by Junetta Maxfield, Director of Development Operations
and Merceds Santos-Miller, Director of the Rosen House
Although you might think that the focus at Caramoor is only about Music and the Arts, as we celebrate World Book Day, we would like to celebrate Caramoor’s and our founders’ love of this art form as well.
Caramoor was created by Walter T. and Lucie Bigelow Rosen to express their passion for music and the arts. But they were also “book” people too, with family connections to libraries, publishing, and journalism, and were avid wide-ranging readers.
Lucie Bigelow Dodge Rosen was born in 1890 to a socially prominent New York family. Her maternal grandfather, John Bigelow was an author, editor and co-owner of the New York Evening Post and Minister to France under President Abraham Lincoln. Later in his long life, Mr. Bigelow was one of the co-founders and first president of the New York Public Library.
Lucie’s mother, Flora Bigelow Dodge Guest, also had a literary bent. Later in life, she was author of a series of novels and articles under her married name, Hon. Mrs. Lionel Guest.
Lucie soon followed in her mother’s footsteps and by the time she turned seventeen she was writing articles and being paid for her work. While spending summers with her grandfather in New York, she also spent time working typing up her late grandmother’s journals. Throughout her life, she was also known for her correspondence, poetry, and essay writing.
Lucie’s uncle was Poutlney Bigelow, an attorney and journalist. He was the author of eleven books, including a two-volume autobiography, and several on history, particularly German/Prussian, and on colonial administration.
While not being an author himself, Lucie’s brother younger brother Col. John Bigelow Dodge, was the subject of the book The Dodger: The Extraordinary Story of Churchill’s American Cousin, Two World Wars, and the Great Escape. Read our recent blog post to learn more about his extraordinary resilience.
The Rosen House: Books, Reading Nooks, and Lovely Libraries
Throughout the public and private spaces of the Rosen House, there are many bookcases filled with a variety of titles and cozy places to enjoy reading. Imagine curling up with a book on the bed in Lucie Rosen’s bedroom — where bookcases flank a carved and gilded bed that belonged to Pope Urban VIII, or settling into an oversized chair in the Spanish Alcove.
The Rosen House also holds two exceptional libraries:
The 17th century Burgundian Library, exceptional for its vaulted, periwinkle-blue ceiling decorated with 13 scenes from the Old Testament, is originally from a chateau in Averyon. Walls and doors are decorated with 65 additional paintings. This room served as Walter Rosen’s study and is filled from wall to wall with a collection of titles. There are several shelves dedicated to books written by the Bigelow family, particularly John Bigelow.
This wasn’t their only library. The second is the early 19th century Neoclassical Italian Library, painted in 1802 by Filippo Santo. (Since French garrisons were in Italy at the time, he also signed his name in French.) This was the library the Rosens had in their New York City Townhouse at 35 West 54th Street. After Mrs. Rosen died in 1968, their daughter Anne Stern, brought this library to be incorporated into the wing she had built to accommodate three rooms and art objects from her parents’ townhouse. Most of the books today in the Neoclassical Library are from the New York City residence — Shakespeare’s Plays, Oscar Wilde, Byron, Longfellow, etc. Many other volumes are in French, German and of course English, as Lucie and Walter both spoke several languages.
As you take a tour of the Rosen House, take a look at the bookshelves. The Rosens loved to read and the Rosen House book collection contains many volumes on music, visual arts, dance, poetry, gardens and Eastern and Western philosophy and religion. As Lucie’s favorite presents to give and receive were books, there was never a lack of options to read at Caramoor.
Reading Al Fresco and for Free
While you can’t “borrow” from the Rosen House libraries, there are many places to enjoy a good book outside in the gardens. The benches by the Sense Circle are very comfortable, as is a blanket on the Picnic Grounds or in front of the House.
Just in case you forgot to bring something to read, don’t worry!
Caramoor is the home of not one, but two, outdoor libraries as well. What started as an informal book swap between colleagues (some of whom come from the library and publishing worlds) was formally chartered as part of the Little Free Library movement last year. You can find our Little Free Libraries tucked away in Caramoor’s Garden Courtyard near the Administration and Box Offices and on Cedar Walk.
Caramoor’s Little Free Library collections are constantly changing, with a wide assortment of music and garden-themed titles, some literary classics, recent publications, and other miscellaneous titles.
We are very grateful that our library collections are constantly being updated thanks to the generosity of Caramoor visitors. New titles include:
- Signed copies by local/regional authors;
- A large selection of YA (Young Adult) titles, thanks to donor and former administrator of one of our vendor partners;
- A wide assortment of gently used children’s books for toddlers and elementary school-level readers, thanks to another Little Free Library steward and elementary school teacher; and most excitingly,
- A box of new books from the publisher Chronicle Books which celebrated its 50th Anniversary and was giving away some of their favorite children’s’ and YA books, including the entire Ivy + Bean series by Annie Barrows and I Wish You More by Amy Krouse Rosenthal, illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld. Caramoor was one of the winners of a giveaway and we are pleased to be able to add these titles to our rotating collections for our visitors’ enjoyment.
The Little Free Library motto “take a book, return a book” is engraved on its logo and charter signs, so don’t be shy. Come visit our outdoor Little Free Libraries, Charter #26023. Since it is Caramoor, you never know what other musical and other treats might be there for the taking.
Explore our website for more information about Caramoor, the Rosens, our libraries, and our many offerings. We hope you visit Caramoor very soon, take a tour of the Rosen House, wander the grounds, and be inspired to write your own book.
Happy World Book Day!
“23 April is a symbolic date for world literature. It is on this date in 1616 that Cervantes, Shakespeare, and Inca Garcilaso de la Vega all died. It is also the date of birth or death of other prominent authors, such as Maurice Druon, Haldor K.Laxness, Vladimir Nabokov, Josep Pla, and Manuel Mejía Vallejo.
It was a natural choice for UNESCO’s General Conference, held in Paris in 1995, to pay a world-wide tribute to books and authors on this date, encouraging everyone, and in particular young people, to discover the pleasure of reading and gain a renewed respect for the irreplaceable contributions of those, who have furthered the social and cultural progress of humanity. With this in mind, UNESCO created the World Book and Copyright Day.”
We also recommend these titles which have a connection to Caramoor.
(Start at smile.amazon.com and Amazon will donate 0.5% of the price to Caramoor.)
The Dodger by Tim Carroll
My Mad Russian: Three Tales by Steven Keys Meyers
Theremin: Ether Music and Espionage by Albert Glinsky
Katonah: The History of a New York Village and its People by Frances R. Duncombe
Bedford (NY) (Images of America) by Shirley Lindefield
Top Photo: Lucie Rosen sharing a book with her children Anne and Walter. Taken by Arnold Genthe, circa 1920.