Friday, May 9, 2014



The traditional cobbled courtyard, the precision of shrubbery, the classic facade, not too classic—Diego de Suarez, architect and decorator, has re-created in our casual times, all the formality of an age that worshiped the god of form.

   WANTING a house in France, and wanting France in a house, are not the same thing—but they very nearly are, here in the home of Mr. and  Mrs. Thomas L. Chadbourne, at Brookville, L. I. For although the place is some three thousand miles and two hundred years removed from the court of the Sun King, one still feels as if the ancien regime were smiling on it—perhaps from the skies, or wherever it is that Good Old Times go when they die. At any rate, I'm sure the spirit of Old France was very close when Diego de Suarez was designing the charming rooms looking out on stately gardens and reflecting pools. It still hovers there.

   The illusion of the 18th Century is complete, but it is not entirely due to architecture and decoration and the sorts of things you can put your finger on—part of the effect is derived from the personality of Mrs. Chadbourne. To leave the highway and stray into the Chadbourne gates, is to leave these United States. So much so that almost without thinking you are apt to begin to chat with your hostess in French, and are no more surprised when she replies in the same language than if you had stepped on the soil of La Belle France itself. The house inside, the exterior, and the gardens are all true to the period, but never to the point of slavishness; Mrs. Chadbourne's definite individuality and ideas take care of that.

Each terrace has its mirror of water, to catch and give back all the changing lights of the day, or the night, too. And then the plaisance sweeps off endlessly into the horizon, a brilliant carpet of green, patterned by shadows of the bordering trees.

    Into these surroundings, she likes best to gather her friends together for week-ends—a gracious hostess, but better still, a clever one! It is truly an art, that a guest be never conscious of being engineered into something or other,—anything, just to be kept moving. Here, one moves or not, as one wishes. For the energetic ones, there is tennis and swimming and riding; in all of which sports the hostess herself excels. For those less vigorous, there are endless numbers of cosy nooks and corners in the gardens; thoughtfully equipped with back-easing chairs, where a book may be enjoyed in splendid comfort, and more often than not, one has the vantage point of a pool to refresh the vision. Mrs. Chadbourne's parties are scarcely ever large, as large parties go. Her only venture into the realm of quantities was when she presented Palm Beach (practically all of it) to Princess Aspasia of Greece, and that was a party, par excellence. But six or eight persons, or at most ten, please her better—each person is an entity to her then, and not just part of a crowd.

    She is a vitally modern hostess, for all her rather reminiscent graciousness, which goes so well with her home—alive and original, as a modern hostess should and must be—the sort of hostess and the sort of house which makes you feel that backgammon or ping-pong, or chess or even tiddle-de-winks, if you like it, is quite the thing—but if you heard faint strains of a minuet, you wouldn't be surprised either.

   Looking down from the gallery and across the library one gets this unusually impressive view of a room which achieves the rare qualities of sumptuousness combined with comfort. The soft fawn-colored rug, in conjunction with the walnut paneled walls, makes an ideal background for the old blue and rose of the Louis XV needlepoint chairs. The south windows look out upon a rose-colored marble plaque d' eau (plate of water), a leaden figure in the center, sending high its jet of crystal water.

    Another corner of the library, showing the bookshelves which tower fourteen feet to the ceiling, and cover the entire north wall, while the tapestry and fireplace make a pleasant break in what might appear to be too literary a background. The iron gallery, halfway up, has its obvious uses, and is reached by a hidden stair, tucked away behind a secret door in the rank and file of the bookcases. The Louis XV marble mantel holds only one choice ornament, a terre cuite bust, typical of the 18th Century.

Mrs. Chadbourne's drawing room, with its old French blue furniture, walls of rose and pale gray, is dominated by the lovely portrait, by Elaine Vicaja, of herself and her two little daughters. The same colors—rose and blue with pale gray—are found in the bedroom, but here they have a bit warmer feeling, perhaps, achieved by deft touches of apricot and yellow.

   This property is a real mystery - The house obliviously existed  because here it is in black and white. Until I found this article I never knew it existed and never heard of Thomas Lincoln Chadbourne. The SPLIA book makes NO mention of Diego de Suarez involvement in designing this house. The Spinzia book does have Chadbourne listed but they do not note the architect and they were "unconfirmed" on if it did still stand. 

   Chadbourne sailed on his yacht "Jezebel" in 1928 to write his autobiography with no mention of having this house built(he died in 1938 without updating). The above article is from 1932 so you can guesstimate a build date. The kicker is the house that now stands where Chadbourne lived is where Diego Suarez and Evelyn(Marshall)  Field built their home with help from Architect Frederick Rhinelander King  in 1952. Did the original structure burn???

   Coincidentally one of Chadbournes law partners had handled Marshall Field III's fight to break his grandfathers will that gave him only $30,000 a year(at the insistence of his wife Evelyn). They settled for $70 million out of $150 million.(He received the rest when he turned fifty). Is this the connection that brought Suarez together with Chadbourne???
Dolph & Stewart 1939 

Maps Collection, Stony Brook University Libraries - 1938

Maps Collection, Stony Brook University Libraries - 1947 from 1966 - wikimapia location

Thomas Lincoln Chadbourne (1871-1938)

   Thrice married, endowed with a handsome and striking physical presence (he was six feet seven inches tall and had a determined and aggressive personality), it was foreordained that he would rise to the top in whatever field he chose to pursue. He began practicing law in 1893 and by 1903, upon moving to New York, he became one the country’s top business lawyers, counsel to over 150 of the largest corporations in the country. At the time, antitrust laws had only recently come into being, railroads were still being constructed, and the diesel had not yet replaced the steam engine. It was an era when large-scale corporate mergers and consolidations were not viewed with misgivings by governmental agencies. 

   In the 1920s, Chadbourne masterminded a merger of New York City’s subway, train and streetcar firms and became the City’s “traction Czar.” During its first year Chadbourne joined the Council on Foreign Relations, an elitist think-tank of wealthy Americans that still wields great influence over government policies. He was one of ten voters that unanimously voted to to incorporate Brookville in 1931. 

  A genius for political fund-raising, he had been one of the most influential members of the Democratic Party ever since the Woodrow Wilson Administration(served as a "dollar a year man" holding the office of vice-president War Trade Board). He gave Alfred E. Smith more than $400,000 in cash and stock options while Smith was Governor of New York hoping for approval for an increase in the subway fares. That interaction led to a judges imprisonment for accepting bribes while on the bench in one of the worst scandals in the history of the American judiciary.

   Chadbourne's most notable achievement during the last decade of his life was his transatlantic negotiation of a plan to restore stability to the international sugar market. Fortune magazine called the plan "one of the greatest ventures ever undertaken in business diplomacy." For his efforts, in 1931 France made him an officer of the Legion of HonorHis name has been perpetuated in the present New York City firm of Chabourne & Parke, LLP.

Chadbourne's yacht, "Jezebel", a 175-foot oceangoing vessel with six staterooms and a crew of 28. 


    "A designer in New York and Paris, Countess Dolfin has had wide experience in the world of fashion. And because of her belief that "you're as young as you dress", she is currently touring the country as commentator for a series of fashion shows featuring 'that radiant look'...a look, as shown in Harpers Bazaar, you can have your self." DESERET NEWS AND TELEGRAM, Salt Lake City, Wednesday, February 24, 1954

   Who Denise Dolfin was and how she became a Countess are unknown to me.

   The only other bit of information I've found relates to a friendship between the Countess and a Miss Maria Lawrence-Wetherill. "They formerly resided here for several years(Palm Beach), and now live in Southampton. L. I."


  1. Denise Dolfin was born in Italy circa 1890, arrived in the United States in 1906, and died in Florence, Italy, on 17 March 1974; she became a naturalized American citizen. The 1930 US Federal Census for New York City notes that she lived at the Hotel Lafayette (also Southampton, NY), was employed as a free-lance dress designer, and had been married at the age of 18 but was now divorced; the 1935 US Federal Census, however, states that she was a widow. The Dolfin counts are an old Venetian family (aka Dolfin Boldù), so she could have married one of them. Her longtime companion from at least 1924 was artist, race-car enthusiast, and “prominent [Philadelphia] society girl” Maria Kane Lawrence Wetherill (born 1892), a daughter of Albert Lawrence Wetherill and Frances (Pearsall) Wetherill. The house that Dolfin and Wetherill built and owned in Palm Beach, known as Thatchcote, was later owned by Millicent Rogers''s mother, Mary Benjamin Rogers. The ladies' house in Southampton, NY, was known as Greencote (see; it was located in a neighborhood still known as Shinnecock Art Village (it appears to have been build by their friend artist Zella de Milhau). Dolfin was the vice president of the Artists' Association in Palm Beach at one time. Am still searching for more information.

  2. Great information, Google failed me in finding this. Why was she hawking blouses in Salt Lake City? Name rich, money poor? "Longtime companion"??? I did find one mention of Wetherill were she drove an ambulance during WWI for the Red Cross.

  3. I always thought Suarez has been credited with designing the beautiful single story, flat roofed, French/Regency styled home that now sits on the property. The new mansion takes full advantage of what remains of the impressive French styled gardens of the original home, but it is a fraction of the size of the Chadbournes original.

  4. The two worked together. There was also a garage complex for the property. It still survives.

  5. Archibuff
    Also the picturesque gatehouse survives too. I have never seen any photos of the original house till today. A fantastic post again always something new.

    1. Archibuff you seem to indicate you've known or heard of the original house existence?

  6. Just caught the inquiry, but I know an earlier house was mentioned in a text somewhere, I just need to find it. Also, the gatehouse, usually a miniature stylized version of the main residence does not match the later house at all and provides the first clue. I will do some digging but these new photos of the original main house are fantastic, just not enough. Archibuff

  7. As I'm sure you know, Diego de Suarez is credited with helping to create with F. Burrall Hoffman (Architect) the home of James Deering in Miami, "Vizcaya." Completed in 1916, "Vizcaya" is now the Dade County Museum.

  8. Just a guess, but could the main drawing room be the remains of the chadbourne chateau library? Check out the proportions and site.