Thursday, May 15, 2014

A Fenced in World: The Tuxedo Club by Laurie Alice Eakes

A Fenced in World: The Tuxedo Club by Laurie Alice Eakes

When I ended up writing a novel set in a time and place about which I knew little to nothing, I dove head-first into research, immersing myself behind the fence of the Tuxedo Park set in Tuxedo Park, New York. The more I read, the more interested I grew.

Why was it a club? Who belonged to this Club? What were these people like? These were the initial questions I asked. Then I had to figure out what this place looked like. For four months, Tuxedo Park and the Tuxedo Club consumed my life until I produced The Honorable Heir (Harlequin Love Inspired Heartsong, May 6, 2014).
Click for your copy

So let me answer these questions for you.

In the mid eighteen eighties, a wealthy New York socialite named Pierre Lorillard decided he wanted to build a playground, a haven from the city for his fellow New York rich and famous. They would hunt and fish, have polo matches and tennis tournaments all from their gorgeous mansions. He recruited architect Bruce Price to help him achieve his dream. Price was the father of Emily Price Post, whose book on etiquette was the standard for good manners for nearly a hundred  years. (Emily Price Post is a whole topic all on her own).

This is a black and white photo from Wikipedia –
William Kent Cottage circa 1886 built by architect Bruce Price

In nine months, Price and Lorillard imported craftsmen from around the world, and built enough mansions to get the club – which cost $400.00 a year to belong to – underway.

What makes Tuxedo Park unique and interesting is that they kept the environment in mind when developing the buildings. They left space around them, kept as many of the trees and other natural land features in pristine condition, and did not overcrowd the land. One house, Lake House, curved around the edge of the lake with each room situated such that each chamber provided a view of the lake. Sounds like a dream house to me.
This is another black and white photo from Wikipedia built by the same architect, Bruce Price,
but this home belonged to Winthrop Astor Chanler circa 1886

A fence enclosed this glory, making Tuxedo Park only the second fenced community in the country at that time.

A clubhouse was the center of this fenced playground. It boasted a great hall with a massive fireplace, private rooms for meetings upstairs, a bowling alley in the basement, and a ballroom.

The ballroom sounds spectacular. It was circular with a stage and benches around the walls. I wonder how many debutantes got dizzy spinning around a circular dance floor.

The ballroom hosted an annual ball to launch young ladies into society. They also held charity events there and amateur theatricals. This was land for those with little to do but seek entertainment.

Wealthy girls from Tuxedo Park were among the four hundred plus American women who took their wealth to bolster the coffers of European aristocrats in exchange for a title. I make my heroine one of these ladies, who is a widow coming home at the beginning of the story.

Tuxedo, Park, unlike other resort areas, was close enough to the city that the men commuted back and forth to work, for, unlike European aristocrats, the ultra wealthy in America worked.

In January, I did a post on skating chairs. I discovered that contraption while researching Tuxedo Park. In winter, the tennis club turned into the skating club, along with tobogganing down one of the many hills in the park.

Outside the fence, the police station resided nearby so the law could keep out those who didn’t belong inside. Other businesses accommodated the townsfolk, but also those residing inside the sacred walls of the Tuxedo Club – a pharmacy, an ice cream parlor, a busy train station. The “right sort” of people attended the Episcopal church. Others went to the Catholic church. If ever a demonstration of the haves and have nots existed, it was the relationship between those inside and those outside the fence of Tuxedo Park.


  1. Hi Laurie! What an interesting and informative post. Thank you so much for sharing. Oh to have been a fly on the wall at The Tuxedo Club!

    mauback55 at gmail dot com

  2. I knew nothing when I started this journey of coming up with a proposal and ultimately selling the story. Went from no knowledge, to finished manuscript in five months. What a whirlwind!

  3. What great little microcosm of Tuxedo Park. It is such fascinating place. And the Honorable Heir is a great book, everyone!

  4. Laurie, what an interesting place. It sounds like it could be the basis for a TV series!

  5. This was a fascinating read! Now I need to buy a copy of your book. I'm hooked!

  6. Never heard of Tuxedo Park and it is an unusual community. Thanks for your post. I enjoy learning history through books and on Christian Historical Fiction site. sharon wileygreen1(at)yahoo(dot)com

  7. Chanler House was my childhood home!