On last month’s Short Story, curator Sarah Coffin paraded us through the Gilded Age decadence that led to a substantial gift of decorative arts to Cooper Hewitt’s collection from Annie Schermerhorn Kane.
Bells for a Royal Wedding in London will ring in a few weeks. We hope you enjoy our short story on two beautiful Hewitt weddings—the marriage of Sarah and Eleanor’s older sister Amy, and the royal wedding of Amy’s daughter Eleanor, to the Prince Viggo.
Margery Masinter, Trustee, Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum
Sue Shutte, Historian at Ringwood Manor
Matthew Kennedy, Publishing Associate, Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum
Wedding Bells at Ringwood Manor
Amy Hewitt and James O. Green had known one another for many years. A Ringwood guest book first notes their signatures on the same page in 1878. The drawing by “J.O.G.” shows a couple taking a carriage ride. Could this be Amy and James? Amy was then 22 and James was 36. His signature appears again and again through guest book pages, often accompanied by amusing drawings.
Amy’s brother Edward wrote that Amy had lots of suitors over the years, but she accepted the eventual President of Western Union Telegraph, James O. Green. Their wedding took place on November 15, 1886. Guests received an invitation from Mr. and Mrs. Abram Hewitt to board a special train to Ringwood for the ceremony and reception and the return trip to New York City.
“In every way Miss Hewitt’s wedding was the most notable one which it has ever been New York society’s good fortune to attend.” Members of the press also attended, and the New York Times, November 15, 1886, “Society Topics of the Week” recorded the details.
Modeled on the English tradition of country wedding feasts, the Times wrote that Miss Sallie Hewitt arranged and managed all the details—and there were many, from turning the manor interior into a floral conservatory, planning delicious lunches served at small tables, and hiring a full orchestra. Ringwood tenant farmers were asked to loan their teams to convey the city guests from the train station to Ringwood Manor and back again and “right cheerfully did they respond” with two hundred wagons ready to greet the train. Along the route, guests saw flagpoles erected on the hills of the 20,000-acre estate flying the American flag and herds of Jersey cattle stationed at intervals grazing in fields near the fences.
The ceremony was splendid. Amy wore a gown of ivory satin, with a train and veil of tulle edged with “rare and costly lace.” She wore a diamond crescent at her throat and diamond stars in her hair and carried a bouquet of roses. Bridesmaids Sarah and Eleanor wore striped gowns flocked with pink rosebuds and carried pink roses. The bride and groom stood before a “perfect floral bower” with rare plants and twining greens from the Ringwood property greenhouses. Following the ceremony and formal lunch reception, the bride shook hands with all the farmers, expressed warm appreciation, and invited them to partake of the banquet.
As a wedding gift to the couple, Abram and Amelia Hewitt gave them a summer estate directly across from Ringwood Manor. Amy and James had two children, Norvin and Eleanor.
Although they lived and traveled extensively in Europe, Amy was always a generous donor to the Cooper Union and its museum.
A Royal Engagement
“Viggo of Denmark Gives Up Royal Honors to Wed New York Girl” was the headline. “Through her marriage with Prince Viggo Christian Georg of Denmark, Eleanor Margaret Green, great-granddaughter of Peter Cooper, becomes allied to the royal families of England, Germany, Italy, Greece, and the Scandinavian countries.” Here’s the story.
In 1923, Prince Viggo met his future bride while she was visiting her cousin Baroness Schilling (formerly Ethel Green) in Denmark. A calvary officer, Viggo was described as a brilliant daring horseman and a quiet young man who disliked formality. Eleanor was known as a charming girl of many accomplishments, and, like her aunts, was a fine equestrian and lover of outdoor sports. Viggo was smitten. He followed Eleanor to New York and proposed.
After the formal engagement was announced, the bride’s maiden aunts Sarah and Eleanor Hewitt feted Prince Viggo and members of the royal family at an American-themed reception and dinner at the Hewitt home, 9 Lexington Avenue. In keeping with the Hewitt sisters’ tradition of planning novel parties, entertainment included a band of Pueblo Indians, who performed ritual songs and dances.
On June 10, 1924, they were married at the Calvary Church on 21st Street. The press reported in great detail the guest lists and crowds fascinated with the marriage of an American girl to royalty. (Sound familiar?) On a sad note, Eleanor’s mother Amy died in 1922 and her father James died right before wedding took place. The bride was accompanied by her brother Norvin to the church in the Hewitt family landau, formerly used by Peter Cooper.
Following the ceremony, the bride and groom were driven in the landau a few short blocks to the Hewitt mansion which was transformed with elaborate floral decoration for the reception. Crowds eager to see the royal prince marry an American girl included 200 girls from the Manhattan Trade School for Girls who serenaded the couple. Inside the home, masses of gifts and cable messages from royal family throughout Europe were displayed.
Prince and Princess Viggo, Count and Countess of Rosenborg, had no children. They were a popular couple in Denmark and active in charity work. In 1931, Princess Viggo gave a collection of gowns and accessories belonging to her mother and aunts Sarah and Eleanor to the Brooklyn Museum.
They lived happy ever after.
Primary Source: Ringwood Manor Archive. Ringwoodmanor.org