The Dowager’s Diary – Week One Hundred and Seventy-Six

July 11-18, 1918

“To Red Bank to get Langdon a bicycle basket.” That was Kate Roosevelt’s first stop on July 11, 1918. The town of Red Bank, New Jersey was just a short drive from Rumson where Kate and her grandson were visiting the family home called “The Anchorage.” Built by her father, William Shippen in the late 1800s, the summer cottage was originally located on a bluff overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, but after the great storm of 1914, the home was moved by barge to a plot of land on North Ward Avenue overlooking the Shrewsbury River.

Shippen Sisters

Little Langdon, his widowed mother, Dorothy Roosevelt Geer, and his littler brother, Shippen, enjoyed swimming and canoeing in the river; fishing for bluefish in the ocean; exploring the woods and riding their bikes along the quiet lane where their spinster great-aunts, Ettie, Sophie and Caroline, and Georgie “Lop” Shippen summered. Kate encouraged her eldest grandson to enjoy summer days along the shore and that included riding his bicycle and collecting seashells; picking wildflowers and sampling fresh berries. To keep all of these treasures safely stored, a bicycle basket was a necessary accessory. A deep, wicker basket clamped to the handlebars was what Kate Roosevelt was in search of and she most likely found what she was looking for at Kislin’s Sporting Goods Store on Front Street in Red Bank.

Entrance to Rumson Hill, home of Thomas McCarter

After purchasing the perfect bicycle basket, Kate returned home in time to change from her morning going into town outfit to something suitable for having luncheon with her neighbors, the McCarter’s. Thomas Nesbitt McCarter was New Jersey’s Attorney General and the first president of Public Service Utilities. Moving down from Newark, he was one of the first business leaders to make Rumson, New Jersey his permanent home. He owned a sprawling estate called Rumson Hill. Originally located on 421 acres with an entrance on Fair Haven Road, in 1908 he sold 213 acres to the Rumson Country Club. The three- story McCarter mansion was distinctive with its copper-clad roof, elevator, formal gardens, horse stables, barns, swimming pool and a million-dollar view. Kate did not comment on what was served but from reading up on Thomas McCarter, I am sure his staff served an impressive meal that might have included a seafood sampler. In 1918, oysters, clams, bluefish and crabs caught off the local waters were mainstays of every shore menu.

Red Lion Inn

Kate Roosevelt’s next adventure took her to the Red Lion Inn in Stockbridge, Massachusetts. I suppose she was spoiled by the seafood at the shore because she gave the inn’s restaurant a less-than five- star review, “Not nearly as good as last year.”

Apparently, Kate had caught the historic hotel on a bad day because according to records, it was once known as “the Inn of Presidents.” Her cousin, Theodore Roosevelt, had been a guest there and I wonder if he was served a better meal and I was sure the two would compare notes at the next family gathering. An old menu lists The Red Lion’s offerings that included soup, baked scrod, boiled mutton, roast beef, roast turkey, onions, asparagus, lettuce, artichokes, pudding, apple, berry and custard pies and vanilla ice cream.

Established in 1775, it was located at the nexus of New York, Connecticut, and Massachusetts, a convenient stop for stagecoaches, travelers and their horses to rest. Kate was making her yearly pilgrimage to her sister, Anna Davis’s summer retreat, Long Pond in Plymouth Massachusetts, and the Red Lion Inn was on the way.

In 1862, Mrs. Charles H. Plumb purchased the hotel and turned it into a homey, antique-filled inn. James O’Brien was the doorman on duty when Kate Roosevelt checked into the hotel. He was employed there from 1883 to 1932 and had many interesting stories to share. One in particular was when an accident brought President Theodore Roosevelt to the inn. It was September, 1902 when Roosevelt’s carriage, traveling on South Street was hit. He recalled, “The president was not injured, but the first member of the Secret Service to guard a president was killed.” O’Brien welcomed Roosevelt to the inn and expressed his regrets.

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

On WAT-CAST, listen to Sharon talk about the series.

Photo One:
Bicycle and Boy
Library of Congress

Photo Two:
Shippen Sisters
author photo

Photo Three:
Entrance to Rumson Hill, home of Thomas McCarter
public domain

Photo Four:
Red Lion Inn
Library of Congress