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tv   The Presidency Bunny Mellons Legacy  CSPAN  July 27, 2019 11:50am-1:01pm EDT

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american history tv. >> up next, we hear about kennedy white house rose garden designer buddy mellon and her first lady, jacqueline kennedy. this was part of a daylong symposium. >> good afternoon. welcome back to the carriage house for our afternoon sessions. i hope you enjoyed your lunch and learning more about the historic items that were provided. if you have not seen them yet please be sure to see them. they are outside. the first afternoon panel, the legacy of bunny mellon, will explore the life and influences of rachel lambert mellon. we will hear from merrill gordon, met griswold -- matt griswold, and linda. our speakers will
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each give a short presentation and then returned to the stage for a moderated conversation with thomas lloyd bunny mellon bunny mellon, who was's -- thomas boyd. [applause] thomas: hello. just wanted to share a quick couple thoughts about my grandmother and give me some personal perspective i think is helpful in this and thinking for hosting this event. spending time with my grandmother as a little boy was an experience dipped in intimidation and fascination. although we were not close, i
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greatly admired her from afar and her ability to really solve problems and make people feel comfortable. graham -- gram bunny, as we called her, exhibited an ability to invent classical solutions in a variety of ways. i have learned from many people over the years. whether it was entertaining the prince or princess of wales, myself, or her daughter, she would regularly fix broken flower stems with a band-aid right before their arrival for a party. she would also sometimes sniff any flagging floral arrangements right before an event and stick the entire flower into a vase of hot water to perked them up. tricks of the trade for a self-taught woman that i knew t o complete any step of the progress -- process. i will share one of my fondest personal memories of her and it
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involves my children. this was many years ago when we were staying at springhill on her farm. she decided to pay us a visit and was driving the car up the road. i was on the phone so i sent my children out. five minutes, 10 minutes goes by, i go outside and i saw them all sitting in the car together. they were still sitting there. my grandmother was in the front seat. my son was in the driver's seat, at the time about four years old. she let us know they were driving to paris. my daughter was covering one of vogue's best dressed with the barbie fashion stickers all over her arms. she was laughing. she had this wonderful beret and had stickers all over it and was having the best time of her life. to me, i think that really
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encapsulated my grandmother. she was a very complicated person but she treated people that she had, especially children, with such reverence and love. she had a whimsical side to her that just never really went away, even at the age of 102. she was a pretty spectacular individual. with that i would like to again introduce, let's start with merril over here. and have her walk you through how my grandmother really was in managing people and who she was as a person. thank you. [applause] merrill: well, thank you all. i knew this was going to happen when i got up. i am thrilled to be here today to see
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so many familiar faces. i have to start by thanking thomas who is very much almost my partner in helping me with this book. never tried to censor anything i wrote, even though some things i said were little controversial. so i am really pleased to be here today. let me start by saying i think many of you know that bunny mellon lived a life of great luxury. there was the 5000 acre farm in upper bill virginia, there were these two houses in washington, the townhouse in new york, the amazing estate in cape cod, these equally -- the apartment in paris. she was on the best dressed list. her husband decked her in millions of dollars of jewelry. and of course she enjoyed her material possessions, but what really gave her joy and comfort in life was nature, gardens, trees,
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flowers, and birds. whatever was going on in bunny's life in good times and bad, the garden got her through. one of her first memories as a three-year-old was seeing flowers in a family member's garden in east hampton. when she died at 103, everyone including thomas told me she still had a firm grip from all those years of pruning. so, gardening really was the magic for her. it was better than prozac, no matter what was happening. now, we were very lucky, the three of us as biographers, because bunny saved everything. i mean everything. there were five boxes of notes. every time paul mellon sent her a gift she saved it with things like, under your pillow you will find it. letters from her grandfather, i/o biographical cereals. we had a wealth of
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material to work from. she thought about writing her own biography but never did it. but she wrote about the two people she thought were the most important people in her life. her father, gerard lampert, and her paternal grandfather. i want to tell you a little about bunny's childhood and her influences. i have to start with her paternal grandfather. he was a very distinguished virginia family. he went to st. louis for a job. he was also entrepreneurial. he licensed this new antiseptic formula which would be used by doctors and dentists. he wanted to find the name. he sailed to england and he met with a famous doctor who had been knighted by the queen and used if he could use the man's name. it was sir joseph lister. enter listerine.
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he was the fifth of six children. when he was three years old he was suddenly orphaned. both of his parents died within a few months of one another. he was really an extraordinary, larger-than-life character. he would later go back and see if the fortunes of the listerine company, brilliant as an advertising man and marketing genius. it had only been marketed to doctors and dentists. he began to market it as a bad rescuer, which turned it -- breathe cure, which turned it into a phenomenon. he then went onto to gillette and founded the blue blade. he also was a big proponent of political polling. one of his neighbors was george gallup. he was one of the first people to invent political polling as an advisor to fdr. had an enormous sweep of a life. when you look at a through line of what did bunny
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gain from him, nothing but the best in life for gerard. he loved real estate, he loved building, he loved renovating, he loved sailing, he loved the outdoors. so, this was a heritage that bunny brought with her through life. she was born in 1910 in new york city. she had a younger brother gerard, and also had a gorgeous younger sister lily. lily's son, step up david, get up here today. [applause] meryl: forgive me, i wanted to show you some of bunny's really lovely sketches. she began sketching as a young girl. she always illustrated her letters with sketches. she and jackie kennedy took sketching lessons from oliver smith, a known broadway designer. and now we come to young bunny. maybe we come to young bunny. young
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bunny. yay! adorable young girl. and again, she always talked about the fact that her brother was sickly and her mother was very chest to her brother. her sister was very gorgeous. her father said his sister was the apple of his eye. bunny was a tomboy. she was free to run in the woods, she was the outside observer. i want to quote from one of her later memories. as a child, wildfires were part of my feeling of freedom. hidden under larger plans for creating fields of lavender thistles that cover the landscapes like a sea in the wind. the intense bright of the buttercups made me think that if i ever had to live alone in a room i would paint it yellow and never miss the sun. bunny was very close to her grandfather, arthur lowe, another amazing character. he was a digger manufacturer and man is -- massachusetts. he was very politically active.
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he was an outdoorsman. he had a farm in new hampshire where bunny spent six weeks every summer. that was her early total immersion in nature. he would take her on walks, he would read from henry david thoreau, he would teach the name of plants, bird calls. he would point out the stars. he was very important that bunny. whenever things were going on in her life, she often thought what would my grandfather have told me to do. now, bunny's father built a rather strawberry estate in princeton where he had gone to school.
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here is bunny getting her hair cut. and here are the gardens. as i said, bunny's father believed in no cost, and he hired the olmsted brothers, who you have already heard of today, to design the gardens. bunny would always say her early training came from trailing those gardeners around, watching them plant, watching them plant trees. she got her style and sense of proportion from those gardeners. that's bunny with her father sailing. i love the formality of this picture. the fact he has a tie on. this is her favorite picture, she had it by her bedside. bunny went to foxcroft where writing is one of the three r's. one of her closest friends was a young girl from new jersey named dorothy. now, this is a world of many nicknames. bunny was named rachel after her another -- her mother but her sister could not pronounce her name. sorry, i am so excited to be here that i am overwhelmed. bunny's baby nurse called her bunny and she became bunny the rest of her life.
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dorothy's brother could not pronounce dorothy so he called her sister. she would later marry henry parish and become sister parish. i always loved the idea of these two young women who would later become so important to jackie kennedy and the white house were giggly teenagers. bunny really, really, really wanted to go to college. one of the great regrets of her life was her father would not let her go. she was literally railing in her 90's in these autobiographical essays how she wanted to go to college. coming out of that, she became a voracious reader. tony will have told you about her collection of books. she was riveted by books. beyond the 10,000 or more volumes in the library, they were more fiction, nonfiction.
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she became an avid reader. the same year gerard lambert refused to let his daughter go to college, 1928, he made one very smart decision. he was running the parent company of listerine, everything was great. you saw him on the about. he decided he want to go yachting is a full-time profession. he sold all of his stocks in the company for $25 million, the equivalent to $340 million today. bunny's coming-out party was the weekend of the stock market crash in 1929. it is amazing to look at the headlines that weekend. bunny's parents did not have to worry about how they would pay for the caterers because they would always be wealthy. where some of her friends like sister parish, their families were wiped out.
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sister parish did have to go to work, opening up a decorating shop at age 23. bunny never had to work, but she always wanted to be involved. she had creative impulses. she wanted to go forward. now, after she graduated -- i think i have a few -- yes, bunny the lovely debutante. these pictures are courtesy of david fleming. for a couple years after she graduated from foxcroft, bunny had a lovely life of traveling to europe, but also her father, her parents were squabbling. they would eventually get divorced. her father bought this rather extraordinary mention called carter hall in millwood. over 500 acres of land, built in 1792. he began this massive restoration project and he recruited bunny to do the landscaping. there were letters from her grandfather saying i have got you 200 trees. have a wonderful time. she so really enjoyed that part, planting her gardens. it was really experimenting on a different scale.
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now, bunny did eventually marry that suitable man her father hoped she would sign. he was a graduate of princeton, a member -- president of the ivy club. he tried out for the olympics but then had some health issues. he came from a philadelphia mainline family with law and banking, but he wanted to do something very different. he wanted to become, oh my god, a journalist. he and bunny moved into carter hall and he established a vocation that still exists called the chronicle of the horse. after a number of miscarriages, bunny became pregnant with her son. she had two children. this is stacy lloyd. if you see a family resemblance, thomas is her son over here. it was a difficult pregnancy and bunny was confined to bed. but she read books, designed gardens, and prepared for the next stage of her life.
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now i will handed it over to matt griswold who will talk about the next stage. [applause] matt: can you hear me? all right. my task is to talk about her next house, called apple hill. a house of her own. carter hall was not her own. a house of her own is where it led her. i was struck with that because we are honoring beatrix farrand, and bunny mellon. we always said she has an eye. you know what that means. she looks at something and she completely understands the purpose for whatever it is she sees, or the style or why she would pick that out and seeing the most important thing. both beatrix farrand and bunny mellon throughout her life had
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an eye. so i guess i would say that bunny mellon, in addition to being a great gardener, was also a cultural force. and she left two great cultural monuments. three. the first one being the white house garden. the second one being the oak spring garden library. and the third one being the presence of modern art in the national gallery of art. because without bunny hauling three of her roscoes into a dinner party at the national gallery, it is doubtful how long and might have taken for the national gallery to begin to collect roscoe, let's say. so without more ado, a house of
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her own and where it led her. so, clickers, never my friends. green thing is forward. oh yeah, there we go. thomas is going to identify members of the family that are as yet unidentified by me. here we are six months after the birth of your father. here is toughie in his christening dress. and we can focus at left. does this do two things? i have no idea. that person in the impossibly ruffled and pleaded and print dress is bunny mellon. later, she would be dressed by famous people. it was said to her when she was wearing one of these dresses, he said, ew, what is that crawling up your dress? said bunny to me. she rapidly got out of pleats and ruffles, et cetera.
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everyone is very joyce -- joyful and i think that is stacy standing behind her. good, ok. and it is her father at right raising his champagne. and it is her, i think, mother-in-law, later to be misses thatcher. she was a very powerful woman and i have never been entirely sure whether bunny and that then-misses lloyd got along terribly well. so -- oh, that is liz whitney, the outrageous and marvelous liz whitney, who was present at the birth. you will have to read about that in my book. and was the godmother. did you ever meet her? no. well, anyway. so, that is her friend. any other questions? >> [inaudible] mac: but then who is -- a lot of women in black in this story. i cannot quite understand why
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attic christening there would be two people dressed in black. so thank you for telling me that that is granny thatcher. so, carter hall. immense, handsome, forbidding, built in 1792. the couple and the new baby lived in the tiny wing at the far right. for a while. and bunny being bunny had to have a greenhouse. so that is her first greenhouse at carter hall.
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she became the defective -- de facto mistress here. her father occasionally visits, her mother was living in princeton. here, too, besides having the first garden, here is where bunny learned to take on bunny -- on big projects. that extraordinarily grooming picture is in fact the outbuilding of carter hall. after a dispute with lambert about plant prices, the homestead firm was fired. so it was all up to bunny to take care of these gardens and the house. so what did she do? in front of those quarters she laid out little brick edge beds. it was a pretty modest start, but rather more importantly, for her patriarchal era, she successfully produced an heir. there we have grandpa and tuffy, and there we have who i am sure is your grandfather. that is what nancy says, nancy from the library.
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ok. so after lunch, into the garden they go. bunny looks like the calf that ate the canary timmy. she is very -- canary to me. she is very pleased with herself. they say to each other -- that is the woman in black i cannot identify. ok. well, someday. they say, let's go see your new place. so they strolled down the lane to the site. that is what became the driveway to bunny's apple hill, bunny and stacy's apple hill. it is a cold day.
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they finally put on all of their clothes, they go down the hill, and they go to what was called the rusty limestone ridge, which was 10 winding acres they bought from a neighbor. it was not carter hall property. it is a very unprepossessing sight. that is what i would say. there, they built bunny's resounding architectural answer to carter hall. it is not a grand house. it is all quite modest. and then, a-ha. only when you step outside on the garden front do you see that the purpose of buying this property was the view. and you learn two things there from building the house and
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having that view. she learned about -- look how the house falls down the hill. there is that nice, staid pennsylvania-style house by a furtive -- friend of gerard lambert's. then there is a decline over the ridge. she did not erase outlines of hills at all. she always worked with and from them. the terrier in front is for comparison. my terrier. she is standing about 30 yards
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from me. so, you can measure the distance across this wide view. that this not very enormous house had. so what did you learn? she learned about the control of grades. that is the -- oh, me too. taht is the second greenhouse. the first when you saw is at carter hall and a second here at apple hill still exists. i would like to thank kate williams for allowing me to ramble over this property and take photographs like this that shows the grade. she also learned about water management on a steep site. you can see the soil is filled with leaves. that may be the most important landscape feature of this place. because it protects the house from the rusty limestone ridge. very inconspicuous, very firm line down the hill, that is bunny. she makes her own planting plans. simple, the start of her very large vocabulary of plants. in a stable courtyard stands a gate. the cornell archives have only
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one sheet of drawings from bunny mellon, and that is this gate and a fence. others nearby had full complement of gardens and landscapes and features and steps, but one gate and one fence was enough and bunny could do the rest. she writes articles for stacy's paper. one was called chewing and sucking buns. so, she knew from what she spoke. this is one of a number of great neverland-ish things she bought. she buys gardening books and reads them. she was a wonderful reader. one person i picked up on someone called elinor sinclair rose, a writer who teaches bunny about herbs and small flowers through her books. she has seven of rose's books in the collection at her library. the absence in any of bunny's
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gardens of neat borders may display rose's influence, i think. this small van gogh stayed with her until her jeff -- death and went to the virginia busy and a fine arts. it hung in her bathroom and i understand the condition was well-nigh perfect after all those years in the bathroom. steam did wonders for it evidently. she also learned about the importance of major trees to any landscape. this is the great carter hall oak. she also learned that pruning can be and should be severe. then comes the war. stacy has -- heads overseas in september. they picked up sticks at apple hill with her.
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he was one of the many war children taken to safety in 1941. life is quiet at apple hill with her two children at a staff of five. nearby, mary mellon sees him to war in 1943. they build a brick on oak spring property. they serve in england, then they go to france and work in the oss. then they returned to virginia. they pick up where they left off. but no one was as happy as before. the men had seen death and the women had lived independently. everyone is restless.
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after mary's death following an asthma attack, paul is stricken. he turns to his friend's rather discontented wife bunny and woos her with dues. the first piece, she labels first gift. it's in the vmsa. you can see it on request. what is extraordinary about his connection with bunny is how loose and informal and living this is, in fact. so, while paul and bunny wait for her divorce they find a secret retreat on the oak spring property, just over the hill from the brickhouse is the fletcher cabin. can you all make out the outline, the white outline?
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there are all the orchards of apples then, now bitter orange. this is the outline of the original cabin there. and that is the outline, mark it closely, the outline of the fletcher vegetable and flower garden. now, if you ask me, that is two people enthralled with each other in the early years of their marriage. but marriage can be an arduous business, painful and filled with compromise. an old-fashioned marriage where utter fidelity is disregarded. bunny and paul learned the best way to stay together is to live apart much of the time. their new house -- although i wanted to say first, what keeps people together? in their case i think many things kept them together. one important factor but not the
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only one is love of the land. an exalted and perfected sense of land management and place. so they build their new house, which is another vernacular and wonderful house, like apple hill. and it offers solidity and comfort and luxury. page becomes their virtual court architect and most of his work is very traditional. but his work for bunny is more stripped down and modern and feeling. it is fair to say his work for her is a collaboration. the same desire to strip away, to clarify and refine the line of what would lead her to collect many other modern masters. the garden at oak spring is architectural and geometric but not symmetrical. i will show you the mechanical plan of the garden.
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can you still see if i stand over here? hi, tom. so, there's the house. encoded inside it is the memory of the fletcher cabin. and then here is the spine of the garden that leads out to the famous mary potter crabapple arcade leading to the greenhouse and conservatory. what is peculiar about this? it is the strange diagonal line. why is that there? who can tell me? because of the outline of the fletcher garden.
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she kept the outline of the fletcher garden. how do i go backwards? there we go. see the wall in the distance? that is that same wall. that same, strange, diagonal law. no one tries to call bunny mellon sentimental as far as i know but she was a romantic with what i call a talismanic memory. just as gordon -- so do architectural forms for bunny constantly be reused. by the late 1950's, oak spring and the house on cape cod are both essentially finished. her other large-scale projects are in work. bunny is in her element and in control. she has created and mastered her surroundings. she is happy.
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this is my favorite picture of her. henry james and isabel archer in portrait of a lady is given a fortune purely to see what she will do with it. bunny has taken advantage that she is freely given by paul, and she masters it in 100 ways. i close with this. her eye gives her a wide an always speculative horizon. she is confident -- she has the confidence to prune any tree and shape any geometric pattern to her design. she has the money to buy anything she wants, but she is discriminating. so i must admit that she does buy quantity. she has the necessary knowledge
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of plants and nurseries. she has found the right people to work with. and our next speaker will tell us about that. so, although she does not know it quite, i don't think, she was very hesitant. although she doesn't know it quite, she is ready for the rose garden. thank you all very much. [applause] linda: hello. i am linda jane holden and i was asked to speak to you all about misses mellon and misses kennedy's friendship and the creation of the rose garden. once upon a time there was a bunny who gardened at the white house in a time that became known as camelot. the story first began at oak spring when jackie kennedy came to visit the garden and had tea to meet bunny mellon for the first time.
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by the time the kennedy's moved into the white house, the friendship had flourished and they became great friends. bunny was very involved behind the scenes. she created a how-to manual on how to create these new loose, informal floral arrangements. she also created a flower room on the colony by the garden that they called the bouquet room. she was so intrinsically involved that misses kennedy called her the admired patron saint of everyone at the white house. in a few months time the kennedys went on a world tour and they went to versailles, france. i want to read a selection from my book about it because i think it says it better than i can. it began at the palace of versailles in june, 1960 one when john f. kennedy was visiting france for the first time as president of the united states. the french president charles de
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gaulle have -- host of the kennedys at a glittering dinner followed by a performance at the royal opera house. the grand finale wasn't unhurried, silent drive through the gardens in the dark of night. a journalist traveling with the president recorded the drive for posterity. after the performance he wrote the kennedys with their host slowly motored through the grounds and gardens of versailles. the mist still clung, given the vast apple stone courtyards the mystery and romance that they had held for the french rulers who wants lived there.
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huge spotlight bathed the buildings, the fountains glowed and shadows -- sparkled. shadows reached into the black and conjured the heritage of grandeur. twice the kennedys stopped to gaze on this haunting scene. and the last time the president took the arm of his wife as they walked over the damp come along, silent, deeply moved. president de gaulle joined them and the presidents said good night. this is probably the time president kennedy was more deeply affected by gardens then in all his lifetime. when he came home and then went to visit misses mellon on a picnic at that beach house and jackie said to her, when you finish the rose garden, i am not going to have any other words to say thank you because you have
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done so much for us. i will have to thank you in japanese. this is mr. irvin williams, who was the head gardener at the white house. i just have to point out this beautiful scene to the south of the room is the view from the president's office to the rose garden. i have been bewitched by it. i happened to sit on the side of the room earlier and it is just beautiful. and this is the work that they have created. misses mellon was asked by kennedy that day to create the garden. it took her a couple months to come up with a plan. she always looked for inspiration and she finally found it but then she needed to find her helpers. what you did is she first turned to perry wheeler, a local landscape architect. she asked the national park
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service if they can recommend the best man. they put forward the name of mr. herbert -- irvin williams. he had been a gardener at the national park service and he was in charge of dangerfield island, candlewick gardens. misses mellon came one day and they had a marvelous visit. from that point on was involved with this is mellon. i got to know mr. williams during the reagan years. i did not work in the gardens but i saw mr. williams pretty much on a daily basis with her. i was often in his offices which are located under the north portico in this dugout area. a sparsely furnished room for a gardener. they started driving around looking for trees and they found some. then they had to have them brought over to the white house and it was a process. they were taken to the greenhouse is first. mr. williams and i, he taught me a lot about the history of the gardens in a horticultural
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design and historical context. and explaining to me the magnolia trees and the grass and the plan and the design. he always said that the gardens where the work of misses paul mellon and misses mellon for short. we never talked, we never discussed political parties, only garden parties. i thought this was a fun picture. you can see the old steps as they are being destroyed. there is a great story that she cut the cable to death of a hotline to moscow. the president was in his office and there was a huge disruption. i think this is the day that happened.
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because this is where that line was. this is one of the trees they brought up from east potomac and west potomac to put in the gardens. she told me a great story about this. this is the south side of the rose garden. just beyond is the south grounds. one day she was sitting with mr. williams just probably right here. just down a little from this image. and they notice -- let me see, i am missing one. they notice that things were not quite right. and so, they talked amongst themselves and then decided that they needed the garden to be
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another 18 inches wider. so everything had been staked out, everything designed and in place. she said we had this problem. it was her eyes. she measured everything scrupulously and it had been measured but when it was all said and done she just decided that this was not working. so i said what did you do? she said, well, we went over to the g-man. she said you know who the g-man are, right? you mean government men? yeah. we went to the g-man and we said we need the line moved over another 18 inches. just run the stakes down a little bit. they told me know. i cannot believe anyone would tell misses mellon no, after all the years of irvin williams tutoring me and telling me about
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her perfection and how she got things done, i just could not imagine it. so i said what did you do? she said, well, we waited for them to go to lunch. and then you can guess what the rest of the story is. they went to lunch and she said mr. williams, we just remeasured and moved the steak and she said we got our 18 inches the williams way -- quietly and calmly. she is always giving everyone credit for what she was engineering. so today the rose garden is 18 inches wider than the jacqueline kennedy garden because they moved the stakes while the g-man were at lunch. as you know this is my last slide. this slide has a lot going on, a lot of stories. as we know, misses mellon, misses kennedy and joe -- enjoyed gems and bubbles and things at that. had to have some jewelry in the garden. can you tell? there are diamonds under all the crab apples. these were planted. there are five catherines on both sides of the garden. and each has a diamond surrounding it. back in the days when mr.
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williams was explaining to me all the plants, the green pillow and the ozymandias, i was mesmerized by the hedge. the crab apples and the magnolias, i gave birth to my first child, little girl during these days. i would have loved to have called her salon gianna but that is a mouthful so i named her catherine. she knows she is named for a tree. it was just in my mind at that time. this is of president kennedy. i love this picture of him but he is standing on the grass that he wanted. he wanted this panel that 1000 people could sit on your because for him the garden was an extension of his office. grass really matter to him. he was very particular about the condition of the grass. so, he then was upset about marine one landing on the south lawn because the jets would burn
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as it landed and took off, it always burned off the grass so they eventually had to put in pads. his family grew up laying football on a grassy yard. you can imagine why this man enjoyed the outdoors. he loved the grass so much he did not want anyone to walk on it. he had a rule for his visitors which he took through often because he loved his garden. he would only allow people to stand in one spot for two minutes. then they had to move. that was kind of understood. in closing i want to share a story that i have to say when i was researching for this book i was often really moved. i had to get up and walk away because it was so emotional for me. misses kennedy wrote to misses mellon that she wished after he had died, she wished president kennedy could come back to award her the medal of freedom for all the work she had done with them order culturally and in so many other ways.
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then she joked as misses kennedy often did that it would have to be on a nice day when no one would ruin the grass. thank you very much. [applause] thomas: do you guys want to come up? -- ok. so, i think i want to maybe start with you, linda -- that is ok. based on the idea of a have always been fascinated about. my grandmother was always very particular about what she wanted. working with the government side for the first time, tell me about how the relationship with
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jackie, the first lady, influenced her ability to decide what she wanted to do. or were there any impacts you came across that maybe we should be aware of? linda: as was described earlier, mrs. mellon had a plan for president kennedy. he just wanted to gardens to be a functional but beautiful place with seasonal blooms year round. he was really calling the shots in a way the garden was designed. however, as in an government institution, there was always problems and she was great at solutions, but there was a lot of diplomacy and the gardens. misses kennedy really supported misses mellon in all of her endeavors. she had to write a couple letters through this time and one of them said -- it scolded someone who violated what they were doing. she said they know where every blade of grass is in the garden so do not touch it. she had full confidence in
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misses mellon and wanted her plan to be in place. thomas: how would you speak, meryl, in terms of understanding my grandmother's relationship with jackie and how that impacted her ability to design the garden itself? did you come across anything in your studies of what influenced her to pick certain things for the garden. meryl: i think i can probably talk better about that relationship, which is a funny one, 19 years older than jackie. and yet as jackie's sister told me, they were like sisters. caroline kennedy has written about bonnie. she talked about how they were mischievous friends, they were so close. bunny was a person who kind of took care of her mother. they were really close in every
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part of her life. we tried to stay in some happier minutes but wendy president was fascinated, bunny flew back to washington because jackie wanted to see her. jackie asked her to do something that no civilian had ever been asked to do, which was organize the flowers for the capitol hill rotunda where the president's nobody would lay in state. do the flowers for the church and for arlington cemetery. and one of the sadder moments was when robert kennedy was assassinated, bunny was brought back again to put together the flowers for arlington cemetery. they really were soulmates. they lived near each other in new york. jackie would come down to bunny's place. bunny was by jackie's side in
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the hours before she died. i cannot stress enough the carelessness -- the closeness and the love. we read these wonderful letters jackie wrote to bunny. jackie wrote about how everyone else wants to be my friend now as first lady because they want to stand in the limelight. you hate the limelight. you just come in quietly and do your work. i am so afraid the limelight would drive you away. please do not leave me. thomas: that reminds me of something. my grandmother -- this is a very personal story. my wife and i lost our first child, and my grandmother never did a lot for us, but she showed up and gave us a wooden cross. she told me this is the same cross i gave to the president.
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i hope it passes along the same strength to you and your wife and we are just thinking about you. it was a very simple, wooden cross. i think it symbolized very much the elegance that my grandmother i think put through with something that was just a piece of wood, but she gave it such love and elegance. so it was very personal for me to realize that. i think it wanted me to lead into a conversation you guys can all speak to. the relationships my grandmother had in large part were working relationships as much as they were personal relationships. me personally, i would walk in and we would have lunch one day with frank len gela. another day, someone else. they were all working relationships over the years she developed as much as they were personal. talk to me a little if you can a little about those relationships that you know my grandmother had
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built up over the years and how that defined her as a person. mac: one of the people who recognized what an absolutely extraordinary talent she was was ian. there is a correspondence in a library which is a joy to read because they ranged over so many different things, from how new england stone water weirs were constructed, to, oh, i don't know when paul was very sick, she was dying for bunny to see the carousel garden. he wrote to bunny. she said i cannot come. paul is too sick. but i want you to know that unlike any tourist or any gossip writer, whenever your name is mentioned i always say, oh, he's a friend of mine. so, that was a working relationship which really had to do with the nitty-gritty of how architecture and space and light, all which were very
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important to bunny, could go back and forth in the colloquium between them and letters and also in person. thomas: did you want to add anything? linda: i had the tremendous opportunity to be invited to lunch at his home in paris. i had a fabulous afternoon with him. of course i was nervous arriving and wondering where to begin and what to say. i did not have to think about it at all because he poured forth all afternoon about his love for misses mellon and he said the friendship really began in the sitting room. he said he always did all the sittings himself. i would get distracted because we talked about everything from
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art and horticulture to architecture, interior design. he said that she would just finally explained, get back to the ham. he said i was always just getting distracted going down these trails. he loved working with her very much. and respected her decisions and wanted to do almost everything she recommended. except there was one time when they were working where he had a chateau south of paris. one day she said to him, that forest, that forest needs to come down. he said, bunny, you want me to take down an entire forest? he said yes, it has to go. he said, well, ok. and he said, linda, i did not take down that forest. i waited. a couple days later i got a phone call from her and she
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said, i am thinking about it again and i do not think you should have taken down that forest. i said how did you handle that? he said, i said bunny, we must go slowly, we must take our time. meryl: i did about 170 interviews for this book. what interested me is obviously bunny had very many famous friends in the world. but what she really loved was people who were the best at what you did, which was basically gardner's, garden curators at the national gallery of art. she did a lot of the galas. she loved the hours before setting up the flowers, moving things around. she had to be misses paul mellon and shake hands, she did not enjoy that. she was a doer. she was not a snob. she was in the social register but she was happier being with
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people who were very talented at what they did. thomas: thinking about another element of my grandmother and her whimsical side, she would always come up with nicknames or people. and i think referencing my father, that is a very odd name. i have to give some context. this is something my father never forgave her for because it got him into a lot of fights. essentially he was born and he was really blue. it was almost a situation where he was not feeling well and my grandfather at the time pulled him through and he survived, obviously, and became healthy. he said you are a tough little boy, you are going to be toughie. but he never told my father his name was stacy -- not toughie. he would always say his name was toughie and it led to so many people getting into fights with him because they thought he was a smartass. you are tough?
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ok. i know my grandmother had many nicknames. to the point about the relationship, that speaks very much to her character. i don't know if you want to add to that at all. meryl: i cannot do nicknames what i found really fascinating is bunny's interest in presentation. i am sure all of you, if you get a blue box and it is tiffany's you are happy. she would buy things from tiffany's but then go to enormous trouble to do something different. i found a memoir as someone who used to work for her and he wrote about he and bunny spent the beach looking for the perfect shell they could put in hearings for jackie kennedy, present them as a gift. presentation housing -- and how
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things look. thomas didn't want to tell about in the grandmother's extra and -- eccentricity. they would break up all the leaves and put back the really pretty ones. when she put in the pool in and take a thomas she decided the shallow end should be were the -- in the pool in antigua, she decided where the shallow end should be were the deep end was. some interesting, too much money, a girl can do anything, and she did. >> someone going to france, she was on a trip to france, and she stopped in jiangxi -- in givenchy, and he said would you take it with you? she flew the gift up to new york, and it was this little package. the woman took it, treasured it, guarded it on the fly -- flight
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over and givenchy went out of his way to get this gift. she said what was in the box? he said a blackstone. it was something she had found somewhere and loved the color of it and thought he should have it. [laughter] i thought that was precious. >> i'm reminded whenever i think of bunny, i think about a line of the poet yates because yates wrote a wonderful poem whose first line i think the stripes off striving for perfection that bunny led, silently, quietly and it begins the intellect of man is forced to choose perfection of the life or of the work. i think bunny tried to do both. i think she failed magnificently. who could do better than that? thomas: and to point out the other point about the luxuries, the thing that i very much
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admired about my grandmother was she never bought anything for the name. she never cared about the name. she was in the business of luxury already said she had the advantage of really not having to worry about labels. what she did to what she bought things whether it was places, real estate and art that she enjoyed and truly enjoyed. granted, she did very well. she had an eye, but the reasons the same thing for her gardens, she wanted it personally. it spoke to her. merrill wrote about this in her book three of my favorite stories goes back to when she wrote -- she met mark roscoe in his studios and was introduced to him and walked through and bought 11 mark roscoe's which
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all of us can go back and look and go wow. i can't believe that. the rumor is that her husband paul, that had a cadre of lawyers and financial advisors that all sort of looked at her, she had also spent some of her inheritance from her father in the 1960's on buying close to 300 acres in nantucket. they both looked at those purchases and said, your wife, she is wasting money here. it is not a good thing. it speaks to the point that when you look back, and people look at my grandmother and think she is style, but i want to emphasize the fact she did these decisions because she loved those banks, not because of what they were. she appreciated the art she got uncollected whether it was van gogh -- and collected whether it was van gogh or whoever.
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her favorite artist was this woman, madeleine hughes, a no-name woman, who painted countless pictures and paintings she had all over her house. they covered everything from her houses to little flowers i think of -- and i think of john ruskin, famous british artist. he spoke -- he focused on attention to nature and detail. but it was -- that was my grandmother with gardens. she focused attention to detail. she focused on the things that mattered to her. it ended up working out well. >> i have to jump in. when paul mellon died, he left bunny all the real estate i have described, major collection of art, jewelry and left her $110 million. how many of you could live quite happily for the rest of your life on that? as thomas told me, she ran through that money in five
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years. she didn't want to cut back on anything. tell them about the roscoes. thomas: in one of the more amazing things, after she ran through all of that cash and was clearly doing pilates and doing well, they had to use the roscoes as collateral for a loan. and she pulled out close to an additional $120 million because she lived to the age of 103. i will tell you the sale of the roscoes not only cover the loan but established the oak spring garden library foundation that is providing all of this today. so. [applause] >> i think that, i think that speaks to your question about
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the people she worked with because she wanted to continue to care for those people. thomas: sorry. unfortunately we will have to wrap up, but join me in thanking our panelists today. [applause] [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2019] [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit] american history tv. every weekend, we bring you 48 hours exploring our nation's past. only on c-span3. >> american history tv products are available at the new c-span online store.
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and check out all of the c-span products. today, at 5 p.m. eastern, former government officials who implemented the act together to talk about the challenges they faced at the museum. >> at the very last moment of , wecarter administration learned the cubans were somewhat interested in talking to us where weossible deal would send back certain undesirable people who had criminal records.
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to 3000. it would send certain undesirables they would call, which are basically political troublemakers that they wanted to get rid of and they could have jailed him. you can't talk to them -- it has to be in the u.s. and you have, and you can't use a state department that has these conversations, because we don't have that kind of relationship. you can't use any public
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facility for those conversations. we did have those conversations and we ended up having them in my dining room in georgetown. they went on for 3.5 days and something like january 10. january 20 was the end of the administration. we made a deal. an initial agreement. , i next day, we met again think they like -- they would like to make a deal with the new administration. that transfer did happen in different form about 1.5 years or two years later. >> watch the entire event and
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learn more about the 1980 refugee act today at 5:00 p.m. eastern. you are watching american history tv. next, historians discuss the in americans political history. this was part of a two day purdue university conference. is jaime sanchez, junior grade i will be guiding the discussion this afternoon. this is a theme that is central to the idea of remaking american political history. this is not to say that no one has ever thought of or written in americanlatinos history. about rethinking


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