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Gray Craig

also known variously as Gray Craig Park, Gray Crag, Paradise Rocks

Prefatory Note

This project was inspired by a crumbling newspaper clipping published August 1903. It was given me by as part of a folder of memorabilia of Mary Archbold Seavey.

Key people have now been added to the project. In many cases, I have added the profiles and referenced some of them with relevant downloaded documents. So, click on each item to see more.

Subsequent Research into other newspaper clippings

(items in blue link you to newspapers.com (subscription required). A summary follows under "Couples"

  • John David Blair (1837 - 1916) farmed the land at Gray Craig at the time of his marriage
  • 1901-9-6 https://www.newspapers.com/image/422553014/?terms=%22Mitchell%2BClark%2Bof%2BNew%2BYork%22 =The Parker Message (Parker, Kansas); 06 Sep 1901, Fri., Page 2 Belmont to Clark
    • "nothing but a modern farm house on the property" > ~• might that have been the "Barker House"
      • Alva Belmont's interest in Gray Craig must have only been in passing: see her profile
  • 1903-8-1 Brooklyn Life (Brooklyn, New York) 01 Aug 1903, Sat., Page 11 > the Clarks take over
  • 1903-8-11 "Novel Summer Home of Mr. and Mrs. J. Mitchell Clark" "Like an Old Castle" ~• to my mind: more like an Episcopal abbey.. (clipping on file)
  • 1916-8-5 grotesque stone heads and figures to be removed by new owner Jordan L. Mott of New York
  • 1919-6-31 "Paradise Rocks" burns to the ground, owned by Mr. and Mrs Jordan L. Mott = Newport Mercury (Newport, Rhode Island)05 Jul 1919, SatPage 1 = Motts decide not to rebuild
  • 1925-8-29 Mary Archbold and Michael M. van Beuren begin another grand house at Gray Craig Newport Mercury (Newport, Rhode Island)29 Aug 1925, Sat Page 1
  • 1927-12-25 The van Beurens officially move in and host Christmas party = Newport Mercury (Newport, Rhode Island)24 Dec 1927, SatPage 4
  • some land donated to the Norman Bird Sanctuary
  • 1951 both Mary Archbold and Michael M. van Beuren die, leaving Gray Craig to their only child Archbold van Beuren who had married Margaret Ziegler in 1929 and had four children
  • 1974 Archbold van Beuren dies
  • 1986 Margaret Ziegler van Beuren dies, Grey Craig then changes hands; held by second son John Archbold van Beuren and his wife Hope for a few years. The house is retained but properties are developed
  • 2007: main house property purchased by the actor Nicolas Cage, son of August Floyd Coppola and Joy Vogelsang
  • 2011: a Massachusetts couple buys the estate from Cage.

real estate squib

"THE HISTORY OF GRAY CRAIG In the late 1800s, Oliver Hazard Perry Belmont, a devoted equestrian who founded the famous Belmont Racetrack in Queens, NY and its annual Belmont Stakes race, owned 77 acres of rural ocean-side land. Belmont, along with Cornelius Vanderbilt and other leaders of Newport society, formed The Gray Craig Park Association, named for the dramatic rock outcroppings which border the property and stocked the land with wild and exotic game and birds.

"Between 1924 and 1926, Mary and Michael van Beuren engaged New York architect Harrie T. Lindeburg to design a home for them in Portsmouth, Rhode Island. Lindeburg wanted a more dramatic setting and encouraged the van Beurens to purchase the Gray Craig property instead, and there he constructed a grand English country estate. The home remained in the van Beuren family for 60 years. Recently, Gray Craig has been restored to the highest standards, including installation of a state-of-the-art heating and air conditioning system, brand new gym, and wiring for today’s technology. The property also includes a pool, a tennis court, a fish pond with fountain, a stone terrace with outdoor fireplace, heated garages, an enclosed courtyard, and terraced lawns."

c/o Lila Delman Real Estate response: Such is how myths are made. In actuality, the story of how this property was developed was largely guided by women: The energies of the women in the the following couples guided the management of the property. (hint: click on Lila Delman for photos at the end of the Nicholas Cage era)

Couples

~• maiden names used for the women. husband cited is that at time of ownership

  1. Alva Erskine Smith {1853-1933} + Oliver Hazard Perry Belmont... Alva owned the property by virtue of her divorce from her 1st husband, a hyper-wealthy Vanderbilt, but she did not live there. It was being farmed by the likes of John David Blair from an immigrant family. John's wife was a Slocum, from the very early Europeans of the region. The Slocums had originally settled just to the east, where we see the eponymous Slocum River today.
  2. The artist and inventor: Sarah Wood {Died 1919} + John Mitchell Clark {1847-1913} (second husband). Sarah and John travelled Europe extensively. It was this European influence that convinced them to build an ill-fated castle-like second home at Gray Craig. Elements of the structure even suggest an ecclesiastical influence. This is apt as John's father was the Episcopal Bishop Thomas March Clark. Furthermore, as there was this tie to the Episcopal qua Anglican firmament, we see the later building of the St. Columba's by another Clark in Middletown by virtue of gifts of John's sister, Mary and others. ¶ This Clark family story extends to the success of St. George's School, on the hill facing Gray Craig.¶ Even Sarah Wood's choice of a third husband comes into play: Reverend Frederick Goodman was rector of the "Clark" parish, St. Mary's of nearby Portsmouth. ¶ With the death of Sarah's first husband and her marriage to the rector, the couple moved away from Newport County
  3. probably Carolyn Pitkin + Lawrence Mott IV . It was either this Mott couple or a Lawrence Mott III couple. At any rate, they only owned it for a short while, during which the castle burnt to the ground at the very end of June 1919 (see first section above for newspaper links). The Motts decided not to rebuild.
  4. Standard Oil heiress: Mary Lavina Archbold + Michael Murray van Beuren] Mary was the oldest child of John Dustin Archbold John's death in 1916, Mary had the wherewithal to both acquire Gray Craig and build a palatial home on the ruins of the castle. There were numerous outbuildings including a massive stable and greenhouse complex. A large staff attended to details.¶ They had one child.Upon their deaths in 1951, this son Archbold van Beuren and his wife and family moved from a short distance away and continued the Archbold/van Beuren legacy until the 1980s.
  5. a later owner was Nicolas Cage,

~• autobiographical note: The writer of all the above is Michael M. van Beuren who visited his grandfather Achbold vB and family now and then from the 1950s-1980s Caveat: I have attempted to be accurate as possible here. Please communicate if you see errors and needed additions.

Postlude

Even with the switching of ownerships,many of the families were related socially and religiously.

  • one such tie: The Clark family and the van Beurens included benefactors and teachers at the St. George's School of Middletown
  • another: The Clarks, through John Mitchell Clark's sister Mary Clark Sturtevant, were central in the Episcopal parish of St. Columba's Berkley Memorial chapel. My own brother, Theodore van Beuren had, as his Episcopal godfather, Ted Sturtevant of "Swallows Cave" on Indian Avenue, Middletown.
  • many of these families are buried in the P.E. churchyards of either St. Columba's of Middletown or St. Mary's of Portsmouth.