She Was a Lady by George B. Clark

February 25, 2011


Have you ever felt the desire to be able to walk into the Mansion as it was in its "Golden Age."  On seeing this slightly frazzled dowager, one can not help but wonder what a beautiful and proud young lady she must have been in the years before her decline  --- the years before the "crash."

    Shortly after Willie --- her father wanted a son ---- Gamble married John E. DuBois, the wealthy heir to the DuBois fortunes,  she decided to remodel the estate and remove the hodge-podge of Victorian and Italian Renaissance architecture.  Being a Virginian, and therefore, used to the stately Georgian beauty of southern mansions, Willie could not quite appreciate the bric-a-brac eyesore.  A Cleveland architect was commissioned; soon furnishings were coming from the four corners of the earth: furniture from England, France, and the southern states; Persian and Oriental rugs; the cherub andirons and marble from Italy; crystal chandeliers and tapestry from Belgium; even the north pole contributed a polar bear rug which lay before the fireplace in the music room, now the auditorium.

    By 1902 the estate had been completely transformed: A beautiful Elizabethan mansion stood with dignity and aloofness behind its thin screen of trees and shrubbery, and a few acres of formal gardens formed a natural atmosphere for it.  In fact, formal is the word that best describes even the existence of the people who lived here.

    It is small wonder that such a large house contained four or five separate little worlds.  If the Mansion had any character, it is exemplified by the misnamed music room.  The wine plush atmosphere of the ponderous draperies and oversized furniture gave the room a dark and formal air which quieted children's laughter; however it had heard the subdued mirth of the Main Line and 3 Park Avenue, and the deep chuckle of William Jennings Bryan, for the hall was not unused to the sparkle of fifty water goblets or shuffle of a hundred patent-slippered feet.

    The library was the center of the family activities and daily at teatime the children would come from their nursery to sip lemonade and visit a few hours with their parents.

    From the library, one could look into the dining room and see one of the masterpieces of the house, a beautiful cut-glass chandelier which hung over the dining table like a massive diamond tiara.

    On the second floor, Mr. And Mrs. DuBois occupied the front part of the house with their bedrooms, baths, and dressing rooms, while in the back, the children's nursery occupied what is now the art studio and veterans offices.  The five children ate, played, and slept in these quarters, where they led a cloistered life supervised by their governesses.  Even though the children were not allowed downstairs during the dinners and parties which were held in the music room, they would sneak down the balcony overlooking it and watch the servants making preparations.  Their favorite, a jovial Italian butler named Florentine, would wait for the children to make their appearance, and then, as if to make up for their missing the party, he would entertain them by juggling Mrs. DuBois' party china.  In fact, Florentine was one of the happy recollections of the mansion's children, for he would come to the nursery and entertain them for hours by telling them fabulous tales of giants and fairies with such an imagination that the estate seemed transformed into a medieval castle or an enchanted forest.

    The third floor was given over to an apartment for Mr. And Mrs. Melville D. Post. Mrs. Post, being a sister of Mrs. DuBois.  Melville Post, was one of the famous authors of his day, and a great many of his short stories were written in our mansion, and published in the Saturday Evening Post, Colliers  and Cosmopolitan magazines.  He wrote so well that the Post would accept everything he wrote and we hope, in the near future, to be able to reprint some of his works.  Mr. Post still holds the respect of some of today's literary critics and it would be only literary justice if our school would form a complete collection of his works, and use some of his short stories in our study of English literature.  This would not only be a fitting tribute to Melville D. Post, but it would also serve as a valuable and interesting contribution to our college.

    The memorial of the city's founder located on a nearby hill, formerly looked down upon an estate which has not been duplicated in beauty in this section of the state.  Acres of formal gardens and fields of lawn stretched out below in a manner reminiscent of a baronial estate.

    Now how changed a scene confronts the statue's gaze:  Many of the paths and fountains can no longer be found, summer houses and arbors have disappeared, and a shaggy mass of shrubs is all that remains of a once beautiful garden.  The stables, where Tom Mix's father trained some of the finest horses in this section, are now an apartment and a science lab.

    We can forget the fine horses, the glittering crystal and wine plush in our mad scramble for education, a supposedly worthier ambition than the lavishness of plutocracy; but it is time we sold half of our "loaf of bread" to make this once beautiful estate into a now beautiful college.  It seems such a shame to have wood rot for want of painting, shrubs die from want of pruning and fountains foul for want of cleaning.  We now have the promise of beauty that most colleges strive to attain  --- to become an "Ivied Hall." Let's not let our ivy die.

WHY THE GARRET? There is a small storage room opposite the old council hall in the attic.  Within a few short weeks after the fall semester opened, the newspaper staff had cleared away some of the wreckage and had launched The DUC on its way.  Since then this cubby-hole publishing house has come to be known as "the garret" after Webester's definition of the same word.  It was in this same room that our magazine was conceived . . . . Hence, our name.

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