John J. Emery
Created Downtown Cincinnati’s Signature Building
-The Carew Tower
Peterloon Was The Estate He Created For His Wife And Family.
John J. Emery may be best known as the principal developer of downtown Cincinnati, helping to revitalize the city following the Great Depression. Emery’s real estate company developed the Carew Tower, at the time the tallest building west of the Alleghenies. He also built the Terrace Plaza hotel in the modern style and had original art work commissioned for the building by Joan Miro, Saul Steinberg, and Alexander Calder.
Emery was a founder of the Cincinnati Country Day School, a leading trustee and important benefactor of the Cincinnati Art Museum, and served as vice-president of the Boy Scouts. In fact, Emery hosted so many Scouting Jamborees that they came to be called ‘Peterloons’.
Charles Dana Gibson
Charles Dana Gibson Created The Gibson Girl, An Iconic Representation Of The American Woman At The Turn Of The 20th Century.
Irene Gibson Emery, John Emery’s wife, was the daughter of celebrated illustrator Charles Dana Gibson. He often visited his daughter and son-in-law at Peterloon.
The Gibson Girl was the personification of a feminine ideal as portrayed in the pen and ink illustrated stories created by Charles Dana Gibson during a twenty year period spanning the late nineteenth and early twentieth century in the United States.
The inspiration for the Gibson Girl was Gibson’s own wife Irene Langhorne. Irene and her sister Nancy Langhorne Astor—who became the first woman to serve as a member of Parliament in the British House of Commons—served as early models for Gibson and personified the feminine ideal of the time.
Emerys’ Peterloon rivaled grand houses of Europe
-Article from the Cincinnati Enquirer dated Dec 30, 2012 written by Kathleen Doane
It was a lifestyle in which the family dressed for dinner every evening; a French chef ruled the kitchen; and the young daughters of the household were looked after by a German nurse, Nannie Scholl. Miss Soule, the governess, tutored the girls in a suite of schoolrooms on the second floor of the west wing.
Flowers, cut from carefully tended gardens on the 1,200-acre estate, were freshened and arranged in the flower room, then placed throughout the house. A chauffeur took care of the cars and drove the family where they needed to go, unless the trip called for a train or ocean liner.
Maids and female kitchen help lived on the third floor, and the male staff was housed in the east wing, which also contained the servants’ dining room. The butler, majordomo of the household staff, sat at the head of the table, and the other 17 live-in servants and estate help observed a strict pecking order in their seating plan.
No, it was not the life with the Crawleys at Downton Abbey but life at Peterloon in Indian Hill as lived by the Emery family in the 1930s and 1940s. There were many similarities in the lifestyles of Lord and Lady Grantham and of John and Irene Emery and their respective families. And that was by design.
Fortune rooted in lard, real estate
John Josiah Emery, born in New York City in 1898, was two generations removed from his ancestral homeland, England. His grandfather, Thomas, had immigrated to America, making his way to Cincinnati in the 1830s, when the family fortune took root. It grew in two directions: a lard oil and candle-making company and real estate holdings throughout the city.
His two sons, Thomas and John, continued to expand the family holdings and, by the end of the century, had accumulated one of the country’s great fortunes.
Such wealth and a desire to enter East Coast society led John to New York City, where he and his wife, Lela, built an ornate, four-story townhouse in Manhattan and a massive stone summer home, the Turrets, on Mount Desert Island in Bar Harbor, Maine.
It was in this atmosphere that the couple’s son, John Josiah (known as Jack), and his four siblings were raised. It was a life of tremendous privilege and, for Jack, a passion for learning, formally at alma maters Groton, Harvard and Cambridge, and informally in travel throughout the world.
The sophistication and knowledge gleaned from such an upbringing made the 30-year-old Jack, who had moved to Cincinnati in 1924 to resurrect the family’s foundering business interests, and his bride, Irene, the daughter of renowned artist Charles Dana Gibson, quite capable of overseeing the building of their dream house. They also wanted to become part of the growing English country life-like society being established by Cincinnati’s wealthiest families in what had been the farming community of Indian Hill.
“My grandfather bought five farms but then did something unusual,” says granddaughter Elizabeth Hoyt, who lives in a house built on the original estate. “He left the farmers on the land and told them to keep doing what they were doing.”
That decision would be the foundation of the self-sustaining life lived on the estate, named Peterloon.
The four-story Georgian-Queen Anne-style house on Hopewell Road, with its 36 rooms, 21 bathrooms and 19 fireplaces, took two years to build and was completed in 1930. The young couple had hired longtime family friend and one of the country’s leading architects, William Delano (a cousin to Franklin Delano Roosevelt), to design the house. Delano had chosen as a model for his design a grand house outside of Brussels, Belgium.
Mansion featured European touches
Incorporating period rooms from historic European houses was a standard feature of late 19th-century and early 20th-century mansions built by wealthy Americans. Following that tradition, Peterloon’s massive living room, dining room and library have paneling and flooring from 17th and 18th century British and French houses. A carved 16th-century stone fireplace in the entrance foyer is the oldest piece built into the structure.
Off the main foyer a freestanding, spiral stairway – an Art Deco-inspired departure from the rest of house – leads to the second floor, where Jack and Irene had their bedroom suite on the west side and the household’s six children: George and Nancy, the offspring of Irene’s first marriage to George Post, and the Emery’s three daughters, Irene, Lela and Melissa, and son, Ethan, had their bedrooms.
The west wing was built to accommodate extended family coming from all over the world and staying for two to three weeks. Irene’s parents, Charles Dana and Irene Langhorne Gibson, were frequent visitors, and the great illustrator’s drawings and paintings still adorn the house’s walls, including large oil portraits of his daughter and grandchildren. Another artistic treasure: a portrait drawing of Jack around the age of 20 by John Singer Sargent.
Like the Crawleys, the Emerys had their share of royal and European aristocratic connections on both sides of the family. Irene’s aunt was Lady Astor, the first woman to serve in the British parliament. Jack’s step-father was the Hon. Alfred Anson, a brother of the 2nd Earl of Lichfield, and his sister Audrey had two marriages to exiled royals, the first to Grand Duke Dmitri Pavlovich of Russia and the second to Prince Dimitri Djordjadze of Georgia.
Hoyt, who was born in 1959 and lived in Europe as a young child, moved back to the United States with her family in 1967 and eventually into a house her parents built across the road from Peterloon. She spent a lot of time with her grandparents, riding her pony, Sunnygirl, all over the estate, spending the night and joining her grandmother in her bedroom for breakfast or accompanying her through the gardens.
The memories and lessons learned at Peterloon remain vivid. “Every child and grandchild was taught to be humble and to understand that we had been given so much, and that we better give back three times as much,” Hoyt says.
Indeed, Jack lived by example. For five decades he was, by many accounts, the city’s most influential civic and philanthropic leader, building Carew Tower, serving as president or trustee of Cincinnati’s major cultural institutions and a driving force behind many projects that define life here today, such as our first expressways. There was hardly an institution or organization that the Emerys’ generosity and benevolence didn’t touch.
Irene Emery died in 1973. Two years later, Jack married longtime friend Adele H. Olyphant, who also had lost her spouse.
After Jack died in 1976, Olyphant lived at Peterloon until 1978, the last person to occupy the house. In 1979, the heirs formed the Peterloon Foundation to continue the charitable and philanthropic work their parents had started and to preserve the house that had been the center of family life for nearly half a century.
Six years ago, when Hoyt’s mother, Lela, died, Hoyt became president of the foundation. She also holds another important position: official keeper of the secret – the origin of the name Peterloon. It’s the bit of information the family has never divulged and, according to Hoyt, it’s likely to remain that way.