The Belmont Stakes, the third leg of the Triple Crown, is named after August Belmont, who started the horse races in Jerome Park NY in 1867. The financier (1813-1890) owned 1,100 acres in North Babylon, Long Island and the estate on that property was leveled in 1953. The land is currently Belmont State Park. Edith Wharton modeled the character Julius Beaufort on August Belmont in The Age of Innocence as he rose to tremendous wealth after opening his own banking company in the late 1830’s, and the Belmonts became a fixture on the NYC social scene. Belmont and his wife Caroline Slidell Perry Belmont resided most of their married life at 109 Fifth Avenue in New York City. The bay window in the image of the house below faced 18th Street.
He left his estate to his three sons August Jr., Oliver, and Perry. In 1894 Oliver Belmont commissioned Richard Morris Hunt to build Belcourt (now Belcourt Castle) in Newport, RI. The details of the exterior resemble ones similar to the original structure of Versailles. The slate covered Mansard roof was very prominent during that time. It has over fifty rooms and at the time much of the ground floor held 30 stables for his horses.
The first floor plan shows the stables lined up along the back wall and the large space dedicated to the care of the horses.
The Second Floor plan shows the Belmont’s living area and the servant’s quarters.
The second floor Loggia was created so that Belmont and his guests could see his horses in the courtyard.
The interior ballroom has many Gothic features. The picture below is a more recent one as the interior has been restored. Notice the quatrefoil windows above and within the arched windows. The pointed ceiling and stained glass windows are also Gothic Revival characteristics.
Following Oliver’s death in 1908, his brother Perry Belmont purchased Belcourt from Oliver’s wife, Alva Vanderbilt Belmont. In the 1930’s Perry was close to foreclosing on Belcourt and Alva purchased it back from her brother-in-law to save him from financial ruin. It is currently owned by the Tinney family who operates it as a museum.
Perry Belmont had the Perry Belmont House built in Washington D.C. between 1906-1909 by architect Ernest Sanson . It is on the National Register of Historic Places. Stefan Hurray, the architect and writer of the blog Architect Design, wrote a thorough post on the Perry Belmont House in January 2009 which is well-done and takes a good look at this house and the details.
August Belmont Jr. built Belmont Park Race Track in 1905 and named it in honor of his father. The most famous horse that he bred was Man o’ War. He lived most of his life at the estate originally his parents home in Belmont Park.
The New-York Tribune featured opening day at Belmont Park on May 5, 1905.
Rachel Alexandra is not running in the race on tomorrow, but it should be a great one. Calvin Borel will be back on Mine That Bird and we will see if he can pull off his own personal triple crown. I am rooting for them!
Follow up: A Reader so nicely emailed me these links after reading my post. Apparently Belcourt is for sale about 1/10th of its 1894 inflation-adjusted construction price…
Photo Credits: Image from Gilded Mansions by Wayne Craven, Google Images (Belcourt, Oliver Perry Home), Floor plans and two following photos from Newport Villas by Michael C. Kathrens, Perry Belmont House from Wikipedia, NY Tribune Image