Monday, December 11, 2006

Edith Wharton and Newport

From the New York Times:

Mr. Fleming, an urban planner based in Cambridge, Mass., who has written six books on historic preservation, has a proselytizing zeal on the subject of America's great mansions, and a consuming obsession with the welfare of his own. Hoping to make it a comfortable gathering place for his children in the wake of his recent divorce, he set about restoring it to its one-time glory. The project took seven years, and was finally completed late last month.

Luckily, he had a guide in this undertaking: "The Decoration of Houses," the influential handbook that Codman published with his client and friend Edith Wharton in 1897. Codman and Wharton, who often bickered, were as one in their disdain for the pompous Newport "cottages" built by Gilded Age robber barons, and for the "dubious eclecticism" of High Victorian style. They advocated a return to "suitability, simplicity and proportion," ideals in keeping with Mr. Fleming's stringent classical tastes, and very much in evidence in Codman's design for Bellevue House.

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