Are you still watching? How about that little Gabby Douglas? And Kayla Harrison? And Michael Phelps? I’ve never needed a reason to be proud of my country, but these young American athletes are sure making it easy. Elsewhere in London, the U. S. ambassador to the Court of St. James […]
Are you still watching? How about that little Gabby Douglas? And Kayla Harrison? And Michael Phelps? I’ve never needed a reason to be proud of my country, but these young American athletes are sure making it easy.
Elsewhere in London, the U. S. ambassador to the Court of St. James does us proud in the diplomatic arena. While he may not get his picture on a Wheaties box, he sure gets to live in a swell house. Earlier this summer His Grace and I paid him a visit at Winfield House.
Ambassador Louis Susman and his wife Marjorie are old Chicago friends of the Cowboy’s (aka His Grace, my sweetheart, for new readers). When we were visiting in June, “Lou”, to his friends, was kind enough to invite us for a drink. Oh my goodness what a house, what an art collection, what a history. As I was gushing about it later to a friend he said, “It makes you proud to be an American, doesn’t it?” Yes by golly it jolly well does.
I would sooner have died than asked to take a picture, so I was thrilled to be gifted with the beautiful tome Winfield House, from which most of these photos are taken.
Written by Maria Tuttle (wife of former Ambassador Robert Tuttle) and Marcus Binney, with photographs by James Mortimer, the book is a meticulously executed and glorious tribute to a house whose inhabitants and history are as interesting as its furnishings and art are beautiful and compelling. Yes those are Rothkos up there flanking the doors.
Set on 12 acres in Regent’s Park, the house was built in 1937 by heiress Barbara Woolworth Hutton. Then married to Danish Count Court Haugwitz-Reventlow, she wanted a safe haven for their year-old son Lance. At the time the Lindbergh baby’s kidnapping and death four years earlier was still a fresh horror. The quiet park’s location seemed secure and was patrolled by Royal Parks police at night.
Hutton filed to divorce Reventlow (by all accounts a very bad guy) in 1938. With the approach of war she returned to America, while Winfield House served Britain in various capacities, from hospital to officers’ club. Cary Grant (by all accounts a sweetheart) married Hutton in 1942. Three years later, however, she gave up both Grant and Winfield House, and donated the property to the U.S. government for use as the ambassador’s residence.
By the time the Annenbergs arrived at Winfield in 1969, recalled Mrs. Annenberg in the book, “Time had eroded some of its elegance. As our gift to the nation… we began the task of restoration with a team of very distinguished interior designers, Billy Haines (a former silent-film star), Ted Graber and Dudley Poplak.” It was Haines’s last major hurrah. And though each occupant has made her own mark, the house you see today is much the Haines-Annenberg legacy, on the Annenbergs’ nickel, and now maintained in part by the Annenberg Foundation.
The Green Room, above, nearly made me faint. More on this in the next “Fabulous Rooms” post, coming soon. Meanwhile, gosh, look who’s here…
This is right where we sat with Ambassador Susman when we visited about a month after the Obamas’ London trip in May. HG sat where Marjorie Susman is sitting; I sat where the president is sitting; and the ambassador sat in place of Camilla and her hat.
And there we were, a long way from Tarboro.
James Brown was from a small Southern town, too. I wonder if he felt that way when he sang there.
Yes Winfield has its share of distinguished visitors…
and elegant parties…
The big showy flowers are on a pedestal at one end of the table, while the table itself is decorated with small, simple bouquets of lily-in-the-valley. That’s about it from the “small, simple” department…
To see more of London’s diplomatic doings, there is a photo stream on Flickr of the ambassador, the U.S. Embassy and events at Winfield House. As grand as it is to be ambassador, these fellows work mighty hard.
Indeed much about this house and the people who have worked and lived here is about the best of who we are as a country and who we aspire to be. The same is true of the Olympics. Keeping the torch burning and what-not.
The first lady’s dress is great. I am trying to forget that she said the first time she was proud of her country was when her husband was elected president. Maybe she hadn’t watched the Olympics, or been to Winfield House yet.
To be continued…