Cassiobury was built in 1927 in Bedford Hills, New York on a 24 acre site bordering the Beaver Dam river. The area is known for its tranquil landscapes and sumptuous country estates. It was designed by Harriet Meeker Cox Hooper (1870-?), an interior designer and widow of Horace Everett Hooper (1859-1922).1 He had been in the book trade for many years and was the owner of the Encyclopaedia Britannica.
“The last years of Mr Hooper’s life were marked by long litigation with his former partner, a disagreement having arisen in 1908 over their plans to purchase The London Times before it passed into the ownership of Lord Northcliffe.”2
Horace died a few weeks after the publication of the twelfth edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica. This edition was a commercial failure, losing Sears Roebuck roughly $1.75 million dollars, after which Sears gave it back to Hooper’s widow, Harriett Meeker Cox, and her brother, William J. Cox, who ran the company from 1923-1928.
From my initial research it appears that Horace died in Bedford Hills in a house called Cheverells, as I found the following in the New York Evening Post of July 9th 1925:
“Julia Beverley Higgens sold for Mrs Harriet Hooper her place at Bedford Hills known as Cheverells consisting of 113 acres with large dwelling, garage and stables, farmhouse and farm buildings to W. Fitch Ingersoll.”3
The new house was named Cassiobury after the English house near Watford, Hertfordshire. Originally a Tudor building, dating from 1546 for Sir Richard Morrison and later owned by the Earls of Essex, it was finally demolished in 1927. The contents and many of the elements of the house were sold and some made their way to the USA. Posters advertised:
“To lovers of the antique, architects, builders, etc., 300 tons of old oak: 100 very fine old oak beams and 10,000 Tudor period bricks.”
When I visited the house it was clear that it contains a number of eighteenth century English elements and I set out to learn more about both the original house in Watford and Mrs Hooper herself.
Some of what I have learnt of Cassiobury House can be seen elsewhere. However I have discovered very little about Mrs Hooper and her business activities, although it is known that she had travelled to Europe. She may have accompanied her husband to England in 1897, and there is a passenger record of her arriving at Ellis Island NY on the Olympic on June 1st 1921.
I also came across an advertisement for a mahogany china cabinet from The Hooper Collection. Presumably there were more pieces. One wonders what they were based on. If one had the time this is the sort of thing that might be followed up by Winterthur Museum, Garden and Library.
The house featured prominently in the Press when it was sold a few years ago and an idea of the interior can be seen in some of these views.
I visited the house in March 2013 and spent a week investigating the interior.
I cannot pretend that I arrived by sleigh, although the snow was just as deep, but here is a short film of the house presented by the delightfully-named Muffin Dowdle of Ginnel Real Estate.
1 Horace Everett Hooper (December 8th 1859 – June 13th 1922), President of Encyclopaedia Britannica. He was born in Worcester, Massachusetts, a descendant of some of the earliest settlers in New England and of Lady Joan Beaufort, Queen of Scotland (1406-1445).
2 NY Times June 14th 1922.
3 New York Evening Post July 9th 1925. (See above ‘Apartment Rentals’ in column 2).
Incidentally, it is thought that Mr and Mrs W. Fitch Ingersoll were collectors as a painting called Slave Market was given to the Carnegie Museum of Art in Pittsburgh by them.
4 The address given is the old Hooper house (Cheverells).
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