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News of Long Ago - "The Dark Side of Stanford White"

News of Long Ago by Bradley Harris, Smithtown Historian

I have been writing about the descendants of Judge John Lawrence Smith and the impact that they have had upon Smithtown’s history.  I have been tracing the story of Bessie Smith, the Judge’s youngest daughter who married Stanford White.  Last week’s article was about Stanford White who became New York City’s leading architect and most famous citizen.  This article deals with his illicit affair with Evelyn Nesbit and the tragic consequences that resulted.

“The dark side of Stanford White….”

“By the end of the nineteenth century, Stanford White was New York’s most famous citizen” and he had become ”the city’s leading architect.”  Turn of the century newspapers regarded “the activities of Stanford White as ‘good copy’” and were constantly reporting his comings and goings.  “All accounts agreed on his generosity – his donations of designs for monuments, his open-handed loans to artists, his care for the unfortunate, and all reports made clear his energy seemed to provide an almost inexhaustible reservoir which served him in both work and play.  That he loved to play was never questioned – he adored beautiful girls and extravagant parties, and there were many parties.  White played host constantly for his friends, and his parties were often spectacular.”  Some of his parties were private affairs held in “White’s tower” atop Madison Square Garden.  (Michael Macdonald Mooney, Evelyn Nesbit and Stanford White, Love and Death in the Gilded Age, William Murrow and Company, Inc., New York, 1976, p. 27-31.)

To these parties, White invited a “glittering list of the wealthy and powerful, the talented and successful.  Stanny’s ‘celebrities’ were the ranking artists mixed with the important figures from both Broadway and Fifth Avenue” and White “was very cautious about” publicizing these private parties.  “The food was always sent over from the exclusive Manhattan Club” and “the waiters had their instructions to leave food in the kitchenette” and “they were never permitted to see the guests.  Stanny passed the champagne himself, and there were always showgirls to help.”  Many of these showgirls came from the cast of ‘Floradora’ which was playing in the Casino Theater conveniently located next to White’s tower.  And it was in the spring of 1901 that Evelyn Nesbit joined the cast of the musical and it was on stage that Stanford White first saw her.  (Michael Macdonald Mooney, Evelyn Nesbit and Stanford White, Love and Death in the Gilded Age,  opt. cit., p. 54.)

From the moment he laid eyes on Evelyn Nesbit in the cast of “Floradora,” Stanford White decided he had to possess this stunningly beautiful girl and he carefully plotted how to do just that. Evelyn Nesbit had come to New York City with her mother in the spring of 1900.  Mrs. Nesbit “desperately tried to get work as a clothes designer and then as a seamstress, but weeks went by in her futile search.”  Evelyn then convinced her mother to let her seek work as an artist’s model and her natural beauty immediately secured her employment.  She became a fashion model and photographs of Evelyn wearing “hats, gowns, shoes, stockings and sport frocks” appeared in the fashion pages of the  Sunday World and Sunday American.   Almost overnight , Evelyn’s image as a “beautiful model” showed up in magazines and newspapers.   It wasn’t long before a theatrical agent approached the Nesbits suggesting that Evelyn think about appearing on stage.  The agent arranged a meeting with the producers of “Floradora” and as the summer began, Evelyn joined the cast as a Spanish Dancer.  And it was in this role that Stanford White saw her on the stage of the Casino Theater and immediately decided to see more of her.  (Michael Macdonald Mooney, Evelyn Nesbit and Stanford White, Love and Death in the Gilded Age, William Murrow and Company, Inc., New York, 1976, p. 27-31.)

In August of 1901, Stanford White arranged to meet Evelyn Nesbit for lunch.  He had Edna Goodrich, one of the voluptuous girls in the Floradora sexette, invite Evelyn to lunch to meet with “some of Edna’s ‘society’ friends.”  After gaining her mother’s permission, 16 year old Evelyn accompanied Edna in a hansom cab that whisked them up Broadway to “West Twenty-fourth Street and stopped at an address in the loft district.”  (Michael Macdonald Mooney, Evelyn Nesbit and Stanford White, Love and Death in the Gilded Age,  opt. cit., p. 44.)

It seemed like an odd place for lunch with Edna’s society friends, but when they arrived, Edna ushered Evelyn in the door and up “several flights of stairs to the top landing.”  At the top of the stairs, “a tall, redheaded man was waiting for them.  He had a big smile, boomed a cheery hello, and introduced himself as Stanford White.”  Stanford then ushered the two women into a “breathtaking room” that had been decorated in “different shades of red” with “heavy red velvet curtains that shut out all daylight.”  The room was lit by indirect lighting that cast a soft light throughout.  “There were tapestries and fine paintings on the walls, and Evelyn was startled by an exquisite nude, lit by one of the hidden lights from overhead.”  In the middle of the room was an antique Italian “table set for four.”  Clearly the surroundings had been designed to provide an intimate setting for lunch. (Michael Macdonald Mooney,  Evelyn Nesbit and Stanford White, Love and Death in the Gilded Age, opt. cit., pp. 44-45.)

Edna took her hat off, sat down, and immediately made herself  “at home.”  Evelyn joined her, trying “to act as nonchalant as Edna was.”  Almost immediately a second man “came up the stairs” and joined them.  He was introduced as Mr. Reginald Ronalds and “he was very cheery and full of little jokes, but Evelyn thought he was disappointingly old and not a bit handsome like Mr. White.”  Mr. White served his guests lunch from a portable cabinet that had been delivered by Delmonico’s.  “The food was delicious and there was champagne on ice in a bucket.”  Evelyn told them that she had never tasted champagne and “they said she should have no more than one glass. Everyone laughed a lot at nothing at all.  Both men fussed over her, and their admiration, their frank gazes, made her feel grown up.”  The luncheon came to an abrupt end when Mr. Ronalds, a stockbroker, said he had to return to his office.  (Michael Macdonald Mooney,  Evelyn Nesbit and Stanford White, Love and Death in the Gilded Age, opt. cit., pp. 45-46.)

When they were alone, Mr. White took the two ladies up stairs that led to a large open studio that occupied the top two floors of the building.  “Busts, paintings, drawings were lying about, and there were etchings of nudes on the walls.  At one end there was a gorgeous swing hanging from the ceiling on red velvet ropes, with green smilax wound around the ropes and trailing down from its red velvet seat.”  Mr. White suggested that Evelyn try the swing out, and she immediately did so, swinging higher and higher each time.  “Mr. White gave her extra pushes to help her fly” and Evelyn laughed with delight on every swing through the loft.  (Michael Macdonald Mooney,  Evelyn Nesbit and Stanford White, Love and Death in the Gilded Age, opt. cit., p. 46.)

When the party broke up, and the girls were getting ready to leave, Stanford White suggested to Evelyn that she “should visit his dentist” to fix a front tooth that “needed professional attention.”  White said to Evelyn, “It’s your only defect, and it spoils your smile.”  Then they were back in the hansom cab and taken home by Mr. White’s chauffeur.  Upon returning to the dingy boardinghouse where Evelyn lived with her mother, “Evelyn told her mother that Mr. White was a handsome, charming, splendid man, thoughtful and kind, a brilliant conversationalist, and that he had an extraordinary magnetism.”  Within a few days, a letter came from Mr. White asking Mrs. Nesbit’s permission for Evelyn to come to lunch again saying he would send a hansom cab to pick her up. (Michael Macdonald Mooney,  Evelyn Nesbit and Stanford White, Love and Death in the Gilded Age, opt. cit., p. 47.)

This time, Elsie Ferguson, a young actress starring in The Strollers at the Knickerbocker Theater, came along.  Again they went to White’s apartment where they were again joined by another man, a Mr. Thomas Clarke, who was “a very famous dealer in Chinese porcelains and antiques.”  As far as Evelyn was concerned, Mr. Clarke who had white hair and walked with a cane, “was as old as Methuselah” and that pleased White who looked young in comparison.  “Once again after lunch, Mr. Clark said he had to leave, and Elsie, Evelyn, and Mr. White climbed the stairs to the big studio.  Once more Evelyn played with the red velvet swing.”  As the girls were leaving, Mr. White again asked about getting her chipped front tooth capped and told Evelyn he would contact her mother about having the work done.  (Michael Macdonald Mooney,  Evelyn Nesbit and Stanford White, Love and Death in the Gilded Age, opt. cit., p. 47.)

Several days later, a letter from Mr. White arrived requesting that Mrs. Nesbit come see him regarding Evelyn’s tooth, and that led to her visit to Stanford White in his office.  Mrs. Nesbit came away from this visit telling her daughter “that she found Mr. White utterly charming, and she soon sent Evelyn off to have her tooth fixed.”  A week later, Evelyn and Mrs. Nesbit “moved from the boardinghouse on Twenty-second Street to the Audubon Hotel” directly opposite Madison Square Garden “where ‘Floradora’ was playing” in the Casino Theater.  “Evelyn and her mother agreed that they were more comfortable at the Audubon than they had ever been.”   And it was Mr. White’s generosity that made the move possible.  (Michael Macdonald Mooney,  Evelyn Nesbit and Stanford White, Love and Death in the Gilded Age, opt. cit., pp. 47-48.)

Having worked his way into Mrs. Nesbit’s good graces, Stanford White laid siege on Evelyn’s heart.  He “sent flowers every day,” sent her a beautiful “English-tailored cloak in American beauty red,” and paid to have Evelyn’s brother Howard enrolled in Chester Military Academy outside Philadelphia, something for which Mrs. Nesbit was profoundly grateful since she was constantly fretting about her young son’s health and well-being.  When Mrs. Nesbit expressed a wish to visit her son, Stanford White was only too willing to pay the cost of the trip.  He even suggested that Mrs. Nesbitt take the time to visit her fiancée in Pittsburgh.  And when Mrs. Nesbit expressed her concerns about leaving Evelyn alone in New York City, “Mr. White assured her it would be quite safe for her to go; he promised to look after Evelyn in her absence.  Mr. White and Evelyn went together to see Mrs. Nesbit off on the train.” (Michael Macdonald Mooney,  Evelyn Nesbit and Stanford White, Love and Death in the Gilded Age, opt. cit., p. 48.)

Taking care of Evelyn was something that Mr. White zealously anticipated.  He had a Union Club cab pick her up each night after her performance and transport her to the Audubon Hotel across the street, making sure she got home safely.  Then Mr. White had his chauffeur “bring Evelyn to the offices of his firm, McKim, Meade and White, at 160 Fifth Avenue” where White gave her a grand tour of the office showing her where and how architectural drawings were made.  He even introduced her to Charles McKim, “his partner and dearest friend.”  (Michael Macdonald Mooney,  Evelyn Nesbit and Stanford White, Love and Death in the Gilded Age, opt. cit., p. 49.)

That same night, he had the driver of the Union Club cab bring Evelyn to meet him at the 24th Street apartment. “It was the first time she had gone there at night.”  Stanford White had set the table for supper, but this time “just for two.”  Stanford made sure she had several glasses of champagne.  After supper, he showed her throughout the apartment and led her to a “tiny little room, no more than 10’ square, its walls and ceiling all made of mirrors, even the floor was like glass.”  He sat her down on “an immense couch” and “left her there, returning in a moment, with a gorgeous yellow satin Japanese kimono embroidered with festoons of wisteria. While he went to get more champagne, she tried it on.”  (Michael Macdonald Mooney,  Evelyn Nesbit and Stanford White, Love and Death in the Gilded Age, opt. cit., p. 50.)

“They sat on the green velvet couch sipping more champagne, and Evelyn was thrilled by her own reflections and the sight of herself next to Stanny.”  They left the room and Stanford took her to “a bedroom in the back.”  The bedroom had been well prepared – “a log fire flickering in the fireplace,“ red velvet draperies carpeting the walls from ceiling to floor, “a four-poster bed draped with heavy velvet curtains,” and mirrors on the headboard, within the canopy, and on the wall.  Stanford got her to lie on the bed to play with buttons that controlled mood lighting within the room, and she blacked out.  That was all Evelyn recalled of events that night until she came to.  (Michael Macdonald Mooney,  Evelyn Nesbit and Stanford White, Love and Death in the Gilded Age, opt. cit., p. 50.)

  When Evelyn regained consciousness, “she started to cry.”  Stanny was lying there beside her, and he turned to her and petted her and kissed her, and said, ‘Don’t.  Please don’t. It’s all over.  Now you belong to me.’  He got up and put on a robe and gave her the yellow kimono, which had been tossed across the back of a chair.  He removed the telltale sheets and took her to an armchair and held her on his knees and soothed her, and she quieted.  He told her he would come to her again that afternoon,” but now in the wee hours of the morning, “he was going to drive her back to the Audubon” and he did just that. (Michael Macdonald Mooney,  Evelyn Nesbit and Stanford White, Love and Death in the Gilded Age, opt. cit., pp. 50-51.)

  “Evelyn would sometimes describe the night in the fall of 1901 ‘when she became a woman’ as a sweet dream, as if she were remembering a sixteen-year-old girl’s drama of a poor butterfly.  But there would be other occasions when she would recall that night somewhat differently.  It all depended on who her audience might be.  She would claim that a man nearly fifty had drugged her with champagne or with an opiate in the champagne, which had a bitter taste.  She would say she lost consciousness; that when she awoke and discovered she was no longer a virgin she began to scream.  She would say Stanny came over and asked her to please be quiet and not make so much noise, that he had said, ‘It’s all over; it is all over.’” (Michael Macdonald Mooney,  Evelyn Nesbit and Stanford White, Love and Death in the Gilded Age, opt. cit., pp. 50-51.)

But of course it wasn’t all over, it had just begun….


What’s Cookin’? - Smithtown - 8th Annual Taste of Smithtown 

What’s Cookin’?  -  Smithtown 

 By Nancy Vallarella

8th Annual Taste of Smithtown 

(click on photos to enlarge)

Smithtown Children’s FoundationSmithtown’s civic, business and youth organizations pooled resources to deliver an enormously successful event to benefit The Smithtown Children’s Foundation, Smithtown Food Pantry and Gift of Life.  

Howard Essenfeld of the Senior Resources of Long Island stated this morning that the final numbers were not in but he estimated over 250 people were in attendance and over $5,000 of donated gift certificates and products were raffled.  Even those who did not walk away with a raffle prize left the event with an attitude of gratitude for all the effort and generosity displayed during this annual charitable gathering at Mercedes-Benz in Saint James. 

Jason from Towers FlowersEarly bird arrivals included team Elegant Eating led by co-owners Myra Naseem and Neil Shumer to do what they do best - set up, deliver food that tastes as good as it looks and break down.  Joining them was Jason from Towers Flowers of Nesconset who brought beauty to the event with fall flowers and his warm friendly smile. Representing Costco-Nesconset, Joanne Frishland and Joanne Durso were busy bees setting up refreshments and delivering baskets of goodies for raffle. 

In addition to the numerous gift cards, products, services and entertainment events donated from businesses in and near Smithtown, the Krantz family provided a remarkable amount of electronic appliances. Nancy Buzzetta and Bill Riedel of Mercedes-Benz not only graciously open their doors to host the event but provided the cherry on top – a Mercedes SLS 197 convertible fueled by tiny feet!  To help grow those tiny feet – The Kings Park Farmer’s Market supplied a bountiful gift basket over flowing with fresh local vegetables and homemade jams.

Smithtown’s youth contributed to last night’s success.  Smithtown High SchoolSmithtown Rotary sponsored Interact Club  East Chamber Orchestra made an appearance and Smithtown Rotary sponsored Interact Club provided helping hands where needed.  They were outstanding as was Miss Miss Teen NY Nikki OrlandoTeen New York, Nikki Orlando

The food was only out shined by the number of owners and chefs taking the time out to meet the people within the community.  Liz Keschl of Perfecto Mundo in Commack came through in the eleventh hour providing her delicious Latin fusion fare and friendliness.  Ben Schor from Main Street Meats teased the crowd with some holiday goodness – honey baked spiral cut ham and spaetzle.  Neil Shumer of Elegant Eating rolled up his sleeves to plate up open faced Banh-Mi style short rib sandwiches and warm autumn bisque. 

Team Moe’s spiced things up and is repeating their commitment to community next Thursday, Nov 21 as they join forces with Smithtown High School EastTeam Moe’s Southwest Grill DECA for a fundraising event. Give General Manager, Tracey Wilgenkamp at Moe’s Southwest Grill a call for details 631-360-MOES. 

Edible Arrangements - Stony BrookMost colorful display goes to …Edible Arrangements of Stony Brook.  While on the topic of displays… Florie’s Finales, Sweet Lucille’s, Crum Belle’s and Macayla Michaels Desserts tempted all of us into breaking our diets. They all succeeded.  

If that didn’t take the cake, John Harvard’s and Wolffer Vineyards were present for a tasting.  Prefer not to drink wine?  Frosae wine sorbae was there for the eating. 

On Site Body WorksThe above represents a small bite of the people and business that participated in last night’s event.  If all this seems overwhelming, guests did take a time out getting a chair massage from On Site Body Works. 

 See you there next year?


Thomas Trozzo Wins Veterans Essay Contest - "Why I'm Optimistic About Our Nation's Future"

Thomas TrozzoThomas Trozzo  a junior at Smithtown HSE was one of 200+ high school students who participated in the VFW’s Essay Contest.  Tom took first place in the contest with the following essay which he read to attendees at Smithtown’s Veterans Day Ceremony. The audience listened and many nodded in agreement as he spoke “… we all believe that it is our duty to better the world and ensure that all people have access to freedom and rights. It is our pride and perseverance for the freedoms and rights we believe in that sets us apart from any other country in the world and ensures our nation’s success in the future.”          

“Why I’m Optimistic About our Nation’s Future?”

Our nation’s 44th and current president, Barrack Obama, once said, “There is, of course, no way of knowing what new challenges and new possibilities will emerge over the next forty years.”  Obama recognizes that the future of our country is indefinite and that history can change its course at any time.  However, he also recognizes the possibility of significant advancement in the next forty years.  Because we have been a well-established and proud country since July 4th, 1776, we have many reasons to believe that our nation’s future is positive.  Looking at our history, we have many reasons to remain optimistic for our future.  Our country wields great power that enables us to overcome our obstacles and we have continuously grown as a power over the 237 years we’ve been established.  Not only have we accomplished many things as a country, but we are Americans.  We are a special country in that American people consist of all different ages, nationalities, genders, religions and cultures.  However, our people contain one major similarity; we all believe that it is our duty to better the world and ensure that all people have access to freedom and rights. It is our pride and perseverance for the freedoms and rights we believe in that sets us apart from any other country in the world and ensures our nation’s success in the future. 

Our country contains both the physical and moral power to defend itself and what it stands for.  First off, the physical power that our country contains in our Armed Forces is immense.  Our Army has approximately 3 million enlisted members.  Our Air Force contains over 15,000 aircraft.  Our navy consists of over 290 ships including 61 destroyers.  Our Military contains over 25,000 armored vehicles.  On top of that, our defense budget of approximately 700 billion dollars is richer than many nations’ total wealth.  However, what truly differentiates our military from the militaries of other powers is our determination to help others.  For example, the United States Armed Forces has intervened in many world problems in order to ensure that all humans are being given their basic freedoms and rights.  We have aided the citizens of Somalia, Haiti, Iraq, Yemen, Poland, Nicaragua, Libya, and many more.  It is our moral objective to do good that ensures our country’s success for many years to come.  By persistently fighting for what we believe in, our country is unstoppable because we contain the power to keep fighting despite tragedies and obstacles.  For example, on the tragic day of September 11th, 2001, our nation had its first major terror crisis.  Although it set us back emotionally by the deaths of loved ones and physically by the destruction of the World Trade Centers, we have rebounded since then and ensured that such a tragedy does not happen again.  We have replaced the two towers that symbolize the freedom and power of our country as well as heightened security to prevent future attacks.  Although our nation is still saddened by the evils of some people to cause harm to innocent others, we are constantly working to create a more peaceful world.  Through the power of our nation’s Armed Forces and the drive of our morals to do good, it is easy to remain optimistic about our future. 

Since the adoption of the Constitution in 1787, we have grown and developed as a country to meet the needs of our ever changing society.  For example, when it was necessary to amend our constitution because the majority of Americans felt the need for a document that guaranteed their rights, the Bill of Rights was proposed in 1789 and ratified in 1791.  This is just one example of how America was able to change over time in order to keep people happy and fulfill people’s needs in the ever changing world.  The ability of the American government to adapt to its environment makes a very promising argument that we can overcome the obstacles that may be thrown at us in the future.  Another reason why Americans should remain optimistic about our future is the fact that our technology and scientific knowledge is expanding rapidly every day.  From the creation of small things like the iPhone to major military weapons such as the B-2 Spirit Stealth Bomber, from the discovery of vaccines to the creation of atomic weapons, our knowledge is rapidly expanding.  As long as we keep up with our findings, which we will due to the increased importance of education and the expanding technology and science fields, our country will remain a prominent world power.  Our country’s ability to adapt to change and our research in the fields of technology and science give us a lot to be optimistic about in the future.

While some may be pessimistic about the future of America because it is simply unknown, there are many great reasons to be optimistic about our nation’s future.  America is special in that it holds great power to promote change, it can constantly adapt to its surroundings, and our researchers are always learning more about the world around us as well as creating new technologies to improve our lives.  Despite our different backgrounds, all true Americans fight strongly for what they believe in and accept nothing less than success.  Believing in our future success and hard work to achieve our goals will ensure our nations prosperity.


News Of Long Ago -"Stanford White Becomes NYC's Leading Architect And Most Famous Citizen"

News of Long Ago by Bradley Harris, Smithtown Historian

(I have been writing about the daughters of John Lawrence Smith and their descendants.  Last week’s article was about Bessie Smith and her marriage to Stanford White.  This article takes a further look at their marriage and traces the meteoric rise of Stanford White’s career and fame.)

“Stanford White becomes New York City’s leading architect and most famous citizen….”

When Stanford White married Bessie Smith in 1884, he was 31 and Bessie was 22.  He was just getting established in his career as an architect and had only been with the firm of McKim, Meade and White for three years.  But he was “earning more than $12,000 a year from the firm” and was at last financially capable of moving out of his parents’ home into his own domicile.  “White was undoubtedly physically drawn to Bessie, but it is also certain that the position of the Smith family, well off, stable, with impeccable social credentials, was also in his decision to wed.”  It is more likely that he was committed to her emotionally as well, and truly loved her, since he “always treated his wife with great respect, and his letters are filled with affection and concern.  Typical is one written in February 1905 – scarcely a year before his death – to Bessie, who was in Italy.  The four-page missive opens with ‘My darling Bess’ and closes ‘With many kisses and hugs’ and ‘lovingly,’ hardly the words of an uncaring or estranged husband.”  Even so, by 1905, after 21 years of married life, there were many reasons why Bessie should have been estranged from her husband.  (David Lowe, Stanford White’s New York, Doubleday, N.Y., 1992, p. 95.

When Bessie and Stanford White returned from their six month European honeymoon, they moved into a small house at 56 West 20th Street in New York City.  It was here that Bessie gave birth to a boy that was named Richard Grant White in honor of Stanford’s father.  When Stanford’s father died, his mother, Alexina Mease White, moved in with her son.  In her memoirs, Bessie mentioned that her mother-in-law moved in with them in the small house in the city.  Bessie wrote:  “She was a charming, most intelligent woman and she lived with us winter and summer for 36 years until she died at the age of 88.”  Even so, Bessie must have felt cramped living in the little house with her mother-in-law and a new baby.  On the other hand, Bessie must have been happy for Alexina’s help with her baby.  And then the little boy died “during an epidemic of so-called cholera” and that led the Whites to find another home.  (Bessie Smith White’s Memories written in May of 1926, memoir on file with the Smithtown Historical Society.)   

The Whites had another home “at the corner of Lexington Avenue and Twenty-first Street, on Gramercy Park” and Stanford “decorated the Gramercy Park house in a riot of imaginative details” since “he used his Gramercy Park house to charm, buffalo, wheedle and convince his clients of what they surely always thought their plans should have included.”  The house at Gramercy Park became the Whites’ home in Manhattan.  But after “September 26, 1887,” when “a second son, Lawrence Grant White, was born,” Bessie “spent more and more of her time” at Box Hill in St. James.  “She gradually abandoned her husband’s social whirl in the city to the necessities of ‘his professional interests.’” (Michael Macdonald Mooney, Evelyn Nesbit and Stanford White, Love and Death in the Gilded Age, William Morrow and Company, Inc., New York, 1976, p.155.)

Stanford White’s professional  interests continued to grow as his work became known and his reputation spread.  “By the end of the nineteenth century Stanford White was New York’s most famous citizen” and “the city’s leading architect, but he was much more than that.  He was the city’s leading designer, decorator, stylist and chief arbiter of taste, but he was much more than these.  He was the leader of its leading artists, promoter of its best institutions, impresario of its most colorful entertainments, founder and organizer of its leading clubs, and often architect of them as well.  He served as a dedicator of the city’s permanent monuments and master of ceremony of its celebrations.  His immense energies were spent night and day in an attempt to give character to the city’s wealth, yet it was said of him that he never did anything for money.”  (Michael Macdonald Mooney, op. cit., p. 34.) 

     When it came to permanent monuments and public buildings, Stanford White “designed, then donated the designs, then organized the committees to raise the funds, then supervised the construction” as he did for the Arch on Washington Square, as he did for the Madison Square Garden arena on Fifth Avenue and Broadway.  “He organized, designed and built clubs in which, presumably their members might cultivate the arts of civilization: the Player’s Club, the Century, the Metropolitian, the Lambs, the Brook, the Harmonie, the Colony.  The architectural firm in which he was a partner – McKim, Mead and White, designed and built dozens of others.  He was a leader among his fellow clubmen.”  He designed and collaborated with other artists in building churches : “the Church of the Ascension, Judson Memorial Church … and the most beautiful church, it was said, ever designed in America – Madison Square Presbyterian Church.  His masterpieces would be widely imitated.”  (Michael Macdonald Mooney, op. cit., p.35.)

Stanford White designed and built palaces for the city’s rich.  “At incredible expense, he built and decorated palaces for the Astors and Vanderbilts; for the Goelets, the Oelrichs, the Cheneys, the Choates, the Hopkins, and the Whittemores.  He gave lessons in style to Henry Villard and William C. Whitney and Whitelaw Reid.  He showed his clients how to live comfortably and simply – if simplicity was their preference; or on a grand scale, either in the city, or in the country at Southampton, or in Newport.”  White “was famous for his ability to spend beyond his client’s budget and then wheedle and bully for even more to build as he imagined his client ought to live.  White tapped money from the rich for his city’s improvement, and his abilities at raising funds were described as ferocious.”  (Michael Macdonald Mooney, op. cit., pp. 35-36.)

White’s architectural influence extended far beyond New York City. “In collaboration with artists and sculptors, White taught Chicago how it should remember Lincoln – both standing and seated; he bullied New York into learning the difference between classical ‘junk,’ and the statue of Admiral Farragut in Madison Square; at the same time, he promoted a fountain with A Boy and a Duck in Prospect Park in Brooklyn.  With his partners, and with his firm’s time and expense, he helped lay out the Mall in Washington and the Lincoln Memorial.  His firm rebuilt and refurbished the White House, founded the American Academy in Rome to train artists, promoted the World’s Fair in Chicago, designed libraries, improved campuses at West Point, the University of Virginia, New York University, Columbia University, and Harvard.”  (Michael Macdonald Mooney, op. cit., p. 36.)

And White’s influence reached far beyond the field of architecture.  “To commemorate Christopher Columbus, White organized and created a city parade.  To decorate the Metropolitan Opera for an opening, he arranged twelve thousand roses.  He designed magazine covers, book covers, Pullman cars, and yachts.  He created pageants at Madison Square Garden to amuse the idle and he designed a perfect piece of jewelry at a moment’s notice for a soprano because, he said, she had a heavenly voice.”  White worked “at a breathtaking pace,” sometimes working “straight through the night, littering the floor around his drafting table with masterpieces, bellowing melodies from Beethoven into his empty studio.”  With so much creative energy coursing through his veins, “he loved, as he would any beautiful creation, pretty women.”  And this love of pretty women would bring about tragic results. (Michael Macdonald Mooney, op. cit., p. 36.)

In 1887, a group of investors formed the Madison Square Garden Corporation with the stated purpose of building a new arena for the National Horse Show and boxing matches on the spot where Fifth Avenue and Broadway intersected.  The Board of Directors of the new corporation “announced they would issue $1,500,000 in common stock” and chose Mr. J.P. Morgan as chairman and Stanford White as vice-chairman.  It was understood that “J. P. Morgan “was clearly responsible for the Garden’s financial reputation” and “Stanford White was in charge of everything else.”  The directors sponsored “a competition for the best design” of the new arena and “oddly enough the award was made to McKim, Mead and White.”  The formal opening of White’s “Palace of Pleasures,” as Madison Square Garden was known, came on June 16, 1890, after the directors had spent almost 2 million dollars over the original $1,575,000 budget.  “The New Madison Square Garden occupied the entire block, 465 feet long, and 200 feet wide, with side walls rising 65 feet. Its main amphitheater could seat 8,000 for the Horse Show, and as many as 17,000 for the fights.  In addition, the southwest corner housed the largest restaurant in town, the northwest corner included a 1,200-seat theater, there was another street-level theater, an arcade of shops along the Madison Avenue side, an open-air theater on the Garden’s roof for light comedy in the summertime, and rising above all a Tower on the Twenty-sixth Street side, topped by a nude statue of Diana by Saint-Gaudens, 300 feet above the sidewalk.” (Michael Macdonald Mooney, op. cit., pp. 185-186.)  

The tower that rose five stories above the Garden’s roof, was “thirty-eight feet square” and “contained a central elevator shaft surrounded by a spiral staircase.  The elevator rose through five floors of apartments and gave access to the studio apartment on each floor.  Stanford White retained the penthouse apartment in the tower for his own use and used the studio apartment for parties to entertain his most intimate friends.  Many of those intimate friends were entertained by showgirls Stanford White met when they performed in musical productions that were staged during the summer in the roof-top Casino Theater at Madison Square Garden.  In the summer of 1901, “the source of endless fascination, was the incredible success of a musical – Floradora.  Everyone had seen it, everyone talked about it,” and “everyone followed the affairs of the beauties in the Floradora Sextette.”  The Floradora Sexette were “six gorgeous,” boxum women who “paraded onstage” nightly in “frilly pink lace dresses with high collars, the dresses trimmed at their nipped waists with black velvet ribbon.  They wore black gloves and big black picture hats with feathers, and each one had had a little black ribbon round her neck.  Each was a picture of what a Gibson girl was supposed to be.”  And it was these ladies that were capturing the hearts of men nightly as they twirled their parasols and sang their songs and delighted the crowds that came to see them. (Michael Macdonald Mooney, op. cit., pp. 22-23.) 

Although the Sexette captured everyone’s attention, the musical had a supporting cast that included a young girl, “Miss Evelyn Nesbit, age sixteen,” who “had made her way from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to a part as one of the ‘Spanish dancers’ in Floradora.”  Evelyn “had an oval face, with a touch of olive in its color that added instead of subtracting from its baby’s milk complexion.  Her nose was straight, with a little Irish upward tilt.  The mouth was a bit full,” but when she pouted, “its effect could be devastating.”  She was a stunningly beautiful girl whose “body was as slim as a young boy’s, with straight legs and good knees, and not even a hint of a married woman’s bottom.  She knew perfectly well that voluptuous women were the current fashion, but she had already turned her lithesome form to her advantage anyway – she was a famous beauty as a model for artists and fashion photographers.  Her best, she knew, was her hair – copper curls, a great mass of them, surrounding her face and creating a contrast for her hazel eyes.”  This was the young beauty whose flawless features and air of innocence captured Stanford White’s attention.  (Michael Macdonald Mooney, op. cit., p. 22.)  


Smithtown Dish – small bites of foodie news

Smithtown Dish – small bites of foodie news

 by Nancy Vallarella 

8th Annual Taste of Smithtown will take place Thursday, November 14 from 6-9pm at the Mercedes Benz dealership in Saint James.  Tickets are only $25. Over 30 local culinary businesses will present tastings while others have donated gift certificates and products for raffle. The organizers, Senior Resources of Long Island are literally rolling out a red carpet along with a step and repeat photo opportunity, cigar rolling and massage station.  This fundraiser benefits The Smithtown Children’s Foundation, Smithtown Food Pantry and Gift of Life.  

Happy Anniversary!!… Mosaic in Saint James celebrates year eight.  Chef Jonathan Contes promises a deliciously innovative eight course menu for $88/pp. This menu will be available for three nights only - Thursday, November 21 through Saturday, November 23.  Call for reservations 584-2058.

H2O Seafood Grill is presenting a three course; $40 fixed price dinner with ½ price wines beginning Monday, November 18 through Sunday, November 24 for its twelfth year in Smithtown.

Menu Updates…Buteras of Smithtown now has organic menu options. New York Stuffed Cone Company (Saint James) is heating up its menu with the addition of homemade soups, specialty burgers and latte creations with flavored ice creams. 

Reminder…Thanksgiving is just 2 weeks away! 

Tags: 8th Annual Taste of Smithtown, Mosaic, H2O Seafood Grill, Buteras, New York Stuffed Cone Company.