Domestic Museum 2381
88HoIR spectrum almost full
Stotesbury Mansion [Whitemarsh Hall] an enormous mansion designed in the English Palladian style, now demolished, housed the art collection of New York's Metropolitan Museum during World War II. I have two pieces of marble from Mr. Stotesbury's Dressing Room and a baluster from the entry court. My brother Otto first took me to Stotesbury, which back in the 1970s was a local teenage drinking/partying hangout. I was still in high school at the time, but I already loved architecture, as I read Banister Fletcher's History of Architecture on the Comparative Method during freshman year study hall, and seeing Stotebury for the first and ever time thereafter was like finding an abandoned Kedleston Hall or Blenheim Palace kind of in my own backyard.
Re: genetic architecture
John Young wrote:
Don't miss a chance to sharpen your design skills by exploring, spelunking, a dangerous work of architecture on the verge of collapse...(and then went on to more or less specify the fate of the WTC as code compliant hazard).
Going to Stotesbury Mansion (really named Whitemarsh Hall) in the early/mid-1970s was very much "exploring, spelunking, a dangerous work of architecture on the verge of collapse." Maybe my design skills got some sharpening there. It was a sort of personal quest for me to at least get into every room of the place, thus many visits--only went into one of its three basements, however; rumor had it that the bottom two basements were flooded out. It's probably in these basements that the Metropolitan Museum art treasures were stored.
"Adventures of the Great Isfahan"
The following are excerpts from "Grandeurs and Miseries of Whitemarsh Hall" by Fiske Kimball, a text that is presented in full within chapter 16, "The Stotesburys," of Triumph on Fairmount by George and Mary Roberts.
"Adventures of the Great Isfahan"
Down the long salon stretched a superb Isfahan carpet, on which too often cocktails were spilled.
Mrs. Stotesbury had sent to the Museum for the great Isfahan rug, which came back next day much in need of cleaning.
His will singled out the English portraits, the tapestries, two sets of furniture, the great Isfahan rug and the porcelains from Duveen to be sold.
The result of the Metropolitan's taking Whitemarsh Hall was indirectly to enrich the Philadelphia Museum. The Stotesbury tapestries, the fine furniture and the great Isfahan, which had remained at the house, were sent at once to the Museum as loans.
In November  the remaining objects which Mr. Stotesbury's will had directed should be sold were removed from the Museum for an auction in New York. It was a butchery. One Romney, the Vernon Children brought $22,000, but no other painting fetched more than $10,000. The magnificent fifty-three foot Isfahan brought only $5,000. It had cost Stotesbury $90,000.
I just realized there is a somewhat of a similarity between Whitemarsh Hall and my final House for Schinkel.
another space and time
...you will find a schematic plan of Whitemarsh Hall, the quondam "American Versailles." Just above the Grand Ballroom is the second floor plan of my own house (at the same scale), which would have fit quite easily within the Grand Ballroom. It turns out the footprint of my house isn't all that much larger than the "Great Isfahan".
I'm thinking of building a 3d cad model of Whitemarsh Hall and its former grounds. When the mansion was abandoned and I was a teenager in the early 1970s, I tried to get into every room of that place. I never thought I would one day virtually reenact all that.
My own architectural education began in 1970, when, as a freshman in high school, I used to read Fletcher's A History of Architecture on the Comparative Method during free study hall periods. Repeated visits to the decrepit Whitemarsh Hall during the same time added 'hands-on' lessons--Whitemarsh Hall allowed me to better envision the distant Kedleston Hall, my favorite building (plan) back then (as illustrated in Fletcher--English Renaissance rocked, in my opinion). By my senior year in high school (1974) I had read Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture. The summer before going to 'architecture school' (1975), I read The Fountainhead and The Architecture of Humanism, thus my aesthetic preferences were pretty well informed before my 'official' architectural education.
Reconstruction of Stotesbury: Altes Museum columns; marble slabs in place; baluster in place. The whole exercise can be a Pianesian reenactment, presently a "scenographia"...
...in yesterday's dusk
Now on towards Chestnut Hill through Whitemarsh and the scant remains of Stotesbury Mansion, and glad to report ultimately finding that sculptural fountain terrace as centerpiece in the 1950s residential community.
Re: Burial Practices of Native Americans: Production of A Kind Architecture
This Saturday morning, 20 March 2004, John the Baptist Piranesi is conducting a dies sanguinis (day of blood) equinox tour of Tacony Creek Park, starting at St. Ambrose Parish School and ending at the site of the now quondam (cut down sometime a few months ago) quintuple sacred tree next to where Rising Sun Avenue crosses Tacony Creek. Those attending the tour are also invited to the Dougherty/Stotesbury Engagement Party at Lynnewood Hall that evening. Thanks to Eva's brilliant social skills, she convinced Benjamin Franklin to invite King Louis XVI to Philadelphia also on 20 March (since 20 March 1778 is when the King and Franklin first met at Versailles--the etiquette of reciprocity). Eva can barely contain herself at the prospect of showing King Louis around the quondam site of Whitemarsh Hall, her main Trumbauer house, "the Versailles of America."
...the vastness of its container
...the plans of Hejduk's Bye House, the second floor of my house, Palladio's Villa Rotunda, and Whitemarsh Hall are displayed.
Re: ducked around ?
A few years ago Otto learned that the first psychiatric hospital of the USA, Friends Hospital in Philadelphia, is situated in 'ancient' parkland along Tacony Creek and that, although now-a-days surrounded by dense urbanism, there are still deer in the park. This immediately reminded Otto of his many years of confinement at Schloss Fürstenried and the deer in the park there. Otto visited Friends Hospital for the first time in 1999, and that is when he first met Gordon Matta-Clark who lived "across the street." Gordon subsequently introduced Otto to Eva--in the years immediately after his death Gordon lived at the dilapidating Whitemarsh Hall. Otto thereafter introduced Eva to Ludwig, knowing that they would immediately like each other since they both reenacted Versailles. And from these modest beginnings emerged the Horace Trumbauer Architecture Fan Club.
Re: "Do We Still Live in a Real World?
"As the Stotesburys began to entertain more often, Lord Joseph Duveen convinced Mrs. [Eva] Stotesbury that her "petit palais" no longer suited the grand dimensions of their new life. It was then that Mr. Stotesbury purchased 300 acres outside Chestnut Hill to build what would become known as Whitemarsh Hall. To build the estate, consisting of 146 rooms, took $3 million dollars and three years."
It was somewhat fleeting, but.... On 21 November 2004, I and Tony, an architect/artist friend, were going through Briar Hill during the last day of its salvage sale. Briar Hill was a (unknown to us) Georgian mansion by Horace Trumbauer. The experience of going through Briar Hill with workmen crawling all over it, taking it apart, deconstructing the building, was very remindful of the days back when I was in high school where frequent visits to Whitemarsh Hall, the then derelict 'Versailles of America' too was a Trumbauer designed mansion in the midst of deconstruction. Afterwards, in the parking lot before we left in our respective cars, Tony and I talked about the afternoon's experience, and then it suddenly dawned on me that it was the 8th anniversary of Quondam - A Virtual Museum of Architecture online. I was then very happy to have spent the day in some significant architecture that was most definitely soon to be quondam.
...incorporate Versailles, Herrenchiemsee and Whitemarsh Hall estate site maps.
coincidental? or LEARNING FROM NUDIST CAMP
Of course, Marie-Antoinette and Eva and Ludwig have been very close recently as they prepare for "Here a Versailles, There a Versailles, Everywhere a Versailles, Sigh" to be delivered at Versailles, Herrenchiemsee, and Whitemarsh Hall 18 January 2005. Otto's already made provisions in case anyone attending the lecture comes down with trilocation-sickness.
"In the panic after Pearl Harbor, German planes were reported nearing the coast; the Boston Museum rushed its treasures out of sight. The National Gallery in Washington very intelligently secured the vast empty Vanderbilt chateau of Biltmore in the North Carolina mountains, to shelter the chief masterpieces of the Mellon Collection. The Metropolitan first thought, on the example of the National Gallery in London, of an abandoned mine or quarry, and was on the point of taking one up the Hudson. Fortunately, the prolonged drought during which they inspected it came to an end, and water began to seep in just before they were to occupy it. Various empty country houses were offered them. Soon they announced they had taken a country place, "a hundred miles inland." It was Whitemarsh Hall. Priorities on materials were somehow secured; steel racks for paintings were put up in the salon, steel shutters at the windows. Packing cases were piled in the billiard and other rooms.
Other institutions sent their treasures there also, so that if a single bomb had landed it would have destroyed them all. The hysterical rush to put things in Whitemarsh Hall inspired Hardinge Scholle of the Museum of the City of New York, who had at first participated in the movement, to call the house a 'monument hystérique'."
George and Mary Roberts, Triumph on Fairmount: Fiske Kimball and the Philadelphia Museum of Art (Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincott Company, 1959).
Should Whitemarsh Hall hold a distinct place in 20th century architecture history? Does Vincent Scully even know of Whitemarsh Hall? You would hope (Philadelphian) Robert Venturi knows of Whitemarsh Hall--interesting how Venturi makes much of Lutyens, yet virtually nothing of about Trumbauer, who is Lutyen's almost exact contemporary. And let's not forget African-American architect Julian Abele, who is seen as near equal with Trumbauer when it comes to executing the design of Whitemarsh Hall.
Re: Versailles, sigh
...there is a 'surreality' to the whole Whitemarsh Hall story, and yes it is "hard to know where to begin." It appears that Summer 1977 was the last time I saw Whitemarsh Hall. This past Christmas I visited with a former architecture classmate who now lives in Canada. Doug saw Whitemarsh Hall at Quondam and told me that I took him there. Oddly, I have no recollection of our going there, and I even told Doug that it was probably Steve Devlin (another architecture classmate who also knew of Stotesbury, as he then lived in the neighboring suburb of Lafayette Hill, indeed named for Gen. Lafayette who was very active in the local hills during the Revolutionary War) who took him there. Doug wasn't convinced, and a month later it dawned on me that Doug and I had worked together the Summer of 1977 for C. William Fox Architect in Chestnut Hill, and that was most likely when Doug and I went to see Whitemarsh Hall.
Exactly 20 years later, sometime in 1997, was the next time I again saw Whitemarsh Hall, but this time it was on the internet at the Serianni website, and that's how most others now also see the place, very much in the virtual realm. It was probably in 2000 that I first returned to the quondam palace site. Initially, it was thrilling to find the columns again, but the thrill quickly changed to something like disorienting because everything else I was also seeing (ie the new housing development) had no place at all in my memories. Essentially, the whole place was now something completely, completely different. It's even hard for me to explain, and perhaps that's why I more than ever want to see my old movies of Whitemarsh Hall--I haven't had a working projector in almost 20 years.
Maybe Whitemarsh Hall now manifests a somewhat new type of archaeology, where it's not just layers of earth that must be sifted through, rather layers of memory. All the same, it's still treasure hunting (which is most likely the progenitor of all archaeology).
...put the plan of Whitemarsh Hall into the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and then use other plans as indicative of period rooms.
The Official Paradigm Shift thread
Whitemarsh Hall, the "Versailles of America" was built from 1916 to 1920, pretty much coinciding with World War I, especially the US involvement.