Historic Pelham

Presenting the rich history of Pelham, NY in Westchester County: current historical research, descriptions of how to research Pelham history online and genealogy discussions of Pelham families.

Wednesday, February 08, 2017

Broadway Playwright George V. Hobart Lived in "Ruraldene" at 219 Jackson Avenue

Today is the twelfth anniversary of the commencement of the Historic Pelham Blog.  The first posting was:  Tue., Feb. 08, 2005:  Searching Historic Newspapers Online for Information About Pelham.  Since that day twelve years ago, 1,914 articles have been posted to, and remain available, on the blog.  Not a single weekday has been missed in posting Historic Pelham articles in more than three years (since January 17, 2014).  Today's article provides more on the fascinating history of the little Town of Pelham, New York.

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George V. Hobart was an acclaimed and successful Broadway playwright of the early 20th century.  He lived in a lovely home in Pelham Manor known as "Ruraldene" that once was located in an area that includes today's 219 Jackson Avenue.  Ruraldene no longer exists.  

The estate known as Ruraldene was actually a four-acre estate with a three-story home, the first floor of which was built of stone and the second and third floors of which were crafted of shingles.  A combination stable and garage later was built to match the architectural style of the home.  The estate also included a tennis court and, inside the home, a billiards room.  The estate once covered about three-quarters of the block bounded by Jackson Avenue, Plymouth Street, Prospect Avenue, and Highland Avenue.

Detail from 1914 G. W. Bromley Map Showing, On Right,
the Estate of George V. Hobart Known as Ruraldene.
Source:  G. W. Bromley & Co., Atlas of Westchester
I, p. 131 (NY, NY:  G. W. Bromley & Co., 1914).  NOTE:
Click on Image to Enlarge.

Pelham once was considered the beginning of the so-called "Great American Playwright Belt" north of New York City where many of the greatest playwrights of their day lived.  During the early 20th century, the Great American Playwright Belt extended from Pelham to Rowayton.  In 1910, for example, in this single twenty-five mile long strip of land along the Sound, the homes of twenty-five successful playwrights could be found.  Among those playwrights was George Vere Hobart who lived on an estate known as "Ruraldene" in the Village of Pelham Manor.  

Ruraldene later was owned by former Town Supervisor John M. Shinn who renovated the home and offered the estate for sale for $50,000 in 1926.  The advertisement offering the home for sale, quoted in full below, contained an extensive and important description of the home, its layout, and grounds.  

George Vere Hobart was born on January 16, 1867 in Port Hawksbury, Nova Scotia, Canada.  As a young man he worked as a telegraph operator and as a reporter for two Baltimore newspapers:  The Herald and The News.  By the early 20th century, Hobart became a prolific author who wrote books, plays, music lyrics, and more.  He also produced Broadway shows.  Hobart's IMDb page lists hundreds and hundreds of his works written between 1900 and 1922.  See "George V. Hobart," IMDb (visited Jan. 29, 2017).  He authored or co-authored more than fifty musical comedies, librettos, and plays.  Though Hobart became known for a host of works including a number of very successful farces, he is best remembered for his morality play entitled "Experience:  A Morality Play of Today."  

Hobart married and had two children:  a girl named Georgia (whom he called "Peaches") born in 1899 and a boy named Bane born in 1904.  George V. Hobart died on January 31, 1926, in Cumberland, Maryland, when he was 59 years old.

George Vere Hobart in 1914.  Source:  Hobart, George V.,
Preceding Title Page (NY, NY:  The H. K. Fly Company, 1915).
NOTE:  Click on Image to Enlarge.

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Below is the text of items that shed light on the life of George V. Hobart and his estate known as Ruraldene.  Each is followed by a citation and link to its source.  

"The GREAT AMERICAN PLAYWRIGHT BELT -- A RUN Along the North Shore of the Sound and a Glimpse at the Beautiful Homes of the Writers of the Plays That Have Won High Honors and Big Royalties.

HARTFORD, Conn., Saturday

THE north shore of Long Island Sound has become the Great American Playwright Belt.  With few exceptions all the important American dramatists have taken up their abode on this inspiring strip of land.  And if anybody imagines that gaunt-eyed and sunken-cheeked Penury has these playsmiths in her grasp let him correct the notion at once.  It is a fallacy that calls for immediate correction, for very many of the most palatial country estates along the north shore of Long Island Sound are the homes of makers of plays.

In this playmaking belt, extending practically from Pelham Manor to Rowayton, a distance of about twenty-five miles, will be found the homes of twenty-five dramatists, averaging one to a mile.  There is not a town of any considerable size along the north shore of the Sound between these two cities that does not boast the possession of one or more dramatic authors. . . .

Through the Belt.

An automobile ride through the Great American Playwright Belt discloses one fact to entire satisfaction -- 'the play is the thing' that provides the country estate.  Journeying from New York the first dramatic celebrity's home that we meet with is George V. Hobart's Ruraldene, at Pelham Manor.  Here we find the author of 'Broadway to Tokio,' 'Sally in Our Alley,' 'The Ham Tree,' 'Coming Through the Rye,' 'Wildfire,' 'The Boys and Betty,' 'The Candy Shop' and 'The Yankee Girl' the lord of an expansive and attractive estate.  The royalties from plays and the author's books, such as 'John Henry,' 'Down the Line,' 'Back to the Woods,' 'You Can Search Me' and 'Jim Hickey,' must have been ample and continuous, for Ruraldene, comprising four acres of ground, is a charming place, beautifully kept.  The house is a large one, the lower half being of bowlders and the upper of shingles.  A new garage and stable has been bult to match the home.

The dramatist's workshop  is located on the second floor.  The walls are packed with choice volumes, and there is a work table which is quite a wonderful affair, resembling the oval copy desk that is seen only in metropolitan newspaper offices.  In face, it is three big, flat topped desks joined into one.  Then there are cabinet files and pigeonholes and all the other paraphernalia that one sees only in the workshop of an active literary man.  Mr. Hobart is busy just now with next year's output.  He has 'Girlies' running at the New Amsterdam Theatre; Maclyn Arbuckle soon will appear  in 'Welcome to Our City;" he has almost completed the adaptation of 'Alma, We Wohnst Du?' in which Joseph Weber will star Kitty Gordon next season, and is giving all his spare time to 'Sweet Sixteen,' which he is writing for Lew Fields and for which Victor Herbert is composing the music.

On of the most popular diversions of Ruraldene is tennis, and here is one of the best equipped courts to be found along the Sound.  But when it rains billiards is the game.  Mr. Hobart is one of the most active of Lambs, and the week always fiinds several of them at Ruraldene.  The guest rooms are abundantly supplied with various sizes of linen trousers and tennis shoes, so that there may be no excuse for not playing the author's favorite game.  The Hobarts have two children, Georgia (called 'Peaches' by her father), a girl of eleven, and Bayne, a lively boy of six. 

Within a short distance of Ruraldene was the home of the much lamented dramatist Joseph Arthur, who wrote 'Blue Jeans' and 'The Still Alarm.'  It was only lately that Mrss. Arthur disposed of the fire engine that was so long a feature of the latter play. . . ."

Source:  The GREAT AMERICAN PLAYWRIGHT BELT -- A RUN Along the North Shore of the Sound and a Glimpse at the Beautiful Homes of the Writers of the Plays That Have Won High Honors and Big Royalties, The New York Herald, Aug. 28, 1910, Magazine Section (Part II, pp. 9-16), p. 9, cols. 1-5.  

"I have just completed the alterations and decoration of 'Ruraldene,' No. 219, Jackson avenue, a fine residential section of Pelham Manor, . . . plot 138x230 feet with eleven magnificent forest trees, grounds planted with select shrubbery in English garden manner, allowing that seclusion so greatly desired by the 'Gentry' of old England.

The construction is of exceptionally large selected field stone and shingles, with copper gutters and leaders, inter-locking weather strips, storm sash for all north and west windows, large copper screened porcch and wire screens to all windows and doors.

First and Second story windows glazed with extra thick plate, Timbered ceilings in hall, den and dining room, five fire places, hot water heat, gas and electricity.  All walls and ceilings thruout [sic] painted in oil colors.  Living room, den, hall and dining room walls panelled.

Through a tiled and beautifully decorated vestibule one enters a spacious hall with rustic stone fireplace, to the left thru a broad arch one enters the extremely large living room, with an extra large bay window and an open fire place.  This room is connected with a cozy den or office with an open fire place and bay window decorated in Dutch style, to the right of hall thru another wide arch is the cheerful dining room with gas-log fire place and large landscape window with wide window seat.  A complete butler pantry is between the dining room and kitchen, from the kitchen is the servants stairway to the upper floors and also a stairway to the basement where there is a laundry, toilet and three store rooms.

The second story contains five extra large masters' bed rooms, two tiled baths, with built in fixtures and an exceedingly fine linen closet.  

The third floor has four good sized bed rooms, and bath making most attractive quarters for ones help.  There is in addition a good sized store room.

There is a separate stone and shingle garage for two cars stalls for saddle horses, and rooms over for man.

The price is $50,000 at least $15,000 less than the cost of reproduction today.  First mortgage $10,000, owner will make satisfactory terms with responsible buyer.  House now ready for inspection.

Inquire of owner, John M. Shinn on premises or at 259 East 4th Street, Mount Vernon, or any Pelham broker.  Telephones:  Pelham 2090 or Oakwood 5174."

Source:  [Untitled in "Want Ads"], The Pelham Sun, Aug. 13, 1926, Vol. 17, No. 24, p. 8, cols. 4-5.  

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