Thursday, October 18, 2018

DAY 96: Gilded Newport

The Waves
Jennie and her sisters were sent north on Papa's yacht, Clara Clarita, to Newport each June. There, she raced her donkey cart up and down Bellevue Avenue with a clutch of privileged kids hanging on for dear life beside her. In 1863, as the battles of the Civil War worsened and draft riots swept through New York before and after Gettysburg, Leonard Jerome moved his wife and four daughters to Newport in March--hoping to keep them safe until the tide of war turned.

The Waves, an iconic house near Bailey's Beach where Jennie used to bob in full bathing dress through the surf with her sisters and friends, is not the Jeromes' Newport cottage. That may have been a shingle-style house called Seaview. I've tried to locate it, but it has vanished forever into the past. The pre-Civil War homes of Jennie's Newport were frequently razed to make way for the Gilded Age palaces of the 1890s.

One place she would have known, however, was Edmund Schermerhorn's Chepstow. (Actually, Chepstow was the name given to the house by its second owner; if Edmund called it anything, that's also lost to history.) Caroline Astor, who ruled New York, was born a Schermerhorn; Edmund was her first cousin. He was known, however, as The Recluse in Newport, where he lived permanently behind drawn curtains. His life is such a blank--other than the fact that he left $40 million to a niece at his death--that I found him an irresistible character. I endowed him with an Asperger's-like attention to detail, a greater comfort with children than their parents, and an obsession with sea life.

For more images from THAT CHURCHILL WOMAN, visit the  Pinterest board behind the novel. 

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