Thursday, August 15, 2013

Villa Philmonte - Photographic Tour

The original drive up to Villa Philmonte, Cimarron, New Mexico

So I'm not the best photographer, or architectural or interior-design expert. One hardly needs to be to photograph or comment on the marvelous Villa Philmonte, Waite and Genevieve Phillips's "summer home" outside of Cimarron, New Mexico. Owned by the Boy Scouts thanks to the Phillips's generosity, anyone can visit by signing up for a free tour at the nearby Seton Museum.

The Phillips family was very practical in their generosity. They reserved only the right for family members to come back to visit whenever they wanted. And they provided endowments for less-advantaged youth to come to Philmont and for the upkeep of the Villa so that the BSA would not be stuck with an expensive relic they could not maintain.

Let's start on the outside walkways. There are custom-designed tiles representing the family interspersed throughout the otherwise red tiles - livestock, game animals, Cowboys, Indian, New Mexicans, even the architect got one in for himself. Waite wanted a "W" for his personal brand, but the brand inspector informed that it had already been taken. Being the practical guy he was, he simply chose a "double U" with a bar.

The breezeway between the Villa and the Guest House is full of flowers and frog fountains.

Villa front and to the left, Guest House to the right. Philmont "Guests" are able to stay there.
My wife has been faculty for eight years, a few more and she may get the invite. I'll be with her.
Villa Philmonte Guest House
The first room on the tour is the water-themed Sun Room. Crushed diamonds and gold went into the diamond-shaped tiles.

The "living room" was furnished with items picked up on a Mediterranean Cruise. There are custom-made rugs from Portugal and draperies with UU brand designs woven in. The piano was made to order to fit the room and is still played today as the docents invite anyone in the tour or, if no one plays, they switch on the player piano feature with original music rolls from the 1920s (the iPod of those days).

You can see in the far right corner a wooden box shown below. It is a 15th Century, carved oaken chest. The Phillipses used it to store firewood.

Firewood Box
Next is the Grand Staircase. Note the antique "modesty quilt" on the banister.

But we first go into the breakfast nook where the ranch brands and symbols are frescoes on the wall.

Somehow I missed snapping away in the Dining Room which is still in the Continental Spanish style with dark woods and portraits of the Beaubiens.

On the landing of the Grand Staircase is this painted window. The painting is between two panes so it stays preserved. We're back to Western motif and the Santa Fe Trail.

Upstairs is one of my obvious favorites, the library with it's post-construction round window looking at Picture Rock and Cimaroncito. The round (Hobbit?) window has magnification properties to make the mountains look closer.

The trees were smaller in the 20s & 30s and probably didn't block the view.
Next is Waite and Genevieve's bedroom - original, lace bedspreads. What I like best is the antique phone at bedside. Note the heart pillow for her bed and the rectangular for his.

Next is an absolutely gorgeous, enclosed veranda or balcony off the master suite. Originally open to the sky, Waite (well, probably Genevieve) discovered the New Mexican weather was not so conducive. They don't let you walk on the original, silk carpet.

The tour then goes downstairs to the most fascinating rooms of all. This is the entrance off the vehicle courtyard, not the original entrance, but ended up being the best way into the Villa. First the New Mexico Room.

This room, and the rest of the Villa, are full of priceless, Southwestern Indian and New Mexican or Spanish art. I need my friendly expert to jump in here to help identify.

To end the tour, we go to everybody's favorite, the ultimate "man-cave" or Trophy Room.

Social Commentary:
(You can skip this part if you want)

Waite Phillips worked hard and was smart. He started out working hard with his inseparable twin brother, Wiate. Leaving the family farm in Iowa, they went west to seek their fortunes. They tried all kinds of odd jobs, even telegram delivery in Ogden, Utah, as I recall. Wiate died in Spokane, Washington from infection complications after an appendectomy. Waite traveled home with the body. His older brothers sent him to business school then into their oil business, Phillips 66, where Waite worked his way up until he struck out on his own. 

Yes, he worked hard, but he had advantage from the means with which his family set him up not available to many. He then made some very smart moves, branching from oil into oil delivery and transport just as that aspect of the industry began and then boomed. He was smart enough to sell his business in the middle of the 1920s for a vast fortune. All along, he and his wife, Genevieve, had fulfilled a commitment to always give away half of what they made. His gifts to the Boy Scouts were altruistic and not a conniving tax dodge. 

After Tulsa and New Mexico, Waite went to Southern California to buy up real estate during the 30's when land was cheap. This was another smart move on the way to a second fortune which he also gave away by half. In their wills, they provided for family and then made large, capital donations to the Scouts to maintain the gifts already given. 

I have no idea of how cut-throat he may have been in business. What he seems to have been was smart, practical, hard-working, and very fortunate. The point being is that I think he recognized that, giving the rationale for his generosity to the Boy Scouts and their ideals. We haven't always met those ideals, but we keep trying. Philmont really helps.

Thank you, and welcome!

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