But, the star of the house is its entrance hall, one of the grandest to survive from colonial New England. Rather than running through the center of the house in usual 18th century fashion, it occupies more than 1/4 of the first floor, allowing for an exceptionally broad two-run staircase, with superb carved details and a great arched window on the landing. In the early 19th century, a scenic wallpaper, probably Dufour, depicting the Bay of Naples in grisaille was added. The effect is tremendous, the harmony between the Georgian woodwork and the sweeping classical panoramic wallpaper unexpectedly fine.
Only 7 miles and 10 years separate the gilded splendors of Wingwood House at Bar Harbor ( parts 1, 2, & 3) from this exciting house. Both were built for wealthy women prominent in their respective worlds, both were designed by Philadelphia architects. Both take inspiration from a Maine vernacular. There the resemblance ends. Wingwood looks back to a romanticized past, Fortune Rock looks forward to an ideal future. They provide interesting case study in the range of architectural aspirations.
The original intention was that the house be the central building of a larger family compound, a vision never fully realized, although Mrs. Thomas’s architect son did build his own very interesting house sitting astride a small cove, looking across to his mother’s house in flight above the water.
In the 1980’s the house was purchased by a member of the Berwind family. Nothing could be further from the splendors of his great uncle’s palace at Newport. The Berwinds undertook a sympathetic restoration and re-decoration of the house, by then time-worn. Missing was Clara Fargo Thomas’s spectacular mural from the dining room.
The color photographs of Fortune Rock are from a 1987 article in the New York Times. Unfortunately, they were damaged in my files, and I was unable to straighten them for good scans. But they show well how the house’s design holds up against contemporary work.
In the years since her death in 1993, there have been attempts to deify Doris Duke as a style icon. Colorful she may have been, but for me, that ultimate refinement of eye just wasn’t there. However, with all that lovely lolly, she did manage to pick up a few interesting things along the way.
The post about the smalt room at the Warner House in Portsmouth has gotten so much email response that I am posting a couple more photographs for your enjoyment.
Here the paper is seen in two other colorways, from A.L. Diamant Company, which has distributed Zuber papers in America since 1885
Note to readers: Although this puts to shame the gaudy and expensive paint effects various Park Avenue acquaintances have been allowing their decorators to smear over their walls for lo these many years, you should not try this at home. Really, you shouldn’t. Unless of course, you have gorgeous 18th century paneled rooms that garner light from nearby water….