From the June 18, 1965 edition of the Vineyard Gazette:

Mrs. Lucy Sanford, the owner and builder of Windy Gates, Chilmark, has been written about before, but it would require a ponderous volume indeed to record all of the tales and anecdotes connected with this wealthy but somewhat eccentric lady.

She first purchased a couple of farms which lay side by side and put the two together, fencing the whole with high stock fence. There were gates in places, and these gates, made of metal, were secured by latches made in the form of cat’s faces. The ears drooped forward and could be lifted to allow the gate to be opened. Posts and latches were painted red, a color which Mrs. Sanford favored for many things.

The farmhouse standing nearest the highway was designated at once as the Lodge, and was remodeled and arranged to be occupied by a keeper. No keeper or anyone else ever lived there during the time she owned the estate. As a matter of fact, once she was established she purchased her canned goods in wholesale lots and stored them in a room at the Lodge. The stack was an impressive size.

The Lodge was a storage place of other things as well, like cases of soap and other commodities. Mrs. Sanford also had a medicine chest greatly resembling those carried to sea on whaleships. It was a fine piece of cabinetwork, the interior consisting of a block of wood bored full of holes into which the bottles were placed. Once Mrs. Sanford asked a small boy to carry this medicine chest from the Lodge to the main house. “Don’t drop it!” she warned. “I’d rather lose this whole estate than have anything happen to that chest!”

But the real activity of transforming an old farm into an imitation of a Newport estate of that day was centered about the main house and its grounds.

The house was remodeled and had an addition built on, and the workmen, certainly many of the masons, carpenters and specialists who put up the metal lathing which was used in certain places, were imported from New York city. The meadow lying about the house on two sides was graded and terraces built with precision. Out to the west stood a pillared pergola, the white pillars supporting a flat roof, toward which climbing roses grew. Against the terrace which stood behind it, Jack Seals, a member of the household, and Mrs. Mary Kobbe, daughter of Mrs. Sanford, would stand a target and practice archery. But the many preparations made for luxurious living were chiefly made in vain. There was never a horse in the small but elaborate stable, and the two or three glittering carriages were taken out of the stable but very few times and then drawn by hired horses. The harnessrooom was well-filled with coach and dogcart harness, which was never used, and eventually Chilmark farmers acquired them and wore them out in far less dignified service than that for which they had been purchased originally.

Always there was a certain something about the place and people which clashed with the glamor which they had sought to create. Dandelions grew on the new lawn, which disturbed Mrs. Sanford. Clad in blue and white gingham, she went out and dug them up, carrying baskets-full to her electrically lighted pigpen, where there never had been a pig.

Occasionally Mrs. Sanford would refer to things and places that suggested a culture that was unknown to the Vineyard: German music, which she declared was stolen from her house; servants whom she had once employed. Once Mrs. Kobbe entertained a guest, a Mrs. Jacques, and a large photograph was displayed of the two in costume suggestive of the theater.

The regime of this household was not long but while it lasted it was exciting for all those outside of the group. No one knew what to expect next in the way of needless extravagance, for hardly a move was made without grossly unnecessary expense, as everyone agreed.

Seals died first, suddenly, a relatively young man. Later Mrs. Kobbe died and Mrs. Sanford was left alone, ending her years as a boarder in an Island home, her wealth and property virtually exhausted.

The members of this trio were soon forgotten, although the fabulous tales of the gold bathroom fixtures at Windy Gates were told and retold for years after. They were gold-plated, actually.

And thus a splash of magnitude disturbed the placidity of Vineyard life as it was then, and every ripple died away as owner after owner occupied Windy Gates, changing the scene more or less as time passed, while nature made its winter raids on the property in the form of erosion.

And then, forty years after, a New York bank made inquiries here through the Chilmark postmaster in an effort to locate a woman who, as an infant, had received a silver cup from Mrs. Kobbe and for whom the latter had deposited a small sum of money. But this incident hardly measured up to a fading footprint on the sands of time, yet, so far as is known, it was the final fade-out of an eventful passage.

Compiled by Hilary Wall