01 April, 2015

The James Joyce Connection

Last week I was having lunch with my friend Carol in Lake Forest and the topic of James Joyce came up. It jogged my memory with regard to Edith's patronage of him as he was working on Ulysses in Zurich during 1918.

James Joyce had relocated to Switzerland during World War I, and he was already familiar with Carl Jung as he had purchased The Significance of the Father in the Destiny of the Individual while living in Trieste, Italy. This is interesting because Joyce was always skeptical of psychological analysis, yet none-the-less it created a connection and in 1918 he became acquainted with Edith Rockefeller McCormick via the psychiatrist.

James Joyce c. 1918


Edith had left the United States in 1913 to become a patient of Jung in Zurich. Over the next eight years she would move from that role to protégée, finally becoming a lay analyst herself. Becoming immersed in Jung's artistic and humanistic techniques, she would underwrite much of the work herself. (She would found and endow the Psychological Club of Zurich.)

Due to her association with Jung (which provided entrée to many scholars and artists) Edith came in contact with James Joyce. She immediately set up a fund of 12,000 Swiss francs (1000 a month) to support Joyce, who had been working on Ulysses since 1914.

The arrangement lasted for about a year and a half, until Edith (ever the ardent supporter) pressed Joyce to undergo analysis with Jung. Despite the fact that the analysis would be offered at her expense, Joyce was vehement in his refusal to participate. It was at this point that his funding was coolly and quietly shut down. (Despite her withdrawal of support for Joyce, Edith's newly established McCormick Stiftung would continue to assist other needy artists, musicians and writers.) Joyce himself would later write after her death that she had been "prompted by humanity and generosity" (Letters, p. 324).

Edith would return to the United States in 1921, with the intention of turning Villa Turicum into a Mecca of psychoanalysis for devotees. Ulysses would be published in Paris in it's entirety in 1922, although it would take over a decade for it to make U.S. publication. It is interesting to note that in 1932 (the year that Edith died) James Joyce was willing to have his troubled daughter Lucia undergo analysis with Jung. The results were unsatisfactory, and by 1935 Joyce discontinued the sessions and terminated all contact with Jung.

17 January, 2015

Edithton Beach

When it comes to grand plans and even grander undoings, Edithton Beach was Edith Rockefeller McCormick's Waterloo. Villa Turicum by default suffered as well due to the circumstances.

In a previous post, I mentioned the inimitable Edwin Krenn (of Krenn & Dato) and one of his projects. In 1923, Edith (never modest about her aspirations) embarked on a plan with her European partners to create a resort/colony for the wealthy. A national contest was held to select a permanent name her community. The ideas poured in because there was to be a prize of $1,500 for the selected name. The submissions included such names as "Eden Pier" and "Ediths-dream", but Elmer Huge in La Porte Indiana won the prize for his concept: "Edithton Beach"

This venture was part of the Rockefeller McCormick Trust; the backbone of Krenn & Dato that realized many of her real estate dreams.

This time about 1,500 acres were involved, with Edwin Krenn at the design helm. This was to be a community of millionaires; complete with a golf course, luxury marina, exclusive schools with playgrounds and of course the Tudor style homes themselves. It was to be located on the Illinois Wisconsin border, bisected by a rail line and fronting Lake Michigan. (Years ago when I first read about this I raised an eyebrow, but more about that later.)

Work on Edithton began post haste, and in designing the community Krenn ransacked the styles of such places as Palm Beach and Atlantic City. It is here that I would like to cite a cheeky article that recently was brought to my attention; written by Diane Giles of the Kenosha News, who claims that if it weren't for the Great Depression, Pleasant Prairie would have (horrors!) a community of millionaires at it's doorstep:

With her divorce settlement and some of Daddy’s money (at one point he had given her $40 million) she began buying up property in Pleasant Prairie. When she was finished, she and her investors owned a large tract between today’s Southport Park and the state line — about 3.5 miles of lakeshore.

Edithton Beach extended to Sheridan Road in places and farther west, past the 2200 block of 104th Street.
One source stated that a big arch was erected over Sheridan Road at the point where a side road led to the east into the heart of the new development: The arch was built to advertise the project.
The plans were indeed grandiose. Edithton Beach was to have a swank downtown area with buildings half-timbered in the old English Tudor style.
Edith spent big bucks — more than $4 million — on the groundwork of her fashionable city, building a harbor for the yachts that were sure to sail in and an 18-hole golf course with a lakefront clubhouse. The infrastructure for streets was begun.

Here is a photo of the Pleasant Prairie -Edithton Beach area taken in 1946, courtesy of historicaerials.com:



The road that you see horizontally across the bottom is current-day 116th Street, which is the North Border to the Chiwaukee Prairie Nature Preserve. Bear in mind, I said 1946. This is the earliest period that we can view from the air what was to constitute a large portion of Edithton Beach proper.

In the 1920's the work commenced, but unfortunately Edith was unable to supervise any of the construction herself, nor even visit the Krenn & Dato offices due to her agoraphobia. As the year 1927 came and went, Krenn & Dato continued to borrow heavily, wading deeper and deeper into debt. This of course sent the Rockefeller McCormick Trust, it's holdings, Edith, and Edwin Krenn & Edward Dato lurching toward the unavoidable disaster which would occur in 1929. After the crash Edith was left with a huge portfolio of unsold real estate, tenants who could not pay, and enormous debts.

At this point our map brings us up to date, because in 1946 a fellow named Joseph Shaffron purchased much of the beleaguered property (in 1936 what constitutes a lot of Pleasant Prairie was sold for back taxes) and renamed the Edithton Beach portion, with it's unfinished roads leading to nowhere, after his daughter. We can now locate it via it's current name, Carol Beach:


As we can see in comparing the previous photo to the above, not much has happened in the 79 years since Edith's death in August of 1932. What did happen is that in 1946 Mr. Shaffron announced that under the new name of Carol Beach Estates the property would be developed in sections. The project was expected to take (once again) several years to complete.

An advertisement that appeared in the Chicago Tribune in September of 1946
Once the first phase of Carol Beach was completed, more expensive homes were planned on the Eastern (more desirable) sections of property. Still, not much of anything happened. This begs one to wonder what would have happened if the Great Depression hadn't occurred, or if Edith had lived and her father John D. Rockefeller would have chosen to bail the project out in some fashion.
My guess is; you could have built it, but the millionaires would not have flocked. The area is certainly lovely - that is evidenced today by the Chiwaukee Preserve. It is perhaps there that we find a silver lining to this entire little drama. If the project had indeed progressed as planned, it is almost certain that the vast portions of what turned out to be undeveloped land would never have been available for preservation.

30 October, 2014

Villa Turicum in the 1970s

I recently finished editing a few photos taken on the grounds of Villa Turicum in the early 1970s - a time when many of us first became familiar with it, although it has been my pleasure to speak with many who knew the estate from an earlier age as well.

I believe many of you will enjoy this glance back at a period when Villa Turicum was lost - yet retained all of it's magic.


 Service gates (of which there were once many) that allowed auxiliary access to many parts to the estate and gardens.


 Twin dolphins and the first fountain terrace. Villa Turicum itself once stood directly above.

The fountain in its heyday. 


 Once of the many staircases and cascades that ran between fountains down the bluff to the swimming pool and the lake.



 Pelican (beheaded by vandals) and twin salamanders. This was another stop on many of the terraces running down the bluff.



 Water cascade detail.



 The view from the top of the bathhouse/changing rooms.



 Entrance to the bathhouse/changing rooms that stands behind the swimming pool at the foot of the bluff.



 Window of the changing rooms. I like the wave detail.



 This tunnel in the bathhouse changing rooms led to an elevator that would take guests to the house 70 feet above. When Villa Turicum was torn down, much of the debris was dumped into the elevator shaft, with the elevator still inside.



 Broken statuary near the swimming pool.



 M for McCormick of course.



 The view from on top of the bluff to the south. A collapsed staircase and the swimming pool are to the left.


14 July, 2014

Garden Show Held At Villa Turicum


June 22, 1930 - LAKE FOREST matrons who attended the garden show held last week-end at Villa Turicum, Mrs. Rockefeller McCormick's estate, included Mrs. T. Philip Swift, Mrs. Stuart J. Templeton, and Mrs. Charles F. Glore. Mrs. Glore's daughter, Frances assisted at the flower market.  (Chicago Daily Tribune)


Mrs. Stuart J. Templeton


Mrs. Charles F. Glore and Frances Glore



The Cut Flower Garden of Mrs. Rockefeller McCormick's Lake Forest Estate


Mrs. T. Philip Swift

07 July, 2014

Muriel in Lake Forest


It wasn't long after Edith Rockefeller McCormick's  return from a seven year tarriance in Switzerland and her subsequent divorce from Harold Fowler McCormick in 1921 that daughter Muriel "flew the coop" so-to-speak, and became inseparable from the socially prominent Mr. and Mrs. George Alexander McKinlock.  Years would be spent traveling and living with them, as Muriel and Mrs. McKinlock shared a special mother and daughter bond - bolstered by Muriel's claim to being the "spiritual bride" of the McKinlock's deceased son, who was killed by a sniper's bullet in WWI. (We'll save that for another post.)



Muriel McCormick in her early twenties


In July of 1926 the Chicago Daily Tribune announced: Miss Muriel McCormick made use of one of the most convenient of feminine prerogatives last week and changed her mind about her plans for the summer. Instead of accompanying the George McKinlocks when they sailed on the Conte Rosso Saturday for a holiday in the Italian lake country, she is to be in Lake Forest, in charge of the McKinlock ménage until the return in September.

The next two months were not to find Muriel idle, as she had announced that she intended to spend the summer studying music. Her regimen was to include piano practice six hours a day - quite a task for a young, mercurial woman of 23. (The previous summer, Muriel had aspired to opera, diligently practicing in a small 20 by 16 foot back yard studio that the McKinlocks had built for her.)

The Tribune's report of July 12th concluded: She went as far as New York with the McKinlocks to bid them adieu at the dock, and then spent the weekend just past with her grandfather, John D. Rockefeller at his beautiful estate on the Hudson. She is to return tomorrow to this part of the world, to take up the work with which she'll fill the time until her hosts sail for home again.

Of course my question is - did she spend any time at Villa Turicum? Her mother owned it (Edith purchased it from Harold after the divorce) but the relationship between true mother and daughter was contentious, at best. I can only surmise that she did, because it wouldn't be too many years later that she would have her own estate in Palm Beach, FL after spending many years with the McKinlocks at their villa in Vita Serena, "Casa Alejandro."  Muriel would name her own Palm Beach home in Via Bellaria, "Villa Turicum."


New book explores the tale of the dead son and his devoted mother  George Alexander and Marion McKinlock's Casa Alejandro in Palm Beach, FL

03 July, 2014

Edithton Beach Revisted


My friend Rommy Lopat, who publishes the very smart Weedpatch Gazette sent me an email the other day with a link to an essay about Chiwaukee Prairie, WI - and what was once Edithton Beach. This was quite a coincidence, as I had recently discovered an old article in my files about it and I was planning on revisiting the topic here.

I've included the link to my original post above, but to quickly brief you:  Edithton Beach was the "millionaires" playground which Edith Rockefeller McCormick started to build with her real estate business partners Edwin Krenn and Edward Dato in the 1920s. It was located on the shore of Lake Michigan in southern Wisconsin, an area now known as Chiwaukee.


This is an advertisement that ran in the Sept. 16th, 1925 Chicago Daily Tribune with the recipients of prize money for the naming of the development listed at right. Over 80,000 people entered the contest, and Elmer H. Huge of Laporte, Indiana won first prize with "Edithon Beach." He was presented with a $1,500 check at a ceremony held at the Drake Hotel on Sept. 15th, 1925. Second prize was "Nirvana" ($500), and third prize ($350) was awarded to the almost identical "Edithston Beach." ($150 went to runner up "Krenado Beach.")

It has been estimated that Edith spent upwards of $4,000,000 on the 1500 acre project, from its inception in the mid 1920s until her death in August of 1932 - at which time she was liquidating assets to cover the interest on bond issues. All buildings in the development were to be like Spanish castles, an airport was laid out and a yacht harbor and a golf course planned, but only one building was ever erected.

The depression came in 1929 of course, and it was impossible for the firm of Krenn & Dato (funded by the Edith Rockefeller McCormick Trust) to sell any of the acreage. Up until the day of her death, Edith paid the amounts due on $1,137,500 in bonds and retired a large part of the issue. Almost five years later the Circuit Court in Kenosha entered a foreclosure decree to satisfy a $425,000 judgement secured by bondholders on the remaining debt.

It would take another decade, and the conclusion of WWII before anyone considered development of any sort. Plans were made, and once more, plans faltered. This was much to the benefit of what would eventually become Chiwaukee Prairie, managed by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and The Nature Conservancy. 

16 June, 2014

June 17th, 1915

It would take another six years.



The chances are very slim for having Mrs. Harold McCormick back in Lake Forest this summer.  She is still at her rest cure in Zurich, Switzerland. The whole McCormick family, including the head, seems utterly enthralled with Zurich. Mrs. McCormick goes boating on the Swiss lakes - she never goes on Lake Michigan - she plays tennis daily, and rides, and when at home her only exercise is walking and dancing.

Then, it seems, she has gathered a very interesting foreign circle at Zurich. Many brilliant Poles, Russians, Greeks, and Serbians are refugees there, and a salon was not difficult to establish; finally both Mr. and Mrs. McCormick are interested in the Red Cross and working for it. SO with the war of eleven nations raging on all side of them the atmosphere is undoubtedly charged with more vital possibilities than Lake Forest in Summer.

Chicago Daily Tribune; Jun 17, 1915