Monday, November 20, 2017

Happy Thanksgiving

Wishing all of you a
Happy and Fulfilling Thanksgiving

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Rough Point Doris Duke's Newport Mansion

When I was a kid growing up in Hawai’i, my Mom would often mention Doris Duke. I kind of knew something about her, but not much. I knew she had a plush home on the beach in Kahala, on the other side of Diamond Head. So when in Newport this time, we decided to visit the Duke’s “summer home” along the Cliff Walk where all the NYC hoi-polloi from the turn of the last century built their vacation or weekend retreats. Her home, Rough Point, was where she spent most summers as a youth, and again starting in the 1950s. Upon her death in 1993, Doris Duke bequeathed the estate to the Newport Restoration Foundation with the directive that it be opened to the public as a museum.

Doris at the Mermaid Pool at the Family Farm in New Jersey
Doris Duke (1912 – 1993) was an American heiress, socialite, horticulturalist, art collector, and philanthropist. The daughter of a wealthy tobacco tycoon, Duke was able to fund a life of global travel and wide-ranging interests. These extended across journalism, competition surfing, jazz piano, wildlife conservation and Oriental art.

Doris Duke
Duke was born in New York City, the only child of tobacco (American Tobacco Co.) and hydroelectric power (Duke Energy) tycoon James Buchanan Duke and his second wife, Nanaline Holt Inman. When Doris Duke came of age, she used her wealth to pursue a variety of interests, including extensive world travel and the arts. Duke also gave generous support to Trinity College, which Duke had designated to receive the gifts that would transform it into Duke University, a memorial to his father and brother.

Doris Duke's Passport tells of her Travels
Doris with Duke Kahanamoku and Fellow Surfers
Twice divorced, Duke enjoyed a colorful private life that was seldom out of the gossip columns. Her philanthropic work continued into her old age, some of it unknown to the public during her lifetime, Her estimated $1.3 billion fortune was largely left to the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, dedicated to medical research, prevention of cruelty to children and animals, the performing arts, wildlife and ecology. She was also active in preserving more than 80 historic buildings in Newport, Rhode Island.

Doris Duke resided at a number of homes in her lifetime, all special for different reasons. Her principal residence and official domicile was Duke Farms, her father's 2,700 acre estate in Hillsborough Township, New Jersey. Duke's other residences were private during her lifetime: She spent summer weekends working on her Newport Restoration Foundation projects while staying at Rough Point, the 49-room English manor-style mansion that she inherited in Newport, Rhode Island. Winters were spent at an estate she built in the 1930s and named "Shangri-La" in Honolulu, Hawaii and at "Falcon's Lair" in Beverly Hills, California, once the home of Rudolph Valentino.
(Excerpted from Wikipedia)

Pond on Duke Farm
Greenhouse on Duke Farm
Open Space at Duke Farm
Mughal Garden at the Home at Duke Farm
Shangri-La in Hawaii
Shangri-La in Hawaii
Islamic Interior in Shangri-La in Hawaii
Rough Point really is a gorgeous estate … and the Doris Duke story adds to its legacy. The house is decorated and furnished exactly as Duke left it when she passed in 1993. It is filled with antiques, art, stories and history. Our tour guide was wonderful and we highly recommend visiting Rough Point if you get the chance. We have visited other Newport mansions … Marble House and Breakers … and I think Rough Point is more interesting … has a better story.

Rough Point Aerial View along the Cliff Walk
Rough Point Front of Mansion
Rough Point Entry and Stairs
Rough Point Ballroom
Rough Point with Duke's Camel Topiaries up Front

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Antiques Roadshow Newport

Well, we got to the Antiques Roadshow in Newport, Rhode Island. I must say that they do have their act together. With hurricane Jose whipping up the wind and dropping some rain along the New England seaboard ... Newport was no exception, but thankfully it was minor ... the Roadshow folks had very efficient transportation, tents and loads of happy, helpful volunteers. We took our treasures and got in line. (BTW none of the lines were long and they moved quickly ... well orchestrated considering there were about 3000 people scheduled that day.) Susan had her powder puff and her little celluloid box ... I had my Civil War diary and my Sconce family archives. (See earlier posts about these items.)
Photo from the Newport Daily News
Photo from the Newport Patch

The show was held at Rosecliff, one of the Newport mansions along Ocean Avenue and the Cliff Walk. Rosecliff was built around 1898-1902 and is open to the public as a historic house museum. The house has also been known as the Hermann Oelrichs House or the J. Edgar Monroe House.

Susan took her items to the collectibles table. Unfortunately the appraiser there did not have a clue about these items, so he consulted with the "experts" at the ladies' accessory table. He told us little and guessed at the prices. For these items we knew more than they did. Darn.

I had better luck with my books. The appraiser told us that the Civil War journal/diary was interesting, but not down the line of what Civil War collectors preferred. He said they like diaries that are contemporaneous with the war ... written during the war, not as recollections 40 years later. Still, he figured it was worth $550-800 at auction.

He looked at the Sconce family archives. He limited his comments to the little book by Robert Clement Sconce and to the drawings by Herbert Sconce. The book, which I absolutely love, was only given a cursory glance. He liked it but not as much as he liked the drawings. He zeroed in on the ethnographic images, saying that with the artist's historical background in Indian events, and the quality of the drawings, that this collection of ethnographic drawings were worth $10,000-15,000 at auction if kept together.

None of the items were given TV appraisal status. So you won't see us on a future episode. But it was fun.

For more on this Roadshow see these articles:

Newport Rhode Island

Narragansett Bay ... Newport in the distance
So we are back from our Antiques Roadshow adventure ... no richer, no more famous, but we had a good time. More on the appraisals in the next post. Newport is an interesting town ... very touristy, but loaded with history ... the waterfront is replete with mediocre restaurants, but a little search reveals some delicious gems ... and there are even a couple of wineries close by. It is home to the International Tennis Hall of Fame, the annual Newport Jazz Festival, the Newport U. S. Naval Academy and the Naval War College.

Newport Harbor
Newport, of course, is famous for its Cliff Walk ... a 3.5 mile trail/walkway (in five easy walking segments) along which you can marvel at the natural beauty of the Newport shoreline with the architectural history of Newport's gilded age. The blue ocean on one side and the fabulous mansions of the New York City rich and famous on the other.

Cliff Walk
The other end of the architectural spectrum of Newport are the dozens ... over 100 ... historical homes preserved by the Doris Duke founded Newport Restoration Foundation. In California we think of "old" as 19th century ... in Newport "old" is early 1700s!

Cahoone -Yates House 1763
Billings Coggeshall House 1784
Old House with Decoration
While in Newport we stayed in a mid-19th century house ... the La Farge Perry House B&B. It is a lovely home style retreat, reasonably located near shopping, walking, dining and even touristy stuff.

La Farge Perry House
La Farge Perry House Dining Room
Thames Street is where the action is ... lined with everything from souvenir shops to upscale boutiques. So are Broadway and Bellevue Avenue.

Thames Street
We took a few side-trips, including a couple of old forts and a couple of wineries. The forts have loads of history, the wines are nice and the wineries modern.

Newport Vineyards
We had a good time in Newport ... our third visit to the town on Narragansett Bay.

Love the architecture ... and the flag!

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Antiques Roadshow and the Sconce Family Archives

Several years ago I obtained a sizable archive from the family of Robert Clement Sconce (1787-1846). It contains hundreds of photographs and negatives, dozens of letters and documents, a hundred or so drawings, sketches and watercolor paintings, and a number of books, journals and diaries.

Robert Clement Sconce, while born and raised in England, spent most of his adult life in the Mediterranean on the British controlled island of Malta. He held numerous positions in the British Admiralty that afforded him time and space to dabble in botany and art. He was in Malta as secretary to Admiral Sir John Duckworth and for ten years he was also Naval Agent Victualler for HM Dockyard, Malta. Although he was never wealthy, he and his family lived well and circulated in upper class English society.

Portrait of Robert Clement Sconce

In 1861 his daughter put together his life and Letters in two volumes:  LIFE AND LETTERS of ROBERT CLEMENT SCONCE, formerly Secretary to Admiral Sir John Duckworth, Compiled for his Grandchildren by his daughter Sarah Susanna Bunbury.
Title Page from Robert Clement Sconce Life and Letters
Sconce was an artist, among all of his other achievements and positions (see my earlier post) and his letters reveal some of his advice to his daughter Sally, who was an accomplished artist in her own right.

His pencil revelled in the glorious Swiss scenery, after his long imprisonment at Malta; and he made an immense number of sketches, colouring a great many on the spot, and making exquisitely-finished drawings from them on his return to Malta. There was at Malta a little valley near Boschetto, containing about half a dozen fine trees,—a species of ash and of these my Father had made some dozens of finished drawings, making portraits of them in every point of view.

Whatever you sketch, colour it from nature when you can. All the great authorities agree, and my own experience has amply proved it, that an hour's work from nature is more improving and more interesting than a month's from memory or imagination.

I believe some of the paintings in this archive are his, but these are not signed, so I cannot be sure. In the comments about publishing Sconce's Life and Letters, Sarah mentions that while she wished to have included copies of her father's paintings in the book, finances did not allow for it.

His son Herbert Sconce (1833-1867) was also an artist … the artistic talent seemed to pass on to the next generation. His real job was as Principal Commissioner and Captain in the Bengal Army, as he was stationed in Assam, India. Alas, as an ambassador from Britain in India, Herbert was a disaster. His arrogance and antagonism toward the people of the Pulagahri region led to the now infamous and deadly uprising in October of 1861.

According to family members, Herbert was just not into the “commissioner thing.” He left the administration and decision making largely up to his deputies. In official meetings he was bored and inattentive. He would spend his time drawing sketches, many of which he later would color at home. This archive has dozens of his sketches and drawings.
Herbert Sconce Self Portraits

Above are all by Herbert Sconce

Another relative of Sconce was John Lawrence Habberton (1842-1921) … he was the author of Helen’s Babies, published in 1866. Habberton’s daughter, Florence married Herbert Sconce’s son Robert Clement Sconce (grandson of the Robert Clement Sconce above). A couple of early copies of this book are in this archive … one was sent to a Capt. Swinnerton in 1896, who proceeded to annotate virtually every page with notes, criticisms, corrections and suggestions, and then returned it to the author!
The Helen's Babies book as sent to Capt. S. A. Swinnerton

The Helen's Babies books and Amy Sconce's journal

Another item I am taking from this archive is a book containing the observations of Amelia “Amy” Sconce (1869-1939), daughter of Herbert Sconce, on trips to Niagara Falls in 1904 and to New York City in 1906. Hand written and quite interesting.

Amy Sconce's journal entries of her travels in New York

The final item from this archive is the most special of all the items … the little book Robert Clement Sconce wrote for his daughter Sally in 1820. I covered this book in a previous post.
Plants Quadrupeds Birds by Robert Clement Sconce c1820
I think this archive is quite significant … and hope to get confirmation of that in this visit to the Roadshow. We will see.
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