History of Content. + Framebridge Collab : Part 2

The actual History of Content.:

In her lifetime, Lucy Wilson, the former owner of Content., had indeed filled the house, to the brim, with priceless antiques as well as mindless junk. In the end, she had developed dementia, was unable to live alone and was moved out of Content. for the remaining few years of her life.

During the final auction, which settled the last of their worldly possessions, Harry's prized Jaguar was sold to the highest bidder and a huge, 20 yard trash containers was filled and sent to the landfill.

But buried among the items, was a single, cardboard box she had long since labeled, "Content." This box and the items inside would soon be laid out on our kitchen counter, a visual narrative to a past we never could have imagined.

Opening the box, that Mame + Robert had lovingly stored since Lucy's death in 2007, was like opening a time capsule. It was exciting and nostalgic, but understandably bittersweet for Mame as she described the marina boat yard, lazy summers and family memories she enjoyed, along with the Wilsons, for over 40 years.

So much time, in fact, that Lucy had lovingly been chosen as Mame's godmother.

But this story dates back much further than Mame, Lucy + Harry. We know this now because as early as 1884, Content. was called "Content."

Included in the box was a copy of the August 17, 1884 New York Times article entitled, "The Long Branch Season - A Good Business, Despite the Cool Weather" in which the unnamed author recaps the less than favorable weather that summer, but insists that though the "excursionist" business of day travelers was low, profits were better off made from more sophisticated, season long visitors and permanent residents.

Apparently, as early as 1884, Jersey Shore locals were already embracing the "Benny- Go Home. Locals only." mantra.

The article continues to recap the hotels and "novelty" cottages that welcomed these important, season visitors.

And low and behold, this article became our Holy Grail:

Another novelty in the way of a cottage is that just completed by Mr. Charles Leland, of the Ocean Hotel, which its artistic owner has appropriately christened "Content." Mr. Leland, years ago, became familiar with the architecture of Cuban and Central American houses, and formed a liking for their system of building, with a courtyard in the center, and the four sides of the house surrounding it, and shutting it in from all the world. 

Accordingly, when he determined to build a little snuggery for himself, where he could find relief from the bustle of life in the hotel, he selected a fine site on the shore of the Shrewsbury River a mile from the iron pier and built after his own plans. 

"Content" is a frame building, one story high, painted a slate color, that gives it very much the appearance of stone. The front is guarded by row of old canton, planted breach down. 

The front doors are wide enough to admit a carriage and pair, and are opened with a leather "latch string." When the owner feels hospitably inclined the end of the latch string hangs out, and whoso will may come. When he desires privacy and is "content" with his own society, the leather is drawn in and the place is impregnable as a castle.

The big doors open up on a broad roof vestibule, and this leads to the courtyard, which is large enough to turn a carriage in, with a well and pump in the center. On the right, upon entering, are the stable, carriage house, and two or three rooms for the coachman and his family. 

Next is the kitchen. The dining room and another large room form the back of the house running parallel with and overlooking the river. The other side is made up of parlors and bedroom. Every room has its big open fire place. 

Mr. Leland has adopted some original ideas in the interior decoration. The dining room walls, for instance, are papers with a great collection of bills and fares gathered from most of the leading hotels of the country. Another room is papered with railroad and steamboat bills. Everywhere about the house are scattered relics of Mr. Leland long hotel life on both sides of the continent. 

The rooms all connect, so that a circuit of the entire house maybe made without going outside. A veranda runs around 3 sides facing the courtyard, and this, in Winter will be enclosed with glass. 

In the basement is a large work shop, its windows secured with heavy iron bars, after the Cuban style. The backyard runs down to the river where there is a wharf and little stream launch. 

Indeed the backyard not only goes down to the river, but sometimes goes much farther as it did on one occasion last spring, when a big freshet came along and washed a large slice of it away. The building of the wharf however has put a stop to such depredations. 

Mr. Leland, like most of the members of his family, is handy with a brush and easel, and every appropriate thing bears in artistic lettering the name of "Content." 

Go down to the Ocean Hotel most any day and you will find him out on one of the back piazzas painting objects of bijoutry for Content, and he is never have so well content as when engaged in his work.

Reading this article is like watching an old, black and white movie reel flicker past in the dark. The description of Content. is so rich, we now know details that would have otherwise been long forgotten.

From day one, Charles Leland was destined into the hotel business, literally having been born at the Green Mountain Coffee House, a hotel that his father kept in Vermont.

Along with his four brothers Aaron, Simeon, William and Warren they each began their careers as clerks and managers within their fathers establishments and worked throughout their lives at different hotels in New York, New Jersey, Chicago, Philadelphia, Ohio and San Francisco.

Then, working their way to build and oversee their own properties, in 1873, Charles and Warren bought the Ocean Hotel in Long Branch which Charles oversaw until his death in 1885.

Photo care of: HistoricLongBranch.org

Taken from a Library of Congress text entitled "The Lelands and American Hotels" by Augustus St. Clair published in 1887. A description of the Ocean Hotel in Long Branch:

This mammoth hotel is situated on Ocean avenue, a 
magnificent broad, macadamized boulevard, which skirts 
the long bluff abreast of the Atlantic Ocean for a dis- 
tance of five miles, in a course due north and south. 
From this point is an unimpeded view of the mighty 
deep, with its rolling billows of blue edging the distant 
horizon at the limit of eyesight, and its nearer surf, 
seething, roaring, flashing and foaming with exhausted 
force against the gray sandy beach. Here is an ever- 
changing, never-ceasing kaleidoscope of marine pictures, 
of steamships and sailing vessels of every variety and 
nationality. The smoke wreaths floating in the air 
above the steamers' funnels, the white wings of canvas 
spread to the breeze above the ships' decks, excursion 
steamboats and yachts nearer shore, approaching, pass- 
ing, receding, into view and out of sight, during all the 
hours of the day, and in the moonbeams or under the 
starlight of night, constituting a panorama of absorbing 
and tireless interest. Occasionally there occurs the 
pleasurable excitement of an ocean yacht race ; the 
animated spectacle of thousands of bathers frolicking 
in the surf, with a vast number of lookers on along the 
bluff and beach. All day and late into the evening, ele- 
gant equipages and rare horses are passing and repass- 
ing along the driveway, while the melodious strains of 
a superb orchestra resound in the air on the immense 
piazzas and broad lawns. The picture is incomplete 
without noticing the groups of happy children romping, 
playing croquet and other juvenile games upon the wide 

Charles Leland's obituary also makes note of Content., "He made his home in a handsome cottage which he and his nephew Warren Leland, Jr. put up on the banks of the Shrewsbury."

With this information now solidified, we began to better understand additional correspondence in the box that chronicles the happenings of Content. beginning with Charles Lelands death over the following 75 years.

Based on two original deeds we know that upon his death, Charles' daughters Ina Barrett and Iaabell Wheaton continued to hold the mortgage on Content., leasing it to several different individuals, until the 1960s.

And during those years, Lucy Wilson, exchanged Christmas cards and personal letters with Ina Barrett.

In these letters, Lucy describes to Ina the maintenance and upkeep of Content. in such great detail we know exact paint colors used and can easily piece together when major projects were started and completed.

We also know what Lucy had been late with her mortgage payments from time to time, as evident in Ina's gentle reminders.

Original correspondence between Ina Barrett and Lucy Wilson

But even more evident in these letters is the sincere love that it's owners have had for Content. since it was built.

So much so, that in the early 1960s, when the property on which Content. had sat for over 75 years was taken back by the City, in an act of eminent domain, Lucy vehemently ensured Content. would be safe.

More to come in Part 3...

But before you go, we still need your help!

As you know, we are collaborating with Framebridge.com preserving our beautiful new artifacts, and creating a gallery wall to display them in Content.

For those of you unfamiliar, Framebridge is a custom framing website that has a ton of unique and sophisticated frames. They take the guess work out of displaying photos or art, and guide you through the framing process with step by step instructions and design assistance.

Next up is the original letter between Ira Barrett and Lucy Wilson.

This letter represents the everlasting, genuine tie between all of Content's previous owners throughout the years.

On the Framebridge website, you can upload a image of your photo or art, and try out different frames before purchasing. For those of you visual-learners, like me, this is their #1 best feature!

Which frame is your favorite?




Comment on Instagram or Facebook with your top choice and follow along with the whole series to see our BIG, gallery wall reveal, coming soon!