Wouldn’t it be fun to spend a week in the setting of an Emilie Loring novel?
“The house, Trentmere Towers, a large part of which dates back to the sixteenth century, is very beautiful, set in its famous gardens, with farmhouses, stables and garages. From the top of a hill it overlooks its own villages, streams and valleys. It has been modernized in keeping with its architecture and, unlike many of our old homes, has been kept in perfect repair. The estate covers 30,000 acres.” High of Heart
Emilie Loring’s characters often live on large estates. Even their “smaller” homes are staffed with servants, and there are rooms and furnishings we may not have in our homes today. “Meet you in the conservatory?”
A butler in immaculate blue livery opened the door.
Perched on a corner of a massive table desk, he looked up at the portrait above the carved mantel, which, with doors and window and trim, years and years before had been brought from a castle overseas.
He crossed to the French window and stepped out on a terrace which extended the length of the house.
We Ride the Gale!
That’s interesting to me, because, for most of her writing life, Emilie Loring didn’t live in a mansion or on a grand estate. She and Victor lived in a Beacon Hill apartment, a single-floor flat at 25 Chestnut Street.
Eve looked back at the house she had left… fallen from its once aristocratic estate into apartments. It was a pity that the decorative balconies and wrought iron trellises on the back weren’t visible from the street. It’s a Great World!
This Sanborn Map tells us that 25 Chestnut had six floors, each one a separate apartment (F=flat). An opening on the first floor led to a side passageway, and on the opposite side of the building was an enclosed elevator (E) with a wired glass door. Emilie and Victor entered the building through the front door and went up the elevator to their apartment. Don’t be deceived by its narrow facade. The Lorings’ apartment was about one-thousand square feet, which was fine for a pied-à-terre in the city.
Emilie Loring’s larger home was her summer home in Blue Hill, Maine. “Stone House” had two floors and a basement, with a living room, dining room, kitchen, and “gun room” (study) on the main floor, bedrooms and a bathroom upstairs, and an ell apartment for their single servant, a cook. It wasn’t as fancy as Arcady or some of the other Blue Hill cottages, but it held its own in history and comforts.
If we have a summer place today, chances are it’s smaller than our year-round homes–a cabin, perhaps, or a small cottage. I have vacationed at what were called “cottages” in earlier times. They’re huge! I didn’t understand how they could be called “cottages,” until I learned that the distinction was whether they were built to be year-round homes or not.
Although modest in size, the Lorings’ Beacon Hill apartment was in a perfect location for all they wanted to do. Talk about walkable! The Boston Authors Club, Women’s Republican Club, and Women’s City Club were close by, and the Athenaeum and Victor’s office in the Old South Building were a short walk beyond the State House. Just south were the Boston Common and Boston Public Garden, and to the west were the shops along Charles Street and the Charles River beyond. (See: Enjoy a Day in Emilie’s Boston Neighborhood)
Emilie’s writing friends lived within walking distance, too. Sara Ware Bassett and her sister owned all three floors of their West Cedar home, plus a summer home in Princeton, Massachusetts, and a family cottage on the Cape.
Clara Endicott Sears never skimped on her domiciles! In town, her inherited, six-floor, 26,000 square foot mansion overlooked the Charles River and came complete with art work and furnishings worth more than five million dollars. Her country home, “The Pergolas,” had marble pillars imported from a palace in Venice. Its grounds were so large that she had room to raise dairy cattle (clearly not personally!) and build three museums besides.
Emilie spent time at all of these places and more. When she wrote of spacious grounds and liveried servants, it was a life she knew well. Do you have a favorite? Karrisbrooke in Rainbow at Dusk? The Castle in There Is Always Love? Michael Farr’s Kingscourt in We Ride the Gale?
Every now and then, I have an opportunity to visit in a grand home like these, but it’s not my usual setting. I have more IKEA than antiques in my home, for sure! But on my Bookshelf are fifty invitations to live in one of these special places for just about, oh, two hundred pages. Where do you feel like going today?