Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Never Ask a Lady Her Age!

Here's a contemporary account of Kay and the house in Haddam:

VERY interesting (and completely incidental to the story) is that the year of Kay's birth is given as 1900 (though the day was actually August 15); by this time she had already started shaving two years off her age. Even today, most sources indicate 1902 as the year of her birth, a fiction promulgated by no less than the Grey Lady herself, The New York Times. The 1900 date is confirmed, however, by the family's grave marker in Old Saybrook. 

One wonders--did Kay slip up, or did the newspaper have more reliable information?

Monday, June 11, 2012

The Haddam House

On the way to Old Saybrook yesterday, we stopped at Haddam to see the Nehemiah Brainerd House, which was built around 1765, and which Kay owned from 1932 until some time in the early 1940s. Kay moved the house some 400 feet back from the road, creating quite a sweep of front lawn, and had the house enlarged with the addition of two wings.

After years of neglect, the house was purchased by Maryan and Jeff Muthersbaugh in 2002, who have lovingly restored the house, retaining as much period detail as possible--period detail that acknowledges both the the house's Colonial Heritage and its later Deco Era transformations.


Maryan and Jeff started operation of The Nehemiah Brainerd House B&B three or four years ago. They are two of the nicest people you'll ever meet, and, despite a houseful of company, they were so sweet to give us a tour of the entire house, and part of the lovely property.

The Connecticut River is hidden
from view during summer months

Perhaps the most charmingly alluring feature of the Inn is the cottage, which has its own kitchen and bath (recent additions by Maryan and Jeff), and a commanding view of the Connecticut River, which was mostly hidden by the lush foliage when we visited. It's not clear if the cottage was there in Kay's time (it doesn't appear on the blueprints of the house and property), but Maryan and I like to think that Kay may have used it as a studio, where she could write in quiet solitude... 

Dennis, Gloria, and Maryan on the cottage patio

The cottage was chosen by Yankee Magazine as Editors' Choice Best of New England, Best Hilltop Cottage for 2011.

Sunday, June 10, 2012


Today was the 60th Anniversary of Katharine Brush's death. A few friends and I drove up to Old Saybrook, Connecticut to visit Kay's grave in Riverside Cemetery.

Kay's ashes are buried next to her parents, and her brother Travis.


August 15, 1900-June 10, 1952

Monday, June 4, 2012

Urban Oasis

Joseph Urban
Kay's sumptuous (9 rooms, 5 baths) duplex on East 57th Street was the last interior design work of Joseph Urban, the famous Austrian architect and designer who had emigrated to the US in 1912. The Hearst International Building (with later additions by Norman Foster) and the auditorium of the New School are two of his architectural projects that can still be seen in New York today. Urban also designed productions for the Ziegfeld Follies and the Metropolitan Opera. Joseph Urban died shortly before work on Kay's apartment was completed. He's buried in Sleepy Hollow Cemetery.

The two-story living room was 30 feet by 40 feet!

Most of the furniture was custom-built to Urban's designs.