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Sunday, July 27, 2014

THE LOG CASTLE OF LANDGROVE

Landgrove is a tiny town which is sandwiched between Peru, Weston and Londonderry.  The geographical borders make the town appear to be "hatched shaped", meaning it's blade is pointing due east and the handle is situated between Londonderry and Weston.  It occupies 9.2 square miles of Bennington County.  At one time it was becoming a ghost town but currently survives with approximately 160 residents today. 

Approximately 35 years ago, an article in the Rutland Herald was published, entitled, "A Mystery Castle, A Mystery Bride".  The publication date was November 20, 1980, as recorded in my late father's 'Vermont Firsts' scrapbooks.  The article revealed a sad tale of the building of a magnificent log home castle in Landsgrove, that was later abandoned to the wilderness.

If anyone has surviving photographs of the building, especially the interior or any more information, (so that I may update and post more about this place) please contact me (Denise Goodwin) at:  vermontdeadline@gmail.com

Clark Lodge, 1907
 

This photo is recorded as being taken on August 15, 1909
I have researched for pictures and more information about the lodge, but have only been able to locate these surviving photos (above).  

Stephen Clark Carter of New York City was the builder of the grand log castle and work was completed in 1907. All that is known today is that the structure was built as a honeymoon get-away, and was, then, referred to as the "Bride's Castle".  

The exterior was "embellished with balconies and battlements, all fashioned from logs.  Inside was a grand piano and custom made furniture for the rustic "cabin".  The magnificent log structure boasted fine paneling, stained glass cabinets and red leather upholstery, and the modern wonder, indoor plumbing."

Also included in the castle, was a wine cellar, five bedrooms - some with adjacent baths, and a large kitchen with a pantry. 

To get an idea of the amassed wealth from the owner of the lodge, Stephen Carter Clark, was also one of the heirs of the Singer Building in New York City. Their paternal grandfather Edward Clark, was the owner of the Singer Building, and, at that time, it was "The Tallest Building in the World".

"Born into Gilded Age wealth and privilege, Stephen Carlton Clark and Robert Sterling Clark were among four brothers whose paternal grandfather, Edward Clark, was a founder of what became the Singer Sewing Machine Company.










Beginning with Edward, the Clarks developed large swaths of land in Manhattan, building everything from model tenements to luxury apartment buildings, most notably the Dakota on Central Park West.


Stephen Carter Clark

 Robert Sterling Clark
"By the end of 1923 the brothers Sterling and Stephen Clark, heirs to the Singer sewing machine fortune, were no longer on speaking terms. In earlier years they had a close kinship based on a shared passion for art. But in their distinct personalities lay the makings of a classic Dionysian-Apollonian conflict. They eventually fell out over the family riches, and, yes, a woman was involved. "May God curse him on earth as well as in heaven," Sterling said of Stephen." 

For more on the brothers, see the end of this post.

An important note:  The woman (Francine Clary Clark) referred to in the New York Times article, was not the mysterious bride.

RECALLING THE LOG CASTLE

In 1980, the Rutland Herald reported that the Bride's name is as mysterious as why this remote spot was chosen for the construction of such an endeavor.  After the building was completed, the story was told that the Bride or perhaps the fiance of the owner, spent one night there, left, and never returned.

One may easily speculate a thousand scenarios for her choice, but with out the facts, I will not do so.

Mr. Alve Neilson, who was 86 in or around 1980, was retired and living in Florida recalled that he was 13 years old when the lodge was built in 1907.  He and his wife, Mary, were caretakers and housekeepers, respectfully, for the castle.    Alve said that the lodge was never used again by the honeymooning couple, though for several years it was maintained during the summer months faithfully awaiting their arrival.  Since its location was remote, the dirt road was also maintained and a barn was built to house livestock.

In a written account, Alve and Mary Neilson described the interior as quite spectacular: 

"The front door entered into a spacious area which included a magnificent fireplace surrounded by colored glass bookcases and gun cabinets.  Spaced between were fitted settees with red leather upholstery.  Surrounding all this beautiful lounging area was an imposing banister with fitted rails.  There was an interior view, from floor to ceiling, absolutely beautiful, with exquisite architecture proportions so that nothing could be changed to improve it."  



THE FATE OF THE CASTLE

The Lodge and its holdings were sold to Marshall Hapgood in 1920, with an unknown business partner.  It is reported that Hapgood held galas and dances at the Lodge and had mostly purchased the land for its timber, and operated a lumber mill. 

By 1929, the Lodge had abandoned to the elements, vandals and wild animals.  

Sam Ogden was a local historian of Landgrove.  In 1978 he published a book entitled "The Cheese That Changed Many Lives" in which he describes the very first time he saw Clark Lodge and eloquently recalled its devastated condition, in 1929:

"When I first saw it, it was still enigmatically standing surrounded by its silent forest, though the axes of the woodsmen which had so painstakingly fashioned it were now turned against it, and some mad wag of a chopper had attempted to play a tune on the piano with his axe."  


He continued, " All of the windows were broken and those effete symbols of a more civilized place, the flushed toilets, had been wrenched from their foundations and smashed. In fact, there was nothing that was not smashed, including all of the elaborate and sturdy rustic furniture." 

In 1930, the United States Congress established the Green Mountain National Forest, and  the Forest Service tore down any structures in the boundaries of preserves which essentially forever sealed the fate of the Lodge.   The Lodge, barn and all property was burned to the ground in 1930.  



THE CLARK BROTHERS DISPUTE

"One afternoon in the year 1923, a couple of rich brothers got into a fistfight. 

The depressing, unnecessary and all too predictable cause? 

Money. 

Robert Sterling Clark (1877-1956), the elder, wanted his French actress wife made beneficiary of his share of the family fortune. This amounted to some $20-odd million dollars derived from the Singer Sewing Machine Company and extensive family holdings in Manhattan real estate. 

Sterling, as he was called, was a high living thrill seeker who bred thoroughbreds, showered actresses with champagne and diamonds, fought the Boxers in China and collected Old Masters in Paris. 

His younger brother Stephen Carlton Clark (1882-1960), was just the opposite. Restrained to the point of dour, dutiful to the point of resentful - "It is I who am doing all the work," he once wrote to his brother - Stephen became the guardian of the enormous Clark estate. 

"From a purely selfish point of view, I would cut loose," he wrote, adding,"I haven't of course any idea of doing this." 


After Sterling lost in court, they never spoke again."  

Source:  http://bigoldhouses.blogspot.com/


A BRIEF BIOGRAPHY OF THE OWNER OF THE CLARK LODGE

Stephen Carlton Clark, Sr. (August 29, 1882 – September 17, 1960):   American art collector, newspaper publisher, benefactor and founder of the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York.  



He was the son of Alfred Corning Clark and grandson of Edward Clark, who was a founder of the Singer Sewing Machine Company. 

His brother, Robert Sterling Clark, also an art collector, founded the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute in Williamstown, Massachusetts. 


The Art Institute, Williamstown, MA
Stephen Clark graduated from Yale with a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1903 and was awarded in 1957 an honorary degree of Doctor of Human Letters. and became a director of the Singer Manufacturing Company. 

He founded the Clark Foundation to further his philanthropies.

In 1909, Stephen Clark and his brother, Edward Severin Clark, built the Otesaga Resort Hotel in Cooperstown, New York.

He was a member of the New York State Assembly (Otsego Co.) in 1910.

In 1922 he received a Distinguished Service Medal for his service in World War I as a lieutenant-colonel.

He was the Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Museum of Modern Art from 1939 to 1946, and was a director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. During his lifetime he served on numerous corporate boards.

The Stephen Clark Fund, established in 1960 with a bequest from his estate, supports scholarships and stipends given at the discretion of International House.

Art Collection and donations

The Night Café (1888) by Vincent van Gogh.  Donated to the Yale University Art Gallery.


Upon his death his will distributed many significant works of art of many museums. Yale, for example, received forty such paintings. The following year, the Metropolitan Museum of Art exhibited the works from his bequest to that institution. - Wiki


Today, July 27, 2014, I researched the mystery castle, the "brothers" and their respective "brides"..... Mystery solved:

My husband refers to the Internet, as "The Answer Box", and in this case, he is right on the money.   And, in the original author's defense, who originally wrote the article from which I have based this post, she did not have access to the Internet, as we do today.

The BRIDE:

Stephen Carlton Clark married Susan Vanderpoel Hun, in 1909.   Susan was from Cooperstown and most likely the person for whom the "Log Castle" was built.  She was considered highly suitable from a distinguished family of New York attorneys in the Albany area. 


The only portrait of Susan Vanderpoel Clark I could find.
I have yet to locate an actual photograph of her. 
I did, however, locate her final resting place, in Cooperstown, New York
SUSAN VANDERPOEL HUN CLARK

Birth: Apr. 29, 1889

Death: Jan. 25, 1967

 Spouse:

 Stephen Carlton Clark (1882 - 1960)

 Children:
 Stephen Carlton Clark (1911 - 1992)
 Peter Gansevoort Clark (1915 - 1915)
 Alfred Corning Clark (1916 - 1961)

Burial:
Lakewood Cemetery, Cooperstown

Otsego County:  New York, USA

Stephen Carlton Clark
Stephen and Susan's art collection included works by such masters as Cezanne, Matisse, Miro, Picasso, John Singer Sargent, Edward Hopper, Van Gogh, Windslow Homer and Monet. 


 Richard "Sterling" Clark:  Unlike his business like brother, Stephen, he was known as "an adventurer, volunteering for the army upon his graduation from Yale’s civil engineering program, serving in the Philippines and China, where he fought in the Boxer Rebellion, including the taking of Peking. Resigning from his position as—according to the Washington press—“the richest man in the army,” he traveled to the West Indies and England, studying topography before mounting an eighteen-month exploring expedition to the little-known northern Chinese regions of Shaanxi and Gansu. 

The expedition came to an abrupt end when its Indian cartographer was murdered. Undaunted, Sterling was planning a similar excursion to Egypt when, in 1910, with his already formidable wealth increased by the death of his mother in 1909, he bought a house in Paris and met the love of his life, Francine Clary, a French actress and, herself illegitimate, the mother of an illegitimate daughter, Viviane. Sterling and Francine lived together in his elegantly remodeled Right Bank hôtel particular for nine years before getting married, in 1919, in a civil ceremony not attended by any of the Clark family.


Sterling and Francine Clark
The next day, Francine became an American citizen, and the next year, at the age of forty-three, Sterling returned with his wife and stepdaughter to New York, establishing part-time residence in a eighteen-room apartment on Park Avenue. He had stayed in Paris right through World War I, in which, with the rank of major, he served the US Army as a bilingual liaison officer. 


Rare photo of Francine Clark in her youth
For the rest of his life he devoted himself to collecting art, books, silver, and manuscripts, breeding horses in Upperville, Virginia, and opinionizing in his peppery diaries, without ever helping run the commercial enterprises that poured millions of dollars down upon him."  Source:  The Artful Clarks by John Updike