Sunday, February 9, 2014

Downton Abbey Style in Southampton 1900 - 1920

The Southampton Historical Museum has a large collection of vintage women's gowns that were donated by the doyennes of High Society that spent summers in the Southampton Summer Colony. The popularity of Downton Abbey has created an opportune time to put these gowns on display along with other artifacts from the community of that gilded age before the Great Depression.
"When the Long Island Rail Road was extended to Southampton in 1870 bringing an influx of summer visitors seeking a quiet and wholesome rural refuge from the heat and turmoil of city life, that is exactly what they found. In the decades that followed, the very name Southampton came to connote a world of debutantes, yachts, magnates and mansions."  -Southampton Historical Museum
On October 9, 1915 Frances "Tanty" Breese married Lawrence McKeever Miller in the Music Room of "The Orchard," the Breese family home on Hill Street that is today the Whitefield condominiums. On that same day, her brother Robert and Beatrice Claflin were married at St. Andrew's Dune Church. The double wedding and the joint reception that followed at The Orchard had society buzzing in Southampton, New York and beyond. The light from huge candles cast a medieval glow over the elaborate Music Room as "Tanty", a former tomboy who would one day abandon conventional married life for a creative career, approached the altar on the arm of her father, James Lawrence Breese. - Southampton Historical Museum
Frances "Tanty" Breese, 1915
"And now I walked down the aisle on Papa's arm. I wore a long white satin gown and a rose point court train. The lace, a gift from my godfather, J.Kennedy Tod, was said to have belonged to the Empress Eugenie of France. My grandmother Breese's point d'esprit veil was draped over my head, and I carried Madonna lilies." - "More about "Tanty" Volume 2 of an autobiography by Frances Miller

The Orchard
photo from Houses of the Hamptons
by Gary Lawrance and Anne Surchin
In 1895, wealth financier James Breese bought the property on Hill Street and commissioned the master architectural firm of McKim, Mead and White, to design a Colonial Revival Home that was modeled after George Washington's Mount Vernon. The result, a seemingly simple Colonial home, but with its ocean views, sweeping gardens, and 35 rooms it was anything but simple. - From "Houses of the Hamptons 1880-1930" by Gary Lawrance and Anne Surchin.
The Orchard photo by Frances Benjamin Johnston
from the Library of Congress here
The Music Room at The Orchard
photo from here
Students of the William Merritt Chase Summer School of Art
photo from here
"Seasonal residents arriving in Southampton for the summer in the early years of the 19th century often brought with them ten or more servants and trunks laden with ball gowns, "sportswear" (ladies' bloomers for bicycling, scarlet blazers for golfers), china, crystal and all the necessities for high-style entertaining." - Southampton Historical Museum

I can picture Lady Grantham visiting her American mother's summer home in Long Island. Possible Season Five? Are you listening Mr. Fellowes?
photo of Elizabeth McGovern and Laura Carmichael property of Downton Abbey
Historical photos courtesy of the Southampton Historical Museum unless otherwise noted.

1 comment:

  1. I love DA..and Call The Midwife..
    What a treat this visit was:)
    All very petite:)
    How I love their clothes!


Thank you for your comments!