Monday, September 22, 2014


'Meudon', the William D. Guthrie estate designed by C.P.H. Gilbert c. 1900 in Lattingtown.  Click HERE for more on 'Meudon' and HERE for all previous posts on the estate.  These photographs were taken during the last days of the house.

Photos from the Parke-Bernet Galleries Catalog, 1956.


Doug Floor Plan said...

Hooray for the Parke-Bernet Galleries Catalog, 1956 for capturing these images. A house in decline, almost any house, has a haunting quality. When it's a big house like this it makes you pause.

In addition to today's photo of the library there was one posted on July 13, 2009. Much in the room is the same but at least Mrs. Guthrie liked to add & change things. Both photos though, remind me of what Magnus has observed about decorating in that era -- four people [or even three] could not walk into the library, sit in the chairs where they are placed, & have a normal conversation. Why did they do that?

Magnuspetrie said...

Zach: Really wonderful photos. It is interesting to see, however, that while Meudon may not have been maintained to perfection at the end, it in no way had deteriorated to the "Gray Gardens" condition that local, oft repeated legend, led me to believe.

I would love to see the Meudon auction catalog. I wonder how much of the contents were authentic and how much was reproduction, purchased or commissioned for the house when it was built. It seems to me that aside from a small handful of true collectors, most plutocrats of this era had a fairly robust attitude about furnishings and tended to fill their "period" rooms with reproductions- down to the tapestries and Fragonard esque oils that we see in the very typical Louis XVI salon in the 2nd photograph. Sadly, at auction, it was probably viewed as a collection of bulky trash and sold for next to nothing.

Magnuspetrie said...

And I meant Louis XV Salon.

Which brings to mind an oft repeated story about Mrs. Stuyvesant Fish who, when taken on a tour of a newly built Newport mansion was proadly shown what the owner described to her as "My Louis XV Salon". Mrs. Fish is said to have peered at the room then turned to her hostess and inquire, "What makes you think so?"

Magnuspetrie said...

I'm not doing well today- proudly

Anonymous said...

In addition to the odd furniture placements what's with the giant console table right in the middle of the room?
It looks like the gardener was the first lay off

The Ancient said...

Magnus --

I resemble that remark.

DFP --

I always wonder if the photographers fiddled with the furniture placements. (If the chairs that flank the twin sofas were turned to face each other, it would all seem perfectly normal.)

Anonymous said...

Great find of later photos, the interiors especially. These photos do belie the "myth" that the place was deteriorating around the elderly daughter who could barely maintain the place before selling off to a developer. Aside from what anyone would reasonably expect to see when taking care of such an enormous house and garden with minimal staff, the place looks well maintained for 1956. Of course in reality the building wasn't that old to begin with in 1956 anyway. Furniture staging would also seem apparent especially if taken for a catalog. archibuff

Anonymous said...

Usually the auction catalog of such an estate would have a title page with a brief description of the property. Could you feature that in a future posting, or is it just the illustrations that you have ?

Anonymous said...

I don't see a problem with the arrangement of the furniture in the library. There are a few comfortable spots to sit down and quietly read, which is, after all, the purpose of such a room. Even if one wanted to chat, the spaces between chairs are not prohibitive for conversation unless one of those engaged is seriously hard of hearing.
As far as decorating is concerned, my great-grandparents had their house in Tuxedo decorated from floor to ceiling by W & J Sloane. If you squinted, they did a convincing "Tudor" look to the interiors. It was not on the level of Meudon, but one of a type of country house built in those days that were frequently fitted out by Sloane The firm brought in everything from curtains to ottomans to towels and it was an expensive, but convenient service for families who had more new money than old family history.
Everything was sold at auction when I was a little girl in the 1950's for a pittance. Such assemblages were considered ridiculous at that time and I remember that my parents were amazed anything sold at all.

The Ancient said...

Such assemblages were considered ridiculous at that time and I remember that my parents were amazed anything sold at all.

What happened then to furniture from Sloane now happens to "brown furniture" of much greater quality and provenance. (Priced an 18th century table recently? If it were any cheaper you could put it on the lawn for picnics.)

Anonymous said...

I agree, Ancient. As a little girl, I remember how strange it felt that I was the only person who felt that any of that beautiful furniture had any value. Most people wanted modern and sleek then, not to mention furniture that fit in their smaller, modern houses. And today, very lovely and genuinely antique furniture goes for much less at auction than new, store-bought furniture made in China. Fortunately, my adult children share my taste and I have taught them how to "rescue" quality pieces from auctions at Doyle and Stair. It stuns their IKEA-owning friends, especially after a recent weekend during which my daughter purchased a good French armoire, a Dutch dresser, four Regency dining chairs, and a Brunschwig & Fils sofa for less than $1000.

Magnuspetrie said...

Ancient and Anon- how right you are. And it's not only "brown" furniture of excellent quality that begs for buyers- really good 18th century French funiture is in the same boat. If I had the time, money and room, I would warehouse the stuff for a happier day.

It will be an interesting reckoning when taste shifts as it always does, and the hedge funders decide to sell the 1950's and '60's junk that is all the rage with their designers today and for which many have paid astronomical sums. When a flimsy lucite chair pressed out of a mold by the thousands commands more than a Louis XVI chair signed by a master menuisier, things seem seriously out of whack- to me at least.