An Ideal American Country Place
By John A. Gade
|E. D. MORGAN RESIDENCE WESTBURY, L. I. - PANORAMIC VIEW OF SOUTH FRONT OF THE ENTIRE GROUP - MCKIM, MEAD & WHITE, ARCHITECT|
E. D. MORGAN’S place on the Wheatley Hills, designed by Messrs. McKim, Mead & White, is possibly the largest, certainly one of the most interesting, of the country residences on Long Island. The buildings crown with their roofs and towers one of the elevations on the northern shore, and cover an unusually extensive area, the outside rectangle measuring approximately 28o x 300, and the enclosed courtyard about 2oo x 180 feet.
|E. D. MORGAN RESIDENCE WESTBURY, L. I. - COURTYARD ENTRANCE FRONT - MCKIM, MEAD & WHITE, ARCHITECT|
The main building of the house proper extends along the southern side of the square, with a hall running through the center from front to back, and library and dining-room on either side. On the connecting arms of the building are the guests’ suites, and the kitchen and service arrangements.
|E. D. MORGAN RESIDENCE WESTBURY, L. I. - ENTRANCE TO COURTYARD - MCKIM, MEAD & WHITE, ARCHITECT|
The principal entrance is through the western facade, where the broad driveway enters under a large central arch. To the right is the stair leading to the magnificent fifty-foot-long music-room connecting, through the schoolroom, with the southern wing. To the left lie the porter’s lodge and the chapel. The northern arm of the rectangle has on its axis the watertower that dominates the entire group; while to the west lie the messroom, storage-rooms, and laundry.
|E. D. MORGAN RESIDENCE WESTBURY, L. I. - CHAPEL AND CLOISTER - MCKIM, MEAD & WHITE, ARCHITECT|
Cloisters connect the chapel with the adjacent buildings, and on the court side,north, east, and west, the composition is bound together by colonnades.
|E. D. MORGAN RESIDENCE WESTBURY, L. I. - KEY PLAN OF BUILDING GROUP - MCKIM, MEAD & WHITE, ARCHITECT|
The group presents a most instructive and intelligent handling of a difficult problem. The ground chosen contained many varying levels, necessitating the most careful study of different elevations, heights of ceilings and roofs; the building of terraces and the communication of stairs The grades of the ground further complicated the problem of designing so large a group of buildings, making them most difficult of treatment without procuring an objectionably prominent and high effect. The architects have adapted the local type of architecture to meet their local needs, taking the old Long Island farmhouse indigenous to the soil as their prototype, treating each detail with great simplicity, and carrying out every feature with the utmost restraint. The buildings do not seem to stand alone in the landscape, but blend into its very contour, with roofs and chimneys breaking the sky-line at varying heights. The roofs, as well as the sides of all the buildings, with the exception of the chapel, are shingled, the shingles being now toned ‘by the weather into an inconspicuous silvery gray. The trimmings, columns, and balustrades — all of the least decorative type — are painted white.
|E. D. MORGAN RESIDENCE WESTBURY, L. I. - GARDEN, LOOKING WEST - MCKIM, MEAD & WHITE, ARCHITECT|
On all sides the effect of the group has been enhanced with carefully disposed greenery.
|E. D. MORGAN RESIDENCE WESTBURY, L. I. - SOUTH FRONT - MCKIM, MEAD & WHITE, ARCHITECT|
The main front is firmly planted on a terrace. Vines clamber up almost every post and rail, and trees conceal the less interesting features. Box and privet have been profusely employed, until the house and garden seem as one. The pergolas and treillage that connect them make the relationship of the broad gardens and the buildings most intimate in character. Box borders every grass-plot and marks each angle. Throughout, everything is essentially countrified, simple, and homelike. None of it, though built on a most extensive scale and probably at considerable cost, is either pretentious or imposing. It finely illustrates all the possibilities of solving a problem with taste and simplicity. It exemplifies the great chances which lie in the skillful adaptation to great demands of local and unpretentious forms of architecture. And there is a sound soul in the sound body. The interior is even more interesting than the exterior.
|E. D. MORGAN RESIDENCE WESTBURY, L. I. - HALL - MCKIM, MEAD & WHITE, ARCHITECT|
No special type or period of architecture has been adhered to. All has been done with strength and simplicity. Too much elaboration would have been offensive. It is English more than anything else, of the type produced by the needs and wants of the country gentleman.
|E. D. MORGAN RESIDENCE WESTBURY, L. I. - MUSIC ROOM - MCKIM, MEAD & WHITE, ARCHITECT|
Take the music or ball room. Its walls are completely covered with oak panels of plain unmolded stiles and rails, the fireplace has neither a molding nor a surface carved, the beams and plaster surfaces of the ceiling follow the outer collar-beams of the roof. Take the main entrance-door at its end. The projections of its trim and frame and pediment are of the slightest. It is the refinement of the moldings, the proportions, the intelligent combination and use of the various materials, which produce the felicitous effect. In the principal rooms the ceilings have been treated in the old farmhouse manner. The true constructional beams have been employed to obtain the effect; and the great surfaces of the larger joists, as deep as sixteen inches in the wider spans, have been rough-adzed as in the old days before saws and planingmills. The floors have been laid of irregular widths of inch-thick planks, varying from six to sixteen inches wide. Their lengths have been nailed by wooden pegs, their joints left wide apart, and caulked as the deck of a boat, to allow for the swelling and contraction inevitable in such large surfaces. The treatment of the woodwork and fireplaces is noticeable. Neither varnish nor high gloss has been employed. The woodwork has been left practically “natural,” or very slightly stained and waxed. The fireplace openings are effective because of their huge size instead of by surrounding carving. A man can stand erect inside their deep splays, which are merely crowned by a few molded courses and a little pleated petticoat of gray linen. Every detail is carried out in a similar manner. The doors have the oldfashioned iron locks; the cornices consist of a simple wooden frieze carrying around the lines of the deeper beams. The moldings are without carved ornament, as are also the trims and rails.
|E. D. MORGAN RESIDENCE WESTBURY, L. I. - LIBRARY - MCKIM, MEAD & WHITE, ARCHITECT|
The library, too, is absolutely unarchitectural. One feels it is essentially a room in which to lead and study. There is not a trace of distracting wall-paper or of shelves to carry worthless knickknacks. The cornice-molds have been brought forward to the face of the shelving, which runs from floor to ceiling, so that the cases are unnoticeable. The backs of the books make the effect, produce the color, and provide the wall-surfaces of the room. No paneling or Spanish leather could have done it so simply and so well; no laboriously studied cases with paneled pilasters and glazed and muntined doors would have looked as consistent nor as dignified.
|E. D. MORGAN RESIDENCE WESTBURY, L. I. - GARDEN, LOOKING EAST - MCKIM, MEAD & WHITE, ARCHITECT|
***From the December issue - The September issue of the Review containing photographic illustrations of the E. D. Morgan House, Long Island, has been so favorably received that the publishers have ventured to again employ a similar process for the plates..... made from a magnificent series of large-sized photographs excellently adapted to obtaining the best possible results by this means of reproduction.
Click HERE for more on Edwin Denison Morgan and his estate "Wheatly".