The House of W. L. Stow, Esq.
Roslyn, New York
From AMERICAN ESTATES AND GARDENS by Barr Ferree published 1906
JR. STOWS house is an Italian palace adapted to the exigencies of the American climate. Very large it is, and splendidly environed, and best seen from the south, although entered from the north. It is a stately pile, broad and firm in outline, simply designed and sparsely ornamented, but withal characterized by fine dignity and charm. The main doorway, on the north, is modest enough, and is sheltered by a small glass marquise that flares slightly upward.
But the south side is palatial, with an effect of quite monumental grandeur. Like many Long Island country places, the house is built on high ground, with very beautiful natural surroundings. On the south it slopes rapidly away from the house, falls quickly, indeed, so that the terrace treatment is at once the most natural and the most effective.
And most happily this has been arranged. A spacious area is enclosed within a balustrade, with a flight of steps at each end. A wonderful space this is, with the great house immediately behind, the steep cliff below, and, beyond, the rich farming lands of the near-by estates, and farther on, again, if the day be clear, the view is veiled by the ocean.
Down below, immediately in the foreground, is a second space, enclosed with a hedge of evergreens. At the foot of each flight of steps is a pair of marble lions, standing on the high pedestals of the balustrade. The upper terrace is supported by a wall, carried wholly across the front, the center marked with three great arches. This lower space is a simple formal garden, and with old Italian well-heads, great marble vases, and other decorative adjuncts. One can here realize, if one has not realized it before, that this is a superb mansion, a veritable palace, happily designed, finely placed, and suitably environed. The greensward, the massive retain-ing-wall of the upper terrace, the balustrade, and the enclosing stairways at the ends, the house above, make an ensemble of stately beauty that few American country houses possess. The general effect is fine, and the impression one of much splendor.
The house is palatial because it is large, excellently designed, and handsomely furnished. The interior is eminently livable and enjoyable. The rooms are not vast, as rooms in houses of this rank are measured, but are well proportioned to their uses, and the spaces have been judiciously employed. The main doorway leads immediately into an entrance or stair hall the full height of the house, and lighted above as well as by a window immediately over the door. A flight of stone steps, with an imposing stone balustrade, leads to the upper floor. Immediately in face is a monumental doorway to the hall. This is a splendid apartment, the largest in the house, occupying more than half of the main building, with four great windows opening on to the south terrace. It is paneled in black oak for two-thirds of its height, the upper part of the paneling being treated with small open arches supported on free columns. Above is a rich damask brocade of deep red. A narrow painted frieze of grotesques runs around the room, and the ceiling is beamed and painted in small squares. The doors, which are elaborately framed, as are the windows, have rounded tops, with open carved woodwork in the panels. It is, therefore, a room rich in color, and with a structural decoration of quite unusual extent, very interesting in itself, very interestingly applied, and thoroughly successful in its effect. At the far end is a monumental chimneypiece, with fluted columns, the treasure trove of a Florentine palace, as are most of the chimneypieces in the house. Electric lights are hidden behind the top of the wall panels, and produce a startlingly beautiful effect when illuminated.
To the right is the Gold Salon. Here, again, is more splendor, yet thoroughly harmonized and quite subdued in effect. The walls are hung with old green silk, arranged in gilt panels. The rich door frame is also gilt, the color scheme being gold and green. The doorway is Spanish Renaissance. The mantel is plain, but beautifully wrought; over it is a portrait of the Duchess of Parma, by Suttermans, in a rich old monumental frame. The center of the ceiling is filled with a large painting of the School of Tiepolo, and the room is illumined by crystal lights hanging from the walls. Three rooms on the end of the house open from the hall and adjoin the Salon. The central one is a billiard-room; at one end is a conservatory, at the other a smoking-room.
The dining-room adjoins the hall, and is nearly of the same size. It is a large apartment, brilliantly lighted by the spacious windows by day, and at night by great electric standards placed in each corner. It is sumptuously furnished, and that many fine works of art enter into its adornment is thoroughly in keeping with the splendid manner in which the whole house has been planned and arranged. The floor is marble mosaic. The door frames are of marble, carved and ornamented with rich panels and friezes. Marble pilasters mark off the division of the walls, which are covered with green velvet brocade. There is a dado of green and black marble, and the same material appears in the serving tables or sideboards, each of which is supported by white marble pedestals. The ceiling, in green and gold, is decorated with small squares; in the center is a large square painting by Domenichino, the “Youth of Bacchus”; each of the four corners has round allegorical panels, painted by Claudio Francesco Beaumont. On one wall is a painting of the “Rape of the Sabines,” by Vasari, and a number of old Italian portraits are hung in the adjoining spaces. A small breakfast-room opens out of the dining-room; and then, beyond it, are the apartments devoted to the service, pantries, a dumb-waiter to the kitchen, which is placed below, where there are more pantries, storerooms, ice chests, servants’ dining-room, and other offices, all so needful to the inhabiting of the house, and here down below, but with their own opening to the outer world, which the location of the house on a hill permits most conveniently.
To the left of the entrance hall is the library. It is prefaced by a small recess. The walls are lined with bookcases, above which are deep dark oak panels; the plastered ceiling is decorated with geometrical designs. The conspicuous feature of this room is the superb mantel and chimneypiece, the richest in the house, magnificently carved with crowded panels in relief, and a veritable masterpiece, brought from Venice. Above it are three consoles with gilt busts. The furniture is chiefly old, and the walls are hung with old portraits. A goodly-portion of the bookcases is given up to Mr. Stow’s collection of old blue and white china, which includes a number of pieces of the highest interest. In each corner hangs a large German silver lamp, connected with the electric light.
Upstairs are bedrooms, boudoirs, and bathrooms. A great corridor runs through the house from east to west, opening on to the entrance hall, with a central balcony, whence one may look across at the tapestries with which this part of the house is decorated. The bedrooms are mostly hung with silk or other material, all delightfully furnished, and each with its own color scheme and its attendant bathroom. The third floor does not appear in the outward design as it is hidden by the cornice and roofing; it is entirely given up to the servants’ quarters.