This is the House That Jack Built

One Beach Avenue is just what the address suggests, the most desirable property at the seashore. It has been for over a hundred years. And it’s for sale. Located in the affluent village of Larchmont, NY, in Westchester County, approximately 18 miles northeast of Midtown Manhattan, One Beach Avenue is now back on the market for $5,850,000. It is an architectural treasure, majestic and quirky, 119 years old, perched above a gorgeous beachfront stretch of Long Island Sound, with stunning water views from nearly every room.

The current, now fifth owner of the historic property Paul Kaminski, who purchased One Beach in 2003, thoughtfully used reclaimed doors and windows where possible hoping to preserve and protect the community’s historical, cultural, and architectural heritage. While a few rooms were reconfigured, the home has kept its unusual layout and idiosyncratic charm. A first-floor mudroom and laundry, a game room, two guest rooms and a bathroom were added, while some of the garage space was converting into a gracious, contemporary kitchen and family room with soaring 10-foot ceilings.

The stunning One Beach Avenue has a glorious and fascinating history

Originally this 9,000 sq ft Tudor castle was the carriage house/stables/garage for the Gourauds, Amy and Jack, at their summer home “La Hacienda.” It was an outbuilding. But is was not in any way an afterthought.

This is the House That Inspired the House That Jack Built

This is Jack. He built a storybook house. Photo courtesy The Crocker Art Museum. Photo ID# 1885.661

Jackson Gouraud, Amy’s third, grew up in a sprawling estate in the open fields of Beulah Hill in London on land leased by the Archbishop of Canterbury. His father was the great and powerful Col. George Edward Gouraud, international carnival barker, scheme pusher and mischief maker. And Thomas Edison’s agent.

In 1878, when Jack was four, the Gourauds moved to Binswood at Beulah Hill no. 53. When the Edison money started rolling in, architect Ernest Newton was hired to extend and remodel the house. New terraces were added with a tennis court on one level and a show-rink to exercise the horses on another. A large music room, the Minstrel’s Gallery, was added with a floor to ceiling window that offered the best view of the grounds. A chancel (chorus alcove) and pews salvaged from a church were installed. Two grand pianos and a harmonium dominated the music room. The supercilious Colonel placed his own bust in the room opposite a bust of Socrates. A stable block was added with a oval terracotta plaque featuring a large capital “G” with a lightning bolt which separated images of a sword and a pen.

The Minstrel Gallery, or music room, in Little Menlo

George renamed the house “Little Menlo” in Edison’s honor. Of course Edison’s phonograph was placed in Gouraud’s office along with a signed photo and two plaster busts of the inventor by George Tinworth. The local press dubbed Little Menlo “The Electric House.” It was a wonder emporium of gadgets and gizmos. The compound boasted not only the ability to provide lighting, but to clean the Colonel’s boots and scrub his carpets all via electricity. When the door to a room was opened, the lights would turn on. He kept an electric launch driven by storage batteries for his boat docked on the River Thames. The Colonel rode a tricycle operated by an electric motor. He rigged a direct connection to the Crystal Palace, so that he was able to listen to live concerts from the comfort of his home. The billiard room was, according to the New York Times, converted into “a combination of a ballroom, theatre, music room, studio, reading room, salle d’armes and hall of science,” and it was here that the smart set were invited to marvel at Mr. Edison’s latest contrivances.

The walls were decorated with photos of Union generals with a few Confederate generals interspersed hung upside down.

Jackson had enormous shoes to fill in the town of Larchmont. Amy’s second husband, Harry Gillig, could not have been more respected and admired. He was elected Commodore of the Larchmont Yacht Club back in 1895. He had an extraordinary schooner, the 132-foot Ramona. Harry was a Harvard/Hasty Pudding man who was a prominent and popular member of both the Bohemian Club and the Lambs Club. He was a talented baritone singer and a prestidigitator, a one-man show. The Gilligs and their flashy entourage were the favorite hosts of all the great stage actors, literary figures, musicians and newspaper editors of the fin de siècle on both coasts.

Mrs. Amy Crocker Ashe Gillig had gathered a circle of Buddhist devotees at her Manhattan “colony” who burned a lot of incense and midnight electricity. Into her temple one day strolled Jackson Gouraud. Ragtime was in its popular infancy and Gouraud was a composer of current hits on Broadway. He was a romantic youth of 26 who soon became an Amy Crocker disciple. When he dedicated a ballad about roses and twilight to Amy, she couldn’t resist him. Mrs. Gillig, who was nearly 10 years older than Jack, hired him on to be her “private secretary.” In no time, the millionheiress and young Jack considered themselves “affinities.” Soon they had tattoos of each other’s initials drawn on their arms.

When Jack married Amy in the spring of 1901, there were two large houses on the vast shoreline grounds at Larchmont. Mother Margaret lived in Woodruff estate while the Gilligs occupied the old Flint house next door, which they named “La Hacienda.”

After Margaret died in December of that same year, newlywed Jackson set out to make his mark in Larchmont by bringing the best of Beulah Hill to town. He took down the Woodruff house and in its place built elegant English coaching stables with a courtyard in the center. The new fifty thousand dollar structure (1.5 million dollars today) housed fifteen stalls and a carriage repository containing all the latest Paris and American carriages and go-carts. Centered on the ridge over the main entry was a prominent tapered wood shingled clock tower, capped by a segmented copper cupola. A slender spire, embellished by whimsical copper flowers was planted on top. The stable also housed “bachelor quarters” and a squash court.

Left: One Beach Avenue. Right: Little Menlo, the house that Jackson Gouraud was raised in.

On the grounds Jack built a small set of links for the special use of himself and his brothers George, Bayard and Powers, who a year later would marry Amy’s daughter Gladys. The Gourauds were in Europe during construction. Jack brought back a powerful racing automobile from London. Amy planned to bring her ten thousand dollar kennel and her yacht which would be rigged out at the Larchmont Yacht Club. They attended a party at the club in August of ’92. Handsome Harry, the husband that Amy divorced a year and a half earlier, the “Great Commodore,” sang “Honey My Sweet” to the crowd…

Jackson Gouraud was an automobile enthusiast. From the Daniel and Lionel Milano collection.

The stable was of particular importance to the Gourauds as a showplace for their high-stepping thoroughbred horses. Horses and carriages were a major interest of the Gourauds who showed their best mounts in the annual New York horse shows with their tally-hos, drawn by four thoroughbred stepping horses. It was a veritable equine fairyland. After attending an auto show at Madison Square Garden, Jack developed a passion for automobiles. The stable/carriage house then had to make room for a variety of horseless surreys, Parisian go-carts, Victorias and runabouts. Jack later became a member of the City and Country Motor Club. The automobile enthusiast and speed demon was arrested in Manhattan twice for his recklessness, once for driving at the rate of 17 miles per hour and the second time at the breakneck speed of 25 miles per hour.

La Hacienda, the old Flint house, was destroyed by a fire that started at 2:15 on the afternoon of February 5, 1904. Jack was in town to see his architect about a big addition that was under construction. By the time the firemen reached the scene the flames were breaking out from all sides. Chief Mayhew Bronson of the Larchmont fire department thought it was caused by a defective flue. Mrs. Cousens, the caretaker’s wife, was on the upper floor. The fire had spread over the whole lower part before she knew of its existence. A ladder was run up and Mrs. Cousens was carried to safety by firemen who also rescued a precious dog belonging to Mr. Gouraud. The firemen were hampered by frozen hydrants and were unable to save even a part of the villa. The loss was estimated at $150,000 including the building, its furniture, and a choice assortment in the wine cellar.

This is the Manor That Shadowed the House That Jack Built

The shaken but not stirred couple decided to build a palatial estate covering both the Woodruff and Flint plots. Jackson laid the cornerstone on April 12, 1904. The new residence would resemble the English coaching stable and Jack’s family house on Beulah Hill in London. On his way to the cornerstone champagne ceremony, Jackson drove from the Waldorf with his friends in a four-in-hand to Larchmont, on a meandering twenty-four miles of muddy roads, in two hours and thirty minutes, and established a new record for the drive. The manor would contain forty rooms and be one of the finest on the Sound. Amy and Jack stayed nearby in a “barn” so that they could oversee construction.

Jack and Amy’s sprawling “La Hacienda”

Amy kept the name La Hacienda for her new summer palace.  The rambling, multi-gabled house was described as being of “perfect Elizabethan-medieval revival architecture.” La Hacienda had a 1,500 foot waterfront, with practically every room in the mansion facing the water. It encompassed about 12 acres. The couple added tennis courts and elaborate greenhouses. The entrance was designated by two massive brick pillars surmounted with equally huge bronze owls. The drive and walkways would snake through well-tended lawns interspersed with trimmed trees. Beautifully arranged flower gardens swept down to the water and up to the mansion. Two hundred Buddha statues and idols filled the rooms and gardens of the estate.

La Hacienda’s modern accommodations included spacious colored tile baths, among the first of its kind in this country. An intercommunicating bell system to call servants was installed and other inventions by Edison, gifts from Jackson’s father, Colonel George.

When the new structures were finally completed in the  summer of 1905, the Edwardian couple arrived in a parade of coaches with trunks, boxes and servants.

La Hacienda was the Downton Abbey of Larchmont. It was tended by 37 employees including the “estate superintendent” Mr. Cousens, the former caretaker of the Flint house, who was imported from England for his horticultural knowledge, plus six gardeners for the vegetable garden, the extensive flower gardens and the roads and lawn. In the stables, there was a head coachman, a footman and four stablemen. In the residence were the butler, under butler, valets, housekeepers, cooks, laundresses and house maids. The vast majority of Amy and Jack’s staff were  Japanese men. The only woman on her staff was her personal Japanese ladies maid.

Amy continued to raise her prize French bulldogs at kennels that she installed at Larchmont, paying as much as $10,000 for a pup. She hired a groom for her precious dogs. Amy had entered her prized pups in the granddaddy of all dog shows, the 23rd annual bench show of the Westminster Kennel Club at Madison Square Garden. More than 2,000 canine candidates were judged for blue ribbons including Amy with her French bulldogs, Frank J. Gould, with St. Bernards, J. Pierpont Morgan, with collies, and W. G. Rockefeller, with beagles. Amy’s Dimboola took first prize for his breed.

Amy with her beloved French bulldogs. From the Daniel and Lionel Milano collection.

Each year, as soon as the house was in running order, the Gourauds began a series of lavish parties to entertain the glitterati of the New York scene. These events often made the pages of the newspapers. On September 15th, the end of the summer season in Larchmont, they staged a huge house and courtyard gathering. At this party, the Gourauds, their house guests, servants, stablemen, gardeners and all the surrounding neighbors were free to come. This was an annual affair with as many as 150 participating in the festivities.

The power couple’s New York homes in Larchmont and on Madison Avenue were the rendezvous for all the well-known stars of the stage and music halls and the popular writers and artists of the day. One night an impromptu rendition of the “Florodora Sextet” was done admirably by an all-star cast led by Edna Wallace Hopper, Raymond Hitchcock, Merri Osborne, Joe Coyne, Nat Goodwin and Enrico Caruso himself. The famous Italian opera tenor often performed at the Gourauds’ New York homes, as did the Victor Herbert Orchestra. Other frequent guests included Broadway stars and legends such as Gaby Deslys, Mrs. Leslie Carter, Anna Held, the Barrymores, John Drew and David Belasco. John Barrymore was one of Jack’s best buddies, or, according to one article, one of Jack’s cronies…

Amy, Jack and a friend, possibly at the old Flint house in Larchmont. From the Daniel and Lionel Milano collection.

Mr. and Mrs. Gouraud became bona fide Broadway “first nighters.” A first nighter held a secured customary first or second row seat in the orchestra for all the big New York opening shows and only missed the first performance at any important theater when two plays opened on the same night. These “habitual first-nighters” included, along with the Gourauds, the crème de la crème of Manhattan society:
the Cornelius Vanderbilts, the J. Pierpont Morgans, the August Belmonts, the Chauncey M. Depews, the George Goulds, the Oliver H. P. Belmonts, Freddie Gebhart (first husband Porter Ashe’s arch rival), Diamond Jim Brady and Lillian Russell, Charles Schwab, Mark Twain, the Stuyvesants, the Astors, the DeMilles, and Congressman Francis Burton Harrison and his wife Mary (Amy’s cousins).

The response of the first nighters carried more weight than the reviews of the critics to a play’s author, the acting troupe, and theater owners. They received more mentions oftentimes in the press than the actors, and none more than Amy and Jack. It was remarked that Amy was, “almost as familiar a figure on Broadway as the statue of Horace Greeley at Thirty-second St.” The Morning Telegraph announced the official end of the theatrical season in April of 1904, when Mrs. and Mr. Jack Gouraud left New York to summer in Germany.

In 1910, 35-year-old Jackson Gouraud, bon vivant, songwriter and Prince of Larchmont, died of tonsillitis. A heartbroken Amy left La Hacienda and her house in Manhattan to live in an elegant home in Paris with Amy and Jack’s three adopted children Reginald, Yvonne and Dolores. In 1915, she sold the entire Larchmont estate to Rudolph Schaefer of the F. & M. Schaefer Brewing Company, New York’s oldest and longest-operating brewery. Schaefer, one time Rear Commodore at the yacht club, renamed the main house “Beechlawn,” and used the estate for almost a decade until his death in 1923. Though Amy asked for a cool million back in 1909 for the property ($30,000,000 today), Schaefer gave Amy approximately 300K and a large 14-room stucco house at Pryor Point on two acres of land fronting Premium Pond.

Following Schaefer’s death the holdings were subdivided: Automotive magnate and Renaissance man, Charles Brady King purchased the carriage house portion and the founding members of the Larchmont Shore Club purchased the main house.

Today La Hacienda is the Larchmont Shore Club. Photo by the author.

This is the Man That Transformed the House That Jack Built

Charles Brady King (right) driving a horseless carriage

C.B. King created and enjoyed much of the fairy tale style we still see at One Beach today.

King was known as an engineer and inventor, but also an artist, musician, poet, architect, and a mystic. A true Bohemian. Charles Brady King was an auto man like Jackson Gouraud. He was in fact a visionary automotive pioneer and inventor who accumulated over 40 patents for his own King Motor Company. He designed the first vehicle with left-side steering and center controls. He built the first jackhammer. In 1896, he was the first person to design, build and drive a “horseless carriage” on the streets of old Detroit. Henry Ford followed him on a bicycle. They became close friends. King was inducted into the Automotive Hall of Fame.

C.B. applied his ingenuity, his vast creative talents, and his wealth to the design and décor of his new compound.

King bought the carriage house in 1923 and when he began redesigning it as a home for his family he heard that the William K. Vanderbilt Mansion at 5th Avenue and 52nd Street in Manhattan, the “Petit Chateau,” was being demolished. He was able to salvage a whopping 35 truckloads worth of architectural treasures. King incorporated many elements from this French chateau-style mansion designed and built by Richard Morris Hunt from 1879-82. He also salvaged parts from the Hudson steamship “The Mary Powell.” The front door of his fantastical wonderland came from St. Gabriel’s Church in New Rochelle.

King named his hodgepodge, oddball masterpiece “Dolfincour.” Some of the Vanderbilt parts used at Dolfincour included, a two-story fireplace, a spiral staircase, a coffered wooden ceiling, and innumerable windows, beams, pillars, and marble handrails. Maritime ornaments included a stair railing from a Spanish galleon and five portholes. King had carillon bells cast in France and put them in the tower. The house’s curious collection of statuary included six stone angels, three gargoyles, four copper wolf heads and three lions. In the courtyard a fish pool drained into a smaller fish pool through a diving helmet.

In King’s extensive garage (which grew to accommodate five cars and included his office and workroom) were displays of over 50 working engine models. On some rough-hewn beams in the sitting room, carved heads of old-time race car drivers, complete with goggles, caps, and scarves were included.

This is the Couple That Immortalized the House That Jack Built

The Kerr family lived at One Beach Avenue for 48 years. This photo shows the front door salvaged from a Vanderbilt mansion. Photo by Alfred Eisenstaedt for Life Magazine, 1958.

The next owners of One Beach Avenue were Walter and Jean Kerr, of Broadway and literary fame, who bought Dolfincour on a whim, in 1955, telling their astonished agent, in unison, “It’s the nuttiest house we ever saw, we’ll buy it.” They reveled in its idiosyncrasies. Kerr described the style of his house as “neogingerbread.” Like the Gourauds, the Kerrs were Broadway royalty. Walter Kerr was an author, director, playwright and a Pulitzer Prize-winning theater critic for the New York Herald Tribune, and later for the New York Times. He was inducted into the American Theater Hall of Fame, and in 1990, had the honor of a Broadway theater being renamed in his honor. His wife Jean was a renowned humorist, playwright and author of books and essays on the zaniness of family life. Her famous book Please Don’t Eat the Daisies and her play Mary, Mary – the eighth longest running non-musical Broadway hit with a whopping 1,572 performances – were both adapted as movies, Daisies starred Doris Day and Mary Mary starred Debbie Reynolds. Daisies inspired a TV series as well.

The 1980 comedy Lunch Hour turned out to be Jean Kerr’s farewell to the theater. Set in the Hamptons, the play starred Gilda Radner and Sam Waterston and was directed by Mike Nichols.

When the Kerrs moved in to the Gouraud-Schaefer-King house, they toned down some of the more flamboyant interior features and added spaces to accommodate a family of six active children. They did rig the carillon bells so they would play an aria from “Carmen” at 6 p.m. sharp every evening to draw the kids home for dinner from nearby homes and beaches. Walter Kerr also permanently installed 16 theater seats—saved from the old Martinique Theater—in his study. Hidden bookcases and cabinets and secret rooms left by King were used to store everything from china to first editions, signed by major authors, from Walter Kerr’s voluminous collection.

Jean wrote often about her topsy-turvy life as a mother of six happy hellions at One Beach Avenue. Her lovely home was featured in Ladies Home Journal, Life Magazine and Architectural Digest among others, which helped turn the historic storybook beachfront house that Jack built into one of America’s most celebrated homes.

Photo by Alfred Eisenstaedt for Life Magazine, 1958

 

[Listing: 1 Beach Avenue by Pollena Forsman of Houlihan Lawrence]

 

Selective Bibliography

“A Great Day for Gouraud,” NY Sun, Apr 12, 1904, p1.

Benjamin Gill, “Profiles to Spare the Obedient Beast: Charles Brady King,”  The New Yorker, May 18, 1946, pp30-39.

“Crocker Point Association, Inc. against Amy Crocker Gouraud,” Court of Appeals of the State of New York, Vol 118, 1918.

Howard Hope, The Remarkable Life of George Gouraud, (UK: Book Printing, Remus House, 2021).

Jean Kerr, “Architectural Digest Visits Jean and Walter Kerr,” Architectural Digest, May/Jun 1974, pp70-75.

Judith Doolin Spikes, Larchmont, (Cincinnati, Ohio: Fountain Square Publishing, 1991).

“Larchmont Club’s at Home,” SF Examiner Aug 3, 1902, p9.

“Larchmont Cottage Burned,” NY Times, Feb 5, 1904, p1.

“Larchmont Happenings,” NY Tribune, Jun 17, 1902, p4.

“Many Members Join Shore Club,” The Daily Times, Oct 3, 1925, p6.

“Mrs. Gouraud Sells Her Estate,” NY tribune, Feb 28, 1915, pIV.

Philip Severin, “Gourauds Rebuilt as they Lived Exuberantly,” Daily Times (Mamaroneck, NY), May 1970.

“The Summer Season in Westchester,” NY Tribune, Jul 15, 1900, p12.

“Westchester Brightening,” NY Tribune, Jun 25, 1902, p6.