Inside the Auction of Eileen Slocums Astounding Newport Mansion

Inside the Auction of Eileen Slocum\s Astounding Newport Mansion

Bellevue Avenue mansion of Eileen Slocum sold for $4.4 million

Of all the superb houses Newport grand dame Eileen Slocum occupied before her death ten years ago, the most important to her role and image as a formidable social leader was 459 Bellevue Avenue. It was built for her uncle and aunt, Harold and Georgette Wetmore Brown, in 1894; the austere granite exterior of the baronial structure designed by local practitioner Dudley Newton.

An interior décor of opulent dissonance was devised for the home by Ogden Codman. An exceptional architect, Codman was Edith Whartons dearest friend and together they co-wrote the best seller, The Decoration of Houses. Along with his personally designed pieces, all the contents in Slocums house were considered the finest merchandise obtainable; all custom made or supplied by prestige firms like Tiffany & Co., Wedgwood, Cartier, and Waterford.

The houses ground floor was built for entertaining. PlanOmatic Understandably then, the auction of her marvelous possessions on Saturday, September 22 by Nadeaus Auction Gallery was a six hour marathon. For Americas most elite community, where only one other house remains in the possession of the family that originally built it in the late 19th century, it was an event of a kind that occurs only once in a lifetime.

The sales variety included gold hat pins, porcelain services for 20, 30 or 40 and their remnants, antique textiles, festooned finger bowls, fine furniture, and examples of every sort of object possible to craft from sterling silver. In this last category were 18 Chinese export silver place card holders, designed as spiders webs. While a set of six ravishing Louis XVI style gilded chairs, upholstered in cherry-colored silk, realized a mere $700 these objects of esoteric arcana were hammered in at a whopping $7,000.

PlanOmatic Advertisement – Continue Reading Below The prices were great! said curator Bill Stout, who scooped up high-quality glassware and china to fill the pantry shelves of the Burwick Historical Society. Auction organizer Maura Lindsay agreed, but for most Slocum family members it was still a bitter-sweet occasion at best.

Mrs. Slocum spent a lifetime gathering, cherishing, cataloguing and maintaining these things to bestow on future generations of family. Shed be horrified to see it all scattered, one attendee said.

Shes my grandmother and everything you say is true,” agreed Phyllis Trevor Higgerson. “But we ten cousins concurred: there was no other fair way. Were all spread out, and a chair like that, she added, pointing to one that is rumored to have belonged to King Louis XIV, those proportions dont fit the way we live today.

Slocum hosted former presidents Gerald Ford and George H.W. Bush along with other political figures like Dick Cheney and Elizabeth Dole. PlanOmatic All told, a tireless auctioneer dispatched over 400 lots, mostly of inherited bounty gathered over three centuries from around the globe by Mrs. Slocums New England ancestors. Dealing in slaves, opium, real estate, the railroad industry, and high finance, the Browns, Wetmores and Shermans were the billionaires of their day.

Born in 1915, Eileen S. S. Gillespie married John Jermaine Slocum, a noted bibliophile and James Joyce authority, in 1940. If the scholar and the socialite seemed to be polar opposites, Eileens earlier broken engagement at age 17 was more predictable. John Jacob Astor VI, whose father perished on the Titanic, was tall, handsome, wealthy, and crazily smitten with his childhood friend. He showered her with presents, including a Brewster-bodied yellow Rolls-Royce and a $1,500,000 trust fund. Astor even purchased Chetwolde one of Newports grandest houses, fully furnished, for them to live in. But deciding Astor was unstable, Eileen returned these tokens and moved on.

As shocking to some as the rejection of an Astor was the wedding of Mrs. Slocums elder daughter Beryl in 1969. Shed had several proposals from wealthy friends before meeting African American journalist Adam Clayton Powell III. Their union made national headlines and allied two of Americas most distinguished families, but a measure of the betrayal felt by some was revealed by the remark of Mrs. Slocums sister, Phyllis Schumacher.

Beryl had lived with her aunt during high school when her parents, John and Eileen Slocum, were away, occupied by a combination of cultural and secretive diplomatic duties. And it was this substitute-mother who promised, Of course, if you do this, we can never speak to you again.

Gustave White Sotheby's International Realty Advertisement – Continue Reading Below Not only was this threat carried out to the letter, but the new bride was also summarily stricken from the Social Register.

Eileen Slocum was a determined member of, and fundraiser for, the Republican party. Lamenting how half her familys seemingly inexhaustible fortune went to inheritance taxes and how one by one their imposing abodes were each let go, Mrs. Slocum saw the GOP as her savior. Eileen imagined that wealth was not a matter of chance, but of cunning, know-how, and intelligent strategy, including advantageous marriages, Lewis Lapham told me.

Her daughter Beryl Powell drew a different conclusion for her mothers motivation: I think its fair to say that few people who live in big houses are ever really happy.

PlanOmatic Rearing her family and entertaining lavishly and often, Mrs. Slocum happily led a Downton Abbey-like existence. Retinues of servants in livery assured that fires were laid and lighted, that brass and silver were kept brightly polished. In the same way, well-ironed Irish linen bed sheets and elaborately monogrammed pillow-slips were changed daily. Afternoon tea, featuring Lapsang souchong, was a comforting ritual. And, although it was permissible for friends to request a highball or cocktail, coffee was never served to guests at tea.

Without question, things will be different here from now on. Try as they might the new owners were not successful in acquiring all the specially designed Codman pieces they bid on. Reaching their $10,000 limit for the immense mahogany dining table, they were outbid by the owner of a bed and breakfast offering $11,000.

The propertys new owners Jim McCann and Tara Griffin with Beryl Slocum Powell, Sherman Powell, Mrs. Daniel Leckrone, and Sophie Giran. Michael H Adams The homes new owners are Wall Street star Jim McCann and his wife Tara Griffin, who works for Apple. They have raised their four children in a series of historic houses. In the process theyve spent millions on restoration efforts, but the couple concede that despite all the original contents they were successful in securing, the aesthetic they value and the lives they lead are not the same as Eileen or John Slocums.

In truth, almost no ones is. But one important thing seems unchanged. Parting after discussing the sale, the new master of 459 Bellevue Avenue urged me to return. Finger bowls may have vanished, but a tradition of gracious welcome endures.

NEWPORT  — Owning an iconic Gilded Age mansion seems like a dream for most, but its now a reality for the buyers of 459 Bellevue Ave. who plan to use the mansion as their family home.

The Harold Brown Villa, longtime home to the late Eileen Gillespie Slocum, known as Newport’s grande dame, has sold for $4.4 million. Representing the sellers were Kara Malkovich and Kate Kirby-Greenman of Gustave White Sothebys International Realty. The sale ties for the fourth-highest sale in Newport County and the seventh in the state so far this year, according to the Rhode Island Multiple Listing Service.The 13,962-square-foot home located on almost 5 acres of land was designed by Dudley Newton. Built in 1880 by Harold Brown, a descendant of Roger Williams, and his wife, Georgette, the couple lived there until their deaths. Browns nephew, John Nicholas Brown of Harbour Court, then inherited the estate and sold it to his cousin, Eileen Gillespie Slocum, according to Malkovich. 

Gillespie Slocum was a well-known, respected socialite and an opinionated Republican activist, known to host lavish dinner parties and receptions, frequently inviting high-profile friends and government officials like President Gerald R. Ford, Sen. Elizabeth Dole and Vice President Dick Cheney, according to her obituary in The New York Times.

She loved to share and welcome others into her home, in fact one of her last wishes was for mourners to view her estate, as stated in her obituary in The Providence Journal. She also volunteered to have her home be the first saved from development through the Aquidneck Island Land Trust.

Gillespie Slocum and her husband, John J. Slocum, a respected diplomat and literary scholar, lived in the home until their deaths. Slocum died in 1997 at the age of 83 and Gillespie Slocum passed in 2008 at the age of 92. Four generations of their family enjoyed living in the home until its sale on Friday, according to Malkovich.The villa, spanning an entire block and topped with a “Newton Roof,” consists of 25 rooms. These include seven formal spaces and 12 bedrooms. The home boasts original period detail by Ogden Codmen and landscaping design by Frederick Law Olmstead, according to a press release by Gustave White. The valuable items in the Slocums estate collection, including more than 425 pieces of furniture, fine arts, rugs and other treasures, were auctioned off on Sept. 22 by Nadeau’s Auction Gallery. [email protected]

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