I like old houses

The real estate portfolios of the rich and famous has always been fascinating to me, particularly that of Taylor Swift. I think it says a lot about person when they can buy virtually any home they want, where and what they choose. I always found Taylor’s Watch Hill mansion to be an incredible property, using her resources to restore and enjoy a vestige of old money Americana. In one way, it feels like a nod to the American dream and in a more superficial way an embrace of a particular kind of American elegance and luxury that only existed in a bygone time. Yes, Taylor’s old Cape Cod-style L.A. residence holds a special place in my heart (see: Vogue 73 questions), but its sale led to a purchase imbued with even more meaning. Taylor’s purchase and restoration of the Goldwyn Estate in Beverly Hills shows her reverence for American entertainment history. It shows her knowledge of the legends that came before her. Real estate may seem a strange way for a singer-songwriter to strengthen her legacy but it makes a lot of sense to me. If I had all the resources in the world, no, I don’t think I’d buy a mansion in Calabasas. I think I’d want to restore a hundred year old estate, thank you very much.

More recently, I became intrigued by Martha Stewart’s real estate portfolio. Though this may not resonate with Taylor, like Martha, I’d probably like to have farm and a beautiful old house to go with it. Martha has 152 acres in Bedford, New York where she has gardens, dozens of different animals, and a mixture of modern and historic structures. The whole thing is essentially a temple to the domestic girlboss. I’m obviously both envious and deeply reverent.

Landings below the main terrace at Martha Stewart’s Skylands (Photography by Claire Takacs in Flower Magazine)

The other property of Martha’s that fascinates me is her home in Maine, which she call Skylands. The home has a rich and deeply American history. It was completed in 1925 for Edsel Ford and his wife Eleanor. Edsel was the only son of pioneering industrialist Henry Ford and the sole heir to the family business. When Martha bought the home (there was one homeowner between the Fords and Martha), it came fully furnished. The home is essentially full of antiques and at the same time, a project in living restoration of an American treasure. While Martha enjoys the home greatly, spending August there each year, she treats it as such. I find it comforting to see the moguls of today preserve the history of the moguls of a hundred years ago. America is so many things that it cannot be limited to a single era of greatness or a single aesthetic. However, there is something about the early 1900’s and that time of great industrialization and in later years the booming entertainment industry that laid the groundwork for the way that American culture today is so widely appreciated. American entertainment, goods, and the hope of the American dream was crystallized in those eras.

Every home is steeped in history, whether we acknowledge it or not. Even though we often show up to new homes and new apartments as though they are clean slates, so much life has already been lived within those walls. I think it’s kind of funny how those memories live within people that will then leave that space forever. I guess a fear of ghosts is a fear that the life lived before still lingers.

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