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The Marble Palace

Manchester-by-the-Sea, Essex County, Massachusetts

Built 1904, for T. Jefferson Coolidge Jr. (1863-1912) and his wife, Clara Gardner Amory (1872-1957). The design was the result of their family friend Charles McKim (1847-1909), of the celebrated New York firm of McKim, Mead & White. Property taxes made it too expensive to maintain by 1958 and it was demolished that year. When the tide drops at the foot of the property, like something from the lost city of Atlantis the sea pulls back to reveal the great marble pillars that once stood tall, proudly supporting the front portico - the effect it creates may have been on purpose....
The Coolidge family had been among the leaders of the international mercantile elite in Massachusetts since the Boston Tea Party in 1776. Jefferson Jr. was named for his father, T. Jefferson Coolidge Sr. (1831-1920) who in turn was named for his great-grandfather Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826), of Monticello, 3rd President of the United States. The elder Jefferson Coolidge added substantially to the family fortune by acquiring major interests in textiles, banking, railroads, publishing, and electricity companies.

Moving Mansion House

In 1871, the elder Coolidge purchased "Goldsmith's Farm," being 116-acres on a promontory to the east of Manchester that would become known as Coolidge or Coolidge's Point. There, the elder Coolidge built a summer home that could sleep 26 (not including further room for the live-in servants) which was aptly referred to as "Mansion House".

In 1903, the Jefferson Sr. had "Mansion House" relocated to higher ground above the Point, allowing his son to build his summer bolthole in its place. Jefferson Jr. was neither of a retiring nature nor did he lack deep pockets: he employed New York's leading architectural firm, McKim, Mead & White, and it is almost certain that Charles McKim was the lead designer as he was a personal friend of the family and the front facade bore a distinct similarity to Florham, designed by McKim for the Twomblys in 1897.

The Marble Palace

The brown brick with white marble trim and columns were inspired by his ancestor's iconic mansion, Monticello. The four Ionic columns that supported the front portico were made of pure marble and weighed 13 tonnes each; and, also made of marble were the steps leading to the front door and the cornice. One of the wings had originally been built as an open pavilion to benefit from the sea air (supported by, of course, marble columns), but this was later closed off to the elements with glass, becoming a sun room.

Construction was managed by Norcross Brothers of Boston and the project was completed within just one year. The 230-long, three story mansion was immodestly dubbed "The Marble Palace". The gardens were designed in the Italian style with terraces of roses and rhododendrons. There was 700-feet of immaculate lawn between the rear of the house and the coastline at the foot of the property. In its day, the mansion entertained the leading members of Boston's Brahmin set, Gilded Age society as well as three Presidents: William Taft, Woodrow Wilson (1856-1924), and Theodore Roosevelt (1858-1919).

Coolidge died just eight years after his mansion was finished. Nonetheless, his widow, Clara Gardner (Amory) Coolidge continued to lived there year-round and her children and grandchildren children came up from Boston to join her over the summers. Towards the end of her life, Clara's eldest son, T. Jefferson Coolidge III (1893-1959), moved in and his wife, Catharine Kuhn (1902-1984), employed Sister Parish of the firm Parish-Hadley to revamp the interiors. Sister Parish is remembered as working with Mrs Kennedy at the The White House and her influence can still be seen, notably in the Yellow Oval Room.

Among Sister Parish's changes were the master bedroom. It was redone predominantly in white and, "the unusual Louis XV painted desk has a bevy of small drawers and cupboards. Also against the far wall are two pictures representing rooms in Mrs. (Caroline) Coolidge's former Georgian house in Brookline". In a corner of the newly done bedroom was part of a dinner service collection of crested blue and white Lowestoft china on shelves adjacent to a portrait Thomas Jefferson. The master bathroom was newly fitted with a "large, luxurious bath and dressing room with painted furniture and flowery fabrics."

Despite the elegant improvements, property taxes made the mansion impossible to maintain. After the elder Mrs Coolidge died in 1957, the younger one persuaded her husband to demolish what she viewed as a relic from a bygone age.

Coolidge Point Preserved for Perpetuity

A smaller one story structure was built in its place, but this too was later demolished when the heirs of the Coolidge family (who still have property there today) donated 57-acres of Coolidge Point (including the Ocean Lawns) to the Trustees of Reservations to be preserved in its natural state in perpetuity.

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References

The Marble Palace - Manchester Historical Museum; The Life & Times of Charles Follen McKim (1929) by Charles Moore; A 20th Century Story with 18th Century Roots, published in Historic New England, September 15, 2016; A Project in Ruins, GreigLamont.Blogspot, July 11, 2011; The Digital Commonwealth of Massachusetts; Coolidge Marble Palace, posted by Catherine (June 2018) on Good Morning Gloucester; Reared in a Greenhouse: The Stories and Story of Dorothy Winthrop Bradford (2014), by Dorothy B. Wexler; The Trustees: The Coolidge Reservation, Manchester-by-the-Sea; Manchester-by-the-Sea (2009) by Stephen Roberts Holt, Arcadia Publishing; Lewis Coolidge and the Voyage of the Amethyst, 1806-1811 (2009) by Evabeth Miller Kienast, John Phillip Felt: Residence of T. Jefferson Coolidge, Jr., from the Collections of the University of Notre Dame; The Finest Rooms by America's Great Decorators (1964); INSinsideIDE Interiors