Hustand Thomas Prince Farrar

Queer Places:
Pride House, Beach Walk, Yaphank, NY 11980

Beatrice Howard Farrar (March 18, 1888 - July 26, 1950) was born in New York on March 18, 1888. Previously of Garden City, NY, by 1937 Farrar had settled in Laguna Beach. She died there on July 26, 1950.

Thomas Prince Farrar was born at New Orleans and practiced architect there. He lived at Biloxi where he did scenic painting and costume designs. In June 1933, he married Beatrice Howard. Farrar relocated to New York City and worked in theatre design until his death there in June 1951.

John Mosher and his companion, Philip Claflin, were likely visiting New Yorker drama critic Wolcott Gibbs, who was vacationing in Ocean Beach, when they ran into Natalia Murray and her party in the hotel bar. Mosher bought land then and there, while Murray came back again to rent for the whole season in 1937. Arthur Brill and Allen Prescott also henceforth made the Grove their summer home. The whole crowd soon became fast friends with Beatrice Farrar, Cherry Grove’s first hostess extraordinaire.

Beatrice Howard Farrar had rebelled against the future suggested by her Boston Brahmin background. In pursuit of an artistic life, she had first married Thomas Locker, a New York designer and artist. After their divorce she spent time in Paris artistic circles, where she met Janet Flanner and Dolly Wilde. Back in the States, Beatrice married Thomas Farrar, a set designer and theatrical effects man for the John Ringling North Circus. Beatrice Farrar’s personal life was irregular. After she and Thomas, who was gay, were divorced, they continued to live together despite the disapproval of some in their circle, claiming that this arrangement suited them much better. According to one narrator, although the Farrars lived together amicably, they did not speak to each other except at cocktails and dinner, even during the long winter of 1937 in Cherry Grove, when they had Pa Case build Pride House. A white two-story New England-style cottage, Pride House still graces Beach Walk, its name a perpetual reminder, perhaps, not only of Beatrice Farrar’s fondness for Jane Austen but of how far back into gay history the concept of pride goes.

Like other Grove pioneers, Beatrice Farrar was a “wonderful character,” with energy and—prerequisite for a salon hostess—money. She was a heterosexual who delighted in the company of gay men, and they responded in kind. Her “young coterie” included Prescott, Brill, Gerstle Mack, a San Franciscan and distinguished art writer, and Douglas Summerville, an antiques dealer to whom she was so attached that she had a smaller cottage, Prejudice, built adjacent to Pride House especially for him. “They [the Farrars] knew a lot of interesting people,” Ray Mann told; Beatrice was “fey” and a good talker, “never at a loss for words,” and at Pride House “there was an avalanche of conversation—beautiful English she spoke, and very correct” and “her stories were all interesting.”

Pride House was solidly constructed on the highest ground in the community. Beatrice Farrar had “built her house, and wasn’t going to be uprooted by a mere storm,” Ray Mann said. Still, during the storm in 1938, she had persuaded several people, including (according to Mann) the young Prince and Princess Eugène Murat, whose family were summering in the Grove, to come to Pride House for safety. As the wind velocity rose and kept rising, as the ocean “came right in like a canal” and washed timber and houses past her into the bay, she must have been terrified. If the house blew down, there was no basement for shelter.

The damage, though devastating, was erratic. The hotel had survived with the bartender sound asleep inside. Whole cottages had floated away with little damage inside—in one a lamp still stood upright on a table. A search party, fearing the worst, managed to row over to Pride House, where they found that the terrified group had “opened Mrs. Farrar’s liquor cabinet”—George Gibson chuckled—“and even the small children were quite happy.” Catherine Richter’s nephew, Don Hester, heard that “they were drunk as skunks and said, ‘What are you doing here? The storm’s over and it’s a beautiful day.’ They didn’t want to be rescued.”

The theatrical urge at Cherry Grove existed in the late thirties or early forties, when a little play written by one of Beatrice Farrar’s “coterie,” the San Franciscan Gerstle Mack, was staged in the upstairs living room of Pride House, lit by kerosene lanterns. Ray Mann was told that the recurring theme was a rather bohemian “We’re all here at Cherry Grove, we’re from France, we’re from Britain, and we haven’t got a sou.” “It was just a group of hams,” Ray said.

In Cherry Grove, the gender-reversing camp sensibility of gay men was associated with strong female political and social leadership. Beatrice Farrar was still living in Pride House in 1948, but was no longer active in community affairs.

In the early 1950s, after Thomas Farrar’s death, Prescott and his companion, Ray Mann, and Miles White, the Broadway and circus costume and set designer, lived with Beatrice Farrar for two summers.

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