American Irish Historical Society, 991 Fifth Avenue, 10028, NYC, NY, USA
Archer M. Huntington House (now National Academy Museum and School), 1083 5th Ave, New York, NY 10128, Stati Uniti
Château de Grégy, 7 Allée du Château, 77166 Évry-Grégy-sur-Yerre, Francia
Codman Estate, 34 Codman Rd, Lincoln, MA 01773, Stati Uniti
Codman-Davis House, 2145 Decatur Pl NW, Washington, DC 20008, Stati Uniti
J. Woodward Haven House (now Acquavella Galleries), 18 East 79th Street, 10075, NYC, NY, USA
Kykuit, 381 N Broadway, Sleepy Hollow, NY 10591, Stati Uniti
Lincoln Cemetery, Lincoln, Massachusetts 01773, Stati Uniti
Lucy D. Dahlgren house, 15 E 96th St, New York, NY 10128, Stati Uniti
Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 77 Massachusetts Ave, Cambridge, MA 02139, Stati Uniti
Ogden Codman, Jr. House, 7 E 96th St, New York, NY 10128, Stati Uniti
Scuola d'Italia Guglielmo Marconi, 12 E 96th St, New York, NY 10128, Stati Uniti
The Breakers, 44 Ochre Point Ave, Newport, RI 02840, Stati Uniti
Vanderbilt Mansion, 119 Vanderbilt Park Rd, Hyde Park, NY 12538, Stati Uniti
Villa Leopolda, 06230 Villafranca Marittima, Francia
Ogden Codman Jr. (January 19, 1863 – January 8, 1951) was an American architect and interior decorator in the Beaux-Arts styles, and co-author with Edith Wharton of The Decoration of Houses (1897), which became a standard in American interior design. Although he was happily married to a wealthy widow for a brief time, there is clear evidence that Codman had sexual relations with men. His correspondence survives, as does a photographic collection of mainly male erotica, which was found hidden in the Codman House. Ogden Codman's brother, Thomas Newbold Codman was a musice critic and amateur photographer whose papers include a notable collection of male erotica.
Codman was born on January 19, 1863 in Boston, Massachusetts. He was the eldest of six children born to Boston native Ogden Codman Sr. (1839–1904) and the former Sarah Fletcher Bradlee.
His paternal grandparents were Charles Russell Codman and Sarah (née Ogden) Codman. His paternal aunt, Frances Anne Codman, was married to noted architect and builder John Hubbard Sturgis, who designed his parents home, Codman House in Lincoln, Massachusetts, and the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, along with Charles Brigham. His maternal grandparents were James Bowdoin Bradlee and Mary (née May) Bradlee. His maternal aunt, Katherine May Bradlee, was married to Benjamin W. Crowninshield and was the mother of Bowdoin Bradlee Crowninshield, Codman's first cousin.
Codman spent much of his youth from 1875 to 1884 at Dinard, an American resort colony in France, and on returning to America in 1884, studied at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
He was influenced in his career by two uncles, John Hubbard Sturgis, an architect, and Richard Ogden, a decorator. He greatly admired Italian and French architecture of the sixteenth, seventeenth, and eighteenth centuries, as well as English Georgian architecture and the colonial architecture of Boston.
Daniel Berkely Updike (left) and Ogden Codman (right)
7 East 96th Street
American Irish Historical Society
Archer M. Huntington House
Codman-Davis House, Washington, DC
J. Woodward Haven House (now Acquavella Galleries)
Kykuit, Mount Pleasant, NY
Lucy Drexel Dahlgren House
Metropolitan Museum of Art, NYC
Scuola d'Italia Guglielmo Marconi
The Breakers, Newport, RI
Vanderbilt Mansion, Hyde Park, NY
One of the most joyous portraits of the late XIX century LGBTQ life can be found in the letters between Odgen Codman and Arthur Little. Codman, like many of his contemporaries, kept nearly every piece of paper he produced or received, but perhaps uniquely, neither he nor his heirs destroyed even the most incriminating materials. In all, 92 letters eventually entered the archives of Historic New England due to the generosity of his longest surviving sister, Dorothy. Most were written in the early 1890s, usually when Codman or Little was traveling. The letters show no guilt regarding same-sex feelings or relations and some are quite explicit. Codman was from a prominent old Yankee family and his father mostly spent his time managing his investments, as did Codman's siblings. Codman, however, was different in that he pursued a career in interior design and today he is most known for the book he co-authored with Edith Wharton, The Decoration of Houses. Daniel Berkeley Updike, with whim Codman may have had a relationship, assisted by designing the book. Little was an architect who had studied at MIT. His style was colonial revival and his best known work is the Larz Anderson mansion in Washington, DC. Both Little and Codman eventually married, Codman to a wealthy widow in a marriage that lasted five years until her death. Afterwards, Codman kept himself occupied with a string of young male live-in secretaries. Little and Codman often referred to men by women's names or put their male names in quotation marks or underlined them. The executor of Wharton's estate, Gaillard Lapsley, for example, was referred to as Aunt Mary. Little wrote that he liked effeminate young men. In addition to a Boston house that was a showcase of contemporary interior design, he had a summer house in Swampscott where he held all make dances. Older than Codman, Little lived a quieter life, though both shared a love of post cards that featured nude men, which Little purchased during trips to Italy. In 1902, a friend of theirs named George Griswald was mentally undone by a scandal with reports that Griswald was in a state of near collapse, hands shaking, teeth chattering, insomnia, panic, because of gossip and innuendo. He may have been blackmailed, or perhaps some other exposure was feared.
After brief apprenticeships with Boston architectural firms, Codman started his own practice in Boston, where he kept offices from 1891 to 1893, after which time he relocated his main practice from Boston to New York City. Codman also opened offices in Newport, Rhode Island as early as 1891, and it was in Newport that he first met novelist Edith Wharton. She became one of his first Newport clients for her home there, Land's End. In her autobiography, A Backward Glance, Wharton wrote:
We asked him to alter and decorate the house—a somewhat new departure, since the architects of that day looked down on house-decoration as a branch of dress-making, and left the field up to the upholsterers, who crammed every room with curtains, lambrequins, jardinières of artificial plants, wobbly velvet-covered tables littered with silver gew-gaws, and festoons of lace on mantelpieces and dressing tables.
Codman viewed interior design as "a branch of architecture".
Wharton subsequently introduced Codman to Cornelius Vanderbilt II, who hired Codman in 1894 to design the second and third floor rooms of his Newport summer home, The Breakers, which he did in a clean eighteenth-century French and Italian classical style. Codman was not a draftsman, and it is said that in Paris he hired a talented group of students from the École des Beaux-Arts to draw up the sketches for Vanderbilt.
In 1907, Codman built what was later to be known at the Codman–Davis House in Washington, D.C. for his cousin Martha Codman Karolik. It is currently the official residence of the Ambassador of Thailand, and one of the few intact homes that he designed. This included a carriage house which now houses the Apex Night Club.
Codman's New York clients included John D. Rockefeller Jr., for whom he designed the interiors of the Rockefeller family mansion of Kykuit in 1913, and Frederick William Vanderbilt, for whom he designed the interiors for his mansion in Hyde Park, New York, and his house on Fifth Avenue. He also collaborated with Wharton on the redesign of her townhouse at 882–884 Park Avenue as well as on the design of The Mount, her house in Lenox, Massachusetts. His suave and idiomatic suite of Régence and Georgian parade rooms for entertaining are preserved in the townhouse at 991 Fifth Avenue, now occupied by the American Irish Historical Society. His French townhouse in the manner of Gabriel at 18 East 79th Street, for J. Woodward Haven (1908–09) is now occupied by Acquavella Galleries.
All told, Codman designed 22 houses to completion, as well as the East Wing of the Metropolitan Club in New York. He also began the trend of lowering the townhouse entrance door from elevated stairways to the basement level. He designed a series of three houses in Louis XIV style at 7 (his own residence), 12, and 15 East 96th Street from 1912 to 1916. The New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission later described the facade of number 7 as being "full of gaiety and frivolous vitality" and further, "on approaching the house, Paris and the Champs-Élysées immediately come to mind."
In 1920, Codman left New York to return to France, where he spent the last thirty-one years of his life at the Château de Grégy, wintering at Villa Leopolda in Villefranche-sur-Mer, which he created by assembling a number of vernacular structures and their sites: it is his masterpiece, the fullest surviving expression of his esthetic.
Codman was homosexual and pursued attractive young men throughout his life, but on October 8, 1904 he married Leila Griswold Webb (1856-1910), who was six years older than him and was the widow of railroad magnate H. Walter Webb and the mother of New York State Senator J. Griswold Webb. Leila was the sister-in-law of Dr. William Seward Webb, who was married to the former Eliza Vanderbilt, and Alexander S. Webb, the longstanding President of City College of New York. His wife died in 1910, leaving him a fortune. After her death, he sold their house on 15 East 51st Street (which he had designed for Leila while she was still married to her first husband) and built himself another home at 7 East 96th Street in 1912.
In 1918, Codman leased the former Newport cottage of society leader James Vanderburgh Parker, known as "Sans Souci" and located on Merton Road, for the summer.
Codman died at age 87 in 1951 at the Château de Grégy in Évry-Grégy-sur-Yerre, France. His architectural drawings and papers are collected at the Avery Architectural and Fine Arts Library at Columbia University; the Codman Family papers are also held by Historic New England and the Boston Athenaeum.
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