Saturday, May 9, 2009

Didja Know? "Kinnelon" Estate of Francis S. Kinney Part II

Continuing with Cornie Hubner's Didja Know? series, here follows his article about the "Kinnelon" Estate of Francis S. Kinney Part II which relates to his house and property in what is now Smoke Rise in Kinnelon, NJ.

The series about Kinney's Estate starts with Didja Know? Francis S. Kinney's "Cottage" Life which includes a reference map and continues with Didja Know? "Kinnelon" Estate of Francis S. Kinney - Part I. There are 5 parts in total.

The "Stonehouse No. 4" [see map in previous post and photo below] is the oldest building standing in Smoke Rise, no matter which of the several versions of its origin, you are prepared to accept. One of these places, the first structure a little distance away, occupied by one of the Iron Forge owners. It was the meeting place for regional operators concerned with the prosperous smelting business when activity waned. Another story has it at its present site, serving as an underground Slave Railroad Depot, operated by a sympathetic early settler. The verifiable account has the Kinney family erecting the stone building on an original foundation in 1885. [Note: per Tom Kline, the Stonehouse dates back to 1828].

This building together with the mysterious "Lodge" was used in May and June, as well as every September and October, until the Cottage [no. 15] was completed in 1891. There is no vestige of the "Lodge" to prove it ever existed. Its contents were listed in the 1891 inventory and there are frequent references in log books as late as 1896. One story places it on the west shore of Stickle Pond. In this it is described as a three bedroom log cabin which was burned down when the dam was heightened, the lake doubled in size and the overflowing water obliterated all signs of a base or foundation. More credence is give to a reference in an old manuscript, vaguely placing it near what is now New or Stillwater Pond.

The Kinneys moved into the "Cottage" on Thursday, June 9, 1892, "by 12 o'clock train, from New York, Mrs. Kinney still suffering from rheumatism-attack of March 17th." They found carpenters, plumbers and decorators still finishing details which they critically supervised for some time. On one occasion the woodwork in one suite was torn out and completely replaced by a more pleasing finish, less exotic, than that specified by the architect. Arnold Constable, then the popular New York store servicing wealthy families, maintained a full time operator supervising the installation of carpeting, draperies and furnishings as planned by their decorators. Even a Tiffany's representative whose connection dated back to St. Hubert's Chapel in 1896, made frequent visits supervising the completion of marble fireplaces, mantels and installation of oils and statues so dear to the affluent Victorians.

The arrival of the Lord of the Manor, is family and the entourage that accompanied him, made local conversation for weeks. A prototype "Upstairs-Downstairs" staff befitting the maintenance of the 84 room palatial "Cottage" made a noticeable increase in the area's population. Except for two locals employed as grooms, this same staff provided their professional services for the summer at Narraganset and the winter in New York. England, Ireland and Scotland provided the professional household and personal staff, that based on statistics were paid far above average wages, particularly when food and shelter and, in some cases, uniforms were provided. The interesting data was taken from the first entry in the 1892 log, shows positions and wages paid.

CHEF, $150 monthly (German or Austrian); BUTLER, $70 (English); HEAD COACHMAN, $60 (American); 2 GROOMS $55 (Local); 2 NANNY/NURSES $15-20 (English); 2 SCULLERY MAIDS, $15-18 (Irish); 2 CHAMBER MAIDS, $20 (Scotch); WAITRESS, $23 (Irish).

The highly trained staff did much to assuage any discomforts of the almost finished residence. Records of following years show few changes and all replacements from an unlimited field of expert professionals vying for the opportunity to serve in "the land of plenty." One Scotch, fourth generation chamber maid, proudly told of her great-grandmother who received "honors" from Queen Victoria for her outstanding service. Married locally, descendants, unable (or unwilling) to recognize the value of household service, acquired Engineering, Legal and Medical degrees starting generations of professionals unattainable by their forebears.

A local prosperous business man tells of a nineteen year old Polish "Servant" obtained through an international agency, that joined his household at the turn of the century. This willing, $4.00 per week, semi-indentured domestic, was guaranteed room and board for a year. In return she cared for the three bedroom home, cooked and "did the laundry" for a family of five with one day off every two weeks. Ana, with the willing help of local swains, soon acquired enough English (good and bad) to do the shopping and read. At year's end, fully Americanized,she arranged for a replacement and left. Several years later a be-minked and be-jeweled former "Servant" returned to thank her first employer. She had married the widower of the home she had managed since leaving. ("Servants" like Ana were always available from an inexhaustible supply of willing "exploitees." Kinneys continued to make replacements from professional groups until the start of World War I.)

Life at the "Cottage" evolved about Mrs. Kinney who although handicapped by illness, regularly attended Mass at St. Hubert's. Celebrated by priests from the Monastery in Butler, it provided her with an opportunity to sing. Prof. Lambetti, an organist, with an opera singer arrived each Saturday for rehearsals and a one time Sunday duet performance for the appreciative congregation. The diary shows that Mrs. Kinney must have retained almost exclusively service of the Butler physician Dr. Day, who frequently called twice daily. One wonders how he found any time left for local patients and the "borning" of all "blessed events" in the area. He must have had almost exclusive use of one of the grooms.

The local Franciscan priest called weekly to instruct the children in the Christian Doctrine leading to their confirmation. Local youngsters had an insight into a world they knew little about, when after service as altar boys at Sunday Mass they were treated to a sumptuous breakfast and left with a fabulous tip. Another unusual participant in the Estate largess, Mr. Risden, the local barber, calling every three weeks, who after finishing with the family, provided his service for all household employees.

There is little information recorded about the social life at Kinnelon although the "log" shows weather reports,temperature almost by the hour and the level of water in the lake (maybe that was needed for the tobacco industry?) It is known that Mr. Kinney conducted his business with subordinates who came to Kinnelon and by an irresponsible phone that required almost the full time service of an operating engineer.

On October 6, 1891, a cryptic entry recorded, "The factory on 22nd Street burned down." Apparently it was no major catastrophe as it is followed with such innocuous reports as "moved three barrels of applejack from storage to the Cottage." "Paid J.Bott, bounty for three red fox." About one a week Mr. Kinney would catch the 9:15 to New York, returning on the express that was met by the coach at 5:14. The children spent their time boating, fishing, riding and becoming experts in the use of hunting equipment and "following the hounds."

More and more local labor was being employed in the operation of what was becoming a completely self-sustained enclave. The various buildings were gradually being put into the use for which they were intended. Experts for the various fields of farm and animal training were employed and the nucleus of what later would become the operation that produced prize winners in all branches of husbandry was being assembled.

Next: Part III.

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John said...

Thank you for this blog and for this entry particularly. I grew up on Orchard Road and walked by 1 Robins lane everyday of my life. So many memories seeing this beautiful home!
I left Smoke Rise in 1974 and traveled the world, now living in California for the past 20 years. Your blog keeps me emotionally connected to Smoke Rise, my childhood home.
Thank you again
John J Connely

CB Whittemore said...

John, I am delighted that the Smoke Rise blog brings back such wonderful memories. If you ever want to share those with us on the blog, I would be honored. Thanks for commenting. CB

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