John Ames Mitchell
John Ames Mitchell (1844–1918) was a publisher, architect, artist and novelist. He was regarded as a Renaissance man who kept to himself but influenced many. A Harvard University educated architect who studied at the École nationale supérieure des Beaux-Arts in Paris, in 1883 he co-founded Life magazine with Andrew Miller. Serving as president, Mitchell held a 75 percent interest in the magazine with the remainder by Miller in his job as secretary-treasurer. Both men retained their holdings until their deaths. Much more like today's New Yorker than the Life of the later 20th century, Mitchell's magazine discovered and encouraged many fine writers and artists at the turn of the century, such as Charles Dana Gibson, the illustrator who created the Gibson Girl. It covered the literary scene as well as political and social issues. He and Horace Greeley of the New York Herald Tribune founded the Fresh Air Fund, which for many years operated the Life Fresh Air camp for city kids on the site of today's Branchville School in Ridgefield, Connecticut, the town in which Mitchell also lived.
Mitchell penned a half dozen novels, the most famous of which, Amos Judd (1895), was made into the 1922 silent film, The Young Rajah, starring Rudolph Valentino. Life was purchased in 1936 by another Ridgefield resident, Henry Luce, who turned it into a picture-oriented magazine. The headquarters of Mitchell's Life is now the Herald Square Hotel in New York, a gift to Mitchell from Charles Dana Gibson in appreciation of the publisher's having seen and developed his potential as an artist.
Mitchell died in 1918 and is buried in Fairlawn Cemetery in Ridgefield. Windover, his estate, was subdivided years ago, but the main house is still on West Lane. Its owner also operates the Herald Square Hotel, once Mitchell's Life headquarters.