Granny particularly enjoyed entertaining musical notables. Her friend, Eleanor Robson Belmont, recalled an evening early in 1911 when Engelbert Humperdinck, in New York for the premiere of his opera Die Konigskinder at the Metropolitan, was at one of her parties with Giacomo Puccini, in New York for the premiere of his opera The Girl of the Golden West. After dinner Josef Hoffman played with Humperdinck and Puccini on either side of the piano.
Of course, this makes Granny sound rather frivolous but that was not the case. Although she was certainly a participant in society, (she was one of the founders of the Colony Club in 1903) she was also a lifelong philanthropist. She was responsible for the building of the "open-stair" apartment houses, four large buildings with 384 apartments on Avenue A (now York Avenue) between 77th and 78th streets in New York. These revolutionary new buildings were intended to house patients suffering from tuberculosis, then the scourge of New York slums, and their families in airy, sanitary surroundings. She paid the $1 million cost of the partments, which were designed by Henry Atterbury Smith. Completed in 1910, the buildings still exist and are still occupied.
William K. Vanderbilt House on Fifth Avenue, New York City
In 1903, Willian K. Vanderbilt married Anne Harriman, daughter of banker Oliver Harriman. She was a widow to sportsman Samuel Stevens Sands and to Lewis Morris Rutherfurd, Jr., son of the astronomer Lewis Morris Rutherfurd. Always in 1903, along with Anne Morgan and Bessie Marbury, Anne helped organize the Colony Club, the first women's social club in New York. The also created the exclusive neighborhood of Sutton Place, along Manhattan's East River, which prompted gossip papers of the 1920s to loudly whisper of an "Amazon Enclave“.
WK's divorce from his first wife, Alva Smith, was quite a story in its own right and the machinations undertaken so that he could marry Granny attracted the attention of the famous novelist Henry James.
William Kissam Vanderbilt I (December 12, 1849 – July 22, 1920) was a member of the prominent American Vanderbilt family. He managed railroads and was a horse breeder.
The second son of William Henry Vanderbilt, from whom he inherited $55 million (equal to about $1.4 billion today), and grandson of "The Commodore" Cornelius Vanderbilt, William Kissam Vanderbilt was for a time active in the management of the family railroads, though not much after 1903. His sons, William Kissam Vanderbilt II (1878–1944) and Harold Stirling Vanderbilt (1884–1970), were the last to be active in the railroads, the latter losing a proxy battle for the New York Central Railroad in the 1950s.
In 1879 after taking over P. T. Barnum's Great Roman Hippodrome which was on railroad property by Madison Square Park he renamed the facility Madison Square Garden.
Vanderbilt's first wife was Alva Erskine Smith (1853–1933), whom he married on April 20, 1875. She was born in 1853, in Mobile, Alabama, to Murray Forbes Smith, a commission merchant, and Phoebe Ann Desha, daughter of US Representative Robert Desha. They had three children. Consuelo Vanderbilt was born on March 2, 1877, followed by William Kissam Vanderbilt II on March 2, 1878, and Harold Stirling Vanderbilt on July 6, 1884. Alva later maneuvered Consuelo into marrying Charles Spencer-Churchill, 9th Duke of Marlborough on November 6, 1895. Alva divorced Vanderbilt in March 1895, at a time when divorce was rare among the elite, and received a large financial settlement reported to be in excess of $10 million (equal to about $280 million today). The grounds for divorce were allegations of Vanderbilt's adultery. Alva remarried to one of their old family friends, Oliver Hazard Perry Belmont, on January 11, 1896.
In 1903, Vanderbilt married Anne Harriman, daughter of banker Oliver Harriman. She was a widow to sportsman Samuel Stevens Sands and to Lewis Morris Rutherfurd, Jr., son of the astronomer Lewis Morris Rutherfurd. Her second husband died in Switzerland in 1901. She had two sons by her first marriage and two daughters by her second marriage. She had no children by Vanderbilt.
After the death of his brother, Cornelius Vanderbilt II, in 1899, Vanderbilt was generally regarded as head of the Vanderbilt family.
Like other Vanderbilts, he built magnificent houses. His homes included Idle Hour (1900) on Long Island and Marble House (1892), designed by Richard Morris Hunt, in Newport, Rhode Island. Hunt also designed Vanderbilt's 660 Fifth Avenue mansion (1883).
Vanderbilt was a co-owner of the yacht Defender, which won the 1895 America's Cup and briefly owned the large steam yacht Consuelo. Vanderbilt was a founder and president of the New Theatre.
He was also a member of the Jekyll Island Club aka The Millionaires Club.
In Centerport, Long Island, you can visit the estate of William Kissam Vanderbilt II. On the grounds lies thousands of animals and objects that were collected from all over the world. The museum is host to the largest taxidermy Whale Shark in the world as well as a mummy purchased in Egypt. Also on the grounds is a Planetarium which was updated in 2012-2013.
Days of Love: Celebrating LGBT History One Story at a Time by Elisa Rolle
Paperback: 760 pages
Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform; 1 edition (July 1, 2014)
CreateSpace Store: https://www.createspace.com/4910282
Amazon (Paperback): http://www.amazon.com/dp/1500563323/?tag=elimyrevandra-20
Amazon (Kindle): http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00MZG0VHY/?tag=elimyrevandra-20
Days of Love chronicles more than 700 LGBT couples throughout history, spanning 2000 years from Alexander the Great to the most recent winner of a Lambda Literary Award. Many of the contemporary couples share their stories on how they met and fell in love, as well as photos from when they married or of their families. Included are professional portraits by Robert Giard and Stathis Orphanos, paintings by John Singer Sargent and Giovanni Boldini, and photographs by Frances Benjamin Johnson, Arnold Genthe, and Carl Van Vechten among others. “It's wonderful. Laying it out chronologically is inspired, offering a solid GLBT history. I kept learning things. I love the decision to include couples broken by death. It makes clear how important love is, as well as showing what people have been through. The layout and photos look terrific.” Christopher Bram “I couldn’t resist clicking through every page. I never realized the scope of the book would cover centuries! I know that it will be hugely validating to young, newly-emerging LGBT kids and be reassured that they really can have a secure, respected place in the world as their futures unfold.” Howard Cruse “This international history-and-photo book, featuring 100s of detailed bios of some of the most forward-moving gay persons in history, is sure to be one of those bestsellers that gay folk will enjoy for years to come as reference and research that is filled with facts and fun.” Jack Fritscher
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