Interview Catherine C. Irving (Mrs. A. Duer Irving), 1974 February 21 [audio](part 2)

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  • Mrs. Crowninshield giving away one or more of her houses in Boca Grande; Mrs. Crowninshield hosting garden club leaders in Delaware; the Crowninshield's yacht
    Keywords: bridge; Crowninshield, Frank, 1872-1947; garden club; Kindness; Personality; Secretary of the Navy; Yachting; Yachts; Yachts--Law and legislation
    Transcript: [Irving mentions how Mrs. Crowninshield gave away more than one of her Boca Grande houses.]

    Ward: I understand she was interested in helping young people to get their education.

    Irving: Yes, I'm sure she was. I think she paid for a great many young people to acquire an education. I can't think now at this particular moment, well possibly one or two, that I think I know about but I wouldn't want to discuss that. It was part of her character to feel that she wanted to help other people in an unobtrusive way.

    Ward: It seems as though she lived a very positive and creative life.

    Irving: Very. She was on the go all the time, always going to meetings. Of course she was very active in the garden club and had that area which included the several southern states, Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee, etc. They called it the southeastern states. I'm not sure if it included Florida. I don't think it did. I think it was more toward the middle southern states. When she had all her group come up, the heads of the garden clubs of that area - I think there were about forty or fifty ladies possibly came up and had a wonderful week and going places and doing things. Course, just going to Longwood was educational for all these people; I think they gave something for them. Everybody tried to help and make it possible for her to - she had them for several days, four or five days, and it was all delightful. And they all knew her; she was their regent...for that area.

    Ward: Was Mr. Crowninshield interested in the flowers, too?

    Irving: The results yes, but you know the way men are. They don't get down to the practical things except where boats are concerned and fishing. They have their own interests. He loved bridge and they had that in common and boats would come in to Boca Grande, the people we knew, old friends of hers, yachts when people could have yachts. Of course, now the laws are such that...very few people can afford to maintain a yacht. The hours are difficult to run a yacht; you have to have two crews really on a yacht - twenty-four hour working you see - the laws prevent that, and a great many people, even Vanderbilts and people like that had to give up their boats. We went to South America on a large yacht, nearly 400 feet long and a crew of 38 - South and Central America and through the Panama Canal - and that man gave up his yacht. He was a friend of ours and when these laws were passed, he had to give up his boat. Great many people did, but Mr. and Mrs. Crowninshield had - can't think of the name of it for a moment - and someone was telling me just the other day they had a boat at Boca Grande they called the Casuarina; those are Australian pines, that's the name for them there are so many down there...That was their fishing boat. Afterward they had a beautiful big yacht and his, one of his ancestors had been Secretary of the Navy, I can't think of his name, something Queen was the name of the yacht and Mr. and Mrs. Stockwell and some friends of theirs from here chartered from this captain, the captain of their boat, I think they keep it at...down in the West Indies and the captain charters it to groups who want to go sailing and fishing and just enjoying the islands. It is sort of an inter-island boat now but it is very luxurious. Mr. Stockwell said that they were in the owner's suite and he saw their pictures in the cabin. He asked the captain if it had been Mr. Crowninshield's yacht and he said, "Yes." Possibly they gave it to him rather than sell it or dispose of it. He went down to those waters and I think does pretty well. I have seen pictures on television of some of the travel pictures of people who told of hiring this yacht that they found down there and I thought it was probably the Crowninshield yacht.
  • Mrs. Crowninshield's love of fishing; Henry Francis du Pont's family collecting shells in Florida; selling her house in Boca Grande
    Keywords: alcove of mirrors; dado; Du Pont, Henry Francis, 1880-1969; Du Pont, Ruth; fishing; Gasperilla Island (Fla.); Harrison, Pauline du Pont, 1918-2007; Lord, Ruth, 1922-2014; shell collection; shelling; tarpon fishing
    Transcript: Ward: Yes, it could very well could be. Did Mrs. Crowninshield enjoy fishing?

    Irving: 0h tremendously. She was out as often as he was, perhaps oftener, and if she caught a tarpon she was thrilled! Of course you go down to those islands and the men would go on one side and the ladies on the other, then get together again at lunch time and the captain and whoever took you there would be getting your lunch...Later you would go fishing again and of course shelling was a tremendous thing too. Mrs. Crowninshield shelled a great deal. She loved it and right there where their house was situated, with the incoming tide they had wonderful shelling.

    Ward: Did she shell all up and down that island there?

    Irving: Yes. But her own beach was the best place to shell on the whole of Gasperilla Island and then some of the other islands are famous for good shelling.

    Ward: Sanibel is near there.

    Irving: Yes, Sanibel, and one other, are very good. Mr. and Mrs. du Pont and their two daughters got enough...it was just after a storm and the incoming tide had brought in perfectly beautiful shells and enough to make a dado around their dining room and all exactly alike and they shelled all morning and then foolishly stopped for lunch. Lunch was ready and they thought, we shouldn't have stopped before the incoming tide turned. We should have gotten all there were, but the tide was already carrying the shells away. But they had enough to trim that whole room. Some of them are quite large, like a small plate and deep red shading into pink and really beautiful colors for the dining room.

    Mrs. Crowninshield had an alcove of mirrors for her shell collection where it was very beautifully displayed. They had a very comfortable house there, not elegant or anything of that kind because it isn't suitable in Boca Grande. There were more elegant houses built afterward. [She goes on to describe selling her house in Boca Grande and being disappointed seeing it years later in a dilapidated condition.]
  • Final thoughts, including Mrs. Crowninshield's kindness toward her during her husband's illness and after her husband's death
    Keywords: Hudson River
    Transcript: Ward: Do you have in mind any other close friends of Mrs. Crowninshield that you think might have another facet...?

    Irving: Well, my sister-in-law I told you about. They lived in our aunt's house at Marblehead after she died and were on the boat a great deal with Mr. and Mrs. Crowninshield each year and really saw more of them than I did. I know she could tell you quite a lot. Her telephone number is 658-4531.

    Ward: Is she in Boca Grande now?

    Irving: Oh no, she's right here. She lives in the Devon. My brother-in-law, her husband, is dead. He died a few years ago. He was younger than my husband. My husband died in '41. We had been in Boca Grande when my husband became ill. He caught a terrible cold which developed into pneumonia. [She gives additional details about her husband's death, mentioning Mrs. Crowninshield's concern during his illness. She describes how after Mrs. Irving's husband's death, Mrs. Crowninshield arranged for any remaining debt to be erased from the house the Irvings had purchased from her.]

    Ward: Well Mrs. Irving, I think you have been most generous and kind giving your time and thinking about Mrs. Crowninshield and it has just been a beautiful afternoon surrounded with these beautiful thoughts of a person who has done so much for our community right here.

    [Final portions of interview are incomplete. Mrs. Irving mentions a house on the Hudson River that was owned by her husband's family and in which she and her husband lived when they were first married.]