Sunday, May 23, 2010

Mother and Jenny Lind

- Another installment in my series

Stories of the world during the time Winston Churchill lived in it: 1873 to 1965.

In 1851 he was appointed U.S. Counsel to Trieste. Located between Italy and the Balkans, it was the Austrian Empire’s only seaport. In Europe, Clara got her first taste at a happier life. Europe’s elites did not impress the thoroughly American Leonard. “It is better to speak well in just one language than to chatter in five,” he said.

In 1853 he returned the family to the more adventuresome venue of New York City. There he met and fell in love with one of the most famous singing stars of the century, Jennie Lind. When his second daughter was born, on January 9, 1854 he insisted on naming her “Jeannette”. Months later Clara learned that her baby had been named after this other woman.

In 1859 he built his dream mansion on the southeast corner of 26th. Street near Madison Square. Clara had it designed in the best Napoleonic Paris style. It rose six stories high. The white and gold ballroom accommodated three hundred; the dining room seventy. Leonard’s attention was on the secondary buildings. His stable cost $80,000. Next to it his theatre seated six hundred.

At this time other wealthy families were building homes in the area. Delmonico’s Restaurant made its debut. So did the Fifth Avenue Hotel. It sported impressive innovations: a central heating system, “a perpendicular railway intersecting each story” (i.e. an elevator), and most startling of all – indoor toilets. Critics called them “not only unsanitary but immoral.”

This series consists of short summaries for passages from the book that I am writing. Graphic is that of another Churchill book that I really like.

Other Installments of this series (in progress).

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