The Dowager’s Diary – Week One Hundred and Fifty-Four

February 7-14, 1918

It seems that during the first week of February, 1918, Kate Roosevelt was leaving her luxurious apartment on Lexington Avenue and moving to 35 East 30th Street to an apartment building called the “Nottingham.” Located in the Murray Hill section of Manhattan, between Madison and Park Avenue, it was designed by Stanford White in the late 1800s.

I couldn’t help but wonder if Mrs. Roosevelt knew of the famous architect’s history with the Hyde Park branch of the family.  She never said, but according to some history books, tongues were wagging back in the Delano Family back in 1885.

Madison Square, the Original One

The infamous “cad about town,” Stanford White, a member of the renowned firm of McKim, Mead and White, was the architect to the elite at the turn-of-the twentieth century.  In addition to Kate’s new digs at the “Nottingham,” White also designed the original Madison Square Garden; the Bowery Savings Bank; Tiffany’s Store at 401 Fifth Avenue; the original Penn Station; the Player’s Club on Gramercy Park, the Washington Square Monument and the original Colony Club on Madison Avenue, where Kate Roosevelt and her friends enjoyed many an afternoon.

Stanford White

Unfortunately, White was not present at the Colony Club’s official opening in 1907. He was murdered on June 25, 1906, by a jealous husband from Ohio, Harry Thaw, who was avenging his wife, the former model, Evelyn Nesbitt’s reputation. She was White’s former teen-aged mistress who he subjected to tantalizing trysts at his “love nest,” a townhouse at 22 West 24th Street. Thaw shot Stanford White on the roof of Madison Square Garden, one of the architect’s most famous designs.  There quite possibly could have been another jealous husband. This one was from Hyde Park, New York, and his name was James Roosevelt Sr., and if things had turned out differently, Sara Delano might have married Stanford White, but she avoided a life of scandal and sorrow and went on to give birth to Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the future President of the United States. 

Newspaper Clipping, 1906

Stanford White married Bessie Springs Smith, the long-suffering sister of Cornelia Stewart, the wife of A. T. Stewart who founded America’s first department store on Broadway’s Ladies’ Mile in Lower Manhattan.  It was often the department store mogul’s millions that helped the Stanford White Family through emotional and financial crisis.  But before Bessie, there was Sara Delano.

The Colony Club

In the book, FDR, the author, Jean Edward Smith relates the romantic relationship between Stanford White and Sara Delano, “White was an underpaid draftsman when Sara Delano met him. She may have been one of the first to recognize his genius. Beneath an off-putting exterior lay a gargantuan capacity for work and a contagious obsession with beauty.” Tall and strikingly beautiful, Sara Delano would have certainly caught his eye, but the young architect also caught the wrath of her father, the wealthy Warren Delano. He despised White and called him “the red-headed trial.” Delano found nothing to recommend him as a future son-in-law. When Sara persisted in seeing White, her father urged her to go abroad.  It seems in those days, “going abroad” was the cure-all for anything from a broken heart to a broken ankle.  She spent nine months with her married sister, Dora, in Hong Kong. In 1877, when she returned to Algonac, the family estate along the Hudson River, White called on her one last time. Apparently, Warren Delano did not invite him in. A member of the Delano Family said, “Sara loved only one man in her life and that man was Stanford White.” Three years later the 26-year old Sara Delano married the fifty-two- year-old widower, James Roosevelt, Sr., and the rest is history.

Sara Delano Roosevelt and Franklin, 1887

“I have been here nearly seventeen years,” but never one to let a little nostalgia get in the way, on February 7, 1918, Kate and her crew were bustling around like bees circling the hive, moving furniture, personal belongings and paintings from 301 Lexington Avenue over to 35 East 30th Street.  Her diary details the move, carried out like a military maneuver, thanks to “The telephone man and Ted who went down to apartment to take measurements.” “Notified the gas association to turn-off their regulator.” “The movers from Brickwater and Low sent for Wilbur Dean Hamilton’s portrait of Dorothy to pack and send to Philadelphia.” “Piano moved to 35 East 30th Street by Steinway men.” “Express here to move trunks.” “Movers arrived at eight a.m.” “Ettie and I to new apartment to arrange things and back to 301 Lexington Avenue to ship items to be given away, have sent quantities of thing to the jumble sale at Lexington and 39thStreet.  Salvation Army has taken some and the rest was given to individuals. Sarah Rogers is taking her own apartment so have given her quite a lot.” “Big English wardrobe to the `Anchorage’ at Sea Bright.” “The maids, Maude, Bella and Ann slept at 35 East 30th Street.” “Cleared out basement.  Michael and George, the chauffeur did it.  Horrid job.” “Could not go to last Tuesday lunch club, busy bossing the movers.” “Dined with Rose and Ward Ford, who live on the fourth floor.  We are on the seventh floor.” “Man from Allerton laundry took curtains to clean and press.”  “Lit gas log in apartment sitting room, quite cozy, of course not like open fire.” “Ettie and I put up lots of little pictures.” “Man here from Roosevelt and Kobbe for me to sign deed of sale for 301 Lexington Avenue.” “Turned gas and water off.  John here fixing up laundry stove.”

The Nottingham, 35 East 30th Street

It was official, Kate Roosevelt had a new address, but not much changed in her life.  She was still opinionated, over-organized and over-booked.  In between moving manuevers, she managed to have lunch at the Cosmopolitan Club; take a drive through Central Park; take in a play starring Adele Farrar and comment that the singer’s voice “has about gone,” and attend a Monday meeting of the Causeries du Lundi.”

Causeries du Lundi, translated from French means “Monday Chats” and Kate Roosevelt rarely missed a meeting of the what is now the oldest woman’s literary society in the United States.  Founded on Monday, April 12, 1880, by Elizabeth Hamilton Cullum, Alexander Hamilton’s granddaughter, at her home at 258 Fifth Avenue, it was organized for women who wanted to be more than ladies who lunched. The club still meets on Mondays, October through April offering members the chance to share literary and historical essays and other topics of interest. Tea, hot chocolate, pastries and finger sandwiches are served. No one knows why, but never coffee.  The club’s list of members, documents, and events are in the archives at the New-York Historical Society.

I was wondering when Kate Shippen Roosevelt would be hosting a meeting of the Causeries du Lundi in her new home at the “Nottingham,” and who the guest list would include.

Sharon Hazard’s Dowager’s Diary appears on Thursday.

Listen to Sharon’s WAT-CAST about Kate Roosevelt.

Photo One:
Evelyn Nesbitt Thaw
Library of Congress

Photo Two:
Madison Square, the Original One
Museum City of New York

Photo Three:
Stanford White
wiki

Photo Four:
Newspaper Clipping, 1906
American News, public domain

Photo Five:
The Colony Club
Library of Congress

Photo Six:
Sara Delano Roosevelt and Franklin, 1887
Roosevelt Library, public domain

Photo Seven:
The Nottingham, 35 East 30th Street
Museum City of New York