Saturday, January 14, 2012

'Shadow Lawn'

'Shadow Lawn', the John A. McCall estate designed by Henry Edward Creiger c. 1902 in Long Branch, New Jersey. McCall was president of the New York Life Insurance Company, a post he held for fourteen years. A series of scandals affecting life insurance companies the country over ultimately forced McCall's resignation from New York Life in January 1906, a month before his death. According to the NYTimes he was "the last of the Presidents of the three great life insurance companies to resign his office as a result of the scandals." The other two were James W. Alexander, president of the Equitable Life Assurance Company and Richard A. McCurdy, president of the Mutual Life Insurance Company. All three men suffered physical breakdowns as a result.

Following McCall's death the house was purchased by Myron H. Oppenheim with intentions of converting the estate into a private country club. The plan was given up when he was unable to secure enough members. In late 1906 'Shadow Lawn' was then resold to Abraham White, president of the United Wireless Telegraph Company for what was believed to be $500,000. When White was unable to meet his financial obligations on the house in 1908 it was again sold, this time at a Sheriff's sale back to Myron H. Oppenheim for $108,000. In early 1909 Oppenheim resold the house to Joseph B. Greenhut, president of J.B. Greenhut & Company. In 1915 it was offered to President Woodrow Wilson as the Summer White House, which he accepted. In 1918 the estate was purchased by Hubert T. Parson, president of F.W. Woolworth Company. The residence suffered a devastating fire in 1927 and Parson would have Horace Trumbauer design his replacement (1927-1930). Click HERE to see the c. 1930 'Shadow Lawn' on google earth, now part of Monmouth University. Click HERE for a 1915 NYTimes article on 'Shadow Lawn'.

Photos from Architectural Record, 1904.


The Devoted Classicist said...

The Social Hall was really impressive! Was the Traumbauer version used as Daddy Warbuck's house in the film "Annie"?

archibuff said...

Definitely one of the most magnificent over-the-top mansions of the era. Amazing central hall and stairs. Reminds me of New Jersey's version of Pembroke. Has all the architectural bells and whistles one could ever desire. Even has Delamar's "crows nest" observation loggia on the roof. Simply a spectacular wooden fantasy palace.

Version II, the enormous masonry home by Trumbauer, is maybe a more elegant and restrained version but it is interesting that the idea of a grand central hall was retained. Very lucky that version II has survived, but would have loved to have seen version I.

archibuff said...

Yes, Annie is the movie to watch if you want to see the central hall.

Lora said...

Absolutely beautiful. For me, this one wins the prize. The interior is magnificent.

The Down East Dilettante said...

The entire story of Mrs. Parson deciding at the last minute that she needed a rooftop pavilion on the new version after all, thus ruining her husband financially, is an amazing tale.

Truly, with this house, aesthetics are entirely beside the point. It may be ugly, but it is lively, and it is astonishing and weird and wonderful.

PS. I consider the central hall of the Trumbauer version to be a singularly odd space. Too long, too narrow, too high, more office building or hotel than grand house, whereas the much more sensual McCall version is Beaux Arts on crack.

Anonymous said...

WOW.... So gorgeous, ornate and extravagant. Love the repetitive use of circular forms in the interior design. The social hall is astounding & must have flooded the lower rooms with light.