Friday, May 29, 2015
Joan Payson Whitney at Greentree
I recently stumbled upon a photo of what has to be one of the more intriguing bathrooms that I have seen. The bathroom, which you can see above, belonged to Joan Whitney Payson and was located at her house at Greentree, the Whitney family's Manhasset, Long Island estate.
Payson was the daughter of Payne Whitney, who at one time was one of America's richest men. (It was Whitney who, beginning in 1904, bought the six hundred acres that became Greentree.) Upon her 1924 marriage to Charles Shipman Payson, Joan and her new husband moved into a small cottage on the property, which was given to her by her father, but after a few years, the couple decided to build a new house at Greentree. Desiring a large but comfortable house, the couple turned to society architect William Adams Delano, who conceived a charming-looking fieldstone Georgian house. Although the couple owned a number of other houses in various locations, it was at the Greentree house where the couple famously hosted their annual July 4th costume party, which was also a celebration of their wedding anniversary.
Of the few interior photos I've seen, my favorite room has to be Mrs. Payson's very glamorous and slightly theatrical-looking bathroom. The sunken marble tub and the star-motif on both the floor and ceiling exude a dash of 1920s-era daring. But the star of the room has to be the room's Bernard Boutet de Monvel-painted mural, a mashup of tropical foliage and figural scenes.
Joan Whitney Payson died in 1975, and her heirs eventually sold the house and its property to the Unitarian Universalist Church, which has renamed the Payson's house "Veatch House" after a church donor. Based on what I have found on the internet, it seems that the church has retained the family dining room's mural (see photo below), but I have not been able to determine if they have preserved Mrs. Payson's bathroom. Does anybody know?
Photos from House & Garden, June 1985, interior photos by Len Jenschel.