Rachel Lambert Mellon

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Rachel Lambert Mellon
Born Rachel Lowe Lambert
August 9, 1910
Princeton, New Jersey
Died March 17, 2014 (aged 103)
Upperville, Virginia
Cause of death
Stomach Cancer
Residence Upperville, Virginia
Nationality American
Education Foxcroft School
Occupation Horticulturalist, arts patron
Known for Redesigned White House Rose Garden
Net worth Unknown [1]
Spouse(s) Stacy Barcroft Lloyd, Jr.
(m.1932–46; divorced)
Paul Mellon
(m.1948–99; his death)
Parents Gerard Barnes Lambert, Sr. and Rachel Parkhill Lowe[2]

Rachel "Bunny" Lowe Lambert Lloyd Mellon (August 9, 1910 – March 17, 2014) was an American horticulturalist, gardener, philanthropist, and art collector. She designed and planted a number of significant gardens, including the White House Rose Garden, and assembled one of the largest collections of rare horticultural books. Mellon was the second wife of philanthropist and horse breeder Paul Mellon.

Background[edit]

Rachel Lowe Lambert, nicknamed Bunny by her mother, was the eldest child of Rachel Parkhill Lowe and Gerard Barnes Lambert, president of the Gillette Safety Razor Company and a founder of Warner–Lambert.[2][3] Her paternal grandfather, chemist Jordan Lambert, was the inventor of Listerine, which was later marketed by her father.[4] She had two siblings: Gerard Barnes Lambert, Jr. (1912–1947; married Elsa Cover), who died in a 1947 plane crash,[5][6] and Lily McCarthy Lambert (1914–2006; married William Wilson Fleming and John Gilman McCarthy).

During her childhood, Lambert attended Miss Fine’s School in Princeton, New Jersey and the Foxcroft School in Middleburg, Virginia.[7] Her parents divorced in 1933 and both subsequently re-married: her mother in 1934 to her former brother-in-law, Dr. Malvern Bryan Clopton, and her father in 1936 to Grace Cleveland Lansing Mull, daughter of Henry Livingston Lansing.[citation needed]

Lambert married Stacy Barcroft Lloyd, Jr. in Philadelphia in 1932.[8] Lloyd served in the Office of Strategic Services during World War II. They divorced in 1948. They had two children: Stacy Barcroft Lloyd, III, and Eliza Winn Lloyd.[9]

Lambert and her husband became close friends of the banking heir and art collector Paul Mellon and his first wife, Mary Conover, who died of an asthma attack in 1946. After she divorced Lloyd, Paul and Bunny were married on May 1, 1948.[10] By this marriage, she became the stepmother of Timothy Mellon and Catherine Conover Mellon (later Mrs. John Warner and now known as Catherine Conover). Together the couple collected and donated more than 1,000 works of art, mostly eighteenth- and nineteenth-century European paintings, to the National Gallery of Art and established the Yale Center for British Art.[11][12] The couple also bred and raced thoroughbred horses, including Sea Hero, winner of the 1993 Kentucky Derby.[13]

Mellon was long known for her maximal discretion and minimal public exposure; she offered only a handful of interviews to journalists in her lifetime.[10] In a 1969 New York Times article with the Mellons, she proclaimed that "nothing should be noticed."[14] Although this remark was made in reference to garden design, it has frequently been taken to encapsulate her attitude towards personal privacy and lifestyle choices.[15][16]

Gardening career[edit]

The White House Rose Garden after Mellon's landscaping

Though she had no formal training, Mellon read widely in horticulture and made contributions to several landmark gardens. Her interests in gardening were first cultivated while watching Olmsted Brothers gardeners tend her family's New Jersey home.[17] Mellon amassed a large collection of horticultural books and was regarded as an authority on American horticulture.[11] Her work was strongly influenced by French gardeners André Le Nôtre and Jean-Baptiste de La Quintinie.[10][17]

Mellon designed landscapes for many of the Mellons' properties, including the French-inspired gardens of their estate, Oak Spring Farms.[10][17] A longtime friendship with the Kennedy family was initiated by a 1950s visit to Oak Spring Farms by Jacqueline Kennedy, whom Mellon later advised on fine arts and antiques during the Kennedy White House restoration.[10][18] In 1961, President John F. Kennedy asked Mellon to redesign the White House Rose Garden. Mellon created a more open space for public ceremony and introducing American species of plants, as well as Magnolia soulangeana. She next began to work on the White House's East Garden, but her work was interrupted by Kennedy's assassination. After his funeral, for which Mellon arranged flowers, Lady Bird Johnson asked Mellon to resume her work on the White House grounds.[18][19]

After Jacqueline Kennedy left the White House, Mellon was asked to design landscapes for the Kennedy's home in Martha's Vineyard, the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library, and River Farm, the headquarters of the American Horticultural Society.[17] In France, Mellon created a landscape design for the home of Hubert de Givenchy and assisted with a restoration of the potager du Roi in Versailles.[10][17]

Wealth and collections[edit]

Because most of her assets were invested in trusts, it is difficult to estimate Mellon's wealth, but her family and husband's fortune and fixed assets suggest she was exceptionally wealthy.[20] She maintained homes in Antigua, Nantucket, and Oyster Harbors on Cape Cod, two apartments in Paris and a townhouse in New York City were recently sold.[4] These properties were sold in the years preceding her death.[4][21] Her main residence, Oak Spring Farms, a 4,000-acre (1,600 ha) estate in Virginia, has its own 1-mile (1,600 m) long airstrip for her Falcon 2000.[20][10]

Mellon gathered an extraordinary collection of works by artist Mark Rothko, having purchased many of his 1950s works directly from his New York studio. One of the works, Yellow Expanse, is considered one of the greatest Rothko works that remains in private hands.[10][22]

Later years[edit]

Mellon's husband, Paul, died in 1999 at the age of 91.[23] Shortly thereafter, in May 2000, her daughter Eliza was hit by a truck while crossing a Manhattan street, causing a severe brain injury and full-body paralysis. Eliza spent the remaining eight years of her life under round-the-clock care at Oak Spring Farms, and died in 2008.[4][24] Caroline Kennedy, daughter of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, sat beside her during the funeral.[14]

Mellon was a long-time Democrat whose political views often conflicted with those of her husband.[10] In 2004, she expressed interest in presidential candidate John Edwards because he reminded her of President Kennedy, but when she called his campaign office with an offer to help, her name was not recognized and the call went unreturned.[25]:157 She was an early financier of Edwards' 2008 Democratic primary run, offering an initial US$1 million commitment to his campaign, and eventually contributing more than $3.5 million to organizations supporting his candidacy.[4][25]:158 At the request of campaign operative Andrew Young, the commitment morphed to include underwriting Edwards' personal expenses. Beginning in May 2007, Mellon contributed more than $725,000 to John Edwards' personal accounts over an eight-month period, writing checks disguised as furniture purchases.[26] During this period Mellon wrote a note to Young stating: “...[F]rom now on, all haircuts, etc. that are necessary and important for his campaign—please send the bills to me... It is a way to help our friend without government restrictions.”[27] The funds were secretly used to support Rielle Hunter, a campaign videographer with whom Edwards had an extra-marital affair and child. When Mellon became aware of the use of her funds for this purpose, she reportedly came to regret the donations, but maintained that Edwards "would have been a great president."[4][26] While investigating Edwards, the Federal Bureau of Investigation interviewed Mellon at Oak Spring on two occasions in 2010.[14] In December 2010, four of her relatives were subpeaoned to appear before a grand jury.[28] On June 3, 2011, Edwards was indicted on using campaign funds to help cover-up an affair and pregnancy during the 2008 presidential campaign. Just one week prior to his indictment, in late May 2011, Edwards visited Mellon at her Upperville estate.[29] Following his indictment, the judge forbade Edwards to speak with any potential witnesses.

In 2010, it was revealed that she had lost $5.75 million to investment adviser and convicted Ponzi scheme operator Kenneth I. Starr.[15]

Although described as a resilient centenarian, stomach cancer and macular degeneration slowed her activity. She was forced to give up gardening by 2011, though she continued to swim, do Pilates, and give the rare interview.[4][14] On March 17, 2014, Mellon died at home from her 15 year battle with stomach cancer at the age of 103.[7][30]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Alexander, Dan (17 March 2014). "Rachel 'Bunny' Mellon, Banking Heiress And Jacqueline Kennedy Friend, Dies At 103". Forbes. Retrieved 19 March 2014. 
  2. ^ a b New England Historic Geneaological Society Nexus 4–5. New England Historic Genealogical Society. 1987. 
  3. ^ Miller, Stephen (17 March 2014). "Rachel 'Bunny' Mellon Dies at 103". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 17 March 2014. 
  4. ^ a b c d e f g Gordon, Meryl (25 July 2011). Bunny Mellon, the Secret-Keeper. Newsweek. Retrieved 17 March 2014. 
  5. ^ "List of Dead in Plane Crash". The Los Angeles Times. 25 October 1947. Retrieved 17 March 2014. 
  6. ^ "Obituary: Gerard Barnes Lambert, Jr.". Alumni Horae (St. Paul's School) 27 (3): 110. Autumn 1947. Retrieved 17 March 2014. 
  7. ^ a b McFadden, Robert D. (17 March 2014). "Rachel Mellon, Heiress Known for Garden Designs, Is Dead at 103". The New York Times. Retrieved 17 March 2014. 
  8. ^ "Milestones, Dec. 5, 1932". Time. 5 December 1932. Retrieved 18 March 2014. 
  9. ^ Later in life, after her divorce, she used the name Eliza Lambert Lloyd, but her wedding announcement in The New York Times in 1968 called her Eliza W. Lloyd and news articles about her coming out in 1961 called her Eliza Winn Lloyd. Her obituary in The New York Times, however, called her Eliza Lloyd Moore.
  10. ^ a b c d e f g h i Reginato, James (August 2010), Bunny Mellon’s Secret Garden, Vanity Fair, retrieved June 6, 2011 
  11. ^ a b Higgins, Adrian (17 March 2014). "Rachel ‘Bunny’ Mellon, arts patron and confidante of Jackie Kennedy, dies at 103". The Washington Post. Retrieved 17 March 2014. 
  12. ^ "Paul Mellon, Founder". Yale Center for British Art. Retrieved 17 March 2014. 
  13. ^ Paul Mellon: In his Own Words. Accessed 5 June 2012.
  14. ^ a b c d Seelye, Katherine Q. (4 June 2011), Edwards Case Casts Spotlight on a Long Reclusive Donor, The New York Times, retrieved 17 March 2014 
  15. ^ a b Trebay, Guy (11 May 2012). "The Last Empress". The New York Times. Retrieved 17 March 2014. 
  16. ^ Conroy, Sarah Booth (1 June 1969). "The House in the Virginia Hunt Country That Is Home to the Paul Mellons". The New York Times. Retrieved 18 March 2014. 
  17. ^ a b c d e Deitz, Paula (2011). "The Private World of a Great Gardener: Rachel Lambert Mellon". Of Gardens: Selected Essays. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press. pp. 28–32. Retrieved 17 March 2014. 
  18. ^ a b Mellon, Rachel Lambert (2001). "Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy: A Reminiscence". In O'Neill, Joan; Holt; Bernstein, Jennifer. Jacqueline Kennedy: The White House Years: Selections from the John F. Kennedy Library and Museum. New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art. pp. 13–16. Retrieved 17 March 2014. 
  19. ^ Johnson, Lady Bird (2007). A White House Diary. Austin, TX: University of Texas Press. pp. 97–98. ISBN 9780292717497. Retrieved 17 March 2014. 
  20. ^ a b O'Connor, Claire (3 June 2011). "The Money Behind John Edwards: Heiress Rachel ‘Bunny’ Mellon, Age 100". Forbes. Retrieved 7 March 2014. 
  21. ^ "Mellon Estate in Antigua Goes on the Market for $14.5 Million". The Wall Street Journal. 9 March 2012. Retrieved 17 March 2014. 
  22. ^ Seldes, Lee (1996). The legacy of Mark Rothko. Cambridge, MA: Da Capo Press. pp. 230–235. ISBN 9780306807251. 
  23. ^ "Paul Mellon". The Economist. 18 February 1999. Retrieved 17 March 2014. 
  24. ^ "Death notice of Eliza Lloyd Moore". The New York Times. 12 May 2008. Retrieved 17 March 2014. 
  25. ^ a b Young, Andrew (2010). The Politician: An Insider's Account of John Edwards's Pursuit of the Presidency and the Scandal That Brought Him Down. Macmillan. 
  26. ^ a b Dupre, William; Severson, Kim (4 May 2012). "Liaison Says Heiress Rued Edwards Donations". The New York Times. Retrieved 17 March 2014. 
  27. ^ United States of America v. Johnny Reid Edwards, 1:11 CR 161-1, 21 (M.D.N.C. 3 June 2011) (“The timing of your telephone call on Friday was "witchy." I was sitting alone in a grim mood - furious that the press attacked Senator Edwards on the price of a haircut. But it inspired me - from now on, all haircuts, etc., that are necessary and important for his campaign - please send the bills to me.... It is a way to help our friend without government restrictions.”).
  28. ^ "Donor's family testifies in Edwards probe". United Press International. 4 December 2010. Retrieved 18 March 2014. 
  29. ^ Just, Sara (26 May 2011). "John Edwards Meets Privately with Bunny Mellon, Potential Witness in Cover Up Case". ABC News. Retrieved 18 March 2014. 
  30. ^ Szkotak, Steve. "Arts patron, heiress Rachel 'Bunny' Mellon dead". Associated Press. Retrieved 18 March 2014. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Abbott James A., and Elaine M. Rice. Designing Camelot: The Kennedy White House Restoration. Van Nostrand Reinhold: 1998. ISBN 0-442-02532-7.
  • Raphael, Sandra, Heins, Greg, Tomasi, Lucia Tongiorgi, and Willis, Tony. The Oak Spring Garden Library. 4 Vols. Yale University Press: 1989-2009.
  • Langella, Frank. Dropped Names: Famous Men and Women As I Knew Them. HarperCollins: 2012. ISBN 9780062094483.

External links[edit]