Cornelia Guest, the glamorous socialite once dubbed the "Deb of the Decade," is leaving Long Island and the fabled Templeton estate in Old Westbury, where she has lived most of her life. She inherited the 29-room Georgian-style brick mansion, which she has sold, from her famous mother, C.Z. Guest. The 1924 home, set on 15.52 acres, is among the last vestiges of the original aristocratic Gold Coast.
Guest, 51, now a caterer, animal welfare activist, author and cruelty-free jacket and accessories designer, is heading to upstate Ancram, northeast of Rhinebeck and a little over 100 miles away, to a 5,000-square-foot cedar-shake Colonial with two dairy barns and a cottage set on an enormous parcel of land -- 375 acres. "My dream is to create an animal sanctuary here," she says.
Taking the show on the road is no simple task and includes transporting and accommodating household staff, some of whom have worked in her family since she was a little girl, and her menagerie of eight dogs, four barn cats, a donkey named Madonna and a tortoise dubbed Socrates. She's also taking fireplace mantels, a barn door, horse nameplates and a massive, bronze garden statue at the entrance of the home.
Guest says she has run the gamut emotionally about the move. Packing has taken months and escalated in the last few weeks. She says she is excited about the change, but "when I took all the pictures down, I had to go to bed for a day."
"It really hit me when I saw all the bare walls," she says. Some of those "pictures" included Andy Warhol originals, one a portrait of Guest herself.
She retains vivid memories of growing up in the storied home where her mother, a famously best-dressed garden columnist and equestrian, and father, Winston Guest, heir to the Phipps steel fortune and a champion polo player, famously hosted luminaries. "I remember having tea with my dad -- he always had tea at 5 p.m. in the library -- and we were hearing something pounding on the ceiling," she says. "He went upstairs and Rudolph Nureyev was doing his warm-up exercises."
It was at Templeton where, says Guest, "I curtsied to my godparents, the Duke and Duchess of Windsor." And it's where the galas were plentiful, including hosting the celebrated designer Yves Saint Laurent and his partner, Pierre Berge, for dinner. "I remember Andy coming over all of the time," she says referring to Warhol. "He was my favorite guest, because he always played with me."
Of her new digs, she knew the place was right as soon as she stepped out of the car. "I looked at a lot of houses, but everybody told me that in real estate you just know about a house -- that it's spiritual, mystical -- and I had that 'Aha!' moment." Originally, she sought property on Long Island, but says, "I couldn't find what I really wanted. I wanted land, and the taxes were so prohibitive and going up and up."
Guest says she is unsure what will happen to Templeton. "I don't know what he's doing with it," she says of the buyer, businessman and restaurateur Ray Sidhom, who paid $5.8 million for the property in April 2014. There are currently no applications before the village to propose altering the property, and Sidhom could not be reached for comment.
If he chooses to demolish it and subdivide, Guest says, "I'll be happy for him, because I wouldn't want him to live in a place if he wasn't as happy as I was."
As for the new house, it will not be a Templeton clone. "It's going to have my stamp on it," says Guest, who will work with New York interior designer Daniel Romualdez. "I'm going to start my own voyage, plant my own garden and have cows and pigs." Some traditions will continue, however. "There will still be plenty of celebrations," says Guest. "The wine will definitely flow, and we will have wonderful parties in a big, old field."
Will the new house have a name? "I'm kind of on the fence," says Guest. "But I'm toying with the idea of 'Templeton Farm.' "
The move from a formal mansion to a farm house has required Cornelia Guest to part with some of her possessions. The most valuable of these have been consigned to Sotheby's in Manhattan and include silverware, paintings and porcelain.
But on Nov. 14, some more approachable items will go to auction in upstate Hudson at the Stair Galleries. Among the offerings: a group of polo mallets used by her father, polo champion Winston Guest, $300 to $500; a Cartier domino set, $600 to $800; and an eight-piece set of purple T. Anthony luggage monogrammed with her mother's initials, C.Z.G., $1,000 to $1,500. The catalog for the auction can be viewed at stairgalleries.com -- Anne Bratskeir