Our Escape from Life at Work, continued …

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Artist Carroll Beckwith in front of his Onteora cottage, 1908. Image via New-York Daily Tribune

As seen here a few weeks ago, George and I took a couple of day trips from our country house in Bedford, New York to escape what has become life at work… 

We started our “escape” with a visit to the estate of the Harriman family and their great lake house in Arden, NY before visiting the Adirondacks house of Stanley Hutton Rumbough, Pine Cone Camp on Lake Simond in Tupper Lake.

Before heading back to Palm Beach, we made a few additional stops along the way, including a virtual pit stop at Kemble Interiors Founder (and mother of interior designers Celerie Kemble and Phoebe Kemble) Mimi Maddock McMakin’s “camp” Treetops in the Adirondacks.

Mimi McMakin’s Treetops in the Adirondacks.
Imagine tucking into this sleeping porch bed for an afternoon nap.
Mimi’s grandfather’s desk in a birch bark bedroom.
Can’t you just smell the mountain air and the warm aroma of aged wood?!

Meanwhile, our pals Abby Ross and Pierce Sioussat have traded their beach club in Rye for the Onteora Club in Tannersville, NY, aka The Catskills, which also turns out to be the summer home of Interior Designer Amanda Reynal – daughter of Nancy & Ed Madden of Palm Beach.

Just two hours from Manhattan, Onteora is a private club where nature, athletics, art, theater, literature and friendship have thrived since 1887. A Walden Pond of sorts, Onteora Club is in an idyllic spot where residents and members enjoy the rugged beauty of the natural surroundings.

Abby Ross and Pierce Sioussat at Doubles (pre-Covid) with fellow Palm Beachers Betsy and Wally Turner.

Founded by Candace Wheeler and her brother Francis Thurber, it originally attracted artists and writers, but was eventually discovered by industrialists looking for the solitude, too.

Wheeler was an important figure in the American Arts and Crafts movement and a partner of Louis C. Tiffany in the decorating firm of Associated Artists. She invited many prominent artists, writers and philosophers to come visit for weeks at a time to take part in what was considered a novel “experiment in plain living with high thinking for artists and writers.”


The entrance to Onteora Club.
The Library.

Early visitors included Mark Twain, conservationist John Burroughs, and painter George Bellows. Mark Twain even painted a self-portrait on the wall of his home here that still remains.

Mark Twain was a frequent guest at The Onteora Club, and later built his own house. The bohemian group sketched and painted on the walls of what is now The Reynal’s cottage, Pennyroyal, and the pastel portrait of Twain remains framed around the plaster to this day. Photo credit: Thomas Loof for House Beautiful.

There are more than 80 cottages; a field house for dining, bar, overnight accommodations, special events and art exhibitions, a library with active programming and readings throughout the summer, as well as a multi-use theatre where children and adults perform two plays each season (and for seasonal live art and musical performances).

Interior Designer Amanda Reynal’s cottage at Onteora, called Pennyroyal.
As it was soon after Candace Wheeler built it in the late 1800s.

Some of the first residents at Onteora included writers Mary Mapes Dodge and Elizabeth Custer, actress Maude Adams, as well as painters John White Alexander and Carroll Beckwith.

Sun peeking through to the outbuilding Amanda designed to nestle in across from the main house.
Screened porch for outdoor living.

Onteora has a beautiful sports house with pro-shops, five clay tennis courts, a private historic 9-hole links-style golf course, and trail center. The Club also boasts a heated pool, lake and beach, miles of hiking trails, and a trap-style gun club.

The tennis courts at Onteora.

Tennis legend Bill Tilden first picked up a tennis racquet on these courts when he was just five years old, and won his first tournament here at the age of twelve.

“Big Bill “Tilden playing on the grass courts of the West Side Tennis Club at Forest Hills in 1922 when he was 29 years old. He was the World No. 1 player from 1920 – 1925 and the first American to win Wimbledon in 1920. The loss of his father, and an older brother Herbert in 1915, marked him deeply. After several months of deep depression, his aunt encouraged him to play tennis which he had taken up at the age six or seven at the family summer home at Onteora. (Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress.)
The former Tilden family cottage taken from where the old tennis court was (now the lawn). Photo by Pierce Sioussat

Before heading back to Palm Beach, George and I also took a day trip to Alpine, New Jersey for a beautiful fall day of golf with Lisa & James Cohen. Lisa is the founder of Galerie magazine — the beautiful luxury lifestyle publication (their tag line #LiveArtfully is one of our favorites).

I had never been to Alpine, but having visited Lisa and Jimmy at home in both East Hampton and Palm Beach, I was looking forward to seeing the home they built and raised their family in 15 years ago.

George checking out the tennis court at Lisa and James Cohen’s house in Alpine, New Jersey.

Residents include Beyonce and Jay-Z, Stevie Wonder, Britney Spears and until recently members of the illustrious Frick family, but I didn’t realize what a rich history the area had.

The 100-foot-high ”clock” tower at the entrance to the Cohen’s neighborhood, Rio Vista, was built by Cuban sugar baron Manuel Rionda (1854-1943) whose sister Maria married Alfonso Fanjul Fernandez.

In 1902, Rionda and his wife Harriet acquired land across Manhattan on the New Jersey palisades where they built Rio Vista.  The couple called the 300-acre Rio Vista (River View) estate their home until Harriet’s death in 1922. 

The Alpine Tower and Chapel (decorated with mosaics and stained glass by the Lamb family studios) were fortunately saved by developers and continue to link past and present in a unique way.

Rionda commissioned Charles Rollinson Lamb, the New York City artist-architect, to design both the water tower (not clock, according to the Lamb family) and an adjoining family chapel. Lamb’s parents had a summer home on a nearby cliff point, ”Falcon Lodge,” and the families were good friends. Lamb was president of the J. & R. Lamb Studios, ecclesiastical art specialists, as well as president of the Municipal Art Society in New York City, vice president of the Architectural League of America and a founder of the National Sculpture Society and the National Arts Club, according a letter to the Editor of The New York Times (Feb 22, 1998) written by a grandchild of Lamb’s.

Since it’s nearly Halloween, I will tell you that the Tower has become a bit of local legend. It is said to have been built behind the main house so that Rionda’s wife could enjoy views of New York City. Although Harriet died of natural causes, local legend has it that the tower is haunted by the ghost of Mrs. Rionda who caught her husband cheating and jumped to her death from the top of the tower. According to local lore, driving around the tower backwards three times at midnight summons the spirit of Mrs. Rionda and driving around backwards six times will summon the devil. This myth has long since become a rite of passage for local teenagers who gave the tower its other name, the “Devil’s Tower.”

What remains of the Chapel or Gatehouse of the Rionda’s Rio Vista estate has been incorporated into the architecture of the newer homes in the Rio Vista community.

Without an heir, Rionda sold the land to the Tammybrook Country Club and developers (after the town of Alpine apparently turned down Rionda’s offer to use Rio Vista as a public park). The Cohens purchased their magnificent property from a developer who had acquired the land of an earlier golf club.

Seven Gables, the Cohen’s Alpine home (no, not their golf club!).
Lisa playing the second hole at Tammybrook Country Club —  literally just over the fence from Seven Gables.
The Sun Room.
Lovely table setting by Lisa Fayne Cohen.

The house was featured in the January 2007 issue of Architectural Digest redesigned by Architect James Nigro and decorated by Alexa Hampton. You can read more about it HERE

Just wait until you see their home in Palm Beach …

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