The Architect of Desire by Suzannah Lessard
Beauty and Danger in the Stanford White Family

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Synopsis

The story of Stanford White--his scandalous affair with the 16-year-old actress Evelyn Nesbit, his murder in 1906 by her husband, the millionaire Harry K. Thaw, and the hailstorm of publicity that surrounded "the trial of the century"--has proven irresistable to generations of novelists, historians, and biographers. The premier neoclassical architect of his day, White's legacy to the world were such masterpieces as New York's original Madison Square Garden, the Washington Square Arch, and the Players, Metropolitan, and Colony clubs. He was also responsible for the palaces of such clients as the Whitneys, Vanderbilts, and Pulitzers, the robber barons of the Gilded Age whose power and dominance shaped the nation in its heady ascent at the turn of the century.

As the century rolled on, however, the story of Stanford White and Evelyn Nesbit came to be viewed as glamorous and romantic, the darker narrative of White's out-of-control sexual compulsion obscured by time. Indeed, White's wife Bessie and his son Larry remained adamantly silent about the matter for the duration of their lives, a silence that reverberated through the next four generations of their extended family.

Suzannah Lessard is the eldest of Stanford White's great grandchildren. It was only in her 30's that she began to sense the parallels between the silence about her great-grandfather's life and the silence about her own perilous experience as a little girl in her own home. Thus she became drawn to the remarkable history of her family in order to uncover its hidden truths, and in so doing to liberate herself from its enclosure at last. The result is a multi-layered memoir of astonishing elegance and power, one that, like a great building, is illumined room by room, chapter by chapter, until the whole is clearly seen.
 

About Suzannah Lessard

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Published January 23, 2013 by Delta. 352 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, History, Education & Reference, Arts & Photography, Professional & Technical. Non-fiction

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Lessard and her five sisters grew up near Smithtown, Long Island, on the White estate known as the Place, where the family retreated in the wake of the stunning public disclosures about Stanford White's debauchery that followed his death.

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Publishers Weekly

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When a writer as gifted as Lessard makes her debut with a memoir as candid, perceptive and wrenchingly affecting as this history of her family, it is a signal event. While the complex character and ma

Oct 02 1996 | Read Full Review of The Architect of Desire: Beau...

Publishers Weekly

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Lessard's memoir of four generations of the great architect's family was a PW Best Book of 1996.

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Publishers Weekly

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While the complex character and magnificent accomplishments of Lessard's great-grandfather, celebrated Gilded Age architect and murder victim Stanford White, could indeed be the focus of a fascinating story, Whiting Award winner Lessard brings to her assiduously researched narrative a depth of un...

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