Tuesday, December 10, 2013

On Lotus Pond

Have you ever passed by Lotus Pond and noticed the little old white gazebo resting on the edge of the pond?  Have you wondered what the mysterious home it belongs to looks like?

 "The Genschaw Place," as it's referred to by the locals, is a grand residence built in 1940 with three master suites on the main floor, each with original imported Italian marble baths, and a servants' quarters above the garage.  You can find more pictures on our website here. (The home sold this summer.)

Enclosed porch of the "Genshaw House"
The family who recently sold the home had owned it since shortly after it was built.  The house was not only a family home, but used as a banquet hall by locals for special gatherings for years. When I questioned a relative of the owner about the people who built it and why they sold it so quickly, I was told that the home was built as a summer residence for a wealthy man's wife who did not like it up here and refused to stay at the home.  Of course, I got a little curious and had to see if there was more to the story.  The tale that emerged was truly one worth telling, and one that I couldn't resist sharing here on the Lakeshore blog.

The Lee Plaza
The story begins with Gertrude Eugenie "Eugenia" Salmon, born on April 27, 1910 in Cincinatti.  Her father Charles worked as an ink salesman first in Cincinatti and by 1920  in Chicago, eventually owning his own ink company in Detroit.  The Salmons lived a life of privilege and owned an apartment in the posh Lee Plaza on Grand River Avenue in downtown Detroit. The 1930 census states that the Salmons were paying $150 per month in rent, which is equal to about $2,000 per month in today's market.

By 1930, when Eugenie was 20 years old, she was a young divorcee living with her parents in their lavish Detroit flat and spending time at the family's summer estate on Presque Isle Harbor. That summer, Ross W. Judson, founder of the Continental Motor Company, parked his $750,000 mega-yacht in Presque Isle Harbor and hosted a party, which Eugenie attended.  

One of Judson's yachts, the Trudione, built in 1930
Interior of the COMOCO, another of Judson's yachts

The following year, seemingly out of nowhere, Eugenie's attorney filed an intent to place a $250,000 suit against Mr. Judson, to his disbelief.  He could not imagine what he could have done to provoke Miss Salmon. (Mr. Judson, inventor of the 4 cylinder engine, had initially invested $2,800 into his company in 1903 and upon his retirement in 1929 was reportedly worth $35,000,000 - about $480,000,000 today.) With her attorney keeping mum about the nature of the charges, many speculated a scandalous affair between the millionaire yachtsman and the dark, dashing young divorcee.

Eugenie Salmon & Ross W. Judson

As more details of the suit emerged, the charges were revealed.  Eugenie alleged that while she was in Judson's dinghy headed for his yacht moored in Presque Isle Harbor, she was thrown back in the boat and hurt her spine, which had affected her nerves.  She claimed that this injury had ruined her chances of a career in show business, and wanted $250,000 in compensation.

The suit was eventually thrown out, with Eugenie being paid a very small sum of money to cover her medical expenses.  She was quoted as saying the whole ordeal was "just business" and that Judson should not take it personally.

In 1931, Eugenie wandered into the Radio-Electrical World's Fair in Chicago, and her striking beauty earned her the title of "Miss Television," a title for which dozens of girls were competing. She was possibly not even aware of the contest before arriving.

In 1934, Eugenie married a wealthy older stockbrocker from New York City named Alfred Stamm. 
Alfred Stamm
They soon ventured off on a $25,000 honeymoon trip in which they completely circled the globe, at Eugenie's request.  Upon, returning, Eugenie began living the life of a millionaire, going on lavish shopping sprees and filling the couple's multiple posh Manhattan flats with fineries imported from all over the world.  The couple had two sons, Peter and Robert, born in 1936 and 1937. 

Soon thereafter, construction began on a lavish summer residence on Lotus Pond in Presque Isle, which took 2 full years to finish.  The home contained 5 bedrooms, each with its own bath featuring imported Italian marble, a maid's quarters, and even a bomb shelter build under the grand full-length porch facing Lotus Pond.  The home was finished in 1940.

One of the Italian marble tile baths

By 1941, the relationship between Eugenie and Alfred Stamm had soured considerably.  It was then that Eugenie began plotting one of the greatest scandals of her time.  With her husband busy earning money, Eugenie suddenly began spending as much of it as she possibly could, with wild shopping sprees that made her the envy of the other girls who frequented the trendy upscale NYC boutiques.  These shopping sprees took place in July and August of 1941 and included $3,170 on 13 coats, including opossum, white caracul and white fox, $1,876 on 66 pieces of lingerie, $1,265 on 16 suits, $671 on 72 blouses and shirts, $653 on cosmetics and $582 on 47 pairs of shoes.  Other items bought in bulk included hats, brassieres, girdles, silk stockings (256 pairs!), gloves and more.  The grand total of these items, which were being delivered to the couple's flats continuously, was estimated at $16,762 (well over $266,000 by today's standards.)

After she finished buying everything she could possibly find for herself, she began shipping the items, along with everything else the couple already owned, to warehouses, to family, and to the Lotus Pond house.  Before long, both the couple's secondary flats at the Eldorado and the Carlyle were completely cleaned out, down to the carpets, the ashtrays, and the kitchen utensils, unbeknownst to her busy husband.

Then one summer day, while at the Lotus Pond house, Alfred was shocked when Eugenie spoke these words seemingly out of the blue - "I am through with you."  When he asked what was wrong she simply replied, "Go back to New York.  You'll find out."  She was, of course, referring to the fact that he would return to apartments that were completely stripped bare of everything but his own clothing.  She then added that if her parents were to force her to return to New York with him, she would show him how to spend money.  She'd keep spending until he was begging her for a divorce.  Her parents did not, fortunately for Alfred, suggest that she save her marriage with him.

Eventually, Alfred sued Eugenie for her crimes against him. She asserted that he had urged her to stock up on necessities with wartime shortages and price hikes on the horizon. She claimed that he hit the children with a long stick at the dinner table if they misbehaved, and that she had become a nervous wreck because of his treatment of the family.  He countered that she was so obsessed with trimming down to return to a life in show business, that her extreme dieting, consuming of various weight loss substances, and her stress over her body were to blame for her nervous condition.

The case was the first to raise the question, "Who's money is it? HIS or THEIRS?" The case was used as support for countless others in which wives spent their husbands money without the husband's consent.  When it came time for a divorce, Eugenie refused, not wanting to give up the large allowance of money she was currently receiving in their separation.  Eventually, in 1944, Alfred found a court in Florida which agreed to grant the divorce without Eugenie's consent.  The Lotus Pond home was sold as a part of the divorce proceedings.

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