Seeking the Rosens in a Villa in Katonah
Going on a house tour is a bit of an odd pastime, being as a certain amount of snooping into other people’s personal lives is encouraged, yet go too far, and a velvet rope is likely to hold you back. I feel a bit like this the first time I visit Caramoor in Katonah, N.Y., one-time home to the Rosen family and now a musical venue. I go because I am curious about the house and about who the Rosens were.
While I am peeking into their bedrooms and not exactly embracing the formality of their lives, I learn that Walter Rosen was a lawyer and that his wife Lucie was a stay-at-home wife and mother—except when she was a runaway (she disappeared for a bit in 1913, reportedly because she did not want to marry an English man preferred by her mother) and a frizzy-haired theremin player. The Washington Post reported in 1914 that Lucie had been tired of the “butterfly life” and wanted a career in the theater.
A visitor can’t help but wonder about the personalities of times past that glided through these rooms. Walter Rosen had his formal home office (referred to as a library) and his own ship-like bedroom, his wife a much larger one replete with a bed once belonging to a pope. What does one think about when lying in a bed that once belonged to a pope? Where and when and how did Walter and Lucie kick back?
Walter Rosen, born in Berlin in 1875, was an immigrant, moving to the United States with his parents when he was 10 years old. After graduating Harvard, he attended New York Law School. From practicing law, he moved into investment banking, serving as chairman of the board of the Mexican National Railways and on the boards of other railroad companies. Walter also happened to appreciate the arts. He died in 1951 at the age of 75.
Twenty-three-year-old Lucie Bigelow Dodge married the 40-ish Walter Rosen in New York City in 1914. The marriage occurred in something of a rush, thanks to the start of the first World War. Lucie wore a ‘traveling suit.’ There was no reception.
So take all this in: the rejection of the “butterfly life” for one as an investment banker’s wife, replete with a townhouse in the city and a big country place, full of music and formality and art. What exactly had been rebuffed, again? Was this simply a matter of degree, like Marie Antoinette’s Trianon?
One can’t help but think about this while tracing the footsteps of the Rosens through the hallways of Caramoor, from the entrance featuring a bust of the Rosens’ son, Walter Bigelow Rosen, who died in 1944 during World War II, while serving as pilot for the Royal Canadian Air Force, through the grand music room, past the dining room, and by those bedrooms. Formality seems the norm here, but neither it nor all the pretty art could protect Caramoor’s inhabitants from the dark world forces of war.
Caramoor Center for Music & the Arts, 149 Girdle Ridge Road, Katonah, N.Y. 10536
Heading to Katonah, N.Y.? You might like these posts:
- Getting a Clue at Caramoor
- Westchester Castles: Manhattanville
- Out at Pound Ridge
- La Crème de La Crémaillère
- Visiting Mount Kisco’s Invisible Church