The Astor Family

Apr 11, 2001
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Mackinac Island in the Straits of Lake Michigan was the fur trading outpost where the founder of the dynasty made money in fur trading before parlaying the profits into real estate.John Jacob's name is on the sign above still. The original buildings are still standing-a far cry from Newport.
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Brian Hawley

Guest
From fur cabins to this. 840 Fifth Avenue built 1891-1896 Richard Morris Hunt architect.


Brian

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Apr 11, 2001
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Kyrila, Madeleine's home was called Casa Invierno and is on Jungle Road between South Ocean and South County Roads in Palm Beach. It's the Spanish Mediterranean home which is currently on the market. It was here that she collapsed and eventually succumbed. Eleanor Widner, Molly Brown, and the Carters all summered at The Breakers- in fact, Molly was there at the time of the disastrous fire! Eleanor eventually got a house to rent. Alfred Vanderbilt's widow Margaret had a place in Palm Beach too and of course our J.J. Astor was regally entertained at the Flagler's mansion.
 
Apr 11, 2001
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Just found out today that the house from which JJ and Madeleine departed for their honeymoon is still standing in New York JJ's sister Carrie ( one of their greatest supporters- no doubt due to her own renegade nuptials to Mr. Wilson) gave the farewell party. Did you know Clinch Smith Molly Brown and the Astors all left on the same day for Europe? Will get a photo of that house next week.
 
Jan 22, 2001
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Shelley,

On January 24, 1912, the New York Times reported that a total of 900 first class passengers left New York for Europe on the Olympic, Cedric and Lapland.

In addition to those names you mentioned, J. Bruce Ismay and Edward Kent sailed on the Olympic and Mrs. W.T. Graham and Margaret Graham sailed on the Cedric
 

Kyrila Scully

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Apr 15, 2001
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South Florida
Thanks, Shelley. I found the address and got general directions from a police officer, but I lost light and will have to try again when my daughter is working and not using me to chauffeur her around. I did find Jack Ryerson's house (see thread) and I have been inside The Breakers and Flagler Museum, both of which are fabulous! I was indeed aware of Molly being at the Breakers during the '25 fire, and incorporated it in the opening paragraph of my script. Molly also spent time with the Astors in Egypt, and she survived another shipping incident, rescued by a ferry which caught fire on the way to safety! What a gal! I have tried to email you privately regarding thoughts about organizing a get-together next year here in Palm Beach County to view "Newport South," but I think my messages didn't get through. The Valentine I sent you for Barbara McDermott was also returned by USPS and I'm concerned about trying to send you my check for Newport.
In addition, Pauline Thayer was an avid golfer up in Hobe Sound, but there are now so many golf courses in that area it will be difficult to find out which one she frequented. I'm also trying to locate information about John and Nelle Pillsbury-Snyder who resided south of me in Delray Beach, which is a cute little town.

All the best,
Kyrila
 
Apr 11, 2001
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Recently, reading up on the Astors in Richard O'Connors fabulous book on Newport- The Golden Summers- I found my sympathy for Ava Willing Astor quite misplaced! Her marriage to JJ of course was orchestrated by that imperial Grand Society Matriarch Caroline Astor- the couple hardly knowing each other. Ava was the beauty of her time apparently and knew it. "Ava Willing...was stunned by her own willowy beauty as any of her admirers...and lived in her own narcissistic little world. Even her foot was so gracefully proportioned that, as Michael Strange remarked, 'sculpted and isolated in a little cabinet, it might have passed for an extreme example of breeding."And speaking of breeding- The lovely Ava , while at the Tennis Casino one afternoon watching a match, caught the heel of this same dainty foot in the bleachers and cartwheeled the entire top to bottom, landing in a heap on the ground. She calmly tidied her clothes, straightened her white kid gloves and sauntered nonchalantly to the nearest exit. The Casino Governors, who had gotten the grandstand from Barnum and Baily Circus declared it too rickety and something was done. And what a mercy- as the ladies would just drop those long kid gloves down between the planks of the bleachers. Yes- Ava was a pip apparently- and somebody ought to have given poor Madeleine a medal!
 
Apr 11, 2001
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Just one more Ava story! The Grand Duke Alexander- brother-in-law- of the Czar, decided to come to Newport one summer. All the society ladies clamored to have him dine at their Newport mansions-football was dainty in comparison- and Ava managed, with her great charm and beauty to lure him. After the dinner- the ladies lined up in all their finery to be presented to a man whose position would be defunct in 3 years. Ava was to write-" I experienced a species of self-loathing for catching the mass nervousness before the Grand Duke entered." Here is a hilarious cartoon of Ava doing the tango.
http://www.jssgallery.org/Other_Artists/Boldini_Giovanni/Boldini_andAvaastor_by_Sem.htm
 

Kris Muhvic

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Sep 26, 2008
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Hello all-
Just a bit of a question here: I heard that the Ava/JJ divorce is forever under wraps; the actual papers are sealed from my understanding- indefinetly. I'm not even sure who instigated the proceedings...although happening AFTER Mrs.(Caroline) Astor's death; I wonder if that was indeed the reason the chain loosened from the ball!

Take care!
Kris
 
Apr 11, 2001
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I should say so Kris! Caroline cooked up the marriage in the first place and plunked them in a single room during to "get acquainted" at Beechwood after the wedding. Although JJ was no lady's man- apparently Grace Vanderbilt thought him attractive and nearly got him down the aisle. I spent today in Newport looking at Astor houses- the house where Madeleine spent her last summer, JJ the VI's Chetwold (burned down in 1972 except for the carriage house, Beechwood of course, Miramar (the Widner's palace) has some of JJ's furniture and a bust of JJ VI, and even saw the house Ava Willing spent her summers in as a debutante. Newport is loaded with Titanic First Class connections. The Tennis Casino,designed by Clinch Smith's famous brother-in law, Stanford White, hosted William Norris Williams and Karl Behr- Williams won the Davis Cup 2 years after Titanic- proving he was right not to let them amputate his legs after the frosty April night of 1912. The Casino was built by a man named Bennett, whose yacht's wireless man was our own Phillips! One connection keeps leading to another- fascinating family. And speaking of White- I saw old Ben Thaw's mansion today- Beachbound, and recalled how Clinch had to be pressured into testifying he was a witness to White's murder by Harry Thaw. Seems they all came to Newport at one time or another!
 
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Beatrice Kaiser

Guest
Hi!
I´ve got a question. I heard that a part of Manhatten was in JJ Astors ownership.
What happened with it after the death of JJ?

Cheers, Bea
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Jim Kalafus

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Dec 3, 2000
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The townhouse at Fifth Avenue and 65th Street, actually a pair of houses designed to appear as one, was demolished in the 1920s and replaced by the new Temple Emanu-El. Caroline Astor's Gold Salon was removed from it intact and survives in Florida- I believe as part of the Ringling estate. The Astor House hotel, at Broadway and Vesey was demolished in halves (1913 and 1926) while J.J.'s Hotel Astor at Times Square was demolished in 1968. The Waldorf-Astoria as he knew it was torn down in 1929-30 to make way for the Empire State Building. His summer home near Rhinecliff NY was demolished in the 1940s, although the sports complex he commissioned there survives. The Astor Theatre was modernised beyond recognition in the 1950s and then removed ca 1970.
 
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Jim has quite a collection of architectural designs and photos of New York "back when" so he surely knows his stuff.

Thanks to Jim and his resources, I was treated to an impression of what the surrounding neighborhood was like in 1915 for Fifth Avenue's "Hickson and Co," the high fashion shop for which Lusitania victim Caroline Hickson-Kennedy was head buyer and designer.

I have made a little study of this forgotten fashion figure and hope to be able to help Lusitania historians understand more about her career so that she can be appreciated for her life's work.
 

Jim Kalafus

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Dec 3, 2000
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Two NYC Astor survivors are the former Astor Building, in Soho at 583 Broadway, which is now the New Museum of Contemporary Art, and the former Vincent Astor residence at 130 East 80th Street, which is a faux-Regency style house considerably less garish than the departed 840 Fifth faux-Chateau in which he grew up.

About Mrs Kennedy- a stock photo of the Hickson Building dating from 1903-4 (you can see the St. Regis Hotel under construction behind it) has been being run in the NYC papers these last few weeks.
 
Apr 11, 2001
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Fabulous photos of Ava- she is a captivating creature to be sure. Here is her "honeymoon" bathtub at Beechwood. The tub must have weighed a ton.
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The photo of the Astors above is taken right in front of the Tennis Casino on Bellevue which we visited last week.