Monday, May 29, 2023

Keeping Up with the Joneses

The phrase "keeping up with the Joneses" is familiar to most of us, and implies the sad but ubiquitous habit of comparing ourselves to those around us. We end up buying and showing off things we cannot afford just to keep up with those who can afford it, and show that we, too, are worthy of status. This applies to houses more than anything else. But who were these enviable Joneses, and what were they showing off?

That would be Elizabeth Jones, a staunch advocate of conspicuous consumption, and her lovely summer home in New York. The house, called Wyndcliffe, sat on 80 acres and was so grand that the area around it near the town of Rhinebeck on the Hudson River became hot property as others tried to, ahem, "keep up with the Joneses." That's where the familiar phrase came from. You might be interested in seeing this grand house and learning what became of it.


Anonymous said...

fool's errand in a sense to try and keep up the joneses

DocRock said...

The Jones' fortune started with my 7g grandfather, Major Thomas Jones, for whom Jones Beach is named. He married Freelove Townsend. Her father, Thomas Townsend gave them a substantial piece of land (600,000 acres) that is now much of Massapequa, Long Island. He was a licensed privateer and also had exclusive whaling rights. He built the first brick house (two story) on Long Island. His son David was a judge who was later appointed a judge of the Supreme Courtof the colony. In 1771, at the age of 70, he built Massapequa's firstmansion, a 30-room Georgian palace he called Tryon Hall in honor of William Tryon, the last royal governor of the province of New York.David's son, Thomas was also a justice of the Supreme Court. Judge David's will stated that should Thomas have no heirs, the property would pass to the heirs of his sister, Arabella,providing they added Jones to their name. Arabella, a staunch Patriot,had married Capt. Richard Floyd of Mastic, and their son, David Richard,was happy to take the hyphenated name of Floyd-Jones in exchange forTryon Hall. The Floyd-Joneses were to play a lively role in Long Island social history.David Richard Floyd-Jones added to his riches by marrying into the wealthy Dutch Onderdonk family, and Tryon Hall once more resounded with extravagant balls. One niece married the writer James Fenimore Cooper;another wed J.L. McAdam, inventor of macadam roads. Meanwhile, Samuel Jones, a son of the major's younger son, William,became a real estate attorney and was called upon to revise thel aws of the new state of New York. He became known as "the father of the NewYork State Bar." Perpetuating the family custom of marrying into money,Samuel's sons married into the Schuyler and DeWitt Clinton families. One son, David S., became the first judge of Queens County and owner of the Clinton estate in Maspeth. Now for the Joneses of Cold Spring Harbor, founders of the whaling industry there. John Jones, another grandson of the major, was the first to migrate to that North Shore community, in 1804. He married AnnaHewlett, whose family had built a gristmill in 1791. Their sons, entrepreneurs John H. and Walter Restored Jones, invested $20,000 to buy the old bark Monmouth in 1836. Three years later they formed the ColdSpring Harbor Whaling Co., built docks and enlarged the fleet toninevessels.Walter founded the Atlantic Mutual Co., which provided marine insu rance for all the whaling vessels out of Cold Spring Harbor.

Miss Cellania said...

Dang, DocRock, thanks for that! I guess there is no keeping up with the Joneses for any of us.