GREAT SECRECY ABOUT IT
Suit Comes Nearly a Year After Mrs. William Astor's Death---Col. Astor Yachting with His Son
Mrs. Ava Willing Astor has sued Col. John Jacob Astor for a legal separation, after eighteen years of married life. C. H. Young of New Rochelle, a lawyer with offices at 76 William Street, has been appointed referee in the suit by Supreme
Court Justice Mills of Mount Vernon.
The papers in the case were supposed to have been filed in Dutchess County, where is the famous Astor country estate, but a dispatch from Poughkeepsie, the county seat, last night said that no such records were available in the County Clerk's office. Mr. Young returned from Albany last night on the Empire State Express, but declined to confirm the statement that he had been appointed referee in the case or indeed to discuss the matter at all.
Lewis Cass Ledyard is the attorney for Col. Astor, while Mrs. Astor's interests are in the hands of John L. Cadwalader of the firm of Strong & Cadwalader. Neither of these attorneys could be reached yesterday.
At the offices of the Astor Estate, 23 West Twenty-sixth Street, it was said that it was not known there where Col. Astor is at present. It was learned elsewhere, however, that he is cruising on his yacht the Nourmahal in West Indian waters with his young son and the latter 's tutor.
Mrs. William Astor, mother of Col. Astor and leader of New York society, died on Oct. 30 last year. The year of mourning for her will expire in a few days. The news that her daughter-in-law was suing for a separation caused no end of talk in social as well as business New York. Mrs. Astor, who was Miss Eva [sic] L. Willing of Philadelphia, is one of the most prominent women in New York, Philadelphia, and Newport society. She is nearly as well known and as popular in high circles abroad. She has often been referred to as the logical successor of her famous mother-in-law as the recognized leader of New York society.
Col. Astor is a member of practically every prominent club in this city and Newport.
Col. Astor Cruising
Mrs. Astor returned to New York after a Summer abroad on Oct. 15. Three days before Col. Astor sailed for Southern waters. The Astor mansion at 840 Fifth Avenue, which is one of the finest homes in America, is being remodeled, so Mrs. Astor went to the home of her friends, Mr. and Mrs. Benjamin Guinness, at 8 Washington Square. She remained at the Guinness home until last Sunday, when she left town to visit friends in the country.
Mrs. Astor, it was learned also, spent Sunday afternoon at the Astor residence and made a general inspection of the work in progress there, which has been carried on unceasingly since her departure for Europe in June. She made this visit unaccompanied, returning about 6:30 P. M. to the Guinness residence.
With the exception of the caretaker and a watchman, Mrs. Astor was alone in the house during the afternoon, and seemed to take keen interest in the remodeling of the main hall as far as it has progressed.
The work on the house was being carried on yesterday as usual, the great iron beams, which are to support the dome of the hall, being put in place.
Col. Astor is the fourth Astor of that name and is almost as well known as a soldier, sportsman and inventor, as he is as the manager of one of the greatest estates in the world. He is a son of the late William and Caroline Schermerhorn Astor, a grandson of William B. Astor, and a great grandson of John Jacob Astor, the founder of the Astor family in America.
The Astors are descendants of Orloff Stevenson Van Courtlandt, the last Dutch Mayor of New Amsterdam to complete a full term in that office prior to the British possession and the changing of the city's name to that of New York. Col. John Armstrong, famous as a soldier in the French and Indian wars, and the Robert Livingston who received by royal grant the famous Livingston Manor, are also distinguished projenitors [sic] of Col. Astor.
Trip Around the World
Ferncliff, the Astor country seat near Rhinebeck is the birthplace of Col. Astor. He was born there on July 13, 1864, and is therefore in his forty-sixth year. He was educated at St. Paul's School, Concord, N. H., and at Harvard University, graduating from Harvard in 1888. Immediately after leaving there Col. Astor made a trip around the world. Within a few years he was elected a Director in more than twenty banks, trust companies, railroads, and other financial institutions.
In 1891, three years after leaving Harvard, Col. Astor was married to Miss Willing, the beautiful daughter of Edward S. Willing of Philadelphia. They have two children---William Vincent Astor, 17 years old, and Alice, who is 7. For years the Astors were spoken of as among the happiest couples in New York society. Both are great travelers, and nearly every Summer was spent in Europe, where they are among the best known of Americans. In London few American a women enjoy a greater popularity than Mrs. Astor, and she is almost as well known on the Continent.
It was about the time of his marriage that Col. Astor conceived the idea of building hotels in New York City. His first decided step in that direction was the Astoria, in Thirty-third Street, which combined with the Waldorf, is probably the most famous hotel in the Western Hemisphere. The St. Regis, the Knickerbocker and the Astor are other famous hotels owned by the Astors.
Ex-Gov. Levi F. Morton is responsible for Col. Astor's military title. On his election as Governor of New York he named Col. Astor a member of his staff, with the rank of Colonel.
At the outbreak of the Spanish-American war Col. Astor was one of the first of the wealthy Americans to tender his services to the Government. He not only volunteered his personal services, but also tendered to the Government the use of his magnificent private yacht, the Nourmahal. He also equipped the Astor Battery, which won fame in the Philippines.
Saw Service in the Field
President McKinley made Col. Astor an Inspector General of United States Volunteers, with the rank of Lieutenant Colonel, and as such he saw active service in the field. The late Major Gen. Joseph Wheeler was among his intimate friends. After the surrender of the Spanish Army at Santiago Col. Astor was the officer who carried to Washington the officlal text of Gen. Toral's surrender. After the war, on the recommendation of Gen. Shafter, Cal. Astor was brevetted a Colonel of United States Volunteers "for faithful and meritorious service."
Col. Astor is also an inventor of considerable note, among his inventions being a pneumatic machine for the removal of worn-out materials from roads before the new stone is laid down. This invention received a first prize at the World's Columbian Exposition in 1893. He is known in literary circles as the author of "A Journey in Other Worlds" and other books. "A Journey in Other Worlds" is an imaginative work, dealing with a supposititious life on the planets Saturn and Jupiter. Col. Astor is said to have read over 100 standard works on astronomy before venturing into the book.
Mrs Astor has been referred to as the "best advertisement Worth ever had," and has long been admittedly one of the most beautiful of American women. Her gowns are wonderful creations, and have been the subject of numerous articles in newspapers and magazines. There are many beautiful portraits and photographs of Mrs. Astor in existence, and these have been published scores of times on both sides of the Atlantic. Besides her fame as a society matron, Mrs. Astor is also known as a woman who has given a great deal of her time to charitable work.
King Edward, the Countess of Essex, the Dowager Duchess of Manchester, the Duchess of Marlborough, and the Pagets are among Mrs. Astor's close friends in England.