Astor Villa Auctioned at Newport; Chain Drug Store Owner Is Buyer

New York Times

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NEWPORT, R. I., July l7---A chain drugstore owner purchased today the fourteen-room French villa of John Jacob Astor here for less than half of its original purchase price. The showplace went under the hammer at an auction first to a liquor dealer for $72,000 but the final buyer was later identified as having bought the estate for $71,000.

Put up for auction by Joseph P. Day, Inc., at noon before a crowd of 300 which included many of the prominent persons resident in this summer colony, the palatial Chetwode was knocked-down first for the high bid of $72,000 to Andrew F. Rotelli of Providence, R. I., a wholesale liquor dealer.

After the session the dealer, in a conference, indicated that he was unwilling to wait five days for final approval of the purchase. The next highest bidder, James O'Donnell of Middletown, R. I., was declared the buyer.

The drugstore owner is said to have homes also in Catonsville, Md., and Palm Beach Fla., and he is reputed to have bought Whiteholme, the estate of the late Dr. Henry Barton Jacobs, and By-the-Sea, the Evalyn Walsh McLean estate here, both of which he later resold at a profit.

Mr. Astor paid originally $150,000 for the forty-six-year-old five-acre estate in 1934. It is carried on the Newport tax books at $143,500. Mr. Astor is the son of the famous financier who was lost in the sinking of the Titanic.

The three-story stone villa was furnished with period pieces imported from France, including marble mantelpieces and ornate brocades and panelings.

Mr. Astor bought the mansion on Bellevue Avenue in 1934 from Mrs. Storrs Wells.

Mr. Astor was reported to have purchased Chetwode when he was engaged to Miss Eileen Gillespie. He spent a honeymoon there in 1943 after his marriage to Ellen Tuck French. They were divorced in 1943. The estate has been unoccupied since that divorce.

The owner strolled through the sculptured hedgerows and formal gardens today with his wife, the former Gretchen Gretsch. Their summer residence is listed now as “New Haven Farm,” Basking Ridge, N. J.

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Related Biographies:

John Jacob Astor
Madeleine Talmage Astor


Mark Baber


Encyclopedia Titanica (2004) Astor Villa Auctioned at Newport; Chain Drug Store Owner Is Buyer (New York Times, Sunday 18th July 1948, ref: #3745, published 14 September 2004, generated 4th August 2021 05:41:21 AM); URL :