Highlights of Ardrossan: Rooms, Architecture and Art
Around every corner in the famed estate, there's a story waiting to be told.
• The hall (or living room) is the largest space, at 1,200 square feet. It’s where family and guests gathered before and after foxhunting. Charlotte Hope Binney (Tyler) Montgomery’s portrait is opposite that of Col. Robert Leaming Montgomery, he in his “hunting pinks.” Both were painted by Ireland’s Sir John Lavery, an official World War I artist. A series of Mrs. Montgomery’s extraordinary needlepoints of Ardrossan’s principal rooms line the interior wall.
• Mrs. Montgomery spent much of her time reading or needlepointing in the library after her husband’s death. A prominent bookcase is intentionally shorter, so its top displays sculpture and artifacts. The elaborate lady’s writing desk in the corner was Mrs. Montgomery’s. A needlework chair dated Feb. 12, 1931, is signed C.H.B.T.M. (Charlotte Hope Binney Tyler Montgomery)
• The ballroom (or music room, because of its grand piano) was often the place for parties. Its furniture—which includes two needlepoint couches by Mrs. Montgomery—was removed for dancing. It features the home’s largest portrait, a canvas of Mary Binney Montgomery Wheeler, the Montgomery’s second daughter, who once gave dance lessons in the room. There are also portraits of their other children: Helen Hope Montgomery Scott, Charlotte Ives Montgomery and Alexander Montgomery (who lived on the estate in the Murray House until his death in 1997). A portrait of a young Mrs. Montgomery was painted by Artur Louis Halmi while she was pregnant with Charlotte. A scarf and a pedestal disguise the fact.
• Ardrossan’s rear staircase is tucked into the service wing near the butler’s pantry, kitchen and servants’ dining room, which had the home’s first television set. Mrs. Montgomery bought one so the staff could watch the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in 1952.
• Through a set of oak doors, a separate wooden staircase leads down to the men’s dressing room for the hunt.
• The family called Col. Montgomery’s study the “cigar and brandy room,” says Ardrossan historian David Nelson Wren. In it hangs a portrait of his father, William Woodrow Montgomery.
• The dining room comfortably seats 30. Its walls hold the oldest ancestral portraits, including a Thomas Sully painting of pioneering Philadelphia attorney Horace Binney.
• The Montgomery family crest is embossed in much of the hardware on significant doors.
• With an enormous full basement, Ardrossan was a stronghold and safe haven. Transport to the basement can also be achieved in an old Otis elevator, with its caged folding door.
• One architectural jewel is a tilt-down window, which opens to a screened iron cage shaped like the nose of an airplane.