Sunday, June 18, 2017


Located on the northeast side of the slope overlooking the pond. A small depression had formed from the runoff water emitted by the mansion's ice-making machines and was referred to as a "river" by Audrey Field, 2nd wife of Marshall Field III. Five thousand roses plants, water loving irises and rocks in the stream with a few Japanese Maple trees to provide natural effect were planted.  A gazebo with a wrought iron roof and carved sandstone pillars was also installed.


Mrs. Marshall Field—Five Thousand Roses
... all chosen and set out by Mrs. Field herself on the Field estate, Caumsett, at Huntington, Long Island. Most of Caumsett's 2,000 acres are left to their native pink-flowered mountain laurel.

Though the estate is magnificent, the landscaped gardens near the house cover only six acres. The pansies in these rose beds are a favorite rose border, help conceal the great defect of the well-pruned bush—its bare underpinnings. Though rose plants like these average only $1 each, they need soil preparation to a depth of three feet (most plants need only one foot), must be frequently replaced. Modern roses are bigger, brighter, trimmer than the old ones, but less fragrant. Even now a true rosarian can tell two varieties apart in a dark room, detect slight differences in the same rose at different times (they are most fragrant before a storm). Red roses like the one to the right have the strongest fragrance, yellow roses the least.

 Read more  HERE.
Each of Marshall Field's three wives made her mark on the Main House and its surroundings. For example, even though Field was only married to his second wife, Audrey, for three years, she managed to completely redecorate the Main House and its surroundings. Inside, furniture and furnishings were changed; outside, thousands of colorful flowers were planted in place of existing, more formal plants requested by Field's first wife, Evelyn. Much of the initial landscaping design throughout the estate was heavily influenced by large planting coverage between recreation areas and employee walkways and service roads. This was due to Evelyn's insistence that nonessential staff working at Caumsett not be seen by the family or by guests.

Shown here is the landscape behind the Main House in 1932. The design was by Audrey Field. A lover of colorful flowers, she had the landscaping around the Main House reconfigured for her  desires. Note the "babbling brook" in the center of the photograph. Runoff from the iceboxes in the Main House kitchen fed this attractive feature. In a time before automatic irrigation, estate staff would feed water buckets from the brook, which wound its way down the hill to the fresh pond. 

This is another view of the Main House landscape, this time looking up from the hill toward the Main House. Married for only three years, Audrey Field made her mark on the estate. Inside, furniture and furnishings were changed; outside, thousands of colorful flowers were planted in place of existing, more formal plants installed by Field's first wife, Evelyn.

Audrey James Coates became Marshall Field's second wife in 1930, just two weeks after his divorce from Evelyn was finalized. She was the Englishborn widow of Capt. Dudley Coates and goddaughter of King Edward VII. Audrey, a well-known socialite in both England and the United States, was a member of a very wealthy English family. Here, she is pictured in a room in the Main House filled with flowers grown by the staff of the estate. Upon their divorce three years later, Audrey simply left, with no payment of any kind from Field. She returned to England and "civilization," as she bluntly put it. Field's lawyers, however, took no chances, and a major change in estate ownership took place. In 1934, Caumsett was split into two corporations. Caumsett Estates became the owner of the residential and recreation portion of the estate, and Caumsett Farms took over ownership of the farm group operations. The lawyers insisted on the corporate restructuring in case Audrey changed her mind.

This is the home of head gardener George Gillies. Under his total supervision, the greenhouses were used primarily for the raising of flowers, not vegetables. A vast variety of flowers, including calla lilies, were raised here, many from seedlings. There was also a melon house, where fruits were suspended from netting. The flowers grown here were used to decorate the tables and rooms of the Main House and the Winter and Summer Cottages. Cut flowers were also brought to Field homes in New York City. At the Main House, there was a special floral arranging workroom near the dining room, where Gillies would artistically arrange centerpieces. Additional staff at the greenhouse also arranged flowers. All floral pieces throughout the estate would be checked daily by the greenhouse staff.

George Gillies (left) confers with a staff member in the greenhouse area. To the south of the garden lay an extensive greenhouse complex, which still stands today in a state of radical disrepair. It is protected by landmark status. Interestingly, head gardener Gillies always wore a jacket to work—even on the hottest days. He was meticulous in the way he carried out his job functions.

New Life Beyond the Garden Wall
September 16, 2000
George Gillies was the head gardener for more than 35 years until the property was sold to the state in 1961, five years after Marshall Field died. Louise Gillies and her husband lived in a four-bedroom cottage just outside the walled garden facing the 10 greenhouses - two devoted to orchids and another two to melons. 

Louise recounts her memories at Causmett in a story relating to the restoration of the walled garden - "Field was married three times, you know. George had to please each of the wives. The first wanted a sunken garden, but she and Mr. Field were divorced before it was finished. So it was never completed. Wife number two wanted a rose garden. So George put in 5,000 roses - it was like rivers of roses. But wife number three didn't want a rose garden so he tore it out."

Marshall and Audrey Field.

Read an excerpt from The Marshall Fields: The Evolution of an American Business Dynasty describing the relationship between Marshall and Audrey during the Depression years HERE. It disputes the above information that she left with no payments of any kind.

LIFE Oct 18, 1943 - On his 50th birthday last month Marshall Field III (center) signed the documents bringing him into full control of his grandfather's immense fortune (over $100,000,000). Near $1.5 billion in today's money.

 Caumsett meant "place by sharp rock".

Follow THIS LINK for all posts relating to "Causmett". 

The late John Foreman's BIG OLD HOUSES visits "Causmett".

1 comment:

  1. Correction re: the photo of MF III photo w/ his 2nd wife Audrey. That’s not his 2nd wife, it’s third, Ruth Pruyn Phipps Field. You can tell by his age in the photo. Also, they’re my Grandparents so I’m quite sure of this