BURIED TOGETHER

Partner Saidee Wolcott Perry

Queer Places:
Villa Torricella (now Luxury Villa Excelsior Park), Via Marina Grande, 179, 80076 Capri NA
Protestant Cemetery Capri, Città Metropolitana di Napoli, Campania, Italy

Kathryn "Katherine or Kate" Wolcott Perry (September 21, 1837 - August 25, 1924) and Saidee Wolcott Perry were known as The Wolcott-Perry ‘sisters’. In 1897, the two American women arrived on Capri and stayed. They lived at Villa Torricella, Capri. They were distant cousins, not sisters, brought up in the Wild West. When Kate was twenty-three, her father had adopted Saidee, who had been left orphaned and in poverty, aged nine. Kate Perry and Saidee Wolcott decided to present themselves to the world as sisters, hyphenating their surnames as well as their lives. It is said that after Kate’s father’s death they ran a brothel in New Orleans. They sold some land when they decided to go travelling; and when they decided to stay on Capri they sold the rest. They had the Villa Torricella built. Finished in 1907, it was an extraordinary Doric-Moorish-Romanesque-Gothic edifice, complete with minarets. Drifters who found sanctuary in this fantasy palace included Vernon Andrews, who was too effeminate to fit in anywhere else, and Godfrey Henry Thornton, who had exhausted most of his money on boys and blackmail.

Kathryn "Katherine or Kate" Wolcott Perry was born in Pontiac, Illinois, the daughter of Maj. Carlton Holmes Perry and Elizabeth Ann Perry. Kate's father Colonel Perry had commanded on of the forts in the northwest territories of the United States in the days when Indians still occasionally went on the warpath. He had become a widower, and his only daughter lived with him out there, independent of all but the roughtest schooling from the time she was 14 until she was close on 20. In 1860, when Kate was 23, her father adopted the daughter of a distant cousin who had died in poverty. Saidee Wolcott was nine when she entered the Perry family and forthwith she became the absorbing concern of Kate's life. The two cousins became totally devoted to each other, and hypenated their named. Before his death Colonel Perry had acquired a large tract of farmland in Iowa. It was rumoured that Kate had opened some sort of school to continue Saidee's education; that they had managed a store; that they had run a brothel in New Orleans. Some of the Iowa land was sold, and wiht the money Kate and Saidee decided to explore Europe. In 1897, in the course of their European trip, they set foot at Marina Grande and immediately knew that they had reached journey's end. They purchased a casetta and land which occupied the last bend down to the marina. They started to build over and around the casetta. The foundation stone of 1902 records that the builder was Luigi Desiderio. The two ladies and contractor conjured up a extraordinary hotch-potch of Doric and Moorish columns, Romanesque and Renaissance arches, Gaothic windows, and finally on top of the second floor, Moorish towers and minarets. On the other side of the villa was their summer-house - a pretty version of the Temple of Vesta. Thanks to the good management of their lawyer, they were already rich in 1910 and growing richer. They entertained with luncheon parties, dinner parties, and dances.

Kathryn Wolcott Perry was well known in Humboldt county as owner of a considerable acreage of its farmng land. She had been a woman of exceptional executive ability supervising and directing her own large financial affairs. Even at more than 80 years old, she still kept keenly abreast with the current affairs of the world and frequently crossed the ocean in journeys to and from her villa on the Island of Capri where she spent most of her time for many years. The Wolcott-Perry family had a long bond with Count Fersen, who also arrived on the island in 1877, and with him and many other members of the colony of foreign residents of the time as guests, they used to organize large night parties. Their terrace overlooking the sea became for years and years synonymous with hospitality and beauty. Then, the epilogue.

On a gravestone in the cemetery of the non-Catholics in Capri there are these few verses: "Gentile risplendi caldo sole d'estate!/Delicato soffia, caldo vento del sud!/E tu verde zolla, sii lieve!/Buona notte anima mia, buona notte! (Dear shine warm summer sun! / Gentle it blows, warm south wind! / And you green sod, be light! / Good night my soul, good night!)". They are the ones Kate Perry left to her partner Saidee Wolcott on February 7, 1917. She had an identical copy of one of the windows of Villa Torricella placed on the tomb of her life partner, with the lines of her favorite poem. Kate Perry left the world in 1924. On her grave, next to Saidee, was placed the tombstone that she had had herself engraved: "La felicità è l'unico bene/e la felicità più grande/consiste nel far felici gli altri (Happiness is the only good / and the greatest happiness / consists in making others happy)".


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