The Dowager’s Diary – Week One Hundred and Sixty-Three

April 11-18, 1918

“Pouring rain, north/east gale. Much damage reported in Sea Bright, New Jersey.” The amateur meteorologist, Kate Shippen Roosevelt began many of her diary entries by noting the weather conditions and temperature.  Her family home, the “Anchorage” sat along the Jersey Shore, right on the firing line when the fickle Atlantic Ocean decided to throw a tantrum. Kate knew first-hand how damaging these storms could be.

The Anchorage and other Sea Bright Estates

After the hurricane of 1914, the “Anchorage” was moved by barge, a few miles inland to a more-stable spot along the Shrewsbury River to a street called North Ward Avenue. The new location was just over the bridge in Rumson, New Jersey. Her friends, John and Josephine Neeser owned a seven-acre estate called “Miramare” located right at the foot of the bridge that connects Sea Bright with Rumson.  In 1918, the widow, Josephine Neeser sold the property to another wealthy widow, Mrs. Julia A. Barbour, and Mrs. Neeser took up residence in her New York City home at 5 East 56th Street.

Storm in Sea Bright

It was here that Kate wrote in her diary, “Anna Lewis, my cousin, came in from Philadelphia for Requiem Mass for Etienne de Sadeleer.  He was killed at the Belgian Front in March. In late afternoon we went to Mrs. Neeser’s where the de Sadeleer’s were dining. The Mass that she mentioned was most likely held at St. Albert’s Belgian Church at 429 West 47th Street. Surprisingly, no mention was made by Kate of long-winded Catholic rituals or overdone altars.  She was probably in a very compassionate mood since Etienne de Sadeleer, the son of her dear friends, Madeline and Louis de Sadeleer had been killed just the month before, exactly a year after he volunteered for the Belgian National Guard during World War One. Etienne’s father was the Belgian Minister of State and a member of the special mission sent to the United States by King Albert. The twenty-eight- year-old, Etienne, was serving in the Belgian Interpreter Corps in Amiens, France during a bombardment of the city by German aviators.

The Battle of Amiens France

Rich or poor, important or not, it seemed no one escaped the ravages of war, not even the families of those who were working for peace and organizing relief efforts on the foreign front.

Julia Adelaide Barbour

Kate Roosevelt’s diary resonated these tragedies on a daily basis, but for the self-sufficient and well-to-do widow, life in America went on. On April 11, 1918 she was immersed in her move from 301 Lexington Avenue to 35 West 30thStreet. “Notified the gas association to turn-off their regulators. Brickwater and Law here for Hamilton’s portrait of Dorothy and family photos to pack and send to Anna Lewis in Philadelphia.” Another portrait of Dorothy? That was correct. The artist, Edward Wilbur Dean Hamilton spent two weeks painting Dorothy Roosevelt’s portrait in 1904. He set up a make-shift studio in Kate’s apartment to complete his work then returned to Boston where he taught at the Massachusetts Normal School until his retirement in 1942.

Colonel William Barbour

Now that the artwork was packed and ready to ship to her cousin, Anna Lewis, in Philadelphia, Kate was “Bossing the moving men.” “Movers arrived at eight in the morning.  Deciding what is to be given away. Have sent huge quantities to the jumble (rummage) sale for charity at Lexington and West 39thStreet. The Salvation Army has taken some, the rest given to individuals. Sarah Rogers, a servant, is taking up rooms so I have given her quite a lot. Big English wardrobe sent to the Anchorage in Sea Bright.”

Steinway Piano

Last but not least of her perishables to be packed -up was her piano. “Steinway men here to move piano.” Of course, only experts would pass muster to carry out this moving expedition cross town. I am sure a phone call was made to her niece, Ruth Steinway asking her to remind her husband, Theodore, head of the Steinway Piano Company, that a hand-picked crew would be needed to oversee the handling of her precious cargo.

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

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

Photo One:
Sea Bright Storm
From Kate Shippen Roosevelt’s Diary

Photo Two:
The Anchorage and other Sea Bright Estates
Author collection

Photo Three:
Storm in Sea Bright
From Kate Shippen Roosevelt’ diary

Photo Four:
The Battle of Amiens France
Will Longstaff, artist
Australian War Memorial

Photo Five:
Julia Adelaide Barbour
Blackrock Gallery
public domain

Photo Six:
Colonel William Barbour
wiki

Photo Seven:
Steinway Piano
Steinway.org