18 January 2016

Riding To Lunch With Rockefeller

I'm really living it up here in Florida.  Today's ride took me to lunch at one of the Rockefeller mansions.

Now, you might be wondering whether the fame and celebrity that's come to me from this blog is the thing that led to an invitation into such exclusive circles.  Well, perhaps such a thing may happen one day (!) even if it wasn't my goal in starting this blog.  You never know where wit, erudition and a unique prose style may lead you.  If you find out, let me know.

Seriously, I took a ride to Ormond Beach, about ten kilometers north of Daytona on the same strip of land that's squeezed between the Halifax River and the Atlantic Ocean.  After making a left from  Route A1A onto East Granada Boulevard, the street with cutesy boutiques and overpriced ice cream shoppes tucked into Victorian buildings, I coasted toward the bridge that spans the river.  Just before the bridge, I hopped off the bike and parked in front of The Casements.

As the name indicates, the house is named for the large hand-cut windows that adorn it and keep its interior cool, even during Florida's notoriously hot and humid summers.  Contrary to popular belief, Rockefeller did not build it.  Rather, he purchased it in 1918, eight years after it was built for Rev. Harwood Huntington as his retirement home.

Rockefeller made The Casements his winter residence.  While there, he hosted such famous guests as Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, Harvey Firestone, the Prince of Wales and Will Rogers.  The latter once quipped, "I'm glad you won (at golf) today, Mr. Rockefeller. The last time you lost, the price of gasoline went up!"

Rockefeller hoped that spending his winters in the house would help him achieve one of the few dreams he didn't realize:  living to be 100.  In this home, he died in his sleep on 23 May 1937, just days short of turning 98 years old.

The Rockefellers sold the house two years later.  It became a girls' boarding school and a residence for the elderly before it was abandoned and fell into such a derelict state that it was nearly demolished.  Only its inclusion, in 1972, on the National Register of Historic Places spared The Casements from such an ignominious fate. The following year, the City of Ormond Beach purchased it and renovated it for use as a cultural center.

Fun fact:  J.D. Rockefeller suffered from alopecia, which caused him to lose all of the hair from his head, face, moustache and body when he was in his early 40s.  The hair never grew back, so the tycoon began to wear rotating wigs of varying lengths to give the impression of his mane growing and being shorn.

Another fun fact:  For all of his ruthlessness as a businessman, Rockefeller was an ardent abolitionist.  So was his wife, Laura.  So were her parents, Harvey Buel Spelman and Lucy Henry Spelman.  In 1882, Rockefeller began to donate money to the Atlanta Baptist Female Seminary.  Two years later, the school changed its name to Spelman Seminary, in honor of his wife.  In 1924, it became Spelman College, one of the first black women's liberal arts colleges in the United States.

One more fun fact: I rode 85 kilometers today and got a good bit of sunburn.  OK, this wasn't as important as the others.  But it's fun.  The ride, even more so!

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