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Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Classic Shacks: Whitemarsh Hall

There are lots of lovely historic mansions in the world, but it's not easy to find floor plans for them. In the case of the lavish Whitemarsh Hall near Philadelphia, someone has been good enough to dig up the floor plans and put them online - which adds a great deal to one's understanding of how those great spaces were used - but alas, the house itself has long since vanished, replaced with a suburban housing tract.

Whitemarsh was built between 1916 and 1921 by investment banker Edward T. Stotesbury and his wife Eva. It had 147 rooms, 45 bathrooms, and - get this - 100,000 square feet of floor space (larger than the White House) spread over its six stories (three above ground, and three below).   It took 40 indoor staff and 70 gardeners working full time just to keep things running smoothly.  You can read the Wikipedia article if you want more mind-boggling details, but here's some pictures to stimulate your imagination - click to enlarge, of course:

Front with portico and porte-cochere, reached after a mile-long driveway

The rear terrace and formal gardens


First floor plan
 

Second floor plan

More pics and links, and a couple of videos, after the jump.






The ballroom, 64 feet long


A corner of the drawing room


Mrs. Stotesbury's bedroom
 
But wait, there's more.  Not content with this miniature Versailles, the Stotesburys also had a summer place called Wingwood House in fashionable Bar Harbor, Maine, as well as a little winter retreat, El Mirasol, in Palm Beach:






Well, the Stotesburys sure knew how to live. Edward died in 1938, and Eva in 1946. And then the executors of their estate found they had three white elephants on their hands - nobody in the postwar world, before the historic preservation movement cranked up in the late 1960's, wanted to fool with these relics of another time. So all three mansions were eventually demolished, the contents auctioned off, and now very little remains of the grandeur that the Stotesburys built. Sic transit gloria mundi.

Further reading and photos of Whitemarsh Hall here, and of Wingwood House here; and of the yacht and private railroad car and art collection here.

I know - I never heard of the guy before now, either.  Which just goes to show, you better enjoy what you have while you have it.

8 comments:

Ultra Dave said...

So sad really. I hate to hear of such wonderful places being torn down to make room for the cookie cutter tract homes that carpet suburbia these days.

Davis said...

I knew this place well. After the copper roof was stolen, the place disintegrated and I will admit to having lifted a few moldings. It's "cousin" Lynewood Hall

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lynnewood_Hall

is nearby and I have been in and out of it a few times over the years. It still stands, though abused by a fundamentalist seminary for a while. Trumbauer was a fine architect.

Russ Manley said...

Dave - yes, quite sad that a grand work of art should be wiped off the map like that.

Davis - I'm sure even the ruins must have been impressive. I did come across Lynnewood Hall too the other day, I may post something about that sometime or other - another magnificent house gone to waste.

Red-Hot-Chilli said...

I CANNOT believe that such a treasure should have been gotten rid of!!! That's practically a crime as this is part of America's national heritage!

Davis said...

Blame our economic and tax system that rewards companies that demolish such things to make a few bucks!

Russ Manley said...

England has the National Trust, which operates and maintains a great many historic homes, and also English Heritage, which likewise has preserved a great many fine old houses. I'm not sure there's anything comparable over here, apart from a few always-underfunded local preservation boards. Pity.

Stan said...

Love looking over the floor plans of these places. I guess the kitchen was in the basement like so many others had.

Russ Manley said...

I suppose so. In the [butler's] pantry area at the left of the first floor, I see two X's that I think may represent dumbwaiters coming up from the kitchen below.

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