882 provided entirely custom, luxurious interiors, not purchased from a department store.  But Tiffany did not change the Green Room although some Tiffany pieces eventually made their way into the room.
The Arthur Green Room, circa 1885, keeping the Garfield decoration in tact
in a photo lithograph showing the colors typical of the period.
Image:  Library of Congress.
The First Floor Plan after the McKim, Mead & White renovation of 1902.
Additional doorways were cut through from the oval Blue Room
to both the Green Room and Red Room for circulation during events.
Rather than hinged concealed doors on the Blue Room side,
there are removable panels that are usually left in storage today.
While Caroline Harrison dreamed of having the White House refurbished in the Colonial Revival style and Mrs. McKinley made do with a few additions of the prevailing trend, it was not until 1902, following McKinley's assassination and Theodore Roosevelt's swearing in, that First Lady Edith Roosevelt brought in Charles McKim to renovate the White House.  Continuing with the themes of intellectual classicism that met with such great success in the White City of the World's Columbian Exposition of 1893, early American architecture was presented with new appreciation.  Many architectural elements were discarded instead of restored, however, and the immediate response to this renovation was negative.  Eventually, the McKim, Mead & White interpretation of Colonial Revival, more an eclectic Beaux Arts approach than the more academic Georgian and Federal Revivals that would follow, became appreciated as the White House became more dignified, if somewhat chaste.
The Theodore Roosevelt Green Room, circa 1903.
Photo:  Library of Congress.
Typical of the taste of Stanford White, the walls and curtains of the Green Room were of the same green velvet, said to be copied from a Genoese fragment.  White neo-classical furniture from A.H. Davenport & Company, Boston, was upholstered in a tapestry fabric that coordinated with the modern rug on the new parquet wood floor.  One of the Monroe-era marble chimneypieces from the State Dining Room was installed (with the other going to the Red Room).  And a new crystal chandelier that was a stylistic reinterpretation rather than a reproduction provided electric light.  The marble center table dates from Mrs. Tyler in the 1840s.  The Viennese fire screen had been presented to Grant after the 1876 Centennial Exposition.

Neither Helen Taft nor Edith Wilson made any dramatic changes in the State Rooms, but Edith Wilson was the first to have American porcelain dinnerware, Lenox China, made in Trenton, New Jersey.  In 1909, President William Howard Taft began plans to increase the size of the White House by 80%, adding the Oval Office and other spaces designed by Nathan C. Wyeth to further allow the State Rooms to be used for ceremonial functions.
This photo of the Green Room during the Hoover era shows
the scheme developed by Crace Cooldige and her team.
Although department store reproductions were more prevalent than antiques during the White House years of Grace Coolidge, the historic quality of the State Rooms was appreciated.  Mrs. Coolidge assembled the first (although short-lived) advisory committee to solicit gifts of antiques and art for the White House.  With the assistance of Ulysses S. Grant, 3rd, (President Grant's grandson) to act as mediator with the committee, Grace Coolidge redecorated the Green Room, upholstering the walls in green silk brocade with curtains of the same fabric to coordinate with the custom made rug from Tiffany Studios featuring the Great Seal of the United States.  The seating furniture was in yellow brocade. Louise "Lou" Hoover focused her attention on modernizing the private quarters, but she is credited with creating some of the first attempts at period settings in the State Rooms.

The Hoover Green Room kept the Coolidge decoration.
Photo:  National Archives and Records Administration.
Eleanor and Franklin D. Roosevelt spent nothing on the State Room interiors during the decades of economic depression and war.  The installation of ductwork for central air-conditioning was one of the many alterations that led to problems, however.

The interior of the White House during the 1949-52 rebuilding.
Photo:  Library of Congress.
After years of assorted and miscellaneous renovations, the White House was in poor structural condition by the time of President Harry S. Truman.  A rebuilding of the White House began in 1949 and continued to 1952 with most of the house stripped down to the stone walls.

The Green Room during the Truman administration
renovation as seen on May 21, 1951.
Photo:  Harry S. Truman Library & Museum

The Truman Green Room in 1946.
Photo:  Library of Congress.
The Green Room was the only State Room to be refurbished before the renovation.  The fabric was a bright reinterpretation of an 18th century damask selected by Charles T. Haight, chief decorator for the New York department store, B. Altman & Company.  After the renovation, the same selection was used again.
The Truman Green Room in 1952.
Photo: Abbie Rowe, Truman Library.

The Eisenhower Green Room in 1960.
First Lady Mamie Eisenhower, right, with her sister and two nieces.
Photo: Eisenhower Presidential Library.
Dwight and Mamie Eisenhower made no significant changes to the State Rooms of the Truman White House.  In 1956, a longtime friend of the Eisenhowers, Margaret Thompson Biddle, donated her collection of European gilded silver to the White House, leading to the creation of the Vermeil Room in the basement level. (Coincidently, Mrs. Biddle's villa on the Riviera was decorated by Stephane Boudin who would later redecorate the Vermeil Room during the Kennedy era).  In 1960, the basement oval room, a secondary reception room, was redecorated through a collaboration of the National Society of Interior Designers and Mrs. Eisenhower, furnished with donated Federal period antiques.  But the White House was treated foremost as a residence and it was secondary that it was a historic building.  It was not until the next First Lady that the White House was considered also as a museum.
The Eisenhower Green Room in January, 1961,
just prior to the Kennedy inaguaration.
Photo (reversed):  Life Magazine.
The next post of The Devoted Classicist will present the Green Room decoration by the team led by Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy, who set a standard by which White House interior design is still measured today.

More about the White House as a residence and how it compares to other architecturally significant homes can be found in an interesting book written by acquaintances Ulysses G. Dietz and Sam Watters, DREAM HOUSE: THE WHITE HOUSE AS AN AMERICAN HOME.  It is available for purchase at a discount here.

Friday, June 22, 2012

White House, Green Room, and Laura Bush

The White House Green Room, 2009.
The recent unveiling of the official White House portrait of First Lady Laura Bush brought to mind the Green Room, used as the setting for painting and significant because of Mrs. Bush's efforts to refurbish the room in 2007.
The Official White House Portrait of First Lady Laura Bush, 2012.
Painted by John Howard Sanden.
Image:  White House Historical Association.
After seeing the portrait of President George W. Bush completed in 2011, Mrs. Bush chose the same artist, John Howard Sanden.  Born in Austin, Texas, in 1935, the artist now lives in Connecticut and maintains a Carnegie Hall studio.  The portraits were commissioned by the White House Historical Association as a gift of the George B. Hartog, Jr., White House Acquisition Trust.  The Devoted Classicist is always interested in the settings for portraits, and President Bush's is particularly interesting from a political viewpoint, but this essay will discuss Laura Bush's because of the decorative arts focus.  In addition to a well-chosen dress, a number of the features of the White House Green Room are shown in the carefully considered composition.
Portrait of Benjamin Franklin.
The portrait of Benjamin Franklin over the mantle was painted by David Martin in 1767.  The Scholar's Notes from the White House Historical Association offers that the portrait was commissioned by Robert Alexander of the firm William Alexander & Sons, Edinburgh.  The ribboned document is one of Alexander's deeds, the books and pamphlets suggest the evidence to support a wise man's decision, and the bust of Isaac Newton represents the English Voice of Reason.  Sometimes called the 'thumb portrait', the position of the hand with the thumb pressed against the chin expresses the pressure of concentrated thought.  The portrait was a gift of Mr. and Mrs. Walter H. Annenberg to contribute to Jacqueline Kennedy's plea for art for the White House.  (One of the richest individuals in the U.S. at the time, he was a big financial supporter of Richard Nixon and was appointed as ambassador to Britain by Ronald Reagan).
Green Room Mantle Clock.
Although not visible in the portrait, there is an ormolu clock on the mantle with a figure of George Washington and an eagle.  Acquired in 1961, it dates from circa 1806 and is attributed to Jean-Baptiste Dubuc.  Washington is depicted in full dress uniform with a scroll of laws in his right hand and his left hand against his sword.  The eagle represents the Great Seal of the United States and holds a bundle of 13 arrows in its left talon, referring to the thirteen original states.  The enamel dial is inscribed with the well-known quotation from Washington's funeral oration by Major-General Henry Lee, "Washington, First in War, First in Peace, First in the Hearts of his Countrymen".
Green Room Easy Chair, 2007.
Image:  Washington Post.
The new rug in a neo-classical pattern and the reupholstery of the easy chairs at the fireplace in a brighter coral silk damask are part of First Lady Laura Bush's contributions to the room.  The pattern of the rug is based on an early 19th century French Savonnerie rug but with intensified colors and other adjustments made as it was woven especially for the room.  The Federal period chairs were added to the room in 1971-2, but were previously in a more subtle salmon color fabric. 
The Green Room, 2001.
Official White House Photo by Moreen Ishikawa.
This earlier view shows the First Lady Laura Bush, right, entertaining the wife of the President of Mexico, Mrs. Vicente Fox.
The Bust of Benjamin Franklin.
The Sevres bust of Benjamin Franklin dates from 1810.
Duncan Phyfe Work Table.
This magnificent work table, one of a pair and shown in the open position, is attributed to Duncan Phyfe and dates from circa 1810.
The Green Room during the Presidency of George W. Bush.
Photo:  Architectural Digest.
The curtains are also new, in a similar but simplied version of the design from the Nixon redecoration in the early 1970s.  The new fabric and the finish of the valances are also more vibrant than previously. The watered silk wall covering was also replaced with a slightly brighter green in a larger scale weave.
Silver Tea Urn on Display in the Green Room.
Although this writer is not particularly fond of the full time display of the Sheffield silver hot water urn (alternately described as a tea or coffee urn) in the Green Room, he is is apparently in the minority.  Many appreciate it for the symbol of hospitality it provides as the room is used for receptions.  It was owned by John and Abigail Adams, the first occupants of the White House in 1800.  Some think the neo-classical vase-shaped urn may have been acquired when Adams was American minister to England, 1785-88, as it dates from that period.  The front is engraved with "JAA".  It had remained in the family until sold in 1946.  The urn was given to the White House in 1964 by Mr. and Mrs. Mark Bortman and Jane Bortman Larus.  (According to Lady Bird Johnson's published diary, Mr. Bortman was a friend of President Johnson and made several other donations to the White House as well).
"Lighter Relieving a Steamboat Aground" by George Caleb Bingham.
Image from the White House Historical Association.
George Caleb Bingham's 1847 painting, "Lighter Relieving a Steamboat Aground" has often been seen as being representative of a political statement as the artist ran for the Missouri House of Representatives in 1846 and was elected;  however, the results were contested and he was forced out of office.
"The Builders" by Jacob Lawrence is displayed in the Green Room.
Image from the White House Historical Association.
"The Builders" is a 1947 painting by Jacob Lawrence, one of the newest works of art in the permanent White House collection.  It was acquired at auction in 2007 for $2.5 million by the White House Acquisition Trust.
President George W. Bush and First Lady Laura Bush.
Photo:  Architectural Digest.
The Green Room refurbishment was undertaken during the summer of 2007 by First Lady Laura Bush, advised by the Committee for the Preservation of the White House, Fort Worth decorator Ken Blasingame, and White House curator William Allman.  The next posting of The Devoted Classicist blog will present a history of the Green Room decoration with focus on the accomplishments of First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy, who set the standard by which all White House decoration is judged, and First Lady Pat Nixon, whose scheme is still the basis of decoration in the Green Room today.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Maurice Fatio's Il Palmetto: The Garden

Photo:  Palm Beach Daily News.
In South Florida, where the vegetation can grow so lush, The Devoted Classicist has always been surprised at the relative lack of beautiful gardens.  Althought the grounds surrounding Palm Beach mansions are usually well-tended, the artistic level of landscape design is generally lower than one would expect.  Part of this may have to do with the fact that so many of the houses are used only as winter vacation homes and not the owners' primary residence.  Despite the concentration of wealth, beautiful architecture, and tropical climate, Palm Beach is just not known today for an abundance of remarkable gardens.
The east elevation of Il Palmetto during the occupancy of Janet Annenberg Hooker.
Photo:  Roberto Schezen, PALM BEACH HOUSES

A notable stand-out, however, is the new garden of the estate named Il Palmetto.  When billionaire internet software developer Jim Clark bought the property for $11 million from the estate of Janet Annenberg Hooker, it was in poor condition.  But the 5 1/2 acre property extends from the Atlantic Ocean to the Intercoastal Waterway, also known as Lake Worth.  (Although bisected by South County Road, a tunnel connects to the separate Beach House).  And perhaps best of all, the property includes the landmark 1930 mansion designed by Maurice Fatio, Treanor & Fatio Architects.  Determined to restore the estate to its former glory, and better, Clark set out on a full renovation of the house, complimented by a spectacular new garden designed by landscape architect Robert E. Truskowski.
As it appeared when occupied by Mrs. Hooker.
Photo:  Christie's Great Estates.

This writer had first met Mr. Truskowski and become familiar with his Laguna Beach-based firm in the 1980s when he designed the gardens of a couple residences whose interiors were designed by Parish-Hadley.  With several field offices and spectacular estate gardens completed nationwide, plus a few international projects, the firm is a leader in residential landscape architecture, as these images reveal.
Photo:  Robert E. Truskowski.
The property is located at two relatively sharp turns in South Ocean Boulevard, also known as Highway 1A, so there is dense planting along the road.  The driveway entrance, at the short east-west leg of the road called "Widener's Curve", is a handsome pair of iron gates and piers with a degree of discretion.  A short length of driveway leads a pair of entrances flanking a decorative wall feature to a walled motor court.
Photo:  Robert E. Truskowski.
The motor court contains a simple fountain in the center, with the main entrance to the house straight ahead and a drive-through entrance to the service court to the left.  At the intersection of the wings is a three story tower.  To the left, a series of grass terraces with built-in perspective provide a vista of green to contrast with the hard surfaces.
Photo:  Robert E. Truskowski.
Going straight through the house, one comes out to a three-sided courtyard with dramatic steps down to the expansive lawn and the Intercoastal Waterway on the right.  In the center of this courtyard is another fountain, again a spray of water, but this time in a circular pool.  Straight ahead of that is a Loggia, open on both sides but capable of being given a windbreak from the ocean with glass retracting within steel frames.
Photo:  Dias Brothers.
The swimming pool terrace is beyond the Loggia.
Photo:  Robert E. Truskowsi.
The swimming pool was completely reworked, keeping the original shape, but re-surfaced with brilliant cobalt blue tile.
Photo:  Robert E. Truskowsi.
Below the swimming pool terrace, another courtyard focuses on a large sculpture set within a rectangular pool.
Photo:  Robert E. Truskowski
Another view of the same space, showing a closer look at a different angle.  A tennis court occupied the space previously.
Photo:  Dias Brothers.
The path to the new Boat House passes by magnificent specimen trees.  Some were rescued from sites being cleared for re-development and delivered by barge to the site.
Photo:  Robert E. Truskowski

The second photo of almost the same view shows the profusion of staghorn ferns (platycerium) growing from the trunk of the tree and the extensive use of bromeliads (bromeliacae) for low maintenance year-around color.
Photo:  Robert E. Truskowski
Another path shows the extensive use of coquina stepping stones and water features.
A view from the Intercoastal Waterway shows an expanse of lawn terraced up to the house.

Photo:  about 1932-34, Robert Yarnell Richie
Southern Methodist University, Central University Libraries,
DeGolyer Library.
Architect Maurice Fatio
Architect Maurice Fatio might not be well-known outside of Palm Beach today, but he was nationally famous in the 1920s and 30s.  Born in Geneva, Switzerland in 1897 and arriving in New York City in 1920, he was named at a 1923 society bazaar as the most popular architect in New York according to Shirley Johnson's book PALM BEACH HOUSES.   First working for noted architect Harrie T. Lindeberg, he teamed up with William A. Treanor, twenty years his senior who had worked for Lindeberg for ten years, to establish Treanor & Fatio Architects.  In 1925, he moved to Palm Beach and began designing houses in the Mediterranean style, usually blending together Romanesque, Florentine, and Venetian influences as well.  One of these houses, built for the Wolcott Blairs and known as much for the interior design by Ruby Ross Wood (and assistant Billy Baldwin) as much as the architecture, is featured in a previous post here.
The main entrance as it appeared during the occupancy by Mrs. Hooker.
This is one of this writer's favorite doorways in all of Palm Beach.
Photo:  Roberto Schezen, PALM BEACH HOUSES.
Il Palmetto was an important commission, a 42 room mansion with nine master bedrooms built at the height of the Great Depression that employed hundreds for months.  Fatio later designed Palm Beach houses in the Georgian Revival style (as he had done in New York), the French Norman style, the British Colonial style, the Regency Revival style, and even Contemporary.   He was immensely social, constantly attending luncheons and dinner parties to promote his architectural practice.  Handsome and an immpeccable dresser, he was also known for his tango.  He is even mentioned in the lyrics of a Cole Porter song. Sadly, he died of cancer at the age of 47 in 1943.  More about the work of this talented architect can be found in the book MAURICE FATIO: PALM BEACH ARCHITECT.  (Both of these books may be purchased at a significant discount through The Devoted Classicist Library and the links accessed by clicking the titles).
Portrait of Joseph Early Widener by Augustus Johns, 1921.
National Gallery of Art.
Il Palmetto was built as the winter vacation home of Joseph Early Widener, 1871-1943.  (His wife Ella had died the previous year and their children, Peter A.B. Widener, 2nd, and Josephine "Fifi" Widener Leidy Holden Wichfeld Bigelow were grown by that time).  Widener was heir to a vast real estate and transportation fortune.  He grew up in his parents' immense mansion designed by Horace Trumbauer,  Lynnewood Hall on 300 acres in Elkins Park, Pennsylvania;  it continued to be his residence after marriage and was the place of his death after several years of ill health.  Widener's older brother had perished on the Titanic in 1912, leaving him to inherit the bulk of the family fortune in 1915, and making him the country's 20th richest man.  He attended Harvard University and studied architecture at the University of Pennsylvania, but his main interest was dogs and horses.  In 1931, he renovated Hialeah Park, a lavishly landscaped thoroughbred racetrack still recognized today for its beauty and hundreds of pink flamingos.  But his best known contribution is his being a founding benefactor of the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC.  His donation of the Widener Collection, consisting of 2,000 paintings, sculptures and decorative arts objects was put on display in 1942. 
An interior doorway at Il Palmetto as it appeared
during the occupancy by Mrs Hooker.
Photo:  Roberto Schezen, PALM BEACH HOUSES.

Although Jim Clark may have spent more than double his initial purchase price to improve Il Palmetto, it has been universally thought to be a wise investment.  The estate is one of the most sparkling of the Palm Beach jewels, a town where such estates are still coveted as a desirable example of one's worth.  In 2009, Clark, 65, married 'Sports Illustrated' swimsuit model Kristy Hinze, 29, his fourth wife, on the beach at Necker Island, the private retreat of Sir Richard Branson, part of a four day celebration that also included Clark's $100 million yacht.  Il Palmetto has regularly been the site of events hosted by the Clarks to benefit various charities.  Unlike some of the other significant residences that have been featured on this blog, Il Palmetto is not threatened any time in the near future.