Tuxedo Park

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When the gentlemen of the day adopted a new style of dinner jacket, fresh from Savile Row, at an annual ball, the jacket from that day forward took the name of the town. The man was Alfred Lee Loomis. What his peerage peers did not know, however, was that, as war in Europe loomed, he was deeply involved in helping the United States play technological catch-up with Germany. Yet the story of this secret lab and this eccentric genius was virtually forgotten until only recently.

Jennet Conant remembers hearing stories about the lab from her grandfather, James B.

Conant, a noted chemist, president of Harvard, and the key scientific advisor on the Manhattan Project. The Council's mission was to oversee scientific research directed toward the impending war effort. This amazed and amused my grandfather. The story was so outrageous, even esteemed experts found it hard to believe Loomis had accomplished so much, until they were presented with documented evidence. Alfred Lee Loomis was born with the bluest of blue blood in But his passion was science.

After that war he left the law and switched to finance, making gobs of money funding the electrification of the country. In , he bought an empty, 16, sq ft Tudor mansion, built around for the financier Spencer Trask. A year later, Loomis foresaw economic troubles ahead, and converted all his assets to gold — thereby avoiding the Crash of , and then buying up lots of distressed stock in its aftermath and making even more gobs of money.

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During these years, Loomis and his staff published important papers in the fledgling areas of spectronomy, electro-encephalography, precise time measurement, and even sleep study. A present-day look at the building that was the Loomis Lab. Henry Barbey, a sister of the founder. The planning was done by correspondence, however, and her instructions were not too precise.

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The result was that her small chalet turned out to be an imposing mansion with a great hall and fifteen-foot ceilings and all but impossible to heat in the winter. A gentleman who rented it one year ate breakfast in his fur coat. Barbey herself, according to legend, took one look at the house and never came back. There was also during this period a weird epidemic of laboriously moving cottages built during the modest period to more felicitous, or at least more impressive, locations.

And many of the older and smaller cottages were enlarged, often to twice their original size. One was enlarged so much that it needed fourteen rooms just for the servants.

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Victory in these architectural jousts probably belonged to the Richard Mortimers. The Mortimers were pioneer settlers who, in , deserted their cozy cottage for a fifty-four-room villa in the Italian style. Like antediluvian monsters that could not adapt to changes, the overblown cottages and grandiose manor houses of the pretentious period became increasingly prone to attacks of financial distemper.

Nor was grandiose architecture the only peril to which Tuxedo Park was exposed. As a seasonal resort, it was vulnerable to the whims of fashion, and although it developed into a remarkably stable community compared with other resorts, it was always plagued by transients and deserters.

In , following a series of humiliating social and political fiascos, Mr. There he founded the distinguished English branch of the Astor family, became more British than the British, and eventually was rewarded with a hereditary title. Even Tuxedo Park could not match that kind of social security. The most deplorable defection, however, was that of the founding father himself. He retained firm control of the Tuxedo Park Association, however, and on his death in at the age of sixty-eight, his still substantial holdings were left in trust for his grandchildren.

The reign of the Lorillard dynasty over Tuxedo Park, though diminished in energy and power, was faithfully carried on by his son and grandson, Pierre V and Pierre VI. Tribal clannishness, nourished by frequent intermarriages among offspring of the pioneer settlers and intensified by the insidious effect of the fence syndrome, bred both disdain for outsiders and fear of their contaminating influence.

Unrelated but otherwise perfectly acceptable newcomers sometimes found it so difficult to break into the activities of a tightly knit cousinage that they gave up in despair and departed. Snobbery at Tuxedo came in such concentrated and virulent doses that it produced a stifling air of complacency and stilted formality.

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Although Tuxedoites might, as individuals, deplore the elaborate formality that prevailed in the park, it seemed to be a group affliction for which there was no cure. Post said later. You bowed when you shook hands. Dorothy Draper, daughter of Mr. Paul Tuckerman, loyal Tuxedoites to the core, minced no words about it.


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Tuxedo had holes in its fence and I escaped through one of them and married George Draper. Barnwell, another fugitive, is even more poignant. The first baby ever born in the park—on June 7, —he could never escape the unhappy distinction of being known as the Tuxedo Baby. The tournament had been opened to outsiders with some reluctance and apparently only on the proud assumption that social inferiors could not compete successfully against such Tuxedo-bred masters of this game of kings as T.

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Suffern Tailer, Clarence C. Pell, and Pierre Lorillard VI. To make matters worse, young Gould was no ordinary outsider: he was the grandson and namesake of the late and still detested scourge of Wall Street. To the dismay of his social betters, however, he developed into one of the great players in the history of the sport and reigned supreme as national champion for twenty years. Even when it was revived many years later, after Gould was safely in retirement, the governors took the precaution of stipulating that national titleholders, past or present, were ineligible to compete.

Death and taxes, those implacable menaces to exclusive enclaves of the rich in a democracy, inevitably took their toll at Tuxedo. Gaps in the dwindling ranks of the old guard were filled by newcomers of less impeccable lineage, ranging in quality from George F. Baker, a self-made but otherwise eminently respectable banker of the old school, down to Charles E. The Autumn Ball continued to be a major event of the New York social season and the Tuxedo Club remained a defiant citadel of inherited wealth.

Cottages were boarded up to economize on maintenance costs, and some of the great manor houses were demolished to reduce taxes. A disturbing omen for the future was the occasional sale of an abandoned cottage at a pitifully low price to a buyer who had no chance whatever of making the club. If times were hard inside the park, they were even harder on the other side of the fence.

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Residents of the park, while accepting feudal privileges as their natural due, had not been noteworthy for assuming any concomitant feudal obligations and for the most part were indifferent to the welfare of the surrounding community. It did not seem to disturb them, for instance, that many of the villagers as those who lived on the wrong side of the fence were condescendingly called still inhabited the wretched shanties of their immigrant fathers and grandfathers who had built the park. The social gulf between the residents of the park and the villagers was so immense that the Honorable Katharine D.

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