Thursday, October 27, 2011

'Meudon' Special Part 2

Part 2 of the special collection of photographs of 'Meudon', the William D. Guthrie estate designed by C.P.H. Gilbert c. 1900 in Lattingtown. Today's pictures show some of the estate's outbuildings and greenhouses. Click HERE to see Part 1 and for more on 'Meudon'. Photographs provided by Annie Clark-Durkin via Patricia Lu.


magnus said...

Zach: Priceless.

Doug Floor Plan said...

Great collection of photographs -- much thanks to Annie Clark Durgin & Patricia Lu for sharing.

From what I can tell the building behind the "horseless carriage" is the same building in the next photograph with the driveway up to it. I'm guessing the building behind the greenhouses is the same building in the next photograph but I can't get the building turned on the slope correctly in my head.

I like the pond house & the beach house because in that age if you wanted a change of scenary from the main house you built a house for whatever change you wanted -- & you wouldn't think of leaving the main house in your swimsuit to head down to the beach for a swim.

magnus said...

The beach house still stands looking much the same. I gather that it is a sort of clubhouse for the Meudon development.

ChipSF said...

These are some great photos! Thanks.

Off topic - in the latest episode of the new TV series, "Pan Am", the supposed 'hotel' in Monte Carlo looks suspiciously like Winfield.

The Down East Dilettante said...

These pictures are to die for.

Doug, the reason that you cannot make the carriage house and/or stable in the first two photographs look like the building behind the greenhouses is because they are not the same building :-)

My verification word is 'pinglyzo'. I'm not witty enough to make it into something this morning, but just saying it makes me giggle.

The Down East Dilettante said...

Mildly off-subject: HPHS, in yesterday's comments you quote Spinzia as saying that the eastern enlargement was a service wing. This seems EXTREMELY unlikey, as there was a service wing already to the west. If one examines the photos carefully, the new extension does not come off as service, with French doors to the floor opening onto terraces, etc., a less dense arrangement of windows on the second floor (servant's wings second floors tend to have more and smaller windows for all those tiny servant's and service rooms). More likely it was done either/and to enlarge guest accomodations or a better master suite, and/or to balance the service wing and make a more impressive and symmetrical composition. That's my opinion, and I'm sticking to it :-)

The Down East Dilettante said...

And further building my argument against service addition (sorry Spinzia), the fact that one rarely closes off and replaces porticos on the family end of the house to add a second service wing...

Anonymous said...

Outstanding new photos. Definitely completes the picture of what life was like for the Guthries. A very diverse group of service buildings architecturally. I love the stone house by the pond with the overhanging balconies. I presume the garage building with the central tower is no longer extant? House guests and party guests aside, I can't fathom such an estate for just 3 family members. Thnx for the new views

Anonymous said...

Amazing photos!! The first picture looks like the main entrance to the main house. Now if photo's 2&3 are the stables, what would the building in photo's 4&5 be, (I'm assuming it's the same structure with the greenhouses in the back) ? Looks to large to be the gardeners cottage, unless it housed multiple workers.

The Down East Dilettante said...

Yup, me again. By my reading on Bing, here is the barn complex pictured:

And here is where the stone building by the pond was---in fact, it looks possible that the modern second floor is actually built on the stone first floor?

And way over here, at the far end of Meudon Drive, near Frost Creek Rd., is the former Greenhouse complex:

And last but not least, here is where I eat grow, because in my comments about the service wing, I was being all Maine about direction relative to the water, forgetting the North Shore is upside down, and of course the service wing is EAST, so the enlargements HPHS and Spinzia refer to are to the service wing---leaving still the question of when was the family wing on the other, WESTERN end enlarged?

Verification word 'melactol', the medicine DED has to take when he's wrong.

The Down East Dilettante said...

crow, not grow. I eat crow.

Anonymous said...

DED..........I think the mansion was expanded on both sides, the east and the west creating that extreme elongated facade. The side with the beautiful pergola and what is the last remaining artifact from the mansion, the stone portico/porch is on the west side of the mannsion. On the Mansions of the Gilded Age website you can see a very detailed overhead shot of the enlarged mansion with both wings. On the west side, the left side of the photo, the extension is surrounded by terraces, plantings and walkways, all manicured and formal. However, the east side, the right side of the photo, is not accessible from the front entry drive and is more "hidden" from view. It seems from that photo alone, the service portion of the house would have been on the eastern side accessible for deliveries, etc. from a side entrance, clearly hidden from view and a not captured in any photos. The large windows and french doors, could easily have been additional main family rooms that were also added when the two expansions took place. I think the service wing was definitely contained within the eastern portion of the mansion plus additional room up on the third floor and the basement level too.

Patricia said...

My favorite is the little house with the swans and water lillies. Maybe because it's on a scale I can personally appreciate. What a great little hideaway that would have been. In the caption that came with this photo, it's labeled "Waterhouse" -- love the simplicity of the name.

There appears to be a chimney on the waterhouse which may mean it was enjoyed in all four seasons. I imagine a great, rustic natural stone fireplace inside.

magnus said...

Patricia: Thanks for sharing these wonderful photographs. Further to your research of yesterday, the census taker in 1930 found Mr. and Mrs. Guthrie still at 28 Park Avenue, with the number of servants reduced to 5. On May 15, another census taker visited Meudon and enumerated Mr. and Mrs. Guthrie, but oddly listed no servants and certainly there must have been some.

In 1934 and 1935, Franklin Roosevelt increased the top estate tax rate to 60% and 70% respectively, which would have hit William Guthrie's estate squarely, as he died in 1935. I am sure that this, combined with the depredation of his fortune by the Depression, still in full force at his death spelled the end for Meudon. Amazing that it lasted for another 20 years after he died

Patricia said...

About no servants at Meudon on the census: I noted that as well, and couldn't come up with an explanation -- ranging from a lazy census taker, to the servants living off site, to the same servants already have been counted for Park Avenue, but I am almost certain that the two homes would have had separate staffs.

The other thing that struck me looking at the census is how marginalized women were. The passport application was for him and Ella, and yet there was only a physical description of him. She was "and wife" only.

Also for "occupation" they didn't even put "housewife" or whatever for Ella and the daughter (also named Ella) -- it was just blank. Now that I think of it, you really couldn't call Mrs. Guthrie a housewife!

As for the owner of the estate where I grew up, she (Lillian Sefton Dodge) was married but clearly was the breadwinner. After discovering this blog, I looked up her obit in the NY Times which stated that in 1938, she was the richest woman in the US. On the 1930 census, Mrs. Dodge is listed as "president" and her husband is listed as "art director."

What struck me, too, about the servants in the census is they were all very recent immigrants -- from England and Sweden. I used to work with a man whose Irish immigrant great grandmother had been John D. Rockefeller's pastry chef -- that's got to be the cream of the crop for a service job.

HalfPuddingHalfSauce said...

SPLIA not Spinzia.

magnus said...


It is odd about the Guthrie servants at Meudon. What I have seen though in other instances for these very large properties with entrances from different directions is that the census taker listed all of the servants when he came to a cottage containing one of them or when there was clearly a front and service drive, the census taker listed the occupants as if they were in two separate structures, and often on different pages of the census to boot. When I have a moment, I will try to locate the servants listed at the NY house to see if they are also double counted in Long Island- and where. My guess is that by mid May when the Meudon census was taken, the Guthrie New York house was close to being closed for the summer with much of the staff sent to Long Island.

I have mentioned it before on this blog, but it is fascinating to look at the list of servants in these big houses and, when you can, compare the 1910, 1920 and 1930 census'. A theme emerges: The servants were typically quite young, generally Northern European (an occasional Italian is throw in, but not so much in the house), and the turnover is astonishing. In many of the comparisons that I have done, at most one servant remains consistent from decade to decade. Domestic service was clearly not looked upon as a life-long undertaking among newly arrive immigrants.

The Down East Dilettante said...

HPHS---I don't know how to find it on the assessor's database, but can you link us to pics of the house on the pond---I'm curious to see if it indeed does incorporate the first floor of the original building, as well as the retaining wall?

HalfPuddingHalfSauce said...

Whether you look at the addition from Maine or Florida the addition was added to the WEST side, not east. SPLIA information is wrong. They do go on to say "replacing an octagonal one-story bay and an adjacent pergola." All that was on the west side. Any of the early shots showing the original west side show the east side having the same roof lines, windows and chimneys later pictured after the west side expansion. The question goes back to what was added. I can't imagine you would add such prime space for servants. Sunset views with a balcony for house servants? But then when the Butler's name shows up on the property card for the stone cottage by the pond???

- Another Bauhaus inspired design?

Photo before pond-side was across the street from the greenhouse -

Stable still shows up in overheads but has since been replaced by this -

- Last photo shows remnant of stable still standing.

Its for sale -

Refresh your memory by re-reading MR's book on Meudon. Somewhere there is/was an old album containing "prints of all the main rooms and gardens."

ChipSF that was Winfield Hall. They also used La Selva for a hotel lobby -

The Down East Dilettante said...

HPHS, I could hug you. So despite my direction dyslexia, I was right in theory, and you agree. It definitely seemed illogical and wrong to call that new wing a service wing.

The Down East Dilettante said...

and the stone house the butler's house, and not a teahouse or dairy playhouse a la Marie Antoinette's Hameau? Surely when originally built it had a decorative/pleasure function?

magnus said...


I may be totally off base here, but:

The Long Island Sound runs basically West (New York) to East. If you face Meudon from the garden front, the left wing is the East wing, the right wing is the western wing. Conversly, if you face it from the driveway front, the left is the west wing, the right is the east wing.

Go to Zach's post of January 8th, 2010. These photos are taken on the driveway side of the house and show a covered pergola terminating in what appears to be a summer house to the west, and a six sided (where's my Latin?)one story terminal end on the east side (No, SPLIA, it's not octagonal. Count the sides). Entering the realm of speculation, I doubt that that lovely six sided room with it's awning covered windows was a service room of any sort, which leads me to conclude that the service wing was on the west end of the house. I may have just said the exact same thing you guys did, so I appologize if I'm repeating what you said or if i'm totally off base here. it's happened before.

magnus said...

NEVER MIND. I know, I know- think before you type. Completely sure of myself, I just had a second (third, fourth) look at that January posting and realized those photos are ALL of the West wing of Meudon as originally constructed, with that six sided room on the west side, and the pergola and summer house as well. Service wing must have been on the east side as you guys said. SORRY.

Security word of the day: "didumies"- what I feel like right now

chipon1 said...

you are a wizard at the links, great work super interesting seeing what was there versus what is left.
i bet the bills for painting were a croaker every year.

Patricia said...

Before Zach herds us all back on the bus for whatever home is next on the itinerary, I went back to look more closely at the 1930 census with the mysterious lack of servants at the main house, which Magnus mentions above.

In this neighborhood, no house numbers are given (none existed, of course) and no estate names are used which makes it difficult to match people up.

If you look at the entries surrounding the Guthries, one is a household of three people where the man's occupation is chauffeur on "private estate." Another household of five people shows the father is a carpenter on a private estate and his son is a chauffeur. The wife, daughter in law and grandson have no occupations.

The census indicates if the home is owned and its value, whether there's a mortgage or if it's a rental. For the two houses with the chauffeurs above, the rent is $65 and $60.

I looked at some other nearby entries and there is a house with 12 servants living in it where the rent is $75. There are also back to back entries of single occupants who are all servants where each one's rent is $40.

All of these folks worked at "private estates." The census doesn't mention company names so, for example, a "banker" [next column] works at a "bank."

I wonder if the rent was something in name only -- and the servant's pay would be, say $100 a month of which $75 was rent and money the person never saw and $25 was cash. I also wonder if there was some legal/tax advantage to reporting it this way -- after all, Mr. Guthrie was a lawyer!

magnus said...

Patricia: My guess is that the rent amount indicated was "imputed rent", the census takers estimate of what the quarters would rent for on the open market. It would be highly unusual for the servants to have actually been charged cash rent.

Annie said...

Hi there - Annie Clark-Durkin here, - sender of the special part one and part 2 pictures. - The main driveway to the mansion was from the west side of the house. I will look at some of the links above once I post this, but here is what I had in my notes for the pictures - in order that they are posted:
Part one: The front of the mansion, looking to the north from Meudon Drive. The back of the mansion, from the formal gardens at the bottom of the hill near the road to the beach house. Another view of the back of the mansion. The view after you crossed over Frost Creek bridge to get to the beach house. there was a cement-block dock to the right of the picture and we used to fish off of it as kids. A picture of the back gardens.
Part 2 pictures:
I am not sure which side of the mansion this was - I think it is the front. The next two pictures are the carriage house. The Greenhouse is the white building, and I am not sure what the next picture is although I think it might be a different view of the greenhouse. The water house is next and lastly is the front of the beach house. In the 60s each family was given a locker for storing their beach stuff, and the upper level was for the summer caretakers to stay. The top level of the mansion was the servant's quarters, and I remember once when we were wandering through the mansion we picked up a newspaper from 1919 just sitting on the floor of the upper quarters...I wish I had pictures of the stables, which were converted into a very modern house (at the time) and that is where Richard Lippold lived.(sculptor whose art is in the Lincoln Center lobby.) This is certainly bringing back memories of my youth!

Zach L. said... sincerest apologies for misspelling your last name...I have made the appropriate corrections.