On what might have been one of the season’s most beautiful winter nights Sotheby’s Palm Beach welcomed more than 100 clients and guests to a prelude of the auction house’s forthcoming March fine art sales at its London-New Bond Street location. Ashley Schiff Ramos, the company’s new director of its Royal Palm Way bureau, and Tad Smith, president and CEO of Sotheby’s, greeted guests at the intersection of aesthetics and architecture — the entrance hall at Villa Tranquilla, an Addison Mizner-designed oceanfront mansion being offered by Sotheby’s International Real Estate. Though perhaps not as captivating as the Gustav Klimt or the Réne Magritte, and certainly not as measurably fascinating as Villa Tranquilla’s current incarnation, I have included some of photographer Ellen Glendinning Ordway’s period snapshots of the house.
Ellen was a frequent houseguest during the late 1940s and early 1950s when the house was owned by her longtime friends Alexis Felix du Pont Jr. and his second wife Ann Marvell du Pont. Her camera documents some of the house’s original Mizner features and the du Pont’s guests. The day before the splendid reception, I navigated overland through innumerable low-speed school zones to Wellington. There I happened on some of the world’s best show jumpers in a daytime equestrian competition without the crowd or glare from the stadium’s flood lights that can be as blinding as solar flares. Earlier, I spent an evening in Manalapan as part of the town’s lecture series where I spoke on how the town opted early on to be “for the few rather than the many,” much like Gulf Stream, while Palm Beach has always been about the how much and the as many as possible.
Villa Tranquillo, 1946-1949
Ellen Glendinning Ordway Collection
Although originally known from its inception as Villa Tranquillo, according to all contemporaneous records, the DeGrimm Renfro house at 640 South Ocean Boulevard is now referenced as Villa Tranquilla. After her mother died, Ordway and her sister sold the family’s Palm Beach house Casa dei Leoni. For the next several seasons, she was a houseguest at Club du Pont, as she called Villa Tranquillo during her stays. Here are some of her photographs from that era.
26 January 2017
Winter Equestrian Festival – Wellington
Palm Beach International Equestrian Center
Twenty miles west of Worth Avenue Wellington Equestrian Partner’s annual winter competitions are underway. Greatly expanded since last year, the organization has added the Wanderers Club golf course and International Polo Club to its portfolio. New York’s online bakery extraordinaire Ruby et Violette owned by the Mercer family sponsored Thursday’s FEI $35,000 Challenge Cup in the International Arena at Wellington’s 500-acre Equestrian showgrounds. The event attracted 80 topflight riders, among them, the show jumping world’s stellar competitors including Kent Farrington, Beezie Madden, McLain Ward, Georgina Bloomberg, Todd Minikus, Ben Maher, and Jessica Springsteen. After completing two faultless rounds, Eric Lamaze aboard Houston went back to the Artisan Farms stables with the $11,000 first prize. Meanwhile, I retreated to Tito’s Tacos for some midafternoon refreshments agasp from the 80+ temperature.
Here is a look among the bits and bridles.
Competitors size up the competition
The Wellington Look 2017
19 January 2017
Resort Class at Manalapan:
The Vanderbilts – La Coquille Club & Manalapan Club
This past week the Town of Manalapan invited me as their first guest speaker for the season’s Lecture Series held at the J. Turner Moore Memorial Library located on what was once the grounds of Consuelo Vanderbilt Balsan’s 35-acre estate that was later transformed into the Manalapan Club by Standard Oil scion Bill Benjamin. Several years ago Casa Alva was acquired by Gary and Kate Parr who embarked on restoring the main house and the grounds. Greeted by an engaging group of residents, I spoke on Manalapan and Hypoluxo Island’s development, the social and architectural influence of Harold Stirling Vanderbilt and his sister Consuelo, the former Duchess of Marlborough, and the role the La Coquille Club and the Manalapan Club played in making in keeping the town’s distinct ambiance.