01 October, 2010

Folded Memories


This morning I found myself re-reading an article written by Arthur Miller for LAKE FOREST COUNTRY PLACES, XVIII in 1996. The two sections, Walden I & Walden II contain various recollections, and I forgot that Walden II has a memory of Villa Turiucm. Here is a snippet:

Though Miss Jackson was only three years old when she came to "Walden," she recalls many stories about her earlier home -- Harold and Edith Rockefeller McCormicks' "Villa Turicum" which was south of "Walden" across Jasmine or Westleigh Road. Contrary to reports elsewhere the family knew that Edith McCormick had spent at least one night there, since the next morning the chauffeur came to their house on the estate to seek flowers Mrs. McCormick wanted to take with her back to the city. Also, the family has a snapshot of the airborne seaplane Harold McCormick used to commute back and forth to the city. The pilot had only one arm -- the other had been taken off by a tricky propeller. Harold McCormick figures prominently in a chapter entitled "Early Flying" in Tribune writer and cartoonist John McCutcheon's very readable autobiography, Drawn From Memory (1950). On p. 240 he reports that Harold had the first private plane in the region and that he "built a hangar on the beach below" his Lake Forest house. McCutcheon in 1911 was an early passenger from Grant Park to the "Villa Turicum" beach.

A photo I restored of Harold and Mathilde in a canoe on the Villa Turiucum beach. In the background is the "hanger" mentioned above, which actually moored the seaplane, allowing it to be taken up onto the beach to a boathouse.

I had completely forgotten about this, but I smiled as I remembered researching how much Harold liked to fly back and forth from Chicago to Lake Forest. When I originally was building the Villa Turicum website, one of the first elements was a section devoted to this, titled, ELITE SPORTSMAN REQUIRED FLYING BOATS . I still have the photos of the planes, one of which was named "Edith."

(Note Edith's name painted on the fuselage above)

Following is the subsequent portion with further reference to Villa Turicum:

Miss Jackson also reports having a photo of the "Villa Turicum" garden's outline taken before it was planted. A few other mementoes reflect the times. First, Miss Jackson has from her mother an intricately stitched lacework tablecloth, now framed, which was cast off by Edith McCormick but rescued by a staff member for Miss Jackson's mother. From Cyrus McCormick's "Walden" there are both a discarded blue china tea pot on little legs and also a pressed-glass bottle for shaving lotion, from Cyrus III and meant as a gift for Lee (who found it too fussy for a man). Most of Edith McCormick's effects were auctioned off, spectacularly at a tiny fraction of their costs, in the 1930s -- the College library has one of the sale catalogs which shows the contrast with the Jackie Onassis sale which fetched prices so far above the estimates. Edith McCormick had lost her fortune through ill-conceived investments in an era of sobering failures. Hardly anybody could afford to buy from her collection. She and Harold had divorced much earlier. Indeed, when Ruth Jackson was three and her parents moved across Westleigh Road to "Walden" she recalls hearing in the family that this was not considered as one brother raiding the neighboring brother's staff, since Harold and Edith were breaking up.

Incidentally, Harold's love of flying was well documented, and over the years I've discovered many photographs that were taken. Harold also donated an extraordinary amount of aeronautica to Princeton University.


Harold (left) and one of his pilots, C.C. Witmer.

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