Page 76 - Montecito Journal Glossy Edition Summer Fall 2011

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n 1595 William Shakespeare wrote
“To gild
refined gold, to paint the lily… is wasteful
and ridiculous.” In 1873 Mark Twain teamed
up with Charles Dudley Warner to write
The Gilded
Age: A Tale of Today,
a satire of political and social
life in Washington, D.C. that coined the phrase that
named an era. Describing the consequences of a period
of rapid economic growth after the Civil War and
Reconstruction, the term criticizes the accompanying
ostentatious displays of conspicuous consumption
practiced by the newly wealthy captains of industry.
One of the most unique and memorable
exhibitions of wealth was a party hosted by C.K.G.
Billings, chairman of the board of Peoples Gas
Light and Coke Company of Chicago and a founder of Union
Carbide Company. In 1901 Billings had purchased land at Fort Tryon in
Washington Heights in New York City where he established a world-class
stable for his thoroughbred trotters and pacers. The 25,000-square-foot stable
housed 22 carriages, 33 horses, a harness room, a carriage wash, a changing
room and living quarters. When it was completed,
The New York Times
of March
1903 said it was “one of the largest and most palatial private stables ever built in
this country.”
To celebrate the opening, Billings invited 36 men to a dinner catered by New
York’s renowned restaurateur Louis Sherry in the fourth-floor grand ballroom of
by Hattie Beresford
C.K.G. Billings:
Man of the Gilded Age
fal l
Union Carbide co-founder C.K.G. Billings was an avid
yachtsman and member of the Santa Barbara Yacht Club as
well as several yachting clubs in the East, including the New
York Yacht Club and the Oyster Bay Yacht Club
(Photo courtesy of Santa Barbara Historical Museum)