Monday, August 30, 2010

Cornelia Guest Puts Templeton Back on the Market

SELLER: Cornelia Guest
LOCATION: Old Westbury, NY
PRICE: $11,900,000
SIZE: 11,532 square feet, 11 bedrooms, 6 full and 2 half bathrooms

YOUR MAMAS NOTES: Before socialites like Tinsley Mortimer jumped on the low-brow reality tee-vee train and celebutantes like Paris Hilton were regularly snapped by the paps with their hoo-hoos hanging out and getting busted by the po-po in a car full of pot smoke and coke, there was to the manor born Cornelia Guest. Miz Guest, who was called the "Deb of the Decade" in 1986, seamlessly and effortlessly blurred the lines between Manhattan's uptown uptight and downtown's funky fabulosity. Although never without the proverbial silver spoon in her mouth, she catted around with the likes of Andy Warhol and was a habitué of the gloriously debauched Studio 54 where drugs were consumed like candy and drag queens and disco divas cavorted with the the high fashion crowd and Upper East Side social set.

Miz Guest was born solidly into the old-line American aristocracy. Her glammy style icon mother C.Z. Guest–whose portrait was famously painted by Diego Rivera, Salvador Dali, and Andy Warhol–came from a brood of blue blooded Boston Brahmins. Her polo champion father Winston Guest, a second cousin to Winston Churchill, was an heir to the colossal Phipps family fortune, much of which was derived from steel and real estate interests. A New York Times article from 2001 cleverly and accurately characterized the Guest family as "blueblood gone boho," which is exemplified by Winston and C.Z.'s 1947 wedding in Cuba in which the best man was the Old Man of the Sea himself Ernest Hemingway. Winston and C.Z. made two babies, Alexander and Cornelia.

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, many of America's east coast based aristocrats and plutocrats coagulated at the western end of Long Island where they built spectacular and vast country estates with improbably large and lavish mansions. The area, known as the Gold Coast, quickly became a bucolic mecca for self-made industrialists, scions of old families, and other assorted lockjaws with recognizable family surnames such as Vanderbilt, Roosevelt, Rogers, Whitney, Phipps, Pratt, Woolworth, and Coe, whose family seat, a Tudor Revival style pile they called Coe Hall, had 65 rooms including floral arranging rooms, trunk storage rooms, cedar closets for linens and off-season ensembles, and accommodations for a household staff of at least thirteen.

Although some remain (somewhat) intact and a few are still in the hands of descendants of the original owners, many if not most of the old Gold Coast estates have been torn down, cut up, bought by the new crew of wealth and power including Wall Street honchos, and/or converted to commercial use.

All of this is Your Mama's long way around an itty bitty real estate tidbit recently printed on Page Six of the New York Post about Miz Cornelia Guest being overhead at Martha Stewart and Harry Slatkin's birthday party telling someone that Templeton, her historic family seat in Old Westbury, NY, is back on the market. According to The Post, Templeton is priced at "up to $20 million." Upon reading the the juicy real estate morsel Your Mama, natch, went a-peepin' and a-pokin' around the interweb to see what we could see. We're not exactly sure where the peeps at The Post got their twenty million dollar figure because with the help of Golda Knowsthegoldcoast we quickly turned up a live listing for Templeton that shows a much lower asking price. It's true the Templeton, which has been on and off the market for years and bears the gently worn hallmark and slightly frayed patina of old American money, was at one time listed at $20,000,000. However, according to current listing information, Templeton is now on the open market with a much lower asking price of $11,900,000.

Buckle up your safety belts butter beans because it gets a little confusing here. It seems that there are any number of different and contradictory stories as to the ownership lineage of Cornelia Guest's Templeton due in part to the fact that there have been not one but two Templetons in the Old Westbury neck of the Gold Coast owned by the Phipps-Guest clan(s).

Between 1916 and 1918 gunpowder mogul turned philanthropist Alfred I. du Pont had a major Neo-Federal style brick and white marble mansion designed and built on 300 acres in Old Westbury, NY by high society architects Carrere & Hastings, the same folks responsible for designing the New York Public Library on Fifth Avenue and the mansion of steel tycoon Henry Clay Frick–now home to the Frick Collection–at Fifth Avenue and East 70th Street. Mister du Pont's decadent new estate was dubbed White Eagle. In 1921, not long after the death of Alfred I's controversial and scandalous second wife (Mary) Alicia du Pont, White Eagle was sold at auction to Howard Phipps, that would be Cornelia's great-uncle on her mother's side. The New York Times reported at the time the property was bought for $470,000. At some point in the next few years the property was deeded to or purchased by Cornelia's grandparents Frederick E. and Amy Phipps Guest.

In 1959 White Eagle was inherited by Winston Guest–that would be Cornelia's daddy–who rechristened the estate Templeton. Winston sold Templeton to the New York Institute of Technology in 1972. Sometime after 1959 and prior to 1972–Golda Knowsthegoldcoast thinks it was in the early 1960s–Winston and C.Z. moved from the titanic mansion at Templeton–the former White Eagle estate–to a smaller and more manageable but still sprawling house nearby. As these blue-blooded types sometimes do when they move from one estate to another, Winston and C.Z. took along and re-christened their new home with the name Templeton. It is this house that is currently owned and listed for sale by Cornelia Guest.

Are the children following along?

During the 1960s and 70s Cornelia's polo playing papa Winston and her supah-chic mother C.Z. were embedded members of the glittery jet setting and arty-farty elite of New York City and beyond. The charismatic couple entertained frequently and according to Cornelia herself, her parents regularly hosted at Templeton the likes of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, Truman Capote, Yves Saint Laurent and his bidness partner/man-friend Pierre Bergé, heart transplant pioneer Dr. Christiaan Barnard, the Kennedys, fashion icon Halston, ballet honcho Rudolph Nureyev, and Oscar de la Renta who had a permanent room in the Guest house.

In the mid-1990s, after a stint in Los Angeles where she pursued a not very successful career as an actress, Cornelia moved back east and into Templeton. Although Cornelia's mommy C.Z. didn't pass over to the other side until 2003 and we presume she occupied Templeton until then, property records reveal that in April of 2000, the younger Miz Guest purchased the property from her brother Alexander for $6,125,000. While Your Mama don't know a turnip from a dump truck and these property transfers among old-line family member can be very complicated to sort out, it appears to us that Miz Guest was buying out whatever share of Templeton was owned by her brother.

A long, gated and tree lined drive cuts through wide open pastures and sweeps around from the back of the house to a large motor court that spreads out from the front of the sprawling and imposing but architecturally plain mansion. The modified Georgian style brick house, built in 1924 and added on to in a somewhat willy-nilly fashion over the years, stretches out impressively on either side of the entry that is modestly marked by a simple white doorway surround. Listing information reveals that the Templeton estate spreads across 15.52 acres with an 11,532 square foot main house that contains a total of 28 rooms including 11 bedrooms and 6 full and 2 half poopers.

The front door opens into a bizarre yet fantastically amazing and wonderfully quirky decorative display that includes potted plants in the center of a white marble floor, a couple of ocelot-hide chairs and ottomans pushed up against the walls and, flanking the front door, a pair of massive curving elephant tusks, reminders of the days when big game hunting was de rigueur among America's most wealthy.

Miz Guest, who we're happy to say has honored and maintained the original casual but dignified decorative spirit of the house has also added her own idiosyncratic touches with unexpected and incongruous items such as the tiger striped rug in the Blue and White room that overlooks the gardens. The children will note the Salvador Dali portrait of Cornelia's mother C.Z. hanging above the antique marble fireplace.

The animal print motif continues into a wide hall with well worn–some might even say worn out–leopard print wall to wall carpeting. In a New York Times profile Miz Guest–who currently has nine dogs and a donkey named Madonna–states that the carpet hides years and years of "dog stains." Your Mama is, to be sure, down with the lightly tattered and slightly shabby look of classic old American money day-core but Your Mama hopes and prays the ladee of the house means dirty dog paws and not canine wee-wee because, well, that would be disgusting.

The other well-scaled public rooms include a large salon with soaring ceilings, wood floors, a mish-mash of animal print and brocade chairs, and a John Singer Sargent portrait of Cornelia's infant father Winston on the lap of his grandmother Anne Phipps. In the ground floor library, there are cozy upholstered club chairs in front of a fireplace, animal hide covered stools and chairs–more remnants of the days when big game hunting was fashionable amongst the financially privileged–Chinoiserie accents, and walls and book filled shelves covered completely in an intricately patterned French printed cotton fabric. The celadon colored dining room has what appears to be green veined marble moldings and window surrounds, a worn parquet floor, and dining room chairs upholstered in a muted paisley print fabric that gives the room that certain aura of antique elegance meets discount fabric hodge-podge so particular to these sorts of houses.

Back in 2004 when the house was photographed for House & Garden, a magazine for which Cornelia's mother C.Z. wrote a syndicated column on gardening, the sun room had lattice panels affixed to the walls. Today, according to listing photos, the lattice has been removed although the Pepto-bismol pink walls, dark wicker and faded floral print furniture pieces remain.

Miz Guest's unrestrained and perhaps unresolved thing for animal prints and hides follows her, natch, right into her master bedroom where the floors are not at all surprisingly covered in wall to wall leopard print carpeting similar to that in the downstairs hallway. It is also in her bedroom where a topless portrait of her by Andy Warhol hangs above a marble topped commode.

In addition to the main house, the grounds of Templeton include two cottages, some greenhouses, extensive but somewhat haphazard gardens with big ol' topiaries, a swimming pool, tennis court, and equestrian facilities with stables, barns, pastures and riding rings. Although it's reported that she no longer rides much, Miz Guest was at one time an accomplished and dedicated equestrian.

Despite family portraits by John Singer Sargent, a Warhol or two, and all the trappings of old-school American landed gentry, the Guest's Templeton has a distinct lack of pretense or high nosed snottiness. This house, children, is what new money aspires to when they pay big bucks to have their newly built mega-mansions done up by expensive decorators in the old style. These attempts to re-create the the dull luster and laissez faire day-core of old American houses rarely succeeds leaving too many mansions looking like overly precious and sad stage-sets. Of course, we're certain that those with knowledge of and an affinity for actual old English country houses scoff and laugh at what passes for patina in old American homes modeled on their authentic English predecessors. But so it goes. One can always look up or down the totem pole, can't they?

In addition to a few acting roles in recent years, Miz Guest has a catering business and she quite recently started a vegan cookie company that, with all due respect to Miz Guest, Your Mama thinks of as little more than a charming lark of a charming heiress looking for something to do in her quickly approaching middle aged years.

Although in 2008, Miz Guest told Dan's Papers–a Hamptons mag–that she was relocating to Hollywood to restart the acting career that never really got of the ground the first time, the recent New York Post item reports that Miz Guest was overhead saying that she wanted to move to Montauk. Who knows? Not Your Mama, that's who. With the always unpredictable and delightful Miz Guest it's probably best not to speculate on her next move since she's been surprising those around her with her somewhat eccentric heiress ways practically since the day she was born.

In other Old Westbury real estate news, (alleged) mob daughter Victoria Gotti still has her giant heap of architectural vomit on the market with an asking price of $2,895,000. We first discussed the beweaved beehawtcha's behemoth back in December of 2008 when it was listed for $3,500,000.

listing photos: Prudential Douglas Elliman

64 comments:

poor poor house said...

I'm guessing but I really think the guist piggy bank is empty. The house looks sad. Its obvious she didn't have the money to hire a nice gay decorator. Poor old girl such a waste.

oduroyal said...

Is that really a tiger-print rug and a cheetah-print carpet??????? I need some of Your Mama's nerve pills now.

lil' gay boy said...

Oooo, Mama!

Victoria is still trying to shed herself of that monstrous manse? She should just burn it; what insurance won't cover, the grateful populace will...

;-)

One thing; the original Templeton/White Eagle is more than a mile north of Cornelia's house, but because it, and other estates in the area at the time were named such as Roslyn House, Roslyn Hall & Roslyn Manor, the property records can sometimes be hard to follow.

Cornelia currently lives across the street to the west from the famous Old Westbury Gardens, site of hundreds of movies (Love Story, North By Northwest, Cruel Intentions, etc.) as well as TV, commercials & print ads.

For those addicted to Long Island Gold Coast lore, like moi, check out Wikimapia and scroll around town.

fairfield girl said...

Interesting. A Bit sad about the house going out of family hands though.Thanks for the link LGB.

Billion said...

I have been here. It's very Gatsby-esque and quite lovely if you are lucky enough to not have to go inside to (powder) your nose.

Jeannified said...

Interesting place. What a life this woman has! We should all be so lucky! Vegan cookies...

I'm more appalingly fascinated with Victoria Gotti's monstrosity, though! Hideous!

Tee said...

Love, love, love this! Years back I had the pleasure of knowing a friend of C.Z. Her name was Mary and she was a lovely old lady who brought to my office gorgeous Orchids from the Guest's greenhouse. You can bet all those flowers in that house are real and they've all been grown in their greenhouse and grounds.

Fantastic post Mama.

StPaulSnowman said...

Mama, I respectfully request that you refrain from mentioning John Singer Sargent and Andrew Dice Clay within the same calendar year.

MarkyMark said...

OMFC a Sargent, a Dali, various Warhols, and god only knows what else - the combined value of the artwork alone must far exceed the value of the property. Perhaps she could take them on Antiques Roadshow :)

Royal said...

Just a random point, but the elephant tusks cannot be flanking the front door since there are windows on either side of that door and the front elevation doesn't show any windows there. I'm thinking that door goes out the back, perhaps it's on the extreme right of the rear elevation photo in your photos?

Anonymous said...

Very interesting summary of a fascinating family. One thing I have always wondered about this new Templeton is who was the original owner/builder. Any clues from Golda?

CarlaInCalifornia said...

What exactly does Cornelia and Alexander do? Other than live off of their inheritance... of course. Another shining example of children/relatives of important people being nothing more than leeches. :(

Maybe if Cornelia or Alexander made something of themselves they wouldn't have to sell the family home because they could afford to live there.

Anonymous said...

Dear Mama,
White Eagle passed down on her Father's side- not her mother's. Mother's side had little money. The Guest money came from Winston's mother, Amy PHIPPS Guest. Yes, Phipps, as in Old Westbury. Winston and CZ moved out of White Eagle because he lost piles of money. The current Templeton were actually auxiliary buildings of the Old Westbury Estate that were given to Winston and CZ after they were unable to afford Templeton. Later, Winston lost more money, and they had to sell Amy Phipps Guest's penthouse at 1 Sutton Place South, which they had inherited. Follow me?

Anonymous said...

CarlalnCalifornia-
Angry much?
I've met both of them and they're both lovely.
They would never speak as rudely as you've just spoken.

Anonymous said...

$11.9 million and no curtains on the windaws? What is it with the current generation of rich people and their aversion to windaw treatments?

Anonymous said...

I think I understand Carla's point, and don't perceive anger so much as exasperation over why a resume that basically only says "I come from old money" is noteworthy or worth mentioning. But such is life, and what seems to be is indeed apparently better than nothing for many.

Anonymous said...

Ok, now, some thoughts.

Huge price drop from when she first listed the place, which I think was just before the global financial crisis. It now seems priced to sell although more difficult than pre-crisis. There are still some huge estates in the neighborhood, but also a lot of high end sub-division. However, you have to find a developer/builder with the financing and at this point the nerve for sub-division. Across the road from Templeton was the estate of Eben Pyne, also a Phipps relation, which was sold several years ago. The house was torn down and replaced by a huge monstrosity that is beyond my limited powers of description. Lots were sold off along what used to be the driveway. Templeton could very easily go this way as well.

Since she and Alexander are the only siblings, and I'm assuming they were the co-owners, it would appear that her brother got a very good deal back in 2000.

Cornelia appears to have made no significant changes to the interior since her mother died. But some very famous decorators, including the super chic Stephan Boudin of Maison Jansen, were involved over the years. CZ was very sophisticated, so these were never typical, fusty old money rooms. From the road, the place looks pretty scruffy at this point, surrounded as it is by a rusty old chain link fence, the paddocks empty of grazing horses, several "Beware of Dogs" signs tacked to trees at the entrance.

Although she waited a few years too long (market-wise), I believe it was always her intention to sell. She is a single woman. This property is in Old Westbury. Her friends are not, her life is not, in Old Westbury now.

The Guests also owned for many years the fabulous, sprawling penthouse at 1 Sutton Square South. CZ famously confronted one of her very fancy fellow tenants in the elevator or lobby who was carrying a plastic sack from Gristede's or somewhere. Plastic sacks could only come in through the service entrance: "A rule is a rule," she reportedly said.

Anonymous said...

To the commenter above who wondered about the orgins of the new Templeton: it was Phipps property. Lots of different Phippses had houses on adjacent parcels (Old Westbury Gardens is just down the road). I think CZ and her husband basically built this place anew on the site of either an older house or some outbuildings, but not entirely sure. . .

lil' gay boy said...

Anon 11:41; property maps from 1927 & 1939 (house was constructed in 1928) indicate ownership of the parcel & surrounding properties by the Velsor, Gerry, Mills & Bostwick (George, not Dunbar; he was across the road to the south) families.

The George Bostwick parcel of 21.5 acres (it appears that sometime after 1927, but before 1939, the land in question passed from a larger parcel owned by the Whelans to the Bostwicks) seems to encompass the grounds of the current 15-acre Templeton, well south of The Crossroads, the W. R. Grace Jr. estate that straddled the yet-to-be-built LIE.

Since Winston & CZ didn't move in there until after the original Templeton/White Eagle (built in 1916-17 for the duPonts), a mile or so to the north (on the south side of Northern Blvd.), was sold to NYIT in 1968, a full 40 years after construction of the current Templeton, it is more likely that the last major renovations occurred then. As was common practice at the time, they took the name of the family seat with them when they moved, causing much confusion.

Since they were "downsizing" due to Winston's continued financial problems, I have to wonder where they got the money (I cannot imagine NYIT would have been all that generous whilst trying to build their campus). I'm guessing from the very, very deep pockets of their surrounding family/neighbors, the Phipps, who were scattered across the landscape in such places as Knole, Westbury House, Spring Hill & Erchless (still in the Phipps family today) amongst others.

Zach said...

If this place was built in 1924 there is no way C.Z. and Winston could have built it anew as the commenter above suggests, as C.Z. was four years old in 1924. Winston would have been 18. According to a 1939 map, the property where Templeton sits is listed under either George Bostwick or Elbridge Gerry, it is hard to tell exactly where it would sit.

http://farm5.static.flickr.com/4098/4949025485_c9a3ab87a8_o.jpg

Anonymous said...

hey, 11:41 here.
Someone else above also says that these were auxillary buildings. I have no research to back this up, just my memory of something I read somewhere at some point

But I will say that just because something was built there in 1928 doesn't mean that the Guests didn't rebuild, re-figure or significantly amend that structure before they moved to the property. If you birds eye the property, you will see that it seems to have a bunch of add ons which is not typical of the major houses of that era. They were generally of a piece. Also it is oddly situated on the property. The front is around back, very close to the back property line. The back with the pool and gardens faces IU Willets Rd. This could mean any number of things, I suppose, but most likely that the property in front of the house was better suited for development and thus sold off.
Also, the names associated with ownership of the property before the Guests, noted by l'il Gay, could very possibly be Phipps relations, or perhaps later on the Phipps family bought up the land as it is adjacent to the main estate. I know that the Pynes across the road were somehow related.

StPaulSnowman said...

LGB; please elucidate the Phipps/Sackville connection. If, in fact, it is the Knole in Kent and not some "Knole" in Tenafly. I just got a book on the history of Knole and can't wait to dig in to it. Thanks!

Zach said...

There is a Bostwick/Phipps relation through George Bostwick's sister Lilian Stokes Bostwick whose second marriage was to Ogden Phipps, nephew of Old Westbury Gardens' Jay Phipps.

And the Knole he is referring to is in Old Westbury.

http://www.oldlongisland.com/2010/05/knole.html

StPaulSnowman said...

I thank you Zach!

Anonymous said...

When CZ's hubby died the house itself was left to the Children and CZ was left with a stipend and was always in fear that her Son in particular would sell the place out from under her. She sadly passed on before that fear would be realized. She was a lovely and charming woman who had I had the chance to meet a few times with her and her driver, who at the time did not drive due to a DUI.

Anonymous said...

I think it would have been sad for CZ to have survived to see her fear realized

lil' gay boy said...

Yes, thank you Zach, for all the wonderful info, anecdotes & insights you've provided over at Old Long Island...

magnus said...

The Guests purchased "new" Templeton from Edward and Martha Gerry. Edward Gerry was the scion of a very grand North Shore family. Martha Gerry, nee Farish was a Standard Oil heiress and famous race-horse owner/breeder. The Guests did very little work to the house when they bought it, which as of today, is still air conditioned (in the few rooms where it is) by ancient, wheezing window units. An old friend told me that years ago, he was invited to Templeton for dinner. It was a typically blazing hot and oppresively humid North Shore of Long Island July evening. Just as dinner was announced, CZ noticed that Diana Vreeland, a houseguest, had not appeared. My friend was deputized to find her. He discovered her upstairs in CZ's bedroom, prostrate on the bed in the 90 degree heat, sweat poring through her carefully applied Kabuki-like maquillage, with two of CZ's vast hounds curled up on either side of her.

Winston Guest's sad prediliction for "the bottle" and subsequent poor business judgement wrecked havoc on the Guest's finances, and I believe that Winston was obliged to declare personal bankruptcy. Fortunately, his mother was no fool, and Winston continued to receive an enormous income from a Phipps'trust throughout his life. When he died, the principal of the trust was divided among his child from his first marriage (to Helena Woolworth McCann's daughter)and his two children with CZ. This, very sadly, left CZ with almost nothing and completely dependant upon the kindness of her children.


Old Westbury is a bit of an odd locale. The vast majority of the grand, WASP families have long departed for points further North like Locust Valley and Oyster Bay leaving the Victoria Gottis of the world and her ilk to take their place. Poor Cornelia has been a bit stranded at "new" Templeton- and at $11million and change may remain so for the foreseeable future.

Anonymous said...

The family referred to this house as Little Templeton is on Isaac Underhill Willets Road. It was quite a comedown from Big Templeton and 1 Sutton Place South. The price has been dropped to $9,700,000 (as of 1/29/11) and Zwillow thinks it's worth $6,715,500. It's a pity that Cornelia's sentimentality came at such a high price.

Anonymous said...

Interesting, all of it, to say the least. Are you paid to puke out this shite? By the way, it was her mother, not her, who said in an interview that her print carpet didn't show dog paw.

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