One of Edgartown’s properties with an interesting story has changed hands recently. What we know as the Vose property at Tower Hill started out in the 1890s as Quiet Corner. The house and its outbuildings, including the iconic boathouse, were built by Sol Smith Russell, a vaudeville star who became very successful as an actor and singer, but who made even more money as a real estate entrepreneur in Minneapolis. These buildings were designed by Frank Alden, an Edgartown native who did most of his work in Pittsburgh, Pa. Mr. Alden was best known for his design of the Carnegie Institute in Pittsburgh, which contains not only a library and music hall, but also a museum of art and natural history. Mr. Alden may have encountered Mr. Russell either in Pittsburgh, where Mr. Russell performed many times and where he was popular, or on the Vineyard, where Frank Alden continued to visit in the summer.
At any rate, the relationship was a happy one and the resulting arts and crafts style boat house remains, along with the Edgartown Free Public Library, as a visible example of Mr. Alden’s work in his hometown. The Vose bowling alley building, which is not visible to the general public, is very like the one Alden designed for Henry Clay Frick at his home Clayton in Pittsburgh. It also was part of the original construction.
In 1899 Mr. Russell suffered a series of strokes and he retreated to the Vineyard in an attempt to regain his health. The 1900 census reveals that in June of 1900 he was living here with his wife, Alice, his son and daughter, and a coachman (John Donnelly), a cook, housemaid and laundress. Quite a household even for a summer resident of Edgartown. He lived at the Richmond Hotel in Washington, D.C. in the wintertime after his illness. His obituary in the New York Times reveals that Russell died of hiccups that could not be controlled. Shortly after Mr. Russell’s death in 1902, Julian Vose, whose family were well-known piano manufacturers in Boston, purchased the house and its outbuildings. The house itself burned down in the 1940s, and the name Quiet Corner fell into disuse with the building of a new house, but its boathouse and bowling alley remain. They have not been sold. The connection with the Aldens did not end as Frank Alden was Julian Vose’s next door neighbor on North Water street. Julian’s wife, Anna, was the daughter of Joseph Thaxter Pease, who built the house at 65 North Water street. It was owned by Julian’s daughter Edna Weston for many years. Joseph may also have built the house next door for Ira Darrow at 67 North Water street, which was purchased by Frank Alden in 1905 and refurbished by him. It is where he spent his last summer and died there in September 1908.
The relationships of Vineyarders are indeed labyrinthine.