The House Behind the Windows

Refurbished window by Right Path Windows & Restoration 

Refurbished window by Right Path Windows & Restoration 

Charlton Hall was built circa 1916 by noted Philadelphia architect Horace Trumbauer for David Dows, Jr.. Perched on the edge of the Jazz Age, the fortune upon which this house had its foundation was a product of the Gilded Age. While the rest of the country was in a forward-looking mood, this residence  was a nod towards times gone by.

Located on Long Island's Gold Coast, grand homes like this one were built for the barons of American industry.  Author F. Scott Fitzgerald borrowed from the setting when he penned The Great Gatsby while staying on Long Neck. However, the house had its roots planted firmly in the past and an ocean away.

The red brick mansion in Muttontown was modeled after Groomsbridge Place, an English country house that was first mentioned in writing in 1239.  Sir Arthur Conan Doyle borrowed the centuries-old home as the setting for his last Sherlock Holmes novel, Valley of Fear. The British counterpart was also used as the filming location for the 2013 movie Pride and Prejudice. The American home is often confused for the movie location by sharp-eyed film buffs.

However, the ties to eighteenth century England do not end there. The living room is an exact replica of a room designed by Abraham Swan, a noted British architect who wrote one of the earliest books about architectural design, A Collection of Designs in Architecture, which was published in 1757.  Details such as the proportions of the room, the sunken paneling, and the ornate plaster work over the fireplace were all replicated from a room Swan designed in London. In addition, a sitting room featured an original mantel imported from the room Swan designed.

The dining room was also designed around another element from the eighteenth century. The Chinese-type wallpaper dated back to 1715 came from a home in London. When the owner's wife acquired the wallpaper, she also procured a miniature model of the room from which it was taken and had the room reproduced in Muttontown. A wedding procession and ceremony were depicted across the panels spanning the walls.   

The massive central hallway spans the depth of the house. In typical English country house fashion, it could be entered from both the front and the rear. Constructed of blue Belgian and white marble, the floor complimented the walls that were originally painted amethyst, borrowing the color from the crystal chandelier hanging in the foyer. The ornate, sweeping stairway was originally constructed for the Duke of Cumberland and it was shipped from England to the American home.

The grandeur of the home has not been dimmed by the passage of time. The current owners are restoring the French windows and doors , along with the brass hardware, to their original state. Very little about the home has been altered, which speaks volumes about the timelessness of classic design.

Note: Information and images concerning the original appearance of the house was previously published by Town & Country magazine, April 1931 issue. Reprinted with permission of Hearst Communications, Inc. The magazine generously shared a reprint of the original article with the author.

- Linda Childers

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