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’.

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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.

Gibson’s Illustrations appeared in all major New York publications: Harper’s Weekly, Scribners, and Colliers Magazine to name a few.

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.

175-year-old Emery chemical company turned lard into largess

Article from dated October 8, 2015 written by Jeff Suess

To think it started with pig fat.

Back in 1840, Thomas Emery found that the lard discarded from Cincinnati’s prodigious meat industry could be converted into candles and lamp oil in the days before electric lights.

The Emery family then turned a slaughterhouse byproduct into a global chemical manufacturing company and built up a fortune that has been a boon to the city for generations.

Emery Oleochemicals, which derived from Thomas Emery’s lard oil factory, is celebrating its 175th anniversary this year.

Now based in Malaysia, Emery processes oleic acid and glycerine from animal fats and vegetable oils that are then used in many everyday products, from toothpaste and lotions to lubricants and adhesives, according to “Evolution of a Legacy,” a book tracing the company’s history.

In September, Emery unveiled a $50 million plant expansion at their site straddling St. Bernard and Winton Hills near Ivorydale, where the company has had a plant since 1885.

Thomas Emery and Sons

Thomas Emery, an immigrant from Bedford, England, brought his family to the Ohio River Valley in 1832, just ahead of the influx of German immigrants in the next decades that would swell Cincinnati to be the largest city in the west.

His first venture was raising silkworms in Kentucky, but the mulberry trees wouldn’t grow and the silkworms died, according to his grandson, John J. Emery Jr., in a 1971 Enquirer Magazine profile.

The Emery patriarch then moved across the river and tried his hand as a real estate agent, reportedly buying up more land than he sold, before finally settling on a winning business prospect.

Cincinnati in those days was the meat packing capital. The streets were flush with pigs headed for the slaughterhouses, earning the city the unglamorous nickname Porkopolis.

Just as William Procter and James Gamble had done in 1837 making soap, Emery built a successful business repurposing the animal fat to make dripless candles, lamp oil and lubricant for wool yarn.

Thomas Emery’s Lard Oil company (later known as the Emery Candle Company) started in 1840 on Sycamore Street between Eighth and Ninth streets, then moved to Water Street along the riverfront in 1848, when the factory was captured in the well-known “Cincinnati Panorama of 1848” daguerreotype by Charles Fontayne and William S. Porter.

Emery brought his sons Thomas J. Emery and John Josiah Emery into the family business, and they took over after tragedy struck on Dec. 30, 1857. Thomas Emery fell to his death through an open hatchway in their new manufacturing facility on the southeast corner of Vine and Water streets.

The Cincinnati Daily Gazette eulogized: “Mr. Emery was a quiet and unassuming man, strictly conscientious in all dealings, and was much respected by his fellow citizens. … He seemed to regard it a privilege to contribute towards relieving the wants of his fellow creatures, or to promote the general interests of the community.”

The riverfront was prone to flooding, so in 1885 the Emery sons relocated the factory to an 8.9-acre tract near St. Bernard, the same site where the plant is today.

In the 1890s, Ernst Twitchell, the company’s first chemist, discovered and developed the Twitchell Process of fat splitting using a catalyst to separate fatty acids from fats and oils. For his work in the field, the University of Cincinnati graduate was awarded the prestigious Perkin Medal.

A legacy of philanthropy

Thomas and John, meanwhile, focused on their real estate dealings under the name Thomas Emery’s Sons. In the 1870s, they bought up several plots along Fifth Street near the new Fountain Square and built the Emery Hotel and arcade at Fifth and Race.

Even more, the Emery sons continued their father’s principles, including giving to charity, notably financing buildings for the Children’s Hospital in Mount Auburn and the Orphan Asylum for Colored Children in Avondale.

Wendell P. Dabney, editor of the African-American newspaper the Union, wrote of the Emerys in his 1926 book, “Cincinnati’s Colored Citizens”:

“In letters of gold the name Emery should be emblazoned upon the hearts of all Cincinnatians. The founder of that name came, and his life was an exemplification of the golden rule … [The Emerys] were of that English stock whose blood ever fired at oppression, whose heart ever warmed to charity. Their recognition of the brotherhood of man caused them to refuse donations to any cause that recognized the color line, and so their princely gifts to institutions carried with them the admission of colored people.”

Thomas J. Emery passed away in 1906 in Cairo, Egypt, while on a business trip, and his $20 million fortune went to his wife, Mary Emery.

A shy, reserved woman whom Stephen Birmingham, in his book, “The Grandes Dames,” called “the loneliest millionairess,” Mary Emery spent decades mourning the deaths of her husband and two sons and donating her fortune to the worthiest causes.

She gave generously to hospitals, colleges, the YMCA, and the Cincinnati Zoo, and funded the Christ Church parish house, the Emery Auditorium, and the Mariemont planned community. Upon her death in 1927, she willed to the Cincinnati Art Museum her $3.5 million art collection, which is now housed in its Emery Wing.

John J. Emery had moved to New York and died in 1908, when his son, John J. Emery Jr., known as Jack, was 10.

Jack Emery attended Harvard Law School and Oxford University in England and served in the Naval Aviation Corps during World War I. In 1924, he intended to go into publishing in New York, but visited Cincinnati to check on the family business.

“I found that the Emery Candle Company was just a grease factory with obsolete equipment and a sort of Dickensian office,” Jack Emery was quoted in “Town & Country” magazine. “I decided the family was going to go bust if someone didn’t hang around and fix things up.”

He married Irene Langhorne Gibson, the daughter of artist Charles Dana Gibson, creator of the “Gibson Girl,” and they lived at Peterloon, an estate in Indian Hill.

Jack Emery propelled Emery Industries into an international corporation, and headed the family company until 1968.

As a developer, he built the Carew Tower complex, the Netherland Plaza Hotel, and the innovative Terrace Plaza Hotel.

Emery was a founder of Cincinnati Country Day School and the political Charter Party, and was a leading benefactor of the Cincinnati Art Museum for 50 years. He died in 1976.

Jack Emery was the last of the family to run the business. The candle business was sold off in 1952 and is now Candle-lite, with offices in Blue Ash and a manufacturing plant in Leesburg, Ohio. After several mergers under the names Henkel and Cognis, the chemical company re-embraced the Emery name in 2009 as Emery Oleochemicals.

Along with the name comes the legacy.

In “Evolution of a Legacy,” the company declared, “The Emery family showed us that true wealth lies in kindness, compassion and generosity.”

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