Working in the archives today scanning some pictures and I just had to share this one. I adore the smiles on their faces while Elia holds up a chocolate Easter bunny. At this point George is clearly in a wheelchair, but the 82 year old still looks cheery and enjoying his time with his wife.
I recently spent some time tracking down primary sources about the Whittell family in the Bay Area. It will take me some time to get all that together in a blog format to report back some of the amazing things I found about our Whittells, but in the meantime, I thought I would share some pictures with you. Once I finished in the city, I headed down to Colma to visit the family graves; it was a very moving experience. As a historian, I am used to the fact my subjects are, well, dead. However, sometimes moments hit when it becomes very personal and history comes alive. After spending so much time investigating their lives, it was very overwhelming to be standing near them. I left flowers and pulled some weeds, but it touched me that it was clear no one has visited in a long time. I plan to try and do this regularly.
I found it interesting the family is split up in the Cypress Lawn cemeteries. In the east cemetery is the family crypt which holds Nicholas Luning, Ellen Luning, B. Dempsy (Ellen’s mother), John Nicholas Luning and Arthur H. Luning (they share one space, both were about a year old at death), Nicholas Luning Jr., and two empty spaces. Across from them are George Whittell Sr., Anna L. Whittell, George Whittell Jr., Elia Whittell, and Nicholas Whittell and three empty spaces. Most of George Sr.’s wealth and influence was inherited from his father-in-law, Nicholas Luning, so this might be why he, rather than Hugh Whittell, is interned in the crypt. It is a beautiful specimen of Art Deco design.
The rest of the Whittells are over in the west cemetery. Most notable is Hugh Whittell’s large pyramid. Near that is the graves of Dr. A.P. Whittell, his wife Jennie, their daughter Florence Whittell Albert (or as I call her Florence Irene), and Flora Wharry (Hugh’s only daughter).
Then there is another Whittell in the west cemetery and this was the most saddening. Alfred is buried away from his family, alone. To make it even more clear his place in the history as a Whittell, the headstone is missing.
I am very glad I took the time to visit and as I mentioned before, I hope to try and make it a regular occurrence.
I am trying extremely hard to find out more about Elia, but her early life is still very much a mystery since she was not born in the United States. This has made my research quite a bit more difficult.
However, here are some still shots from some of the Whittell Films that I just adore of her. She was NOT a woman who stayed inside and merely drank tea or knitted. She loved to travel and was very active. I have many pictures of her skiing, sledding, snowshoeing, swimming, and enjoying the outdoors.
As I am watching these films, I am wondering why so many of them are of Elia traveling. Was that so George could see what she was up to? So he felt included? Or was it just that they could afford the luxury at the time of having so many travels filmed? George did not accompany Elia on her international trips, but her niece Jacqueline is often present. I am looking forward to finding out more about Elia.
While some stories say that Elia did not spend much time at the Thunderbird Lodge, I certainly have found a lot of footage and photographs of her here. I love this screenshot from the Whittell Films of Elia as she is getting ready to head out on a dogsled. No matter what she was doing, she had a wonderful outfit for the occasion!
Not to skip around on wives too much – a history of Josie is in the works – but I wanted to write a brief note about Elia Pascal’s name (Elia being George Whittell Jr.’s last wife). A common assertion is that she is a descendant of the 17th century philosopher and mathematician, Blaise Pascal.
However, Blaise Pascal never married or had children. He lived life as a relatively unhealthy man, focused on the sciences, religion, math, and philosophy. He died at the age of 39. It does not appear that his sister had children either.
Elia is NOT related to the famous French mathematician.
And yes…much, much more on Elia to come! I just wanted to clear this one up since it is an easy one to verify.
I always chuckle when museums do Throwback Thursday, since almost everything we do falls under that heading!
Here are some great throwbacks from when the lodge was being still being built in 1936/37:
East end of Lodge showing the wood siding before the stone cladding. Note the missing first boat house/swimming pool.
Today where we enjoy the waterfalls was once a construction ramp.
And lastly, the ladies painting a chair in the lake, because why not? Note that you can see scaffolding behind them. This is Jacqueline Emeriaud (Elia’s niece) and Elia.
Photos courtesy of Scott Rayer, part the of Thunderbird Lodge Preservation Society Collection.