I have written before about S. Montgomery Roosevelt, the man who purchased Roosevelt Hall in 1899 and gave it the name that we know it by today. He was a wealthy artist and something of a hound dog whose last will and testament disclosed a mistress and cut his wife out of his fortune, leaving his money to nieces and nephews. But long before S. Montgomery Roosevelt’s death in 1920, Roosevelt Hall played a role in an exchange of views that was a preview of things to come.
It began in June of 1908, with a rumor in Paris and an explanation in the New York newspapers:
“Mrs. Horatio Rubens Denies That She and Her Husband Have Separated.”
Because Mrs. Horatio H. Rubens sublet her apartment in the Rue Hamelin, Paris, and took up temporary quarters in the Hotel d’Iena an absurd rumor spread in Paris that she was arranging for a separation from her husband, the famous American lawyer who is now president of the Matanzas railway in Cuba, where he has been living for the last few years.
Mrs. Rubens did not know whether to be indignant or amused when she heard the story this morning in her private drawing room of the hotel. “It’s too ridiculous to talk about,” she said. “I really couldn’t stand the climate in Cuba. I had, indeed, a touch of yellow fever a year ago, so I sailed direct for France, landing at Saint Nazaire. My husband could not come, both on account of business and because he is such an awfully bad sailor that the mere look of the sea makes him green. Why, when we went yachting with Mr. and Mrs. Montgomery Roosevelt, Mrs. Schuyler and others, Harry, that’s my husband, followed us from port to port by train. He has never been abroad, and I love it so much here in Paris. Some day I’ll persuade him to come over.
“I took a flat in the Rue Hamelin, and until January Mrs. Frankie Smith of San Francisco lived with me. When she had to go home Mrs. Stone of New York stayed with me till I gave up the flat three weeks ago owing to a piano player overhead. So that’s all there is to that absurd story.
“It is foolish as the story which was printed in New York that I had put my maid in an insane asylum because she refused to brush my dog’s teeth every morning.”
Mrs. Rubens is an extremely beautiful woman, slim and young. She wore one of the new indoor directoire gowns of pale yellow. Her only jewelry was a necklace of huge pearls. She has been very popular in French society and is an especial favorite in country houses, because she rides to hounds and shoots capitally. She is greatly sought after by artists anxious to paint her winsome, expressive face.
[Antonio] De la Gandara hopes to persuade her to pose this season, but she is now posing for S. Montgomery Roosevelt at his studio at No. 35 Avenue d’Eylau. Mr. Roosevelt has already painted Mrs. Rubens many times, the sittings being given when she was a guest of his wife at the Roosevelt manor, near Skaneateles, eighteen months ago.
“Winter” by S. Montgomery Roosevelt
One portrait which has been exhibited in Paris with great success was painted in the park near the manor gates. It represents Mrs. Rubens standing against a wintery background, wrapped in sables. “Every time I think of that lovely manor house,” said Mrs. Rubens, “I am anxious to go back. I had a letter yesterday from Mrs. Roosevelt, in which she called me her ‘dear little lady’ and asked me to come and visit her again.”
Mrs. Rubens was a Miss Lamar of a well-known Southern family. Her cousin, Lucius Quintus Lamar, is now in Cuba with Mr. Rubens. She is going to write to them both by next mail. Montgomery Roosevelt is one of the few American painters who has a high social standing in Paris. He comes over every spring and opens his studio to his social and artistic friends. He arrived three weeks ago and will remain the greater part of the summer, with occasional painting excursions into Auvergne.”
Well, that explained everything. That is, until Mrs. Roosevelt read the article, and launched this salvo from Roosevelt Hall:
“Did Not Invite Woman to Her Home – Mrs. S. Montgomery Roosevelt of Skaneateles Repudiates Statements Given Out by Mrs. Rubens in Paris”
A Skaneateles dispatch to a New York newspaper says: “It is not true that I wrote to Mrs. Horatio S. Rubens and invited her to my home, nor that I called her my ‘dear little lady.’ It is not true that I have either written to her or received a letter from her. I have not seen her in more than a year, nor do I wish to see her.”
Mrs. S. Montgomery Roosevelt, wife of the noted American artist, who is second cousin of the President, thus denied to-day statements made in the cabled interview concerning her, given out in Paris last Saturday by Mrs. Rubens. Mrs. Roosevelt, whose New York city home has been closed for a long time, was seen at the Roosevelt manor house overlooking Skaneateles lake, where she is spending the summer quietly… Mrs. Roosevelt’s reference to Mrs. Rubens to-day, however, was the very antithesis of the attitude assumed by the latter in her Paris interview.
“My husband left this country last April and I have not seen him since,” said Mrs. Roosevelt. “I have not received a letter from him in more than a month. I cannot discuss any difference that may exist between my husband and myself. It would not be proper for me to do so, but you can deny the statement of that woman that she received any letter from me. I would not think of writing to her, and I have no wish to see her here or elsewhere.”
So there, Mrs. Horatio Rubens. But was Mr. Roosevelt chastened in any way but his wife’s displeasure? Not the Montgomery Roosevelt we’ve come to know and love. Four years later, the New York Times carried this piece:
“On the ground that she was ill, Mrs. Harold S. Rubens, entered on the passenger list as Mrs. C. de Lamar of New York who arrived yesterday on the American liner Philadelphia, refused to identify her signature on her baggage declaration. The Acting Deputy Surveyor thereupon sent her ten trunks to the Appraiser’s Stores. Mrs. Rubens drove from the pier in the auto of S. Montgomery Roosevelt, an artist, of 57 West 58th Street.”
There was no note of Mrs. Roosevelt’s reaction.
* * *
Sources: “Mrs. Horatio Rubens Denies That She and Her Husband Have Separated,” Syracuse Herald, June 15, 1908; “Did Not Invite Woman to Her Home,” Syracuse Journal, June 15, 1908; “Held Woman’s Trunks,” New York Times, October 21, 1912.