Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Putting a Face to an Estate 16

What better way to wrap up the series on 'The Chimneys', the Howard C. Brokaw estate designed by Horace Trumbauer c. 1916 in Brookville, than with a picture of his family. Click HERE for more on 'The Chimneys'. The undated photo is from the Library of Congress.


magnus said...

Which one, do you suppose, is Edna Brokaw, who, as Edna Morris was one of the great doyennes of New York Society as well as of racing circles? (Do I remember correctly that her silks were the oldest in continuing use on the American track?). She was a lovely, elderly lady when I knew her, perfectly soigne and with one of those great old "Locust Valley Lockjaw accents for which I'm a sucker when practiced by the "Real McCoy".

And whatever became of the family's emporium, Brokaw Brothers?

Zach L. said...

That's a good question. It was founded sometime around 1857 and Howard, as head, retired in 1919. Perhaps they had done well enough that they just sold off to someone else? I wonder what their relationship with the Brooks Brothers was.

TinaL said...

It's nice to see an older photo where the people are smiling. Lovely family.

magnus said...

Zach- Strangely, a quick perusal of the NYTimes archives as well as a Google search provides no information about the fate of what must have been a major dry goods establishment, judging by the "mode de vivre" of the various Brokaw descendants.

Doug Floor Plan said...

I just now recognized Brokaw as a name related to a famous group of NYC mansions. In 1888 Isaac Vail Brokaw built a mansion at the corner of Fifth Avenue & East 79th street. He subsequently built two townhouses on adjoining lots north (along Fifth Ave) for his two sons (I’m guessing one was Howard Crosby Brokaw) & one on the adjoining lot east (79th street) for his daughter. When the surviving three mansions were all demolished at once in 1965 there was a public outcry the resulted in the Landmarks Commission being given legal powers. See Nathan Silver’s book ‘Lost New York’ page 127.

A very happy looking family.

Anonymous said...

"Strangely, a quick perusal of the NYTimes archives as well as a Google search provides no information about the fate of what must have been a major dry goods establishment"

I can usually turn up anything from those sources as well, I even coaxed google with a few suggestive prompts together with BB such as Closed/Sold/Bankrupt/Merged/Dissolved/GreatDepression, and still nothing of the fate of Brokaw Brothers! Now I'm possessed, c'mon someone, what happened to Brokaw Brothers?

Anonymous said...

There is a Chappy Morris on Twitter. Edna Brokaw Morris' son. He would probably know what happened to Brokaw Bros.

The Down East Dilettante said...

And of course, let's not forget that Clare Booth Luce's first husband was George Brokaw.

As to what happened to Brokaw Brother's, here is a snippet I found in my own searching. It would appear that Brokaw Brothers was either a victim of the Depression, or was absorbed into another company:

"Genealogy of some of the Vail family descended from Thomas Vail at ..."

by William Penn Vail - 1937 - 604 pages - Snippet view:

"It is interesting to note that Brokaw Brothers continued in business under that firm name until 1933 or '34."

The Down East Dilettante said...

Okay, so they moved their flagship store to Broadway in 1922.

It appears that they were absorbed into a conglomerate called Fashion Park Associates in 1937, but that may not be so, because I cannot find one word more anywhere about any Fashion Park Associates.


The Down East Dilettante said...

Eureka. Brokaw Brothers merged into Fashion Park Associates in 1929.

Next question?

Anonymous said...

"And of course, let's not forget that Clare Booth Luce's first husband was George Brokaw."

And after GTB died, his widow Frances Seymour Brokaw married Henry Fonda, and together they gave Jane and Peter to the world.

[I didn't find what I wanted on my BB search this morning, but I did pick up some Brokaw trivia.]

"Next question?"

Thank you. I went on a DED search this am as well, a turn of phrase which I attribute to you DED keeps running through my mind, making me laugh. I've looked and looked and can't find where I'm almost sure you wrote re a couple of well girthed ladies "...and she/they didn't mind enjoying a second helping of mutton and blancmange." Cracks me up. But where is it and about whom is this hilarity written?

The Down East Dilettante said...

And Henry Fonda appeared at the local summer theatre here in 1937 and my father went to the play.

hmmm, I wish I could take credit for the mutton and blancmange, but I don't think it would be me. Perhaps Reggie Dearest?

Incidentally Flo, Some months ago I added a search widget to my blog to make just such queries easier (and so even I myself could find stuff more easily amongst my fevered musings) It's hidden about mid-way through all the usual lists on the right hand side.

PS Zach, if you're reading this far, have you ever considered adding the 'search this blog' widget to OLI? It would be of infinite help to those like meself who are constantly referring back to your blog.

Zach L. said...


Blogger provides a search box on the upper left hand corner of the page which I use to search the blog. Just type in a keyword and it will bring you everything it finds. It does have an occasional hiccup however. Were you referring to something different?

Anonymous said...

"hmmm, I wish I could take credit for the mutton and blancmange, but I don't think it would be me. Perhaps Reggie Dearest?"

Reggie Dearest may possess, but I don't think he would display, that kind of bite; well, maybe as a commenter, but not as a host. Hm, for that matter, perhaps it was a commenter who penned, nay keyed, the phrase. Back to RD since you're again booked at the Hancock County Courthouse, still laughing at his "helping-hands-at-home-Waverly" remark.

And you bloggers don't think you MAKE our day [and many days thereafter]?

HalfPuddingHalfSauce said...

Verification that Julian Abele designed "The Chimneys" -

More family history - Father -

George Tuttle Brokaw (14 November 1879 – May 1935) was an American lawyer and sportsman. He was born in New Jersey to Elvira Tuttle Gould and Isaac Vail Brokaw, who, with his brother William Vail Brokaw, owned the New York City-based Brokaw Brothers clothing stores from 1856 until his death in 1914. As the eldest child, George inherited the right to live for life in the Brokaw Mansion at 1 East 79th Street in Manhattan, and later fought with his brother Howard C. Brokaw over his plans to demolish the mansion. Brokaw's first wife was writer Clare Booth Luce, whom he married on 10 August 1923 in Greenwich, Conn. Their daughter Ann Clare Brokaw was born August 25, 1924. According to his first wife, Brokaw was an abusive alcoholic, and the marriage ended in divorce in 1929. On Jan. 10, 1931, Brokaw married Frances Ford Seymour in a small New York City wedding. Brokaw and Seymour had a daughter Frances de Villers Brokaw, born October 10, 1931. After Brokaw died in 1935, Seymour married Henry Fonda in 1936 and the couple had two children, Jane and Peter. One of his brothers, Irving Brokaw, was a national ice skating champion and competed in the 1908 Olympics.

The will -

Cousin - Mrs. James E. Martin{Martin Hall}

Ray Spinzia said...

The Brokaw name was changed from Broucard. Clare Boothe was a student at St. Mary's Cathedral School, Garden City. George Tuttle Brokaw was an alcoholic who physically abused Clare. In the last four years of their marriage she had four miscarriages. Brokaw's second wife Frances F. Seymour had George committed to a sanitarium because of a nervous breakdown and alcoholism. He died in the sanitarium's swimming pool. Frances committed suicide in Craig House, a sanitarium in Beacon, NY, where she was being treated for severe depression. Frances and Henry Fonda's daughter Jane was baptised Lady Jane Seymour Fonda, aka Jane Fonda.

The New York Times March 20, 1939, p. 17.

Stephen Shadegg, "Clare Boothe Luce: A Biography," p. 43.

Ralph G. Martin. "Henry and Clare: An Intimate Portrait of the Luces," p. 146.

Peter Collier. "The Fondas: A Hollywood Dynasty," p. 65.

Judith Ader Spinzia. "Women of Long Island: Clare Boothe Luce (1903-1987), the Long Island Connection" The Freeholder, Summer 2009, pp. 3-5, 17-20.

P.S. Down East Dilettante, what is the citation for Fashion Parks Associates' 1929 acquisition?

Doug Floor Plan said...

HPHS, thanks for the links … interesting stuff. In Isaac V. Brokaw’s will he bequeathed his daughter, Mrs. Elvira Brokaw McNair (who had a quickie Nevada divorce from her unscrupulous first husband, Carl Fischer-Hansen – odd dirty laundry to include in an obituary) the lot at 7 East 79th street & $250,000 with which to build a residence there. The summary of the will appears in the January 14, 1916 ‘New York Times’ & the residence she & her husband built appears in the May 1917 edition of ‘Architectural Record’ – an unassuming home it is not.

The Down East Dilettante said...

Ray Spinzia, I found the news of Fashion Parks in an old business magazine article---snippet only--in google books, and the news of the merger from two articles in the New York Times archives.

Flo, I'm suddenly betting on the always witty and pithy Ancient as a viable candidate for the mutton & blancmange remark. But if it was made in my blog, I just can't summon up which post it would have been in response to.

I'm glad to hear we all help make people's days. A couple of overdue projects and a very emotionally draining and sad trial in jury duty (involving some sad people just about as far from the Brokaws on the social scale as can be imagined) have left me without the will to post for the last few days.

HalfPuddingHalfSauce said...

... and then add the Gould name to the mix and the story continues...

Mr. Spinzia by chance did you read the posts from last Friday{Broadhollow Stable}? Question regarding "Glenby" and "Dogwood Hill" from your book.

No one had stories on Elsie Woodward's "Enfield Chase"???

Ray Spinzia said...

My thanks to DED; I needed the citation for my files.

In reference to HalfPuddingHalfSauce's question -
I didn't see your post. Since I am knee-deep in writing a volume for East Hampton, I don't always check in. (My apologies to Zach.) Sorry I don't know if they are the same house. I never found confirmation as to who built the Steers' house. The photograph on p. 751 is from the Gottscho-Schleisner Collection in the Library of Congress and is labeled by the Library as the J. Rich Steers residence in Brookville. My rule-of-thumb is if I can't confirm a notation, I don't use it.


Anonymous said...

Ray...are you going to do a book in the future on the homes of the 5-Towns area?

Anonymous said...

The real question is this: why did Isaac Vail Brokaw's eldest son, skater Isaac Irving Brokaw, legally drop "Isaac" from his name as soon as he was able, and why did he opt out of (or get passed over for) taking over Brokaw Brothers from his father? And why did he die bankrupt?

Also of note: Irving's daughters (including my grandmother Lucile, who appears in the famous Munkasci picture) sold 985 5th avenue in 1941 for $50k (!), whereas younger brother Howard lived on until ~1960 in 984 5th and "The Chimneys," by which point real estate prices had recovered somewhat, and making 984 one of the last private homes on millionaire's mile.

I have a couple of things from 1 East 79th, 985, and Frost Mill House, including fascinating scrapbooks from ~1930, but only a tiny tiny fraction of the treasures that resided there. I assume the Edna Morris (Brokaw) line was able to hang on to much of their loot. FWIW.

Ray Spinzia said...

In response to name changes -
It was not unusual for people to drop their first name - Payne Whitney is really William Payne Whitney. Another practice prevalent in that era was for a Jr. to name his son Jr. and when the Sr. died, for the Jr. to assume Sr. The August Belmonts were notorious for doing this. President Theodore Roosevelt is really a Jr. yet he never used Jr. and named his son Jr. The Roosevelt lineage became so confusing that the Theodore Roosevelt Association had to commission a new genealogy. The Havemeyers had a whole slew of Theodores. It became mind-numbing to straighten out the various families. Thankfully, Harry Havemeyer helped me with the Belmonts and Havemeyers. (By the way, Harry lives on about 20 acres on the Great South Bay in Bay Shore, not in East Islip as someone previously posted.) Year of birth is another issue. We watched people become progressively younger with each succeeding census.

In response to Five-Towns book -
This last November we published a book on the Town of Hempstead which, of course, includes the Five-Towns, and another book on the Town of Southampton. Check Amazon or our publisher VirtualBookworm for descriptions.


Zach L. said...

And let us not forget that Payne Whitney dropped the William as he was not on the best of terms with his father and much closer with his uncle Oliver Payne (to the point he was listed as Payne's heir in the 1904 NYTimes article on the breakdown of William C. Whitney's will). And as evident by Oliver Payne's will after his death in 1917.

And the Spinzia books on Hempstead and Islip/Babylon are well worth it (besides for the North Shore and Southampton ones). Thanks Ray.

Anonymous said...

I didn't know that 20 acres of private land was left in Bay Shore.Is the house original to the property?

I tried to google Spinzia's Hempstead (East Meadow/Salisbury) book and found the Spinzia's site which only listed the 2 North Shore volume's and the Islip/Babylon (which,one of the professors in the college I work for reviewed). I guess I'll try Amazon.

Ray Spinzia said...

In reference to Havemeyer Bay Shore property -
The original house on the property was named Olympic Point. Harrie T. Lindeberg designed the modified Cotswold-style house (1917-1919) for Harry's father Horace Havemeyer, Sr. The estate's farm complex was designed by Alfred Hopkins and the landscaping was designed by Olmsted. The house was demolished by Harry's father in 1948. Horace then built a smaller colonial-style house on the property for the family. The colonial house still exists and is owned by Harry. In 1960 Harry built a 20th century contemporary house on the property for his family. It was designed by Frances Day Rogers of Rogers and Butler. The farm complex no longer exists.

As to our website - It is in the process of being redesigned. In addition to descriptions of all our books, it will include estate-related articles Judy and I have written for various historical journals over the last twenty or so years.


Charles said...

To Anonymous (Lucille Brokaw's granddaughter)-
Thank you for adding your interesting comments. I live around the corner from Frost Mill Lodge, and although I have never seen it in person, I have always loved the house. I wish there were a way that people could see your scrapbooks. Probably everyone who reads this site would just love to see them! Please add some more info on your most interesting family.
Also, do you know if Frost Mill Lodge was sold recently? I know it had been for sale.

jdpb63 said...

To Charles,

I posted the comment about Lucile Brokaw.

Someday I hope to digitize portions of her scrapbooks and illustrated diaries, but I haven't yet. It's somewhere on a very long list :-)

I live in DC and have only driven by Frost Mill once. Whether it sold recently, I do not know.

Irving Brokaw built in Mount Kisco a similar -- though cheaper -- house as a wedding present for my grandparents in 1935 which wasn't sold until 1995. Towards the end it was more like Grey Gardens than Frost Mill, but with hints of a fancy past, such as Brokaw-provided greek sarcophagi arranged around the pool, used as planters for 60 years.

The name died out in Isaac Vail's line; his four children produced 9 or 10 daughters but no sons. It survives in his brother William Vail Brokaw's line in names like Clifford Vail Brokaw V and others.

IVB and his descendents enjoyed ownership of the Sherry Building property at 5th and 44th, later the Morgan Guarantee Trust Building, from ~1880 to ~2005. With the sale, the last vestiges of the IV Brokaw guilded age well and truly died.


HalfPuddingHalfSauce said...

jdpb63 was the Mount Kisco home a Walker & Gillette design also?

charles said...

To jdpb63-
Thank you so much for responding to my comments and adding some more interesting info on your family. I really hope that you have the opportunity to digitize the scrapbooks, and maybe the diaries also. They have the makings of a good book, I am sure!
Anxiously awaiting-

Anonymous said...

I recognize that I am commenting here way past when these posts were written. But I have recently been doing some research on my ancestry and came across this blog. I am the great granddaughter of Elvira Brokaw who eventually became Elvira Brokaw McNair. They divorced and then she married William Samuel Fairchild (son of Samuel William Fairchild of Fairchild Bros. & Foster) Their daughter, Margot is was my grandmother. I can tell you this... the family were big socialites and spent all their money well. There seemed to be a lot of troublesome relationships, lots of alcohol, and not much care or thought of future generations. There is a lot of rich history and stories, but unfortunately not much of it seems to end well. I can tell you that I'm glad my parents have led a fairly normal life, are down to earth, know their priorities and given me much more than all that money ever bought them. After William Samuel Fairchild died (my great grandfather) Elivra then married Jacques De Sibour. They then moved to Jamaica where my dad and siblings spent many summers. Pimento Hill was the location.