8 October

1921 opening of Whitemarsh Hall

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Hundreds of guests in motor cars bound for the Stotesbury housewarming at Whitemarsh Hall Saturday pass the great high iron portals that lead to the miniature kingdom of splendor. The line of automobiles, seemingly endless, flowed to and from the Chestnut Hill (railroad) station a mile back. Given the once over by two policemen at the gate, they were allowed to pass on. They rode on and on. Indeed, as chauffeurs pointed out, the ride from the gate to the tree-hidden villa for which the guests were bound was longer than from the station to the gate. Before the great stone plaza that fronts the massive villa which, with the estate, cost $2,000,000, one of the several men in livery gave to each guest a tag bearing a number, and a duplicate tag was given to the chauffeur. When it came time to depart the numbers were telephoned to the garage, before which 500 cars were parked, and the correct machine arrived promptly.
The guests descended, trying to keep straight in their minds all they had read about the 146 rooms, the three underground stories, the more than 40 baths and the 12 elevators in the mansion. Immediately they found themselves in the ballroom foyer. To the right a white marble staircase, which led to a balcony of white marble with a white balustrade. Through a wide door, opposite the entrance, the receiving line, including Philadelphia's social register almost en masse, slowly lost itself in another room similar to the foyer and of equal grandeur and size. This room opened onto the gardens in the rear.
At the door stood Mrs. Stotesbury, lovely in black lace, silver slippers and stockings and wearing great pearl ear drops. Mrs. James H.R. Cromwell, her daughter-in-law, who was Miss Delphine Dodge, in whose honor this housewarming was given, wore an iridescent silk dress. With her was her young husband and his stepfather, the 'lord of the manor', Edward T. Stotesbury.
One thousand invitations were sent out. Eight hundred, at least, accepted, among them Cardinal Dougherty. The line dissolved itself into little groups of 'tourists' who attempted without success, to make the journey through the great circles of the loggias, rose rooms, libraries and plum gardens at either end of the main floor, in one trip. The ladies for the most part, were costumed in simplest good taste. Dark blue was the prevailing color and serge and tricolette the favorite materials. There were few jewels. True, here and there flashed a scarlet velvet frock or one of the new sapphire hue, but these were the exception. By the absence of hats were distinguished those who assisted Mrs. Stotesbury to receive.
The guests ascended to the second floor, using the elevators, which rose silently behind cream colored doors to the central corridor where there is a veritable labyrinth of wardrobes, where costumes and even colors seem to have been classified by rote and card. There are chambers whose beds are done in taffetas of pastel hue and lounging rooms where little groups paused, declaring they could not go on until they had rested. Of course, Mrs. Stotesbury's suite was the center of interest. This boasts not only a boudoir that is a joy to the eye, a marble bath at the head of a flight of marble steps, but a breakfast room and a pantry and also a 'workroom'. Mrs. Stotesbury spends many hours in her workroom. To reign over a palace of this magnitude is almost as much work as to oversee an industrial plant. Her telephone--and there's a first-class exchange--is always ringing and her desk is piled high with correspondence. Characteristic of her workroom and for that matter, of most of the rooms on this floor, are statuettes of birds, for which Mrs. Stotesbury has a penchant. Likewise fond of fans, she has displayed splendid examples in glass cases. "A room loaded with trophies of the hunt, is only one of several wonderful rooms that belong to Mr. Stotesbury. In this room the mantel is so built that its mirror is within the vision of a youngster of Louise's stature. A tiny dressing table sits in one corner of the room and a bed of diminutive proportions seems to have ushered one into the land of Lilliputians. It is said that Miss Louise romps and jumps and acts just like any other kid when she comes to grandma's.




Stephen Lauf © 2018.01.12