Husband William Forsythe Sherfesee
Ringwood, 7421 NY-80, Springfield Center, NY 13468
2700 Lakeview Ave. in Lincoln Park, Chicago
Villa Bontoc, 30 Chemin du Roy, 06230 Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat, France
Lakewood Cemetery Cooperstown, Otsego County, New York, USA
Emily Maria Borie Ryerson (August 10, 1863 - December 28, 1939) was the older sister of queer architect John Borie. Commenting on Emily Ryerson’s social eccentricities (including her doting fondness for gay men), a later observer of the Chicago scene wryly noted that the Bories hailed from “a race distinguished by its pleasant lack of inhibitions.”
In 1889 Emily Borie married a mid-western millionaire, Arthur Larned Ryerson. Beginning of the 1900s John Borie designed an enormous summer house, Ringwood, for his sister, Emily Borie Ryerson in Springfield Center, NY, at the northern end of Lake Otsego. After his death, a sympathetic reporter to Borie’s talent had to admit that, apart from the Robert Allerton mansion outside of Monticello, the only other house in America that Borie had designed was the charming French farmhouse that he built for his sister.
In 1912, Emily survived the Titanic disaster, but her husband, Arthur Larned Ryerson, a wealthy Chicago lawyer and business tycoon, went down with the ship. They were hurriedly coming back to the United States since their son, Arthur, had died in an automobile accident outside of Philadelphia. Arthur Larned Ryerson and John Louis Hoffman were so seriously injured that both died a few hours later. Both young men were students in Yale University, and Ryerson had gone home with his friend to spend the Easter vacation. Hoffman was 21 years old and Ryerson 19.
Emily, Arthur, and three of their children, Suzette, Emily, and John, boarded the RMS Titanic as first-class passengers in Cherbourg, France. With them were their maid, Victorine Chaudanson, and John's governess, Grace Scott Bowen. On the afternoon of April 14, 1912, fellow passenger Marian Longstreth Thayer invited Emily for a walk. It was the first time she had been on deck in public. After nearly an hour they settled into deck chairs outside the aft staircase of 'A' deck to watch the sunset. White Star official, J. Bruce Ismay, joined them and told them about the ice warning from the Baltic. Emily was awake when the Titanic hit the iceberg on April 14, 1912, 11:40 pm. She woke Arthur, Suzette, Emily, John, Grace, and Victorine. "[The maid's] door was locked and I had some difficulty in waking her. By this time my husband was fully dressed, and we could hear the noise of feet tramping on the deck overhead. He was quite calm and cheerful and helped me put the lifebelts on the children and on my maid. I was paralyzed with fear of not all getting on deck together in time, as there were seven of us. I would not let my younger daughter, [Emily], dress, but she only put on a fur coat, as I did over her nightgown." Emily and her family went to 'A' deck and stood there for "fully half an hour". She, Suzette, Emily, Victorine and Grace stepped into Lifeboat 4. John was initially not allowed in, however, Arthur stepped forward and said, "Of course, that boy goes with his mother. He is only 13." While in the lifeboat, Emily witnessed the ship break in half. They were rescued by RMS Carpathia at about 8 am on the 15th. Emily, Suzette, Emily, John, Victorine, and Grace survived, but Arthur perished. His body, if recovered, was never identified.
Emily built the Ryerson mansion at 2700 Lakeview Ave. in Lincoln Park, Chicago. During WWI Emily not only sponsored an ambulance driver for Richard Norton's corp, but also served as a regiornal chairwoman in Chicago for the La Fayette Fund, an American charity that sent relief packets to les blesses au combat in the trenches and hospitals. Later, she worked tirelessly on behalf of the American Memorial Hospital at Rheims and dispatched herself in 1917-1918 as a volunteer nurse at a neighoring dispensary at Nancy.
In the 1920s while traveling through China, Emily met William Forsythe Sherfesee, who was the Forestry Advisor to the Chinese Government and later was appointed Advisor to the Ministry of Finance. He was also a graduate of Yale University and was 18 years her junior. He was the son of Heinrich "Louis" Sherfesee and Annie Griffith Sherfesee. The accounts of Forsythe trying to get from Peking to Chicago in the early weeks of December 1927 made the newspapers worldwide. In the attempt to get him to Chicago during a blizzard, he traveled by boat, train, then finally by private plane, which Emily had sent to bring him to Chicago. He did not arrive on time, and they held the wedding December 9, 1927. They went to Italy and Persia for their honeymoon. They traveled throughout their marriage, and settled in Saint- Jean-Cap-Ferrat on the French Riviera where they built Villa Bontoc. Their next door neighbor was the noted author and playwright, W. Somerset Maugham. In December 1939 while in Hawaii, Emily fell and broke her hip but insisted on continuing the trip. In Uruguay she suffered a fatal heart attack and died on December 28, 1939. She was buried in Lakewood Cemetery in Cooperstown, New York.
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