Thursday, January 6, 2011

"Thanet House," 143 South Main Street

This home was built in 1913 for the son of Dr. Theodore Gaillard Thomas (1881-1946) who is considered a co-founder of the original village summer colony. Referred to as T. G. Thomas Jr., he became, naturally, a real estate agent. Shortly after his brother’s death in 1918, he married his sister-in-law, Louisa Carroll Jackson who was a descendant of two signers of The Declaration of Independence and 15 years his senior. Guy Thomas was an adopted nephew/son.

Some say the house was built by Dr. Thomas for his son T.G. Jr., but I disagree, as he had long since passed away by then (1903). In any case, the property used to include the area south of, and including, Linden Lane as well as all of the land behind it to Lake Agawam.

Prior to buying the property and having his summer home built, Mr. Thomas rented the cottage belonging to Mrs. Henry Sayre which stood on the lot. Many believe that house was relocated rather than demolished before Mr. Thomas’ new home was built. (Ah, the good ole days.) During the rest of the year, Mr. and Mrs. Thomas lived in Ridgefield, Connecticut in another beautiful home shown in a post card image above that I found and acquired via the internet. I find it interesting that although the homes are completely different styles and materials, their basic and central forms are the same: two story, three bay, central hall/entry, gabled structure with three gabled dormers and two symmetrical interior chimneys.

“Thanet House” has gone through considerable transformations over the years. Originally built to look Dutch, despite the Arts & Crafts movement at the time, the windows used to have diamond pane divisions and “party” type end walls with chimneys as book-ends to its north and south facades. S.E. Gage has been attributed as the architect. Once the party-wall-ends were removed the house had a stucco finish with exposed timber frame detailing before at some point being entirely re-clad in brick. The interiors are rumored to have wonderful original paneling and frescoed ceilings.

The next owners were Primrose and William Gaynor. Primrose was the niece of Andrew Carnegie’s wife. In 1932 she married William C. T. Gaynor, a doctor. They divorced and he remarried a Vanderbilt, only to divorce again in 1957. He then married a third time very shortly after his second divorce, to Mary McBurney Philbin Dickerson, a widow.
When the Wrights bought the property it was apparently a mess and a bargain. Penny Wright, the Program Director of the Rogers Memorial Library, has fond and vivid memories of growing up there. Kenneth Wright was a good friend of Fairfield Porter’s, the highly regarded American painter who lived just up the street.

Bruce C. Hackett was a former managing director of Saloman Brothers. He died in March of 2000 at the age of 61 from Lou Gehrig’s disease.

Now known as Katherine Blount Pace, the current owner is the daughter of Winton Malcolm Blount who was the Postmaster General of the United States from 1969 to 1972. He died in 2002. The Blount family is from Alabama and an integral part of Birmingham’s history, where there is a Blount county and town known as Blountsville. Mrs. Pace is presently referred to as a community leader by the University of Alabama at Birmingham and active with the Birmingham Museum of Art.

Property Owners:
Katherine Blount Miles, 2003-present
Bruce C. Hackett & Joann Harrington, 1987-2003
Elizabeth Wright, 1985-1987
Dorothy E. Wright, 1960-1885
Primrose Whitfield Gaynor Elsworth, 1950-1960
Dr. William C. T. & Primrose Whitfield Gaynor, 1940-1950
T. Gaillard Thomas, 1913-1940
Annie M. Sayre, prior to 1913
Photo Credits: Historic Thanet House Post Card Image Courtesy Eric Woodward

1 comment:

  1. This was the most beautiful house with wormy chestnut panelling in the drawing/living room, great space and architectural detail and 3 floors for children and friends to play in.....including property to Lake Agawam, a boat dock and rowboat and a brick-walled side garden. I still have vivid memories of playing there as a child with the Wright family. It was a very special home.