Saturday, October 18, 2008

Didja Know? The Cottage - Francis S. Kinney's Home

From Cornie Hubner's Didja Know? Series comes the following article titled The Cottage about Francis S. Kinney's original house in Kinnelon, NJ.

"Cottage," defined by Webster, is "a small single story Country House - a Summer house used for vacations." Mr. Francis S. Kinney, manufacturer of the automatic cigarette machine [note:  from this reference, it seems that Duke had the rights to the automatic cigarette machine and not Kinney] and President of the Sweet Caporal Tobacco Company [note:  Sweet Caporal was a cigarette brand of Kinney Brothers Tobacco Company that Francis and his brother Abbott - founder of Venice, CA - formed and that eventually became part of American Tobacco Company], built his 80 [?] room "Cottage" on the 5,000 acre estate he called Kinnelon. That name was changed to Smoke Rise when it was taken for the Borough that was Incorporated in 1922. The plain four story shingle building, belying its luxurious interior was built by local craftsmen in the late 1880s directed by a master carpenter who doubled as the local mortician.

Another fabulous four story granite "Cottage" had been built a few years earlier in the hills near what is now Clinton reservoir. It was located on the 300 acre estate of L. Cross, a New York financier at the astronomical cost of $1,500,000. Used only as a summer residence it lost its attraction 20 years later in 1900 when it was sold to the Water Company for $150,000. Natives never ceased to marvel at the wealth that could afford a $50,000 yearly rental, exclusive of taxes and upkeep.

The allure of the very rich for natural unique settings was recognized by Richmond Talbot [John's great uncle] and Pierre Lorillard the Tobacco tycoon and the group that created the Tuxedo park enclave in the nearby hills of New York. Large acreage estates were sold to friendly tobacco magnate competitors, members of the "400" and even some whose rapacious forebears or robber baron ancestors provided the financial status to qualify for membership in the Club. The "Cottages" mainly occupied in the summer were kept fully staffed all year as settings for magnificent balls and entertaining that maintained positions at the top of the social structure. It was here that men's formal dress became the "Tuxedo" when tails were cut off the white tied uniform and accepted for all except the most solemn occasions.

Informality marked the life of the Kinneys and their guests in the "Cottage" on Stickle Pond [Lake Kinnelon]. No blueprints or drawings are available so that it can be reconstructed only from photographs, stories from living locals, descendants of employees - and hearsay. It had eight chimneys that served 40 fireplaces of varying sizes and anywhere from 52 to 80 rooms. Running water was supplied from the lake by a hydraulic operated pump called a Ram. Still in place under the dam it used a series of pipes and valves activated by the force of rushing water pressure, compressing air in a chamber with enough power to lift the water to tanks above the lake level.

The oblong residence was built on a foundation, exposed at slightly above lake level on the West and South sides. This was the first floor containing the Kitchen, Pantry, cold Storage, Laundry, Utility and Staff lounge and Dining Rooms. Two full time workers washed and ironed the laundry that must have been hung somewhere in the sun out of sight on the South side. It was the domain of the imported Chef and his assistant who directed scullery maids in the preparation of the meals delivered by dumbwaiter to the second floor.

The formal entrance on the north side, at ground level, was the second floor living area. A porch that looked to be at least 20 feet wide extended over the exposed foundation on the West and South sides with an unrestricted view of the water. The entrance opened into a wide reception area form which an open stairway led to the upper chambers. The formal dining room and the smaller family room was served from the butler's pantry where the food was checked, salads and desserts prepared for its gracious presentation to the diners. A large room for entertaining, the library, the den and the family lounge exiting on the porch and possibly the butler's business office, completed this floor.

Several family suites occupied the third floor together with many bedrooms. There is no information about the number of bathrooms although it is known they were furnished withpull chain "water closets" and footed cast iron enameled bathtubs and lavatories. Bedrooms and the household supplies storage room occupied the fourth floor. Rooms were also assigned to nurses, nannies and personal staff members who were on full time call. Other servants had quarters over the carriage house and the barn now the Inn. A large glassed cupola structure on the roof indicated an atrium vaguely recalled by those who as youngsters "saw all the way to the roof." Fireplaces were stoked by a full time attendant with a supply of cut an split "to order" logs.

The Kinneys never competed in the ostentatious display on Newport's opulence that ended with World War I. The resort had become a stage for a public display of wealth in the mansions of the two Vanderbilts costing over ten million challenged by the Astors, Morgans and other "very rich." A Narragansett Pier mansion that must have been attractive, was built by the Kinneys used for a number of Summers before being converted to a hotel known at the Marble Palace [note: the Marble Palace was built by and for the Vanderbilts, with no mention of the Kinneys. Perhaps the Kinney Bungalow in Naragansett, Rhode Island built in 1899 is the building Cornie was thinking of?].

On Mr. Kinney's death in 1923, the "Cottage" was occupied by Morris and his brother Warren with his wife and two children. Locals were shocked to learn but delighted to discuss the will that bequeathed an income of $20,000 monthly to the three offspring at a time when $2,000 yearly amply supported a home and family. After the Warren Kinney family moved in '25, the "Upstairs-Downstairs" staff was disbanded and Morris took off for an extended tour of the world with his friend Alden Talbot.

Returning in '33, the "Cottage," impossible to heat and without an extensive staff, was found to be impossible as bachelor quarters and was torn down. Its lumber was salvaged to build local Fire House No. 1 and part of its cellar for the base of the 34 room "Cotswold" that was completed in '34. The unused portion became an outstanding English garden now replaced by a modern pool [note:  Wikipedia reference to Cotswolds].

PS: More later about the estate that once employed up to 80 in the household staff and framing operations.

[Note: photos taken at l'Ecole Museum.]

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