The Carrington Estate.
1920,s The Carrington Family.
The Carrington House during the Marquet Years, 1912-1927 Margaret Brush inherited the Fire Island property from her husband and, in September 1912, sold the parcel to Frederick E. Marquet of 15 Frankfort Street, Orange, New Jersey. Marquet was born in Orange in 1886, the only son of Eugene J. and Susan Marquet. Frederick’s mother was born in France; his father was a second-generation American whose parents came from France. Eugene Marquet is listed on the 1900 census as being a box manufacturer by trade, while the 13-yearold Frederick was at school. By 1910, Frederick was married and lived on Frankfort Street with his widowed mother; his profession is listed as “box manufacturer,” as his father’s had been. Marquet was just 26 years old when he purchased the Fire Island property. The Carrington House was most likely built by Frederick Marquet in 1912, shortly after he purchased the property from Margaret Brush. Some have assigned the house a slightly earlier construction date. For example, the Fire Island National Seashore “Historical Resources Inventory” form for the Carrington Tract (1979) identifies the house’s initial construction date as 1909 and notes that “the structure was built by a friend of Frank Carrington’s father” (FINS 1979: 401). A letter from Frank Carrington to his friend Dorothy Cambern (1975) is cited as the source for this information. The reference to a “friend of Carrington’s father” may refer to Frederick Marquet or his father, who lived near the Carringtons’ primary home in New Jersey. However, property records indicate that Marquet did not purchase the property until 1912, and no other information has been found suggesting that the house’s construction might have pre-dated his ownership. A later Classified Structure Field Inventory Report (1984) completed by Steven Kesselman of the Fire Island National Seashore also identifies the house’s construction date as ca. 1909. It contends, “The Carrington Main House was built ca. 1909 by Mr. and Mrs. Fred E. Marquet of Short Hills, New Jersey, as a summer house, when the area was called Lone Hill.” A 1982 Newsday article notes, “The main house has stood in its hollow between the primary and secondary dunes since 1910, when it was built as a honeymoon cottage by the family of a Coast Guard commander” (Durkin 1982). (No connection between the Marquets or the Brushes with the Coast Guard has been found).
Frederick E. Marquet and his wife, Mary, sold the western half of the property back to Margaret Brush in 1915 (Brush was then living with a boarder in Sayville). A 1915-17 Hyde map of Fire Island shows Frederick Marquet’s property as a narrow strip of land running from the ocean to the bay immediately west of the Lone Hill Lifesaving Station property. The Marquet property and the Brush property are separated on the map by the land of B. Hamilton. By 1920, Marquet and his wife had moved out of his mother’s house on Frankfort Street to Millburn, New Jersey (the village where Frank Carrington and his family also Jived). It is likely that the Marquets used the house on Fire Island as a summer vacation bungalow; however, little is known about the frequency of their visits or their place within the community. The following portrait of the area is painted in the biography/autobiography of the actress and writer Joan McCracken, who built a home in the Pines in the 1950s: “Though the first bona fide house in the Pines was built back in 1912 by Fred and Molly Marquet, the area, then known as Lone Hill, had for the first half of the twentieth century, been the province of squatters who pitched tents along the beach or dwelled in crudely constructed tar paper shacks alongside the dunes” (Sagolla 2003: 245).
Several local histories refer to a reported nudist colony near Lone Hill between Cherry Grove and the Pines in the early 20th century (for example Johnson 1983: 140); however, this has not been substantiated. It is possible, however, that reports of such a colony may be tied to the Marquets. Esther Newton remarks (without citing her source) that “[Frank] Carrington had acquired the white house just west of the Pines that belonged to a French theatrical family who practiced ‘nude bathing’ … ” (Newton 1993: 313). Frank Carrington: His Life and Career Frank Carrington was born on September 13, 1894 on an army base on Angel Island, California. This birth date was drawn from federal census records (the social security death index differs slightly, listing Carrington’s birth date as 1893). However, Carrington was generally evasive about his age and frequently exaggerated his youth. His World War II draft registration card lists his birth date as September 13, 1896, a Freemason’s member guide lists his birth date as 1901 , and his obituary does not assign a date to his birth. Frank’s father, Major Frank deL. Carrington (1855-1940), was an army commander. Born in Georgia, Major Carrington served during the “Sioux Uprisings” in the West, was an instructor with the California National Guard, and led a regiment in the Philippine Islands (Anon 1940: 27). Carrington’s mother, Nina, was born in Pennsylvania in 1863. Frank had two elder sisters, Leighla (b. 1887) and Gene (b. 1893). In 1900, census records show that the family resided in the Vancouver Barracks in the State of Washington with Nina’s mother, Carolina Adimson, and a servant. Frank Carrington was said to have been interested in theater from his earliest childhood, writing plays by the age of six and working at the Pasadena Playhouse by twelve. Carrington’s father retired in 1910, and the family moved to Short Hills in Millburn Township, New Jersey. From the family home on Park Road, Carrington later claimed he could hear the steam whistle of Millburn’s Diamond Paper Mill, which he would eventually convert into a theater (Goldsmith 1945: X1 ). Carrington worked in a law office during the day and studied theater at night; despite being discouraged by his father, he doggedly pursued a career in the arts (Reynolds 1999: 11 ). Carrington was a member of the Freemasons, and a member guide states that he was “with the US Navy in World War I” (Denslow 1957: 184). The 1930 federal census indicates that he and his sister Gene were both living with their parents on Park Road. In that year, Carrington’s profession is listed as theater director. Carrington was involved in establishing the Cherry Lane Theatre in New York and worked in several other theaters in New York City and Newark (Reynolds 1999: 11 ).
Carrington met Antoinette Quinby Scudder, with whom he would have a long and fruitful business partnership, in the 1920s, while starring in a play that she had written at a community theater on 5 1 h Avenue and 12’h Street in New York. Scudder, an aspiring painter, poet, and playwright, was born in 1886 to a prominent New Jersey family. She was the daughter of Wallace M. Scudder, founder of the Newark Evening News, and granddaughter of James M. Quinby, threetime mayor of Newark and a member of Congress. Antoinette Scudder studied at Columbia University, the Art Students League of New York, and the Cape Cod School of Art (Reynolds 1999: 10). Scudder and Carrington first teamed up in the late 1920s, founding a dramatic branch of the Newark Art Club and then establishing the Newark Art Theatre in the late 1920s (Anon 1958: 28). Also in the late 1920s, Carrington purchased his summer home in Fire Island from another Millburn resident, Frederick Marquet.
The Carrington House during the Carrington Years. 1927-1969 In 1927, Frank Carrington became the owner of the subject property (Durkin 1982). He had most likely known the Marquets from Millburn. When Carrington purchased the property, the Guest House was not yet extant and the Main House consisted only of the three-bay gable-roofed rectangular-plan building that now forms the core of the house. An early (undated, likely ca. 1930) photograph of the Main House suggests that it stands on its original location and retains its original brick center chimney. The front portion of the house, which is under a shallower roof pitch, is pictured in the historic photograph as an unenclosed porch supported by round posts, likely cedar trunks. The three windows along the main story and the single window beneath the apex on the gable end of the house all appear to contain six-light awning sash. The date (or dates) at which the two main wood-frame additions were made to the Carrington House is not certain. The architectural characteristics of the additions closely mirror those of the original house, suggesting a construction date in the 1930s or early 1940s. Dorothy Cambern, a Fire Island resident since 1927 and a friend of Carrington’s, described him as “a very private person, who didn’t drink, didn’t smoke. He was nice to everyone, and very hospitable.” According to Cambern, Carrington would hide in the dunes during the Prohibition years and watch rumrunners hiding contraband cargo in the sand. “Then the next day, they would come back and the stuff would be gone.
” According to those that knew him, Carrington was vigilant about protecting the dunes and the pine barrens and only cleared as much land as he needed (Durkin 1982: 11/
In the 1940s, the former Lone Hill Lifesaving Station was abandoned by the Coast Guard (Dickerson 1975). In the same period, Frank Carrington is said to have purchased two outbuildings that were part of the Lifesaving Station and moved them to his property, where he joined them together to create the Guest House. According to a 1975 letter from Carrington to Dorothy Cambern, he purchased the structures in 1947 for $325. The two-story section of the Guest House was a barn that “sheltered a pair of white horses and a wagon that moved supplies for the Lone Hill station, including coal from the dock to the station buildings” (FINS 1979: 406). The smaller section of the Guest House was originally an oil house for the Lifesaving Station: it held “drums of kerosene for lamps, machine oil and heavy crude oil that was sometimes spread on the road to the bay” (Ibid). The initial construction date of the Lifesaving Station buildings is not certain. They have been dated by the Fire Island National Seashore as ca. 1880 or “probably both late 191 h century” (FINS 1979: 406; Kesselman 1984b: 2). A Newsday article about the property dates the former horse barn to 1864 and notes that during World War II it served as “a barracks for the men patrolling the house for saboteurs” (Durkin 1982: 11/3). According to a 1996 New York imes article, the Guest House was assembled from the former Lifesaving Station buildings in 1947 by Carrington’s son (Paquette 1996: 13LI.2). However, no record has been found indicating that Carrington had children or was ever married.
Carrington had a small single-story garage added to the house in 1950 (Karen Freda, pers. comm .). It is said that this was the only garage ever built in either Cherry Grove or the Pines, and that Carrington kept his car, a Model A Ford, in it (Durkin 1982: 11/3). In later years, he used the garage as a woodshed (Karen Freda, pers. comm.). In 1948, Frank Carrington helped found the Arts Project of Cherry Grove. The first production, the “Cherry Grove Follies” of 1948, was feverishly written, produced, and presented in the ten days following the project’s establishment by the Arts Project advisory board, which included Frank Carrington, Hallye Cannon of the Theatre Guild, and Cheryl Crawford, founder of the Group Theatre and the Actors Studio. The first production was a hit, featuring theatrical sketches interspersed with chorus lines and other musical numbers in a 1920s-style format. According to Esther Newton, Arts Project’s earliest theatrical productions were relatively traditional and aimed to pass muster with several conservative donors and residents. However, within a year or two, productions increasingly dealt with gay themes or incorporated playful drag performances (Newton 1993: 53).
The geographical location of the Carrington property (in an isolated wooded area between Cherry Grove and the Pines) appears to have been reflective of Carrington’s persona. The proximity of the property to Cherry Grove allowed Carrington to actively participate in the local theatre and the colorful liberal community of which it was a part. However, the private and rather traditional Carrington was also able to retain peace and anonymity in his isolated and rustic setting, serving as the archetype of the earliest cosmopolitan Fire Island resident. Carrington’s residence in “Lone Hill” actually pre-dated the settlement of a Fire Island Pines village and, while his personal impact on the development of the two communities is difficult to quantify, through his extensive contacts in the world of theatre and the arts, Carrington was the initial connection linking many of the webs of acquaintanceship that drew people to visit and settle in the Fire Island Pines and Cherry Grove.
1975. There were two walkways. One led to the Bay, the other to the ocean.
Carrington was also famous for renting his property to his friends and acquaintances in the artistic community. Among them, Truman Capote rented the property from Carrington for the summer of 1955. A friend of Capote’s, Irving Drutman, recounted the following story (Gerald Clarke, pers. comm .): In the spring of 1955, while House of Flowers was still playing, Truman made certain that he and Jack [Dunphy, his partner] would once again be able to spend their summer by the sea. Hearing about an isolated cottage on Fire Island, he telephoned the owner. ‘How many of you would be staying there,’ asked the man. ‘There would be just the two of us,’ said Truman. The owner was dubious. ‘It’s kind of lonely for two girls out there,’ he volunteered, which caused a scream of displeasure on the other end of the line. ‘This is Truman Capote! ‘ A deal was soon struck … By July 6, when he reached Mr. Jack and the two dogs on Fire Island, Truman was rested and eager to begin writing once more …. ‘Now true to my word, I’ve settled down to work,’ he wrote his old editor, ‘and I hope that I will have something interesting to show you come September.’ The something interesting was the novella that he had already titled Breakfast at Tiffany’s (Clarke 1988: 289)
In the late 1940s, Capote had met and become partners with Jack Dunphy, Joan McCracken’s husband. McCracken and Dunphy eventually divorced; however, McCracken was accepting of Dunphy’s homosexuality and remained close friends with both Dunphy and Capote. It is said that Capote modeled the character of Holly Golightly in Breakfast at Tiffany’s in part on McCracken (Sagolla 2003:110-111 ). As stated above, McCracken purchased a lot in the Pines near the Carrington property shortly after Capote’s stay on the island.
According to a 1982 Newsday article about the Carrington property, for which Capote was interviewed, “Capote, who now lives in Sagaponack, spent a summer here in 1957 , working on ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s.’ The isolation was conducive to good writing, he said. ‘It was just completely deserted,’ he said. ‘That summer was the one and only time I’ve ever been to Fire Island. It was a very different place in those days than I gather it is now. I rented the cute little house.” The ‘cute little house’ that Capote stayed in was the guest house, which Carrington purchased in 1947 from the Coast Guard and moved to its present site” (Durkin 1982: 11/3). A more recent New York Times article echoes the story that Capote wrote the novella “in bed” at the Carrington Guest House (Paquette 1996: 13. Ll.2).
Not only Truman Capote, but many other well-known artists rented the property from Carrington. In some cases, these friends and acquaintances of Carrington’s accompanied him, but apparently more often they rented the house in order to work and relax alone. Amongst Carrington’s guests are said to have been Lincoln Kerstein (co-founder, with George Balanchine, of the New York City Ballet), designer Bill Blass, and actors Henry Fonda, Katherine Hepburn, and Gertrude Lawrence (ibid). Fashion photographer Francesco Scavullo rented the property. Eugene O’Neill is said to have written a play there; however, this account has not been substantiated (Kesselman 1984a; 1984b).
1940’s. Lincoln Kerstein at the Carrington House.
In the early 1960s, Robert Moses proposed to build a parkway along the length of Fire Island, but community organizations successfully protested. Most Fire Island communities have resisted infrastructure expansion and modernization since that time. Like Cherry Grove and the Pines, most settlements have no paved roads (relying instead on wood boardwalks and sandy paths), and vehicular access is extremely limited.
In 1964, almost two-thirds of the island became part of the Fire Island National Seashore and was thereby protected from future development (Dickerson 1975). The large two-story wood-frame Lone Hill Lifesaving Station was converted into the Fire Island Pines community center by the Fire Island Pines Property Owners Association. The building accommodated a medical facility, post office, auditorium, and library (Johnson 1983: 130). In the early 21 51 century, however, the building was demolished and replaced with a new structure serving the function of a community house.
Frank Carrington owned the property for almost fifty years. In May of 1968 he began discussions with the Fire Island National Seashore for the sale of the property. For several months, Carrington and his lawyer negotiated the price and terms of the contract. The preservation of the house was a sticking point for Carrington, who wanted this to be a term of the sale. In a memo dated January 13, 1969, a National Park Service official involved in the negotiations stated: “One thing that may be a factor is the landowner’s desire to see his main house maintained as a MUSEUM. The house (circa 1910) he feels is an example of the type of living in the early days on Fire Island and as such should be retained” (Stewart 1969).
The walkways led to a lifeguard stand to view the bay on one side and a landing for the ocean side.
Later in 1969, Carrington deeded the property to the United States government for approximately $300,000. The preservation of the house did not become a term of the sale; however, Carrington retained the right to inhabit the portion containing the house for the remainder of his life. He also retained “right of ingress and egress to and from the Great South Bay and the Atlantic Ocean only over existing foot paths and/or boardwalks, including right of use of the docking facilities and/or boat storage,” as well as “an unimproved roadway which intersects Fire Island Boulevard at the northeast corner of Tract 2850 and terminates on the west line of Tract 2731 following a meandering course through the property … ” (Deed on file with Suffolk County Clerk 1969: Liber 6650, p.72).
Frank Carrington died on July 3, 1975. A National Park Service Memorandum letter of July 25, 1975, from James W. Godbolt to Tom Coleman, superintendent of Fire Island National Seashore notes: “There are two residences on the property. One has been rented over many years to Mr. Thomas Bacon, 277 Park Avenue, New York, New York.” Carrington’s heirs were “two sisters, Mrs. Leighla Bates and Miss Gene Carrington. Mrs. Bates has been out to the beach house in the company of an estate lawyer. I understand disposition of the furnishings will take place soon” (Godbolt 1975).
The Carrington property has been part of the Fire Island National Seashore since 1969-1975. The property was inhabited from roughly 1976 through 1997 by a National Park Service Ranger, Bob Freda, and his family. The family lived in the Carrington Guest House from 1976 through 1980 and then moved to the main house, where they stayed from 1981 through 1997 (Karen Freda, pers. comm .). The Freda’s made no substantial changes to the interior or exterior of the buildings or the landscape of the property. The current asphalt shingle roof cladding on the main house, installed as part of a 1982-3 rehabilitation effort, replaced an earlier asphalt roof cladding. Bob Freda’s daughter, Karen, remembers that an additional staircase on the rear of the house and an additional section of boardwalk that surrounded the house were removed by the National Park Service during the Freda’s occupancy in an effort to conserve the dunes.
The Main House and the Guest House have been not been steadily inhabited or substantially repaired since the late 1990s. The structures are currently in need of repairs and have been stabilized and sealed in an attempt to prevent further deterioration. The historic integrity of both of the structures is relatively high, however. Few substantial changes have been made to the exteriors of the buildings since the mid-1940s and, therefore, they appear largely as they were during most of Carrington’s ownership.
Cover art by artist and Pines resident John Laub. Throughout the 80’s & 90’s much discussion went on about the property. One suggestion in the 90’s was a tennis court seen above.
In 2010 with support fron FI Land Trust FINS received approval for special funding to rehabilitate two Carrington properties. The work started in 2012.
Today now designated on the National register of Historic Places in 2013 progress continues. Slowed by events like Superstorm Sandy and the Dune project it will continue. We continue with our talks with FINS about what will this be used for when done, but as we now look at Frank Carrington’s wishes of a Museum, we push forward in the hope that this historic landmark will house some of the history of both communities…
Copy taken from the National Register of Historic places report. http://www.nps.gov/nr/feature/places/pdfs/13001057.pdf
As of 2018 the progress is at a standstill due to the political climate. A recent visit shows just that…
The beauty remains… Photo’s by Frederick Hecker.