Saturday, July 20, 2013


  The remarkable interiors represented in this series of illustrations were all designed by Mr. Louis C. Tiffany, and are good examples of the genius of this original artist. Architectural Record 1901.

Madison Avenue and 72nd Street.






VESTIBULE TO STUDIO. (The woodwork was a portion of an East Indian palace.)

ENTRANCE TO STUDIO. (Showing carved teak floors.)




  Click this link to view all past posts on Tiffany's 72nd Street home.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Returning to Romanticism "La Ronda"—A Castillan Villa Set in a Lovely Spanish Garden, at Bryn Mawr in Pennsylvania

"La Ronda"

The plans reveal the mind of an architect who does not see the country house in strictly conventional terms. In such a way an ancient feudal castle might have been planned, though it would have had fewer baths. C. MATLACK PRICE 1936

The home of Mr. and Mrs. Percival E. Foerderer at Bryn Mawr, built of stucco with a roof of Spanish tile.

The estate grounds, including a walled garden with a fountain adjacent to the dining room, were the work of landscape architect Louis A. Adams.

Garden  fountain.

  PERHAPS it is true that the answer to our swift-moving mechanistic age is to be a romantic revival. Plenty of people believe that the natural reaction from any vividly motivated period is a period exactly opposite in feeling. It might seem like forcing this theory to rest its case on one house, particularly since it is a house designed by Addison Mizner. This man, we all know, who know anything about Florida, is definitely a romantic architect and it is probable enough that any house he might build, in any period or any clime, would be an expression of architectural romanticism.

  So far as this mechanistic age is concerned, while the architects are performing prodigies with big buildings, incredible masses mounting skyward, they might as well admit to being baffled by the job of modernizing the individual house, particularly the country house. Human nature being what it is, people seem still to live more happily in a  traditional environment than in an experimental one.

  Even allowing that they find a certain kind of romance, which is largely thrill, in our great modern buildings, they mostly prefer another kind of romance, which is old human association, in their homes. Most of us could not break sharply with the past, even if we would; the continuity of human history is too potent, our love of places of known abode, of sequential civilization, is too much a part of us.

  Certainly, Addison Mizner sees architecture as a link with a past that is more appealing, more interesting to him, than the most exciting present. He sees architecture as a link that may connect past with present civilization; old forms may be made to minister to the most modem and sophisticated technique of living. This, certainly, he has proved many times over at Palm Beach. No group of peoples could live in a more modernly contrived tempo, or in settings more completely transplant from the old world—in which there may be implications of some sort of baroque super-sophistication more the province of sociological than of architectural inquiry.

There was a gate house, garage/stable/carriage house and the 51 room manor house. The grounds were comprised of 233 acres and included a swimming pool, tennis courts and a racetrack for horses. In the halcyon days when "La Ronda" was at it's peak it took a staff of 27 to keep the estate running efficiently.
  Click HERE to see the estate from 1948 onward.  You can go through the decades and view the changes in the surroundings and the final demolition. BING view has "La Ronda" still extant, except for the east view, which shows its replacement.  

Above two photos are from 1938.

  In this house in Pennsylvania, the architect has carried northward that same romanticism which has inspired his work in Florida, here choosing to work in the Spanish Gothic manner of the old houses on the plains of Castile. It is a type of northern  Spain, where the land is burned dry by the summer sun and bleakly swept by winter winds.

  Spanish roof tile crowns walls of stucco, and the whole exterior has the random, informal massing of ancient villas and palaces. Recognize at the outset that there is this about the romantic in architecture—it wants the patine of time. All very to remember that the old villas, old palazzi, were once new—but we know them only as they have been softened and mellowed by centuries. Artifice may do much to achieve this, but the essence of it is the handiwork of time and the intangible spirit of an old place that comes from years of human life within its walls.

The style of the Foerderer house is definitely Spanish Gothic, inspired by the beautiful houses on the plains of Castile.

Facing a three-sided walled courtyard, "La Ronda" is covered in smooth stucco with reconstructed stone trim and a roof of red barrel tile.

Original view, minus the gate, swept north down to an oval pond  past lawn and tree.
These post top finials are made of cast stone.

Walled courtyard.

Courtyard fountain.

Breakfast room off courtyard.
View showing second floor servants wing.
   "La Ronda", whether you see it through the wide entrance gate of its forecourt, or in the more picturesque massing of its aspect from the garden, needs age, needs the softening from the garden, needs age, needs the softening cloak of vines and the discoloration of weathering.   These ancient forms, these Gothic windows, buttresses, stair-towers,  and the like, must not long wear the shining raiment of newness which does not become them. Here the architect's work must be completed by the years and the elements and growing green things.

View of the back of the house showing the group of Gothic Windows and the double flight of steps leading down to the tile-bordered pool.

Facing a three-sided walled courtyard, "La Ronda" is covered in smooth stucco with reconstructed stone trim and a roof of red barrel tile

West or library side.
View into library. Above was the sleeping porch off the master bedroom.

These salvaged cast stone gnomes were part of the frieze detailing above.

 There is a particular interest in this house, as in much of Mr. Mizner's work, in the use of various materials uniquely made under his direction. It is one of his means of getting particular results, of carrying the personal quality of of work beyond the limits of design and into actual execution. The trim of the exterior is made of reconstructed stone, softly rose-yellow in color and quite unlike any expected material. Within, much of the flooring is of Mizner tile, and the dining-room ceiling is copied, by a new process, from a room in Al Cal Henares, in Spain. Even the bronze sash and stained glass in the great hall came from the workshops organized by the architect: there is an interesting throw-back, here, to the days when architecture was more closely allied to building and to materials than it is today, to a time when the hand of the architect pervaded the whole structure. 

  Other effects are added from an appreciation of certain unique properties of materials from the workshops of Nature, as particularly in the floor and walls of the great hall, which are of coral stone brought up from the Florida Keys, stone peculiar in its ancient and intricate texture.

The Great Hall in the Foerderer house with walls and floor of coral stone: heavy wrought-iron doors, Gothic arches about the windows and a vaulted cloister leading to a flying stairway.
Three double-height, pointed-arch windows overlook the sheltered patio and a cruciform-shaped pool on the lawn terrace.

On the ground floor west of the great hall was the library, an enclosed loggia, and a 28 by 36 foot sunken living room dominated by a massive carved stone, hooded fireplace. The floor of the living room was of dark hardwood surrounded on four sides by polished, patterned tile. Windows were purposely left undraped, permitting a full display of the leaded stained glass and gothic stone tracery. East of the great hall are the dining room and the service wing.
 "La Ronda" well may have been the only house in Pennsylvania to have coral interior walls. Mizner had the coral mined from the sea off the coast of Florida  and then cut into blocks much the way it was done with limestone. 

Grand hall entry gates with period decoration done in the Spanish Revival style.  

The coral was quite porous and pock marked with a warm soft brown tone that made for a nice contract against the cooler gray tonal, fancy limestone door and window surrounds employed at "La Ronda".

They originally were from above the sliding doors in the Great Hall. The frame is bronze. They were between stone tracery, the silhouette of which can be seen in the photos on the clear glass overlaying the outside of the windows.

This hand crafted Gothic-style  iron chandelier was the centerpiece to this great hall.
 All woodwork, fixtures, and decorations at La Ronda, as well as most of its furnishings, were created at Mizner's Florida workshop. 

  Downstairs the scheme is fairly obvious—an entrance vestibule, with lavatories right and left, then the Great Hall. 
  The great hall is entered through heavy wrought-iron doors, and above the entrance a vaulted cloister leads to a flying stairway that admits to the master's portion of the house. The hall is rib-vaulted and its decorations are largely ecclesiastical antiques of the period—old choir-stalls, 14th Century Bishop's chairs of wrought-iron, old copes—old things in a new-old environment, needing, mostly, the alchemy of age to blend them into a complete expression of old-world mediaevalism and association.

Within, a small entrance vestibule leads to the two-story, rib-vaulted great hall finished in coral from Mizer's Florida Keys stone quarry.
The whole massive door opens, as does the smaller door within the door.
On either side of the entrance were faculties for guests.
 Hand made copper Moorish star from the entry hall.

Entrance from the Great Hall to the living room. The trim of the house here, and throughout, is a pinkish-yellow stone and the floor in the main hall is Quarry Key stone. The doors are of walnut linenfold panel.

In this beautiful room, with its arched doorways and Gothic windows, the fittings and furnishings are all in harmony. The chairs are covered with old velvet and brocade, the sofas by the fireplace in brocatelle, and the rug is Hispano-Moresque from a convent near Toledo. The floor has a border of black,  glazed Mizner tiles.
There are eight different windows each having a different musical motif. 

There are also two matching stained glass doors. These doors originally slid open into the wall. The frames are bronze.

Arched window originally above sliding windows in the living room.


The huge stone fireplace in the living room is Gothic in feeling with antique andirons and a hand-wrought iron fire screen, The walls throughout this room are hung with antique tapestries, in keeping with the dignity of the fireplace and the moyen-age manner of the window structure.

Cast stone fireplace mantel with center keystone with profile of a knight in armor with shield and daggers that adorned the Living-room.

Designed and constructed specifically for "LaRonda". Giant firebox opening 7' x 7'.

   "Painstakingly" removed piece by piece and meticulously labeled for re-assembly.  

Opening into Loggia.
  Down three broad steps, through massive walnut doors, carved with linenfold panels, there is the living room, with its tall cast-stone fireplace and painted wooden ceiling. A blending of beautiful old colors makes the charm of this room, where old tapestries, an antique Hispano-Moresque rug, velvet and brocade coverings on antique chair frames all combine to effect a rich, satisfying harmony. The oak floor is bordered by black Mizner tiles, and the steps down from the Great Hall are of the Florida coral stone, and the whole color effect of the room is given a unique charm by the blending of every known pastel color in the plaster of the walls.

The dining room has a decorated coffered ceiling in harmony with the 14th Century frescoing on the walls. The chairs are in crimson velvet and the tapestries are of antique gold brocade. In the background is a 16th Century screen and the table is 17th Century. 16th Century screen and floors natural colored tile, waxed and polished.
Beneath a richly coffered ceiling, copied from a Spanish original in the Alcala Henares, a single-plank dining room table expanded to seat 24 people. Wall coverings in the dining room were based on a pattern found in Italy's Davanzati Palace.

Decorative cast stone entryway Opening measures 96" high x 60" wide.

  The romantic keynote of the whole house finds a strong expression in the dining room, with its deeply coffered ceiling and walls frescoed in a pattern from the Davanzati palace in Italy. The 17th Century table is made from one solid plank eighteen feet long, and chairs are upholstered in a soft crimson velvet.

   In addition to the large table a smaller antique table for family use has been placed in the dining room, for use when there are no guests, or for small, informal luncheons. When it is necessary to have a very long table, this five foot table is joined to the larger one, giving a length of twenty-three feet. 

The Library.

Library bar.

 Zinc coated copper sink outlined in solid Oak from the wet bar.


At the right is a magnificent doorway through which one enters to the luxurious dining room. At the left, through an ornamental carved arch is an old Gothic stone stairway which leads from the hall to the cloister above.

Set in an alcove at the great hall's east end, the main stairs lead to a second-floor balcony.


The  cloister which runs like a balcony over one end of the great hall has a magnificently groined ceiling and deeply arched   Gothic Windows. From this cloister one finds a flying stairway leading to the master's portion of the house and this stairway has an exquisite hand-wrought iron balustrade. Old Spanish furniture of the 16th and 17th Century is used entirely for the furnishing of the cloister.

  Three additional bedrooms are located in the east wing, along with a nursery and servants' quarters. 
Spanish Gothic style chandelier with hand hammered iron and ornate cast brass.. Originally adorned the second floor hall.

Each window consists of six panels of glass set in bronze frames. The two upper ones each have a different coat of arms and the frames were made with an angled side which allowed their seam to be concealed behind the cast stone arch. The lower four panels are rectangular in shape.

Wrought iron railing sections were salvaged from the second floor cloister.

   At one end, the stair that leads up to the mezzanine cloister; at the other end, the flying stair from this cloister to the master's portion, and, in a far corner, the door to a circular stairway. This challenges exploration. It leads upward to a "secretary's alcove," whence, further, access may be had to the "master's hall." But the circular stairway does not end at this floor. Pursuing it on upward, you discover the "mirador", an isolated tower room, gained only by this approach. Down, again, on the second floor level, you find the master's quarters, a spacious unit of bedroom, sleeping porch, sitting room, secretary's alcove (with the circular stair), two baths and vast closets. From a hall at right-angles with the "master's hall'' open the daughter's room and guest room, and this hall is reached from the rest of the house by the flying stair that sweeps up from the cloister, and looks down into the Great Hall.

Two bedrooms and the master suite are accessed from the west end via an encaged hanging stair.

Mizner made sure every detail was top notch so he personally oversaw the ironwork at his own company. 
The salvaged iron door that closed off the master suite. 

A separate circular stair tower leads to the third floor observation room in the larger of
the two towers; the smaller tower houses a children's playroom and sleeping porch.
Hand hammered iron three story staircase.

Detail - hand hammered iron three story staircase.

Hand hammered iron three story staircase.
Detail - hand hammered iron three story staircase.
Cast stone fireplace mantel from the "mirador"

Moorish round skylight originally adorned the second floor West wing.

  At this point a fantastic idea assails the writer. The year is 1330, or perhaps 1430—not 1930. This half of the house could be defended against the other half, or against marauders, who may have forced their way into the Great Hall. Imagination  sees a "costume piece" after the  best  manner of Sabatini, in a setting peculiarly designed for it. One good swordsman would hold the flying stairway against a score; another would hold the circular stair, unless its lower door had been locked in time; servitors and men at arms, perhaps, pouring from the servants' wing, would be engaging the enemy in a battle on the stair that leads up to the cloister. Steel upon steel—the  Siege of "La Ronda"—sheer fantasy, which the writer must blame upon the architect for creating such a perfect setting for that kind of a costume piece, with a plan as admirably designed for defense before the general use of artillery! Such affairs built history in the ancient houses and castles of Europe, whether or not that history was always entirely to the liking of the master and the chatelaine at the time it was being enacted. By association some of the glamour of those more romantic days will come with time to rest even upon this very new castle in Pennsylvania.

  It is 1930, so we must return again to the plans, and ascend that stairway at the end of the Great Hall—that stairway where, a moment ago, imagination saw a brave show of sword-play in the defense of the cloister. . . . To the right, through a doorway, stairs lead up to another unit of the castle plan (again designed as though for the defense that would have been ever in the mind of the medieval builder). Here are two rooms and bath for two children, a room and bath for their nurse, and a stair upward from a hall to the childrens sleeping porch—an airy tower—and an alcove for the nurse.

  It was thus, in effect, that ancient castles were planned, or grew, and in the architectural manner of "La Ronda" it all seems strangely logical and appropriate enough here.

  The facts about a house, its plans and its furnishings are interesting but not so interesting as the total effect that has been achieved. The criticism leveled against the house that derives directly from an historic period has been that it contributes nothing to any expression of the life of our own time. The acceptance of the premise underlying this criticism, however, does not lead to any satisfactory conclusion. There is a confusion of background and foreground. The fact seems to be that most of us seem to live more happily against a background of past civilization than in a foreground of sociological and aesthetic experiments. 

  And no matter how definitely an architect's choice of historic style may derive  from a period, there is still plenty of room for him to endow his work with a very personal touch. It is in this that Addison Mizner has always been particularity successful. Imbued with a strong feeling for romanticism architecture, he had devoted much effort to the making of materials which would most effectively realize the spirit of his work. He is not a user of unimaginative formula in design. In this house, he has created forms that invite time to add its master touch to the completion of a beautiful picture, a house that grows only more lovely with age, more charming as vines cover its walls. C. MATLACK PRICE 1936

Original garage  and servant quarters.
Back side of garage.
Original Gatehouse

  One of the rare projects Mizner commissioned above the Mason-Dixon Line, the 17,500-square-foot, 51-room La Ronda was a whimsical sight in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, for 80 years. Leather-manufacturer(Foerderer Vici Kid Leather Works) Percival E. Foerderer and his family owned the home from 1929 until his death in 1969. His wife Ethel died in 1981It was left to nearby Villanova University with the intention that the house be used as a conference center.   The plans were abandoned, however, because of overwhelming neighborhood objection to the increased traffic and activity that would have resulted. Over the next four decades, the ownership changed hands numerous times, and the surrounding land diminished from 233 to a mere 3.2 acres to make room for housing developmentsThe development that resulted, the "Hermitage", was disappointing in its integration of the new townhouses with the existing house. Virtually all of the estate's trees were cut down.  In their place, giant boulders were substituted, and the essential character of the estate's natural landscape was lost.  A turn from Palm Beach to the Southwest.  

PERCIVAL E. FOERDERER(1884-1969)Foerderer was the third generation in the family leather business and his father invented a special chrome process for treating goatskins to create soft, pliable leather(Patent leather).Known as "Mr. Jefferson" because of his long time involvement with the development of Thomas Jefferson University HospitalIn 1925 he purchased the 250-acre Bryn Mawr estate of former U S. Attorney' General Wayne McVeigh. Mizner demolished the 1882 McVeigh residence by Theophilus P. Chandler. Jr. and completed the 51-room "La Ronda" in 1928.  

Addison Mizner

  Unbelievably "La Ronda" was considered dark and dank by some. Despite efforts by a number of groups the last Mizner designed home was demolished in early October 2009. 

   Click HERE to read a variety of news articles relating to the demise of the property. HERE to view a community action website that chronicled the efforts to save "La Ronda".  Many additional links for photos, videos of the interior and comments that highlighted the tragedy.  Two links - HERE and HERE - are local TV broadcasts, one involves a plan to move the house to an adjacent lot, the other a story titled COUNTDOWN TO DEMOLITION.  

  A BEHIND THE WALLS article tells the story of Florence, the hidden daughter of the Foerderer's. Mignon was the oldest, Florence the middle child and Shirley the youngest. An interesting Upstairs, Downstairs story can be found HERE.   "And everyone who lived or worked there remembers Christmas at La Ronda. Cooking smells wafted down the corridors from a cast-iron stove as big as a buffalo. A hundred radiators clanked with the startup strain of heating the Bryn Mawr mansion’s many rooms."

  The Foerderer Family Papers  are kept at The Historical Society of PennsylvanianThe family had a townhouse in Philadelphia and were known to summer in Seal harbor, Maine. Percival grew up at Glen Foerd.

  ***Most of the color photos posted here were done by Carla Zambelli.***

On the first day of October 2009 the buyer was allowed to bring in equipment to bulldoze what remained of the house... 
.....and by the afternoon of the first day a fair portion of the building was little more than a pile of rubble.
What was.

What is - nice enough - hardly a worthy replacement. 
  Below are a few of the salvage items from "La Ronda".  More can be found HERE and HERE. There was not enough time to carefully remove all the architectural elements, as a result much of what could be salvaged was damaged in trying to remove it quickly. The above photographs shows how much of the most significant architectural details were still there and would soon become part of the debris.

Wooden with built in mirror and lower bracketed shelf. Hand painted frescoes adorn both interior and exterior doors done in the Mediterranean Revival Style.
Where in the house this was placed I can't say??? 

Interior comes with hand made copper sconces.

Comprised of nearly 50 hand blown glass rondels on a drop of turquoise blue.
I don't know specifically where this was located in the house???
Custom hand hammered iron lantern. Where it hung is unknown to me???