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Casa Blanca
Cherry Island


Philip Amsterdam

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About Casa Blanca

A grand Gilded Age cottage on Cherry Island, Casa Blanca bears the imprint of Louis Marx.  An American tobacco and sugar planter in Cuba, Marx maintained a residence in New York City along with his river cottage.  With a sense of the theatrical, he installed an electric fountain on the front lawn, which had been exhibited at the World's Fair in Chicago.  The event was noted in The New York Times, as well as by onlookers who enjoyed a slow parade along the river in their steam yachts.

Over half a century later, Casa Blanca was viewed as a white elephant and, in 1962, was purchased by the current owners to avert its potential razing.  Indeed, it was purchased without any sight of the magnificent river views, as a  cantankerous caretaker refused to raise the blinds of the wraparound porch.  Today that expansive porch with sky blue ceiling is a focal point of island living, from entertaining to ship and sunset watching.  There are tiny, old wicker chairs set out for six grandchildren.  Nearby, hammocks are strung along the path to the old stone gazebo.  "The beauty of the never get over it," says the owner.  Of the porch, she added, "we spend as much time as we can  here."  Casa Blanca can accommodate some thirty-five house guests.  And, Broad lawns lend themselves to croquet.

     Inside, vestiges of the Gilded Age remain.  "Nothing is changed," says the owner.  The outdoor terrace opens onto the reception hall, with ceilings and side walls of pressed tin.  With music the major mode of entertainments since its building, there are two player pianos in the reception hall.  A pump organ graces the dining room, a space notable for its bentwood Thonet furniture from Vienna and Fostoria glass, which frequently adorns the table.  A collection of blue and white Meissen china is stored in the butler's pantry.  Nearby is the butler's pull station, once the control center of the cottage when a retinue of servants lived in or arrived from town by day.

     The reception hall is flanked by the library and the billiards room, formerly the music room.  At the rear of the hall, the paneled staircase has a stained-glass window at the landing, with a  scene depicting pheasants on the river in the early morning light.  Upstairs, a labyrinth of master suites and bedrooms with marble sinks unfolds.  There is a  screened sleeping porch that draws in salubrious summer breezes.

     Today a small staff is diligent about maintaining Casa Blanca, whether polishing the silver or servicing the fleet of boats.  Located across the island, the boathouse, with crew quarters, is home to America, a 55' Blue Water, and Lady Edith, a 1946 Hutchinson—both used for runs up and down the river.  As a doyenne of the river sits on her terrace, she reminisces about fabled island neighbors on the horizon—a stretch of river known as "Millionaire's Row."