Bunny Williams (a Virginia native) is famous for harboring mad, passionate love for the 18th-century New England manor house she and her husband John Rosselli spent decades rescuing and resuscitating. Fellow Southerner-by-way-of-New York Richard Jenrette (North Carolina), co-founder of the investment banking firm Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette, probably understands exactly how she feels. In addition to Edgewater (pictured above), which he purchased from Gore Vidal in 1969 for $125,000 (!), Jenrette has owned and restored 14 major properties, most dating back to the early 19th century. Currently, he has seven properties: Edgewater; Roper House, an 1838 Greek Revival mansion overlooking the harbor in Charleston, SC; Millford Plantation, another grand Greek Revival near my hometown, Camden, that was nearly burned during the Civil War; a third home in the Carolinas; one in St. Croix; and adjacent residences — a Georgian brick town house and a carriage house — on East 93rd Street in Manhattan.
My mother-in-law is an avid archivist and historian–she’s not professionally employed as such but to call her an amateur would just be insultingly inadequate–and sent me this 2007 New York Times article chronicling Jenrette’s affection for old, stately homes, both northern and southern. Why is this important or relevant now? Read her comments below to find out why Jenrette is worth remembering and how his penchant for preservation relates directly to this blog (and because the breadth of her knowledge illustrates just how perfectly southern she is, inside and out):
“What a guy! He is so gracious to open his homes/historic houses to support many local causes, and from time to time grants access to these American Treasures by supporting historical society tours. I have always been in awe of his good taste and his penchant for using American furniture, especially by furniture maker Duncan Phyfe. Amazingly, the background building in the rooftop photo on your “Behind the Curtain” page shows the same shell-like fan motif that was used inside Millford to restore some of the cornices and in many other places in that home; it even appears in the aqua blue and gold custom-designed carpets. I have saved some great photos from an article by Tom Woodham called “Seventh Haven: Richard Jenrette Restores Historic Millford” in Veranda magazine’s summer 1998 issue that also has interior photo shots by John M. Hall showing the use of this motif throughout the estate.”
Wow is right.