Circa 1929: Mrs. George Washington Kavanaugh
Always, she is shown to best advantage. Smiling, bright eyed and sincere, She beckons to us still: resplendent and ever properly attired, even amidst the perils of the Great Depression or during world warfare. For gala occasions routinely she dripped with gems worth $100,00.00. Be-furred in sable, chinchilla, fox, mink and ermine, she was sure as well to be beautifully gowned and handsomely shod. Faultlessly groomed, she was habitually be-flowered with orchid corsages for a momentary outing, that cost as much as a worker’s weekly wages.
But who was she: Maria Magdalena Muller Haberle Kavanaugh, opera patron and socialite? With her friend Lady Deices, in 1943, Mrs. Kavanaugh was immortalized by the photographer Weegee. In his scathing social commentary on America’s inequality, entitled the “The Critic”, she is a dressed-up callous grotesque. But this picture of privileged frivolity, beaming in the face of desperate privation, artfully staged and presented with such stark drama, was by no means the total picture. No portrait of Mrs. Kavanaugh is either so definitive a portrayal, nor as fatal an incitement, as Wilde’s fictitious picture of Dorian Gray.
November 22, 1943: “The Critic”by Weegee
To begin with, judging from the earliest photograph I was able to locate, taken in 1923, when the little lady famed as Mrs. George Washington Kavanaugh was already a matronly 44 to 54-years old, she was never a great beauty, not in the conventional sense. But taking care to capitalize on of husband’s immense wealth, employing it to enhance all her finest qualities, by adorning herself as smartly as possible, lavishly entertaining and happily being entertained in return, finding fun and taking delight in whatever came her way, this is at the very heart of what it is that makes, the seemingly silly Mrs. Kavanaugh, so appealing.
1923: Mrs. George Washington Kavanaugh in the earliest photograph I was able to locate
Proceeding the revolution of 1848 her parents had immigrated from Germany. Andrew Muller, christened “Andreas”, was born in Urspringen, Main-Spessart, Bayern. With his first wife he’d settled in Ypsilanti, Michigan in 1844. Their son and a daughter were born here. Only once the first Mrs. Muller and her infant daughter died in Michigan, did Mrs. Kavanaugh’s father meet and marry her mother, Karolina Gratwohl, who also soon Americanized her name to Caroline. Moving to Richmond, Virginia, where Mrs. Kavanaugh was said to have been born, Andrew Miller was a musician in the Public Guard Band. His Obituary notes how he played at the hanging of John Brown, at Harper's Ferry, in 1859.
I stated that Mrs. Kavanaugh, “was supposed to have been born in Richmond”, because some sources maintain that her family, composed of four sisters and two brothers, had left Virginia, for Syracuse, New York around 1866. Most available census data place the year of her birth, at around 1877. The 1900 federal census indicates that she was born in March of 1858. That for 1930, says, “about 1872.” Wow, 1872 ! Even then, she’d have only been ten-yeas old when wed in 1882: with the date of birth of her daughters further indicating some sort of discrepancy. Virginia Marie Haberle, the elder, was born in 1882. Her sister Leonora Haberle, followed in 1885.
If it remains undetermined whether his daughter shaved an entire decade off of her age over time, in all events, three things are clear: Andrew Miller served as a combatant in the Civil War, his best remembered child, Mrs. G. W. Kavanaugh, was a life-long member of the Daughters of the Confederacy, and early in her girlhood, with her family, she was living at Syracuse, where her father died, in 1900. On census forms, again and again, it says she had never attended school. But, as an accomplished music lover and bridge player, as fluent in German, as she was in English, it can be assumed, that she was educated privately, at home. German-Americans were at the forefront of commerce and political life in nineteenth century Syracuse. From the start, when she married brewer William Henry Haberle in 1882, she took a key part in the social, religious and charitable work of her home city. An exceptional woman, she would only come to realize her full potential after Haberle’s untimely death, at 53, in 1911,
Following their mother’s lead each of Mrs. Kavanaugh’s daughters made good matches. Virginian married Burns Lyman Smith, son of the founder of L. C. Smith Typewriter Co., that became the Smith-Premier Typewriter Co., which would later become Smith-Corona Typewriter Co, of which he was a director. B. L. Smith additionally served as president of Smith Wheel Inc., and the Syracuse Malleable Iron Works. He and his wife had two daughters and lived at 1045 James Street in a substantial Richardsonian Romanesque style stone mansion which Mrs. Kavanaugh was to visit yearly, until finally, fortune smiled. For in 1929 the Smith’s left New York. They settled first in Seattle, Washington, where the Smith tower was built, to move on to Los Angeles, the land of the movie stars, in 1936.
Circa 1900: Virginian Haberle, Mrs. Kavanaugh's elder daughter. She married Burns Lyman Smith, an heir to the Smith Corona Typewriter Co. fortune. A 'first family' of Syracuse, the Smiths lived at 1045 James Street in the substantial, now destroyed, Richardsonian Romanesque style mansion pictured below
The Burns Lyman Smiths' library
Leonora Haberle married Charles Jolly Werner, in 1916 and had two sons: Charles Jolly Warner and William Whitesides Warner. Auspiciously, Leonora Anglicized her good-looking young husband’s name, but to no avail. Possessed of a venerable linage and a promisingly affluent background, Charles Werner, as he stubbornly remained, detested working.
1916: Mrs. Kavanaugh's younger daughter, Leonora Haberle, married Charles Jolly Werner in her mother's Madison Avenue drawing room, which was banked with spring flowers
But, there now, I am getting ahead of myself. For just who, we all wonder, was the prince charming who rode along to rescue everyone, not from poverty, in this case, but from the tedium of obscurity?
Fifty years old when he followed the widowed Mrs. Haberle to London in 1912, Col. George Washington Kavanaugh was born in Waterford, Saratoga County, New York on May 22, 1862. He was a brother of Sheriff Fred Kavanaugh, of Saratoga county and had inherited the Karan Knitting Mills at Waterford, and was a partner in three others, at Cohoes, Utica and Philadelphia. An officer In the National Textile Manufacturing company of Troy and a director In the Adirondack Trust company of Saratoga, Kavanaugh had served as a New York Assemblyman and was appointed as a colonel on the staff of Governor Levi P. Morton, in 1896. A seasonal jaunt to Narragansett Pier in 1892, led to his meeting the first Mrs. Kavanaugh, a captivating Southern belle from an aristocratic family in Louisville Kentucky, Miss Julia C. Rickman, who, as fate would have it, was visiting her aunt at her cottage.
Circa 1935: Col. George Washington Kavanaugh
The considerably more relaxed seaside resort at Narragansett Pier, geographically, was right next-door to America's summer social capital. However, for most who stopped here, in terms of acceptance by the elite, it was both a world apart and as close as they might ever hope of getting to Newport
The very social piazza of McKim, Mead & White Casino at Narragansett Pier
“It was,” enthused one newspaper account, with seeming glee, at the misfortune of the elite class, once news had leaked of the impending divorce,
love at first sight. They were married the following December and came to New York, taking up their residence at the Waldorf-Astoria. Later, Kavanaugh bought a fine estate at Bay Shore and presented it to his wife. They lived in lavish style. Until their separation early this summer the couple divided their time principally between the Bay Shore home and the Waldorf-Astoria, where they had a suite of ten rooms.
Henry Janeway Hardenbergh's Waldorf-Astoria
It’s an old story, a young flame, grows older and familiar, a new and sympathetic person appears on the scene, to make the even older man, feel young again himself. This first Mrs. Kavanaugh, though but thirty-two, had been astute enough to engage a detective. Staging a raid, finding her husband, in a room in the Hotel Navarre with another woman, formed the basis of the suit for divorce which she filed. Was wily old Kavanaugh, only possessed of an income is about $60,000 a year and worth around, just one million, as he'd told her? Two accounts extravagantly gave his income as one-million yearly. Another estimated his fortune, in 1920, to amount to as much as $50-million. After his death in 1951, at the advanced age of 90, his will stipulated, said one journal, that $2-million go to his widow and one million each to her daughters, whom he had adopted in 1917. Very likely beyond these bequests, beyond even jewels and property that Kavanaugh bestowed on his family, there were also substantial trust funds, not subject to his will.
Apart from any material generosity he exhibited repeatedly over the course of a long life, a letter that Kavanaugh wrote beseeching his first spouse to reconsider, two days after she had filed to end their marriage, offers fascinating insights into the character of this powerful man, insights that would have likely been impossible to unearth, had not Julia Kavanaugh, shared his letter with the press for publication:
Dearie— so sad, and we have loved each other so much. You say you have heard so many things that 1 have done, and no married man that I know has not done very much more. This is no excuse for me; no love goes to anyone in these matters from me, and I swear that yon are wrong as to my having anything with that party, or Mrs. C. or the other you name. I will admit that Thursday morning's affair looked badly. "Now as to the divorce, it should be avoided. You and your mother and Edward can take a three or four months' trip abroad, and on your return even this ugly course can be avoided, for the settlement matter can take place now, making you independent of me and for as long as yon like, go when and where and with whom you choose, and 1 will go and live with my father and mother. "People who cannot agree often live this way even when a divorce could be had. Do please try and avoid it. You can be absolutely independent of me in every way, and you can live where you choose. I am conscious of how I have wronged, but to have yon taken away from me with no chance of ever being with yon again will be the greatest sorrow of my life. St. Peter denied our Lord, but afterward became almost the Chief of the Apostles. Many a man or woman has sinned, but has been helped back to goodness and loved by the one sinned against. It is noble to forgive, even though one may not easily forget. My sins have not been against my love for you, but have come because of the drifting life of the past nine months. I am truly penitent, and I feel that if I do in the future as l am praying God to have me do, that He will forgive me. "You say you have no malice and I am so glad of it, but my Judy Pudy, [a pet name by which he called his wife.] is to be placed beyond my reach if you persist. We can live now without this divorce and thus avoid paining those who love us and at the same time deny our enemies the chance of evil. Nothing but your death could make me feel as unhappy as since last Thursday morning. "I have been a dog, a wretch, a vile creature, and an apology for a husband, Aye, I have sinned mortally against the sweetest, most perfect and the squarest little woman 1 ever knew, and would to God that I had died before I offended her. Do you give me a chance and may God bless.’ you and keep you. "Lovingly and devotedly, in very great sorrow, "GEORGE."
The United States Hotel at Saratoga Springs
Deaf to such blandishments, the first Mrs. Kavanaugh refused to become reconciled. Her handsome settlement and subsequent romances made headlines in the obscurer papers for years to come. Was it at Narragansett Pier, where she and her first husband sometimes holidayed, that the widowed Marie Haberle first met Kavanaugh? Perhaps it was at Saratoga, which she also frequented before and after remarriage? We do not know. However the Harold does tell us:
On Saratoga's Broadway
The marriage of Colonel George W, Kavanaugh of Waterford, N. Y . to Mrs. William H. Haberle of Syracuse, N. Y., took place Wednesday, in London, England, and the bride was attended by her daughter, Miss Leonora Haberle. The groom is prominent in the commercial and manufacturing life in eastern New York, having offices in New York city, Utica and…in Philadelphia, Pa. He takes an active interest in politics and was a delegate to the National Republican convention in the interest of Taft and Sherman He represented Saratoga county in the legislatures of 1897 and 1898 and was a colonel on the staff of Governor Morton and of Governor Black. He is a popular members of the leading clubs in New York, Albany and northern New York. The bride is the widow... She was born in Richmond, Va. Mrs. Haberle was accompanied to Europe on her present trip, by her daughter, Miss Leonora Haberle; she was pursued there by Col. Kavanaugh who successfully urged his suit with the above result.
If it represented a transformative break with her decorous, but humdrum past, for Marie Muller Haberle to ally herself with a man who adored her, with, for-all-intents-and-purposes, unlimited means at his disposal, with which to gratify her every whim, Mrs. Kavanaugh’s transformation, was none-the-less, made by degrees, with careful deliberation. To begin, they took a large apartment, overlooking the park, but on Central Park West, instead of one located more fashionably, on Fifth Avenue. This initial gaucherie was remedied soon enough. For when her younger daughter married Mrs. Kavanaugh is found ensconced at a ‘suitable’ East Side address :
The Brentmore, 88 Central Park West. Designed by Schwartz & Gross, this was the Kavanaugh's suspect address in 1913
The there images immediately above, were kindly provided courtesy of the Museum of the City of New York via Ms. Phyllis Magidson, Curator of Costume
Circa 1926: Mrs. Kavanaugh's bluebird dress
MAY 5, 1916 HUNTINGTON, NY LONG ISLANDER
Werner—Haberle. Saturday at the home of Colonel and Mrs. Kavanaugh, Miss Leonora Haberle, the daughter of Mrs. George W. Kavanaugh, became the bride of Charles J. Werner, of Brooklyn and Huntington, at the Kavanaugh home, 667 Madison Avenue, Manhattan. The Rev. Dr. Frank M. Townley was officiating clergyman . The bride wore silver tissue covered with flounces of sheer silver lace, with a veil of lace several yards long. She carried white orchids, lilies of the valley and orange blossoms. Mrs. Burns Lyman Smith, attended her sister. She wore "sea' green and blue, embroidered in old silver. Mrs. Kavanaugh wore gold net and lace. Mr. Burns Lyman Smith was the best man. A reception followed. After a wedding trip to Hot Springs and White Sulphur Springs Mr. and Mrs. Werner will- come to Bay Crest and next winter will Live at No. 340 Park Avenue
Number 667 Madison Avenue
Described as “the one-time salt king,” Charles J. Werner and Lenora Warner, were divorced in New York in 1923. Leonora, who flaunted the social convention of using her maiden name in place of her ex-husband’s Christian name, won custody of their two sons, Charles G. Warner, and William W. Warner. William Warner, largely raised by his step-grandfather, was regularly admonished about the bad example his wayward parents set:
Your father is a bum, your mother is running around with every gigolo in Europe, so I suppose the spring can rise no higher than its source?
Col. Kavanaugh each summer took the boys to the Jersey shore, to the “cottage” he’d remodeled to become a kind of simplified version of “The Elms”, beautifully appointed with exquisite furnishings salvaged from the Parson's estate, "Shadow Lawn". Built about 1910 and first called “White Caps”, it was a showplace of sedate Spring Lake. Occupying an entire city block, rechristened “Ocean Edge”, this villa become a setting complementary to Mrs. Kavanaugh’s rule over the entire resort. Demolished in 1981, something of the grandeur of the setup at Ocean Edge, is conveyed by the following newspaper assessment. The piece concerns an abortive robbery made when the family were away.
Circa 1924: On the beach at Spring Lake, New Jersey
SYRACUSE JOURNAL, Monday, Dec. 14, 1931
Robbers of Mrs. George Washington Kavanaugh, mother of Mrs. Burns Lyman Smith and former wife of William H. Haberle, Syracuse brewer, passed up paintings, tapestry silver and art objects worth at least $150,000 to take away her private stock of rare old sherry, according to a checkup she made Sunday when she was called to Spring Lake N. J, to make an inventory of the loss. Two wall safes, containing immensely valuable jewels and securities, some of which are negotiable, were overlooked by the thieves , who are believed to have entered the Kavanaugh mansion Friday night. The caretaker, Anthony Campenelli, left at nightfall Friday to spend a one-day leave in New York and neighbors recalled later that a truck drove into the grounds shortly after his departure. Because of the fact that Mrs. Kavanaugh had turned It off, the elaborate and expensive system of burglar alarms with which the place is protected did not sound a warning when the thieves climbed to the roof of a porch and smashed in a second-story window. The signal system was accidentally sounded once during the summer and it made such an objectionable racket, Mrs. Kavanaugh explained to the Spring Lake police, that she had it put out of commission for fear of a similar uproar. In the drawing room of the Kavanaugh place hangs a famous Murillo, "Joseph and the Child," which is valued at more than $50, 000, and there are other paintings almost equally valuable, as well as tapestries imported from Italy and a large store of plate.
The fact that none of them were stolen indicate that the thieves were not aware of their value, for every room in the big place was apparently entered. Summoned from her town home In the Carlton house, 22 East Forty-seventh St., when the theft was discovered with the return to duty of the caretaker. Mrs. Kavanaugh found that neither of the safes had been opened- nor had the silver in the butler's pantry been looted Clothing was scattered all over the house and several glasses containing dregs of wine indicated that the marauders had sampled the sherry before deciding to take it, Police took fingerprints from the glasses, but found no duplicates in their Bertillon records. Mrs. Kavanaugh, who left Syracuse for New York after marrying her present husband, has been a frequent visitor here in recent years, spending part of every summer with her daughter, Mrs. Smith, and renewing acquaintanceship with the friends she knew as Mrs. Haberle. Her other daughter, Mrs. Leonora Werner, is also well known here. Mrs. Kavanaugh formerly lived in Syracuse, and was Mrs. William Haberle, mother of Mrs. Burns Lyman Smith of Syracuse, and Seattle, Wash., and Mrs. Leonora H. Warner of New York.
At Spring Lake, away from the round-robin of their grandmother’s parties, the young Warner brothers spent their days exploring nearby Wreck Pond, a small bay, open to the tides at its mouth, fringed with rustling reeds and fed by a freshwater spring. This, was the “spring lake” giving rise to the local designation, “a miniature of that great estuary to the south, the Chesapeake,” wrote one writer. At Spring Lake, who needed Walden Pond?
With Ocean Edge, from which to serenely reign over quiet Spring Lake, what did Mrs. George Washington Kavanaugh need with the imperious prejudice of Newport? In a way, she had her own ‘Newport’. At Spring Lake, she was accorded the dignity and recognition of Mrs. Astor, Mrs. Fish, Mrs. Oelrichs and Mrs. Belmont---all rolled into one! Even an often acerbic Murray Paul suggests as much:
On the beach at Spring Lake, New Jersey
Syracuse JOURNAL Thursday August. 16, 1934
Cholly Chats Of Elite
By CHOLLY KNICKERBOCKER, Universal Society Editor. NEW YORK, Aug. 16 (Universal).—You may not think Spring Lake as smart or as swagger as Newport or Southampton—and it isn't by a long stretch of the imagination—but you'd be surprised what a darn good time they have down there, free from that certain formality and stuffiness that prevails in the aforementioned Newport or Southampton . The dear old Essex and Sussex and the Monmouth hotels, with their rambling, shambling, tall pillared verandas, bespeaking an architecture that was just the last word in grandeur a quarter of a century ago, are still the favored hostelries of the place—and Mrs. George Washington Kavanaugh, whose house on the ocean front, just beyond these hotels, looks more like a miniature hotel than a private home, is still the "First Lady" of Spring Lake. Mrs. Kavanaugh holds forth like a queen, blissfully oblivious of any possible rivalry or criticism. If she sometimes entertains persons far, far removed from the fringes of the social world, she evidently feels it is a case of "The Queen can do no wrong." And the Kavanaugh jewels and sartorial "get-ups" are still as. er— un-subdued as ever…
1976: The end of an era, at Spring Lake, New Jersey
Pretty good, for one queen, to another. But just what, one wonders. accounts for so snide a reference to those who Mrs. Kavanaugh entertained, so well and so often, guest who included gay Mr. Paul? Commendably, as well as gays, her guests list included Jews. Accorded the same courtesy as Russian royalty and French countesses, Mrs. Adolph Lewisohn, the put-upon wife of the esteemed magnate and a fellow opera lover, was guest of honor at a tea she gave. Others received included Mrs. Harry Hayes Morgan and her beautiful twin daughters. Thelma Morgan, a mistress of Edward, Prince of Wales, was to unwisely introduce him to her successor, her ’friend’, Wallis Simpson. Lady Furness had been married to James Vail Converse before her betrothal to Marmaduke Furness, 1st Viscount Furness.
Circa 1937: The Morgan sisters
Maria Mercedes Morgan, known as ‘Gloria’, at just 17, became the second wife of Reginald Claypoole Vanderbilt, age-42. Another friend hosted by Mrs. Kavanaugh was the elegant Polish lesbian painter, Tamara de Lempicka, who met Mrs. Kavanaugh in Los Angeles. On May 13, 1941. Joined by Gloria Morgan Vanderbilt, Lempicka, then Baroness Kuffner, attended a party made up of 150 members of Hollywood’s royal houses. Including Theda Bara, Charles Boyer, the Basil Rathbone’s and Mr. and Mrs. Conan Doyle. Their soirée had fittingly feted Mrs. Kavanaugh, attended as usual by her lady in waiting-daughter Leonora, as an undisputed sovereign, on progress from a distant court.
Leading up to Mrs. Kavanaugh’s triumph out west, had been her steadily growing success each year as a notable hostess in New York. In 1920, the same year Ocean Edge was acquired, the Kavanaugh’s town residence, became a commodious apartment, occupying an entire floor of the Carlton House. Developed by Robert W. Goelet, this deluxe eighteen storey wing, to accommodate permanent residents, much as at the Waldorf Towers, was added to Warren & Wetmore’s ultra exclusive, sixteen storey, Hotel Ritz-Carlton in 1912, two years after it opened. With this perceptive move to 22 east 47th Street, the Kavanaugh’s were indeed, ‘putting on the Ritz’. Reading reports of assorted teas, dinners, bridge parties and dances a puzzle presents itself: how and when, had our Mrs. Kavanaugh made the acquaintance of such a varied and extensive collection of nobles and royals?
1910 and 1912: Warren & Wetmore's Hotel Ritz-Carlton and the Carlton House
NEW YORK EVENING POST, MONDAY JANUARY 18, 1926
Mrs. George Washington Kavanaugh, who makes her home at Carlton House, also entertained at tea. receiving her guests at the Embassy Club over in Fifth avenue. This, too, was a cosmopolitan gathering, with many distinguished visitors among the guests. There were counts and countesses, princes and princesses and even shahs, among those noted being the Marquise' Caasatl, Count and Countess d'Aix, Prince Engalitcheff, Princess Stephanie Dolorously, Prince Odescalchi, Prince Kajar, Shah Mir Krendl, Count Vasco da Gama and Count de la Cruz. Others present were: Mr. and Mrs. Hubert Templeton Parsons, Mr. and Mrs. Arthur C. Waters. Mr. and Mrs. Irving Schmelzel, Mr. and Mrs. James L. Hand, Mr. and Mrs. Mordecai Jackson Crispin, Mr., and Mrs. Austin Hoyt, Mr. and Mrs. Earls Sinclair, Mr. and Mrs. Harry Cushing. Jr., Mr. and Mrs. Clarence O. Crispin, Mr. and Mrs. William J. Sloane, Mr. and Mrs. Francis J. Arend, Mr. and Mrs. Frank Bradley Harder, Mr. and Mrs. Howard Young, Mr. and Mrs. Richard Enright, Mr. and Mrs. Leonard L. Hill. Mr. and Mrs. Arthur L. Cushman, Mr. and Mrs. Harry Verran, Countess George de Colange, Mrs. William Schuette, Mme. Marie Jonnesco, Mrs. William H. Perrlne, Mrs. Mellon Jones, Mrs. Edward Riegman, Mrs. Charles O'Day, Mrs. Frederick Eaton, Mrs. Leonora Warner, Mrs. Thorley Kehoe, Mrs. King Palmer, Mrs. K. Winfield Chaplin. Miss Constance Drexel, Flora Bernice Smith, Miss Bernice Smith. Miss Bertha Gasgue, J. Fred Pierson, Jr., George de N. Duarts, Craig Biddle, A. Palen-KIar, Aladar G. Fisher, Richard Saltwort. Alan Hawley, Julian F. Detmer, Harper Bonnell, James Ryan, Douglas Jeffreys Wood, Edward Donovan, Holland Martin, J. K. Stearns. T. Cody, Andre de Prang, Arnold Chapin and Perry Belden.
The Ritz ante-room
Aspects of the Ritz dining room
1914: Supper on the Ritz roof
Gaining scores of aristocrats willing to dine with and, to entertain them by the mid 1920’s, the Kavanaugh’s regularly sojourned to Palm Beach for a part of each season.
After spending the past month at the Everglades Club. Mrs. Kavanaugh returned, to New York Friday night with her daughter, Mrs. Lenora Werner. Mrs. Kavanaugh resides at the Ritz Carlton and spends the summer months at the palatial villa, Ocean Edge, at Spring Lake, N. J.
Mrs. George Washington Kavanaugh and daughter, Mrs. Leonora Warner, gave a tea yesterday in their apartment at Carlton House. Among those assisting to receive and pour tea were Mrs. Hubert Templeton Parsons. Mrs. S. Stanwood Menken, Mrs. James L. Hand…
Circa 1938: Mrs Leonora H. Warner, depicted by Mark
1943: Mrs. Kavanaugh patronises a cafeteria
by Eve Arnold photographer 1912-2012
Mrs. George Washington Kavanaugh and her daughter, Mrs. Leonora H. Warner, Easter 1946, St. Bartholomew's Church
One beloved activity that tends to make Mrs. Kavanaugh appear a rank social parvenu, might be said to be her passion for attending subscription dances, to benefit charity. Both at Spring Lake and in the city she frequently helped to organize such charitable pageants. How it must have helped to underscore her position, to choose which debutantes and matrons would act as models for benefit fashion shows, or who might have the honor of pouring at a musical tea. Adoring almost any occasion that meant putting on a show, her favorite charity ball by far, was at a costume party. New York’s annual Beaux-Arts Ball, featuring dressing up in disguise, but not mask, was meant to aid aspiring architects. Founded in 1894, the Society of Beaux-Arts Architects attracted a diverse assemblage to it’s themed ‘fancy dress’ parties, enabling artists and society to meet and mingle. The first festivity, evoking “Venice Through the Ages” occurred in 1914. In 1928, the dance suggested the exoticism of North Africa; in 1929, a Napoleonic pageant was held; while in 1930, a Renaissance promenade was put on. As a departure, 1931’s ball, the innovatory: "Fête Moderne", was an extravaganza of color, light and the new, celebrating skyscrapers and the stream-lined aesthetic of the modern age. A flame colored and Silver décor heralded the same vitality and zest that made Mrs. Kavanaugh such an avid participant of the Beaux-Arts Ball, year, after year. The only other event to which she was as loyal, even more so, was the Metropolitan Opera, the annual opening of which, she dutifully and happily attended without fail, for over thirty years.
1934: Leonora H. Warner with friends at the Beaux-Arts Ball
Circa 1927: A fancy dress gown worn by Mrs. Kavanaugh to the Knickerbocker Ball, Callot Soeurs/Paris,
The there images immediately above, were kindly provided courtesy of the Museum of the City of New York via Ms. Phyllis Magidson, Curator of Costume
1935: Mrs. Kavanaugh attends the the Beaux-Arts Ball
Just as Mrs. Kavanaugh’s clothes and jewels were supplied by the leading jewelers and fashion houses of Paris, her final base in New York, had been designed by a leading society architectural firm, for a charter member of the ‘400’.
1942: Mrs. Kavanaugh And Lady Decies, the widow of Harry Lehr were among 1,800 guests who paid $ 20.00 to attend Mrs.Cornelius Vanderbilt, II's final ball at 640 Fifth Avenue, prior to its demolition.
February 01, 1942 The New York Times
The famous Vanderbilt mansion at 640 Fifth Avenue, one of New York's midtown landmarks, will be opened again for a benefit cause on the night of Feb. 11 when a diversified entertainment will be given to augment the Red Cross War Fund. Mrs. Cornelius Vanderbilt has donated the use of her home for the fete, which will include a bridge tournament, towie, gin-rummy, general dancing and supper
1936: At El Morocco, after the opera, Mrs. Frank Henderson, Leonora Warner and Mrs. Kavanaugh . Mrs. Kavanaugh's friend was the wife of Frank C. Henderson, President of the Oklahoma Oil Company.
Both ladies owned renowned collections of jewels, which at least in part, might have accounted for their devotion to opera galas.
"Don't wear too much jewelry; it is in bad taste in the first place, and in the second, is a temptation to a thief ..,"admonished Emily Post in 1922. However, concerning charity balls and the opera, she relented, ordaining that it was permissible to wear as many jewels as one liked, even, as many as one owned! Surly making such a pronouncement, she is not likely to have considered Mrs. Kavanaugh
Bracelets for days !
1950: El Morocco on an ordinary night calls for milk !
Edmund Lincoln Baylies was a distinguished New York lawyer and member of the law firm of Carter, Ledyard & Milburn. A real estate specialist, counting among his many clients J. P. Morgan, Baylies was additionally president of the Vanderbilt Hotel Corporation, All America Cables, Inc. and the Eastern Steel Company. More magnanimously he served as a director of the Metropolitan Opera, was a trustee of the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine and of St. Luke's Hospital and the Lying In Hospital. He was a vestryman of St. James Protestant Episcopal Church and the vice-president and a trustee of the Greenwood Cemetery. His clubs were the Knickerbocker, University, Century , Harvard, Riding and New York Yacht . He’d built 10 sixty-second Street, in 1909, When he died in 1933, his widow, the former Louisa Van Rensselaer, found maintaining the large house, filled with so many memories, burdensome to maintain.
Edmund Lincoln Baylies
Mrs. Edmund Lincoln Baylies, nee Louisa Van Rensselaer
Thus, at age-59, or 69, Mrs. Kavanaugh was able to have a queenly seat for a relatively modest Depression Era price of $75,000.00.
10 East Sixty-second Street
Both Francis L. V. Hoppin and Terrence A. Koen apprenticed with McKim, Mead & White before establishing a partnership in 1894. They were joined by Robert P. Huntington a decade later. A host of palatial public buildings, including the threatened Pilgrim United Church of Christ, in the Bronx,
the former New York City Police Department Headquarters, the Albany County Courthouse and Roslyn’s War Memorial, attests to the firm’s exceptional ability. Private houses, exhibiting the same penchant for smartness, include lost “Armsea Hall” and extant “Sherwood”, both at Newport, where the very social Hoppin’s summered each year, as well as “Springwood”, FDR’s lifelong home on the Hudson and Edith Wharton’s “the Mount”
The dining room
The entrance to the salon
At the top of the house, Mrs. Kavanaugh’s dutiful daughter Leonora Warner and her sons, having lived all over the East-side of Manhattan and in Europe, were installed in a two-floor penthouse apartment. Replete with a stone hall, with a sweeping, curving staircase, and a marble floored dining room, the transitional Louis Quinze style residence, also boasted a spectacular mirrored salon, with demi-lune chandlers, like those in the opera at Versailles, cleverly ‘completed’ in reflection. According to the 1940 census, the Kavanaugh’s was a small household. It consisted of M. Jean Lassa, from Spain, who served as butler, Anna Bjorninen, the cook, from Finland and a housemaid from France, named Marie Hervet. Another reference noted that Mrs. Kavanaugh engaged a male social secretary. And, given the volume of her invitations and correspondence, this surely must to have been true. Did best-dressed Mrs. George Washington Kavanaugh, really make-do, without a lady’s maid to look after her? Sometimes, when servants or even children were absent, enumerators failed to count them.
Mrs. George Washington Kavanaugh, supreme !
Aspects of the salon
The small salon
The travails of maintaining an exemplary household, are many. Pitfalls attendant on keeping servants, include the risk of theft, as the following account of an earlier butler relates.
TROY TIMES RECORD NOVEMBER 28. 1936.
The town house of Col. George W. Kavanaugh and Mrs., Kavanaugh at 10 East 62nd Street that city. Colonel Kavanaugh is a brother of former State Senator Frederick W. Kavanaugh of Waterford and is a native of that town. The robbery at Colonel Kavanaugh's home took place several weeks ago, it was revealed. A butler employed at the Kavanaugh home has been missing since the thefts were discovered and is now being sought for questioning by the police. The New York City police say that when the thefts were originally reported to them Mrs. Kavanaugh said the value of the missing articles was $2,500. Now, following further investigation at the Kavanaugh home, which is eight stories high and contains 35 rooms, the loss of other articles has been noted and according to report filed with the Insurance Company of North America by the Kavanaugh's, the loss will reach a total of $25,000. Mrs. Kavanaugh was active in the Landon-Knox political campaign and was away from her town house for long periods. This absence delayed discovery of the thefts. It is said that the insurance company has retained the services of a private detective agency to Investigate the loss.
An Englishman, the butler had neatly packaged valuables for months apparently, everything from jewels, to gold plates, to evening gowns, was found in parcels tucked away in closets, for weeks afterward. Jewels worth roughly $20,000.00 were insured and Mrs. Kavanaugh was eventually reimbursed by the insurance company. But a number of costly ornaments, were not insured, and though some turned up at a Third Avenue pawn shop, others, were never recovered. During the police investigation, the butlers young wife and child came by, searching for him, but he was never found.
The Metropolitan Opera House,1411 Broadway between West 39th anD 40th Streets. Designed by J. Cleaveland Cady, the Met opened in 1883. A fire destroying the auditorium, August 27, 1892, canceled that year's season, allowing for the opera house to re-erected along its original lines.
1943: Mrs. George Washington Kavanaugh and Elizabeth, Lady Deices attend the Metropolitan Opera opening
Making an entrance
If the comings and goings of media, music, movie and sports stars of disparate stature transfix us today, yesteryear, it was high society and the foibles and fancies of the rich, which kept all America spellbound. If Marie Kavanaugh was not deemed to be as socially elect as Grace Vanderbilt, both, with there great houses, sumptuous attire, glittering jewels, party giving and opera going, kept avid fans, some poor, some black, some gay, breathless with excitement over how beautifully they lived. Even back then, it was widely appreciated, that some might have pedigree, but Mrs. Kavanaugh had style by the mile.
The view from the Met's three tiers of boxes, "the golden horseshoe"
The Metropolitan Opera House auditorium. In 1903 the interior of the opera was transformed by the architects Carrere & Hastings
The Met's new auditorium, golden and glowing, with a sunburst chandelier, famously featured an ornately carved proscenium; emblazoned with the names of six of the greatest operatic composers: Gluck, Mozart, Beethoven, Wagner, Gounod and Verdi.
Plans to replace the opera house which failed in the wake of the worsening Great Depression, gave rise instead to the erection of Rockefeller Center on the proposed site. Finally supplanted by a new opera house at Lincoln Center, the original Met was razed in 1967
The first of the Met's distinctive golden damask stage curtains were first installed in 1906
Mrs. Kavanaugh's attendance at the opera, like Mrs. Vanderbilt's, always attracted the attention of photographers
Jewels worn by Mrs. James Roosevelt, mother of the President, were an old-fashioned; diamond brooch and a long looped platinum chain set with a few sapphires. The gold tinted hair of Mrs. George Washington Kavanaugh, dowager wife of a retired cotton king, was topped with a little diamond bird as big as a canary, her eye lashes were thickly beaded, and she wore a full-length chinchilla wrap with all her diamond bracelets. Entering, she parsed her lips and volunteered, "I didn't wear my tiara-I wore my little bird tonight."
In 1940, fewer than 100 American women owned chinchilla cloaks or coats, which could cost as much as $20,000.00. This rarity, prompted Walter Winchell to write a piece in which this group were described as the nation's most exclusive club
Mrs. George Washington Kavanaugh attends the opera's opening, sporting her chinchilla wrap and a jeweled hair-ornament, in the form of a little bird
On other evenings, she did wear, what photographs seem to indicate, were three different tiaras from her jewel collection. Adorned by so many conspicuous jeweled ornaments, invariably, as with Weegee’s with a financial crisis threatening the world order, Mrs. Kavanaugh was a hard to miss target for scorn. Between them, she and Leonora were repeatedly loosing handbags, loaded with loot as well as jewelry. Described as “Tiffany‘s window”, “a jewelry store” and a “Christmas tree”, ridiculed as a figure of fun, still she smiled. In no way, did this diminish her allure, at least Dr. Rice seemed to think so.
Mrs. Leonora H. Warner and her mother Mrs. George Washington Kavanaugh, are shown at the Metropolitan Opera opening night, New York, 1939.
1940: Mrs. George Washington Kavanaugh, Lady Deceis, and Mrs. Leonora H. Warner taking refreshment at Sherry's during intermission at the opera
1945: Mrs. Kavanaugh and Mrs. Warner arrive at the Met
1945: As her daughter looks on, Mrs. George Washington Kavanaugh, speaks to photographer Weegee
Calm at intermision
Disaster strikes at the opera's end !
The bracelet restored
1946: Life featured Mrs. Kavanaugh, yet again,capturing both her horror, on discovering she had lost an emerald and diamond bracelet, valued at $5,000,00, and her pleasure, in rewarding the housemaid who found it on the floor of the opera house entry. Mrs. Mina Schraff had sat in the upper balcony on opening night. Presenting Mrs. Schraff with a check for &250.00, Mrs. Kavanaugh spoke perfect German. Wistfully, Mrs. Schraff said, how much she'd love to buy a cape, similar to the $2,000.00 fox wrap
Mrs. Kavanaugh wore
SYRACUSE JOURNAL Tuesday, April 5,1938
Romance Denied by Kavanaugh Former Mrs. Haberle Squelches Winchell Rumors stirring Syracuse society circles to the effect that Mrs. George Washington Kavanaugh, New York social leader and the former Mrs. William F. Haberle of Syracuse, would marry Dr. Alexander Hamilton Rice, Harvard University professor, and famous for having inherited $30,000,000 from a patient, were definitely squelched today by Mrs. Kavanaugh from her New York home in the exclusive East Sixties. Over a nationwide radio hookup and in his column iq the New York Daily Mirror yesterday, Walter Winchell reported the startling news which caused a furor not only in New York, but in Mrs. Kavanaugh's native town, inasmuch as Syracuse friends realize the devotion between Colonel Kavanaugh and his vivacious wife, famous for her beautiful clothes and jewels. In the 10-Story Home at 10 E. Sixty-second St. occupied by Colonel and Mrs. Kavanaugh, with a penthouse for the latter's daughter, Mrs. Leonora Haberle Warner, the popular couple are hosts at some of the most elaborate and brilliant affairs for the metropolitan "four hundred." Dr. Rice, known for his explorations in far places, was named principal beneficiary in his late wife's will, said to total near $60,000,000, one of the greatest fortunes in America. Mrs. Kavanaugh is the mother in-law of Burns* Lyman Smith, former local financier, now of Hollywood, Calif., whose-daughter, Miss Bernice Smith, popular in social circles here, is being entertained at present at her grandmother's palatial New York home.
1950: Mrs. Kavanaugh at the opera intermission
Mrs. Kavanaugh's diamond chain, with a diamond fringed pendant featuring a 40-karat emerald, was part of a suite including matching earrings with 20-karat emeralds. Wearing these to an opening during the Second World, she explained to a reporter from PM, "I'm wearing them to keep moral up. After all, everyone is dressing up in England..."
Like ageless Lady Mendel, an early adherent of cosmetic surgery, Mrs. Kavanaugh, who wore silted skirts and platform shoes, was lauded as New York’s “most glamorous grandmother”. But of course, she was always far more than just that. Opera singer, Marta Paula Wittkowski, would have surely thought so at least. Born in the Danzig the second of five children, the Polish-American artist grew up in Syracuse, where her family had lived since she was about eight. Working as a housemaid to help out her family yet, all the same, managing to sing in church and at community events, she had come to the attention of a young clubwoman, Marie Haberle. Taking charge of young Marta, the future Mrs. George Washington Kavanaugh, the opera patron, arranged for an audience with noted contralto Ernestine Schumann-Heink, at the time in Syracuse to perform at a concert. The venerated prima donna told Wittkowski, that her voice was one of the most promising she had ever heard, and suggested that she study Wagnerian operas. It was advice that launched a successful career.
In 1929, the ever lonely Mrs. Leonora Warner, her mother’s constant companion, became acquainted with Rene LeFevre, an aviator famed as the ‘Lindbergh of France’. He and a flying partner were the first Frenchmen to fly the Atlantic. Ten years later, as war clouds darkened the skies Americans abroad were frantic to escape the deluge of battle. An associate of General de Gaulle, M. LeFevre pulled strings to effect Mrs. Warner’s safe return home. Mistaking gratitude and relief for love, the pair married, secretly, with but two days to honeymoon, before the general mobilization of France in August. 1939. That was the last they saw of each other for six years, until they met for a reunion luncheon at the Ritz-Carlton. There was no rekindling what in any event, had only ever been a little flame. Madame LeFevre divorced a second time and remained Leonora H. Warner until she died, in 1969. Her older sister Virginia, Mrs. Burns Lyman Smith, died at her daughter’s home, at Palm Springs, in 1960.
Thanks to “The Critic”, where she is still smiling, still becoming, bejeweled and dressed in her best, Mrs. George Washington Kavanaugh, will never die.