Resort Life between the Wars: Part VII, 1940

Featured image
Aimee Lopes de Sa Sottomaior. August 1940. Luncheon with Kay Chaqueneau, Brookville, Long Island. The following year Aimee married Rodman Wanamaker Heeren. As Mrs. Wanamaker Heeren she became an internationally-recognized socialite, among the Best Dressed and admitted to the Fashion Hall of Fame, possessing homes in Paris, Biarritz, Palm Beach and New York. Having one of the largest houses in Paris that sold to the Sultan of Brunei, after Mrs. Heeren died five years ago at reportedly 103, her New York townhouse was sold to the Spence School. Several years ago I spoke at The Society of the Four Arts on “Louwana - The Last Great House in Palm Beach,” Mrs. Heeren’s oceanfront Mizner-designed estate that is currently on the market.

Resort Life between the Wars: Part VII, 1940
Chestnut Hill – Long Island – Lake Bluff – Saratoga

By the spring of 1940 the nation was on edge as the war in Europe rapidly disintegrated any hope for peace. This segment of Ellen Glendinning Frazer’s social chronicle records pleasures and pursuits far removed from the everyday world. It culminates an era of America’s social history that began during the Gilded Age, with its proclivity for a collective decorum based on the artifice of European customs, and ended in the aftermath of the Great Depression, the social classes polarized as never before, and post-World War II’s inclination for a more egalitarian society.

For this episode, her camera takes us back behind the gates of Terra Mar, David and Ailsa Mellon Bruce’s 120-acre Syosset estate. Then, a week in Chicago at the Lester Armours’ Lake Bluff sanctuary where the diversions of the North Shore’s affluent aristocrats are in stark contrast to the 1940 Democratic National Convention’s platform supporting FDR’s New Deal. After that, a private plane has been reserved for a jaunt to Saratoga where George Widener has invited Ellen Frazer and Polly Howe to lunch and a day at the races. In 1932 Mr. Widener’s uncle Joseph Widener opened the palatial Hialeah Park race track, modeled on Deauville, as millions of Americans were in the throes of economic despair. At the same time, the Wrigley chewing-gum family had transformed the Arizona Biltmore into a more luxurious resort, a winter refuge for mostly Social Register Chicago families.

Here are some final images from that era of class distinctions and one-thousand-dollar bills.

The Smart Set

When the Waldorf Astoria opened in 1931, party-giver Elsa Maxwell became the hotel’s social promoter. Maxwell was known for her extravagant sometimes idiosyncratic soirees, often credited with introducing the scavenger hunt as a classy diversion in the world’s social capitals. In April 1940, Germany invaded Denmark and Norway.

May 1940
“Smart People go to the Smartest Places.”

Along with El Morocco and the Stork Club, Fefe’s Monte Carlo night club was among “New York’s most exclusive nightclubs,” opening in 1939 at 49 East 54th Street. It was described as “wow-wow” when it first opened with the town’s highest cover charge. In Palm Beach during the 1930s, the Colony Club, Embassy Club, and The Patio became popular Conga-line haunts for seasonal socialites looking for nightlife after dinner at the B & T or Everglades Club. Bankruptcy proceedings for Fefe Ferry’s Monte Carlo club began in 1942.

June 1940
Weekend with Polly Howe at Highpool, Brookville, New York

“Before heading to David and Ailsa Mellon Bruce’s house for lunch, Polly had guests over for cocktails.”

Mrs. Francis H. “Fifi” McAdoo.
Francis Huger McAdoo. The son of former US Secretary of Treasury and US Senator William Gibbs McAdoo whose second wife was Eleanor Wilson, the youngest daughter of President Woodrow Wilson. In 1914 Mr. McAdoo’s father and stepmother were married at The White House; they divorced in 1934.
Lucius Pond Ordway. In 1951, Ellen Glendinning Frazer would become the third Mrs. Ordway, shortly after his divorce from one of her best friends Kay Denckla.
Ed Fish. A partner with the Smith, Barney Co., Edwin A. Fish was married to Christine Biddle.
Fifi McAdoo and Morehead “Pat” Patterson. Mr. Patterson was a “descendant of old Southern families,” according to the NYT, his father affiliated with the American Tobacco Company and “large manufacturing concerns.”
Morehead Patterson and Mrs. Alexander Perry “Marie” Osborn. The second Mrs. A. Perry Osborn, was a former dress model; her father-in-law was the distinguished head of the American Museum of Natural History.

Luncheon with David and Ailsa Mellon Bruce
Terra Mar, Syosset, Long Island

Ailsa Mellon Bruce. When Ailsa Mellon died in 1969, her estate was valued at more than $570 million, widely regarded as the richest woman in the United States.
David Bruce.
Men at work. Prince Serge Obolensky, Mr. Miller (“from South America”), and Charles Blackwell.
Katie Blackwell.
The Real Housewives of 1940? After noticing that Ailsa Mellon Bruce’s terrace carpet was “out of line,” Katie Blackwell proceeded to straighten it out.
Marie Osborn and Francis McAdoo.
Charles Blackwell, Polly Howe, and Pat Patterson at the gates to the formidable Bruce estate, purchased for the Bruces by Andrew Mellon following their marriage.

June 1940
Republican National Convention, Philadelphia

With her brother-in-law Jay Cooke the Republican candidate for US Senate from Pennsylvania, Ellen attended the convention in Philadelphia that nominated the “dark horse” candidate Wendell Willkie on the fifth ballot.
Wendell and Edith Willkie. A lawyer and utilities magnate, described by some as “an Indiana crackerbox,” Mr. Willkie’s presidential aspirations were brief, although following the election FDR opted to have him serve as an unofficial ambassador-at-large.

July 1940
Lester Armour estate, 700 Arbor Drive, Lake Bluff, Illinois

After 1900, Lake Bluff became the setting for country-style estates built for prominent Chicago families, among them, the Armours, Clows, Durands, and Fields, as well as the exclusive Shoreacres Country Club.
Lester and Leola Armour’s house, 700 Arbor Drive, Lake Bluff, on Lake Michigan north of Lake Forest, Illinois. David Adler, architect.
The Armour house, view from Lake Michigan. In 1977 the house was the setting for Robert Altman’s film “The Wedding.” In the lower right corner, that is Jitters; he runs the place.
Tom Evans and Leola Armour.
Tom Evans. President of the Merchant Evans Company, a manufacturing concern, and a Philadelphia Democrat, Ellen notes that Tom is probably “Thinking serious Democratic thoughts.”
Leola Armour. She is enjoying two of the era’s favorite pastimes, sunbathing and smoking.
John B. “Jack” Kelly “came for lunch.” The legendary Jack Kelly headed up the Democratic Party in Philadelphia, arriving in Chicago for the National Democratic Convention that would nominate FDR for an unprecedented third term. Although Kelly lost a run for mayor of Philadelphia in 1935, he became one of the town’s political leaders.
Leola Armour and Jack Kelly. The interior of the Lester Armour house was designed by Frances Elkins, architect David Adler’s sister. The drawings and original interior photos are at the Art Institute of Chicago.
Jack Kelly. While Mr. Kelly’s accomplishments were numerous, he was a triple Olympic gold medalist, when his daughter film star Grace Kelly gave up her career in 1956 to marry Prince Rainier of Monaco the Kelly name became known worldwide.
Lucy du Val.
Lester Armour. When Philip Armour died in 1901, his oldest son J. Ogden Armour succeeded him as head of the company while his more than $15 million estate was divided among his sons, J. Ogden and Philip Armour, and grandsons, Lester and Philip Armour III. In 1949, following his divorce from Leola, Lester Armour married Alexandra Romanoff.

Lunch with Mr. and Mrs. James Cathcart
Lake Forest, Illinois

Mary Donnelly, Ralph Hines, and Mr. Cathcart (back of head). The second Mrs. Thorne Donnelley, Mary Donnelley’s daughter Naomi married John Ali Ben Haggin and was a longtime Palm Beach presence.
Ralph Hines. Mr. Hines was the son of Chicago lumber magnate Edward Hines, who left his son a $10 million fortune when he died in 1931.
Thorne Donnelly. Mr. Donnelley was heir to the Reuben H. Donnelley fortune.

19th Hole Mixed Two-Ball Foursome
Shoreacres Golf Club, Lake Bluff, Illinois

Jack Kelly, Mrs. Donald “Isabel” Ryerson, and Ralph Hines. The Shoreacres Country Club clubhouse was designed by David Adler in 1916.
Pat and Clarence Prentice.
Stanley Keith.
Leola Armour and Pat Prentice.

“Back at Lester and Leola’s …”
Lake Bluff, Illinois

Jack Kelly, “on his way back to Chicago.” Mr. Kelly died in 1960, quite a formidable presence as in this photo when he was 51.
Stanton Armour.
Lester Armour Jr.

19 July 1940
Democratic National Convention, Chicago Stadium, Chicago.

Luncheon with Mrs. Laurence “Lacy” Armour
Lake Forest, Illinois

Lacy Armour.
Pat Prentice, Lacy Armour, and Lucy Lynn.
Mrs. Bacon, Leola Armour, Pat Prentice, and Lacy Armour.

Father and Son Golf Tournament
Shoreacres Golf Club, Lake Bluff, Illinois

L to R.: Lester Armour.;Laurence Armour.

Vernon Armour, at the tee.

28 July 1940
Chestnut Hill

The Glendinning Rock Garden. Located on Philadelphia’s Kelly Drive north of the Girard Avenue bridge, the formidable garden attraction was named for its benefactors, Ellen Frazer’s parents, Robert and Elizabeth Glendinning.

19 August 1940
Long Island and Saratoga Springs

At Polly Howe’s house on Long Island for the weekend, Ellen and Polly were invited to Saratoga. Ellen photographed Polly and her daughter Cynthia Howe boarding for the hop to Saratoga where George Widener “invited us to lunch and a day at the races.”

Cynthia Howe, Polly’s daughter, boarding the plane.
“The landing field at Saratoga was really a field.”
George Widener. Mr. Widener’s father and brother Harry were both lost aboard the Titanic. Considered among the giants of the thoroughbred horse racing world, if not heir to the largest fortune in Philadelphia, Mr. Widener became honorary chairman of the New York Racing Association, the Jockey Club, the National Museum of Racing, and served as chairman of the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
The luncheon pavilion at Saratoga.
Polly Howe, having lunch at Saratoga.
Saratoga race track. “At the finish line.”
George Widener. After the races, “George invited us for drinks at the Gideon Putnam Hotel before flying back to Polly’s house on Long Island.”
Polly Howe at the Gideon Putnam Hotel.

August 1940 Brookville, Long Island
Luncheon with Katherine “Kay” Leslie Chaqueneau

Kay Leslie Chaqueneau. In 1931 she married Julien St. Charles Chaqueneau (formerly Shakno) who had divorced heiress Adelaide Rhinelander in 1928.
Aimee Lopes and Kay Chaqueneau.
Vera Plunkett. I believe Vera was Aimee’s sister. They shared a Park Avenue apartment in 1940.
Mrs. Herbert “Mary Floyd-Jones” Weston. Mrs. Weston was a lifelong Southampton resident.
Mary Weston, holding the dogs, Aimee Lopes, Vera Plunkett, and Kay Chaqueneau.

September 1940
Chestnut Hill

The former Persifor Frazer III house was leased to the Anthony J. Drexel Biddles.
US Senate hopeful and brother-in-law Jay Cooke was featured in Life magazine.

6 November 1940

Unable to overcome FDR’s popularity, Jay Cooke’s political career ended with his loss of the Pennsylvania US Senate seat by more than 150,000 votes.

December 1940

“Sister” Tibbett.

“Those Remarkable Women”


Recent Posts